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Academic publishing query letters: should you bother? by Joanna Hare
D-41-notes

Joanna Hare is currently a Subject Librarian at City University of Hong Kong. As a research-practitioner, Joanna’s interests include information and digital literacy, research support for Humanities and the Arts, and innovative models of customer service. She continues Dave Hare’s series blog posts in the AcWriMo 2016 series.

dave_3_1As a librarian, I often attend presentations by representatives of academic publishers about ‘how to get published.’ These usually cover broad, basic advice like checking the journal’s scope before making a submission and using the correct academic style. One thing that is mentioned is to ‘pitch’ your article to the editor directly via a query letter. Book authors use query letters and academics can use them too. These letters typically include a brief (usually one to two paragraphs) synopsis of your academic writing, which is then sent to the journal’s editor asking if it is something they might publish. You can see a sample here.

Query letters are work. Thinking about them prompted me to reflect on whether they are actually worth the effort and if the letters actually do lead to higher publication rates. To find out, I contacted the editors of a few of the highest ranked Communication journals according to the Scimago Journal Rankings (SJR) and asked them about their thoughts on query letters:  

Steve Jones, editor of New Media and Society, does not mind receiving query letters. However, he makes it clear that he ‘cannot “pre-review” manuscripts on the basis of a query, which is something writers often seem to want’. Jones adds that ‘there is no advantage to sending a query letter, ultimately, unless an author is truly uncertain about whether a manuscript’s topic is or isn’t a fit with the journal.’

Jonathon Hess, editor of Communication Education, is ‘happy to get letters from people who are familiar with the journal… and are asking about specifics that couldn’t be answered by looking online.  But general emails pitching papers for which it’s clear the author has no familiarity with the journal aren’t a good use of my time.’ Hess goes on to say that if after reading the journal’s scope statement the author is still unsure if their work is suitable, he would ‘prefer that she or he just submit the article rather than sending an inquiry.  It’s much easier for me to see the paper and offer a clear response than to try to guess based on a description. I screen most submissions within a week, so authors will find out promptly if the paper doesn’t fit or isn’t strong enough for review.’

Tuen A. van Dijk, editor of Discourse Studies, says he does not receive query letters that often, which is perhaps due to his journal’s practice of pre-review: ‘prospective authors get an automatic reply when they submit a paper, in which they are asked to pre-review their own paper on the basis of very detailed criteria of the journals… so they already know what kinds of paper we publish or not.’

Rasmus Nielsen, editor of The International Journal of Press/Politics (IJPP), says ‘the majority of the query letters I receive are not very helpful, because they either (a) reflect that the author has not actually read the journal, or just consulted our aim and scope or (b) is trying to flog a sub-standard manuscript. A minority of query letters are interesting and useful for me, but in that case almost always reflect the fact that the author already knows that a given manuscript may not be a good fit for IJPP.’ ’

So, what should you do?

It is clear from these responses that if you only do one thing before reaching out to an editor prior to submitting your article it is:

Read the journal’s aims and scope first!

An editor’s receptiveness to a query letter has a lot to do with personal preference, with most stating that they do not mind receiving letters. However, it is critical that you demonstrate that you have an understanding of what the journal is about. You can make this clear in your letter (for example, ‘I have read your journal’s aims and scope and my work fits these guidelines for reasons A, B and C’).

If you are not already very familiar with the journal you are submitting to, I would recommend going further than reading the aims and scope to reading several of the articles published in the journal. This will give you an idea of the writing style and topics covered, and how your article would fit in an overall volume. Referring to specific articles in your email to the editor is also evidence that you are familiar with the journal and committed to publishing with them.

A caveat: in my experience it can be worth reaching out to the editor for advice on writing an article if they are producing a ‘special edition’ of the journal, such as a special topic or an edition dedicated to a recent conference. The scope and type of article accepted for special editions may be slightly different and the editor might be able to guide you in a direction that is more likely to lead to publication. But of course, check the website to make sure this information isn’t already easily available!

Thank you to the editors who provided valuable advice for this post.

dave_3_2

A simple start to a publishing strategy: journal lists by Dave Hare
D-41-notes

Dave Hare is currently a part-time lecturer at City University of Hong Kong. His research work concerns film studies, specifically contemporary cinema stereoscopy. This is his second blog post in the AcWriMo 2016 series.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14594792869/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14594792869/

So, following last week’s post, you’ve decided to use AcWriMo to finalise and submit your work to a journal. The next thing to do, according to almost every academic blog ever, is to create a ‘publishing strategy’ or ‘publishing agenda’. You can read about strategies and agendas here, here, here, here, here and here, and also here (and basically everywhere else*).

Publishing strategies don’t always come about in the prescribed way. For me, it was made clear in a job rejection email that I wasn’t being considered for a position because I didn’t have enough Arts & Humanities Citation Index (A&HCI) and Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) publications. I knew that I needed more work published, but I applied for the job anyway and (Surprise) got rejected. The upside of that downside was that I got specific feedback on how to shape my publishing strategy: to look to journal ranking lists, which university departments obviously use to gauge job candidates (as well as a bunch of other stuff, as in exchange knowledge, apply for funding grants, evaluate staff performance, build careers etc.).

There are issues, however, with this type of publication strategy. Tseen Khoo, one half of The Research Whisperer blog team, discussed a few of these issues in a post back in 2014. She concluded the post with the thought that ‘you may still end up “publishing to appease” every so often, but don’t let it be your life’; which is to say there are particular times to focus your attention on journals that others favour. For me, given the response to my job application, the time is now.

For the uninitiated, journal ranking lists are LONG. The A&HCI, for example, is almost 200 titles across multiple fields of study. So, you need to start by filtering out irrelevant titles. A friendly academic librarian can help you with this task; I know, because one helped me. Here is a summary of that librarian’s advice:

  • Step one: Create a spreadsheet to list the journal titles you are going to target for your publications. The spreadsheet should include all the relevant information about the journals you plan to target, such as the name, links to the Aims and Scope, recommended article word counts and a ‘Notes/Comments’ column for any extra details about the vibe of the journal.
  • Step two: Skim the title lists to identify titles relevant to your field. My field is contemporary cinematic stereoscopy, so keeping my outlook broad I selected any titles that seemed to be about film or media studies, as my work spans both aesthetic and industrial aspects of contemporary cinematic stereoscopy.
  • Step three: As you find a title that seems relevant, visit the journal website and find their ‘Aims and Scopeinformation. This should tell you if your work will fit in the existing scope of the journal. Add any titles that seem promising to your spreadsheet. At this stage be prepared to be both disappointed and surprised: you may find that the well-regarded journal you were hoping to publish in is actually not ideal, while the scope of journals you are less familiar with might end up being the perfect fit.
  • Step four (optional): Email the editor/s of the journal/s and ask if your work sounds appropriate for their publication (more on query letters in the coming weeks). Suffice to say this email should be short and to the point, with a brief description of your work. A typical response to this email will (1) note that your work is interesting and (2) that you should submit it for consideration, providing that (3) you have followed the journal’s style guide. It may not provide too much information, but it might just help you decide which journal you’ll submit to first.

After following these steps, my list included about 25 relevant journals, five of which stood out as being clear targets. In addition to these, I also included journals that might be useful for future research. Now, I am ready to get on with the task of editing, re-writing, and proofreading. A quick note for those AcWriMo-journal-writing peeps that already have a publishing strategy: Your target journals may have posted a recent call for papers, redefined their aims or have a new editorial board. A quick check to see if journals have changed is a good idea before settling down to write.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/3903230097/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/3903230097/

Forming a publishing strategy (or agenda), conducting research into a journal index, and creating lists, all count toward your AcWriMo success as well as the goal of journal article publication. If you’re doing these tasks, please share your experiences on Twitter and Facebook using the AcWriMo hashtag.

*because the interwebs is loaded with academic blogs talking about strategies … including this one.

Writing a book, not a dissertation by Astrid Bracke
astrid

astridAstrid Bracke writes on twenty-first-century British fiction and nonfiction, ecocriticism, narratology, climate crisis and flood narratives. Her monograph, Climate Crisis and the Twenty-First-Century British Novel, is under contract with Bloomsbury Academic. This is the first of four blog posts she will write for AcWriMo 2016.

So you want to write a book. Perhaps there’s an idea that you want to explore and didn’t get round to in your dissertation, or you’re ready to go into a wholly different direction. Or you feel you have to write a book to get the right job, or have a better chance at funding money. A few years ago I wrote on writing a book proposal. This series is about writing the book, from start to finish.

In this first post, I discuss how writing a book is different from writing a dissertation.

Most importantly, writing a book is a much more solitary endeavour. While getting your PhD you wrote under supervision. The meetings with my supervisor were a way for me to check whether I was on the right path and to discuss my ideas. Not working in such a framework can be a real relief to many. Perhaps you fundamentally disagreed with your supervisor, or felt tied to departmental themes. Writing a book frees you from all that: it’s your book and your choices. This can be paralyzing at times, and even lonely.

It also means that getting feedback on your work requires more initiative. And where first you might have gotten the feeling that at least you were accountable to someone (your supervisor), now you’re not really accountable to anyone but yourself. If your book is under contract with a publisher you’ve got a deadline, but that’s not quite the same thing. They might check in with you, but a supervisory relationship, for good or for bad, doesn’t exist.

There’s a few ways in which you can create a supportive environment for yourself while writing a book. The first is to use your network to get feedback – or to expand your network. I drew up a list of scholars who were working on themes related to my book and asked them for feedback on individual chapters. I already knew these people: I’d talked to them about my project at conferences, had provided feedback on their work or published in special issues they edited.

Yet even if you don’t already personally know them, scholars are generally happy to help. There might be someone whose work you use a lot, or who gave an interesting paper at a conference that ties in with your research. Indeed conferences are great places to ask people whether they’d be willing to read your work. Whether you know them or not, it’s important to be clear on your expectations: with the exception of one scholar whom I know well, I never requested feedback on more than one chapter, asked people to reply by a certain date and offered to repay the favour (and of course thanked them again in my acknowledgements).

Conferences are also a great way to create the accountability that is lacking when you’re no longer a PhD student. Use conference papers not only to try out your ideas, but also to make sure that you finish certain chapters by a certain date. The added benefit is that you’re likely to get useful feedback.

Another way of creating accountability and alleviating the possible loneliness of writing a book is by looking for writing buddies. For a while a friend and I would agree to send each other (parts of) chapters and articles. We’d set a clear deadline and meet for coffee that day. We wouldn’t necessarily read each other’s work, but making the promise to be done with something by a certain date did stimulate us. And discussing our work over coffee was often inspiring. You may even get together with a group of colleagues, or join a MeetUp group of academics. Sharing your deadlines with others and having the chance to talk about the writing process provides some of the structures that being a PhD student, often surrounded by other PhD students, offered.

I was really surprised about the time it took me to write the book, compared to writing the dissertation. Writing the book took me about a year, working on average one day a week, versus around three years nearly full time for the dissertation. The reason why it took so much less time is, I think, because writing a dissertation is much more about the process and about learning the ropes.

This is also the final difference between a dissertation and a book. A dissertation is what in the traditional guild-system would be the product of an apprenticeship. In the dissertation you demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about the area you’re working in and that you’ve read (almost) everything. In a book, many of these concerns do not apply. If in writing the dissertation you have to prove that you’re worthy of being part of a scholarly community, in writing the book you show that you are.

In my next posts I’ll write more about the process of writing a book from start to finish, from planning the work to communicating with the publisher.

#acwri Twitter Chat: Dealing with Reviewer Comments
Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #52 by Linda Levitt
Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Find friends for peer review. Good friends, colleagues, and collaborators don’t only help solve problems and figure things out, they also catch typographical errors. Finding a small network of those who do work similar to your own can be a tremendous benefit to preparing articles and manuscripts for submission. Having someone read through your work with a critical but kind eye can mean everything from noticing style points to recommending additional sources and helping smooth out complex arguments. When you return the favor, you are likely to learn more about your own writing style from reading someone else’s work in progress.

 

Publishing online and outside of a discipline by Tony E. Adams
publications_image

publications_imageTony Adams is Associate Professor and Chair of Communication, Media, and Theatre at Northeastern Illinois University. For more information about his work, visit www.TonyEAdams.com

I write this blog from the perspective of someone who has the privilege to publish in a variety of outlets—my institution does not rank or evaluate the best journals; citation counts do not matter; and we do not use external reviewers for retention, tenure, or promotion. As such, this blog may not be of much interest to academics working at research institutions or at institutions where specific journals matter. Here, I offer my experiences with the limited aspect of disciplinary publishing, the benefits of open-access publishing, and writing about research practices and methods.
*

On a job interview for a mid-size, public university, I asked the interviewers about tenure requirements.

“If you publish three articles in the nationally sanctioned journals, you should be okay for tenure,” one interviewer says.

“I don’t publish in our nationally sanctioned journals,” I reply. “Most of the time, they do not welcome qualitative research, especially research that uses ethnography and autoethnography.”

“You’d probably get tenure if you published six articles in the regionally sanctioned communication journals,” the interviewer continues.

“I don’t publish in those journals either,” I say. “These journals also do not welcome ethnographic and autoethnographic research.”

Our interview ended.

Of the 11 nationally sanctioned, disciplinary journals—those journals sponsored by the National Communication Association—only two are open to ethnography and autoethnography, my primary methods for research. If I want (or need) to get published, and if I want (or need) to be published in nationally sanctioned publications, then I immerse myself in a highly competitive publishing process. While I suppose not being accepted for publication in these journals may have some indication about the value of my work to/for the communication discipline, I also believe that many of the discipline’s journal editors are against particular methods before they would even review my submissions. By trying to publish ethnographic and autoethnographic scholarship in more traditional, social scientific outlets, I may exhaust myself in a pointless task.

*
In April 2014, I had a conversation with a colleague about the citation count of “Autoethnography: An Overview,” a 2011 article I co-authored with Carolyn Ellis and Arthur Bochner published in the open-access journal, Forum: Qualitative Social Research. My colleague could not believe that this article alreadyhad more than 200 citations (as of this writing [September 2014], it has more than 300 citations). Further, while I believe that any of my disciplinary journals would have rejected the article especially since these journals focus on content—the findings of research projects, and not necessarily on how to do (communication) research, the article already has more citations than many of the articles published in these journals in the last two decades.

I am most pleased with this citation count because I believe it is an easy indicator that people at least know of the article. And the reason I publish is not to expand my vita or because I am required, but rather because I want to offer  work that is (hopefully) of use to others. I also believe that the open-access journal helps with the citation count—unlike more traditional, disciplinary articles, the article is not locked behind a library database; anyone can access it free of charge.

Further, the article may be of interest to many because it talks about a research method rather than a disciplinary-specific topic; it could be helpful for anyone doing ethnographic and autoethnographic research, not only communication researchers.

*
I want my writing to be read. I feel as though I am wasting my time publishing work without any reason. I like to engage research and to provide other researchers with new conceptual material and support. At some institutions, the journals in which I publish might not be the most credible according to often-ambiguous and elitist standards, but I find it more important that my research is engaged by others.

I recognize that some people do not have the privilege or luxury to publish outside of disciplinary journals, and I recognize the privilege I have in working in and being tenured at an institution that does not require me to publish in so-called “prestigious” publication outlets. If you are privileged to be on a tenure-track position, and if you are at an institution where journals matter, maybe wait until tenure and promotion to publish or meet institutional, tenure requirements for publication and then, post-tenure, publish in other outlets. At the very least, I think we should all do our best to have different conversations about publishing—about recognizing possible limits of disciplinary journals, the benefits of open-access publishing, and the importance of research methodology and practice.

Writing a book proposal part II – the market section & avoiding dissertation style by Astrid Bracke
Astrid Bracke

Astrid BrackeIn this series of posts, Astrid Bracke writes about the process of moving from disseration to book. She has a PhD in ecocriticism and contemporary British fiction and teaches English literature at the University of Amsterdam and HAN University of Applied Sciences.

In the previous two posts I wrote about making the decision to turn your dissertation into a book, and what to include in the book proposal. In this post, I’ll continue by discussing the market section of the proposal and the importance of making your book look – and sound – less like a rewritten dissertation.

While the market section may seem a particularly difficult section to write, you’ve established yourself as an expert in the field through your dissertation, so you most probably already know what’s out there in terms of other works. For the publisher, this is a vital aspect: they need to know that the book will sell, otherwise they’re unlikely to take it on. This section is not just about proving how unique your book is: just writing “no one has ever done this before” is not enough. In fact, you’ll have to explicitly refer to other books that are somehow similar to yours, or that present an argument that you’ll continue, in order to show that their readers will also be likely to read your book.

Rachel Toor’s very useful article on the market section really helped me to think this through more: she recommends starting to think about the author questionnaire, which asks specific questions related to marketing your book, early. While writing the market section of your proposal, it is also useful to think about the conferences that where your book might be put on display, and the professional organizations that you belong to of which others members might be interested as well.

In the previous post I wrote that the piece of advice I got most frequently when I asked people about their experiences of turning their dissertation into a book, is that you should only do it if you can find the time, but especially the motivation and energy to do so. Another piece of advice that I heard again and again is the importance of making your monograph – even if it’s based on your dissertation – look less than a dissertation. Although it may seem that this is a matter that can wait until you start writing the book, it is actually an issue that you need to think about when you’re writing your book proposal. Some publishers explicitly ask whether the monograph is based on your dissertation, but even if they don’t explicitly do so, you’ll have to demonstrate in your proposal that the monograph is an actual book, not a dissertation.

So what is the difference between a dissertation and a book? One of the biggest differences is its purpose: the purpose of your dissertation is to prove that you are worthy of belonging to the academic community. The – published! – monograph, on the other hand, implies your membership of the academic community, so you don’t need to explicitly show it. Instead, the monograph will have to be both intellectually thorough, and broad enough to appeal to an audience large enough to merit the publisher taking it on.

William Germano, in From Dissertation to Book, also provides an interesting discussion of the dissertation versus the book. He suggests that in addition to differences in purpose and audience, a dissertation “rehearses scholarship in the field,” while the book “has absorbed scholarship in the field, and builds on it” (157). For instance, many dissertations include lengthy literature reviews or initial chapters that set out precisely what kind of work has gone before. While these demonstrate your so-called “cabinet making skills” as a PhD student, they are less relevant to readers of monographs, and often need to go. The audience for your book is interested in your argument, and far less in seeing that you know everything that has gone before in your field.

Other signs of “dissertation style” that Germano warns against are an overdependence on citation and reference, and repetitious statements of intent (“In this section I will demonstrate that…”, “Following the preceding discussion of X, I will now move on to analyze Y…”). These are all things to avoid when writing your book, and require you to take considerable critical distance from your dissertation before turning it into a monograph. Rewriting the dissertation, then, may very well turn out to be more about extensive cutting and revising, than about giving it a mere polish.

While you’re determining the focus of your book you’ll also have to decide on a publisher to submit your proposal to, which I’ll discuss in my next post.

Should you turn your dissertation into a book? by Astrid Bracke
Astrid Bracke

Astrid BrackeThis is the first in a series of posts from Astrid Bracke regarding the process of moving from disseration to book. Astrid Bracke has a PhD in ecocriticism and contemporary British fiction and teaches English literature at the University of Amsterdam and HAN University of Applied Sciences.

Over the past months I’ve been working on a book proposal for a monograph based on my dissertation. In this and the next three posts I’ll be sharing my experiences and advice on getting from finishing your dissertation to submitting a book proposal, and going on – hopefully – to publish a book. In this first post, I’ll be talking about making the decision to turn your dissertation into a book, and everything that comes with it.

It’s easy to follow the advice of only those in your Department, such as your supervisor and immediate colleagues. This may not be the best advice, though, no matter how well meant. For instance, in the Department where I did my PhD, most of my colleagues focused largely on articles – and barely on monographs. Hence, the advice to recent PhDs was to turn their dissertation into a series of articles, rather than seek to publish it as a monograph. Indeed, as I learned later, the monograph – while seen as the Holy Grail in many academic fields – is of considerably less importance in others.

Either way, it’s important to seek advice outside of your immediate academic environment, by asking external advisors or committee members, people at conferences or even following discussions on Twitter and using websites such as PhD2Published or The Research Whisperer. It can also help to look at job adverts when making this decision: they don’t always specifically list The Book as a requirement, but often do add a published monograph to their list of desired qualities.

That should be one of the first questions you ask yourself: how much do I need The Book for my career, or does a series of articles carry equal or greater weight in my field? Of course, in literary studies, the monograph is generally seen as very important, which made working on and submitting a book proposal important if I wanted to get a job outside of my own Department. At the same time, the dissertation doesn’t have to be your first monograph – although it will probably take longer to publish a book based on a wholly new project, than one based on your PhD project.

I deliberately gave myself a year from my PhD defense to decide whether or not I wanted to turn my dissertation into a book. During that year I didn’t look at my dissertation at all. Instead, I talked to people – mostly outside of my own Department –about their experiences and advice. The number one advice I got is that you should only turn your dissertation into a book if you can find the motivation to do so. If you cannot be enthusiastic about it, don’t take it on. Similarly, if you realize that large parts of your dissertation are already outdated, or make it unfeasible as a book for other reasons, you’re better off turning the best parts into articles – if you hadn’t done so already – and move on to a new project.

One of the biggest reasons why I eventually decided to turn my dissertation into a book is that I felt that otherwise the work I did in the four years it took me to write the dissertation would go to waste. I still believed in my dissertation as a whole, yet also realized that although I wanted to use the material, I also wanted to rework it. Consequently, the book proposal that I’ve now written describes a book that is more a spin-off from my dissertation than actually based on it.

In the following three posts I’ll discuss the next steps: writing a book proposal and deciding on a publisher.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #34 by Linda Levitt
Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Ask your mentors. Recent PhDs often experience one of two polarities: on the one hand, a sense of utter exhaustion and the need for a serious break from research; on the other hand, a giddy sense of getting on with one’s research agenda. It’s not unusual to experience both intermittently. Now is a good time to ask your mentors for best practices on publishing. The answer will vary from one discipline to another and from one researcher to another. Your dissertation project may yield a series of peer reviewed articles, or may be the seed for your first book. It may be good to set aside your dissertation for awhile and come back to it, or the field may be just right for you to start working on a revision. You may also have other projects that have been tabled while you finished writing your dissertation and are waiting for your attention to move toward publishing. As the old adage goes, all endings are new beginnings (note that graduation is called commencement), so now that you are finished, think about where you want to start.

Publish and Publicise, or Perish: The Importance of Publication Impact by Mark Rubin

This guest post is from Mark Rubin, a senior lecturer in social psychology at the University of Newcastle, Australia. You can visit his ImpactStory profile at: http://impactstory.org/MarkRubin or follow him on Twitter @MarkRubinPsych.

I’ve recently conducted an “Introduction to Academic Publishing” seminar for PhD students at the University of Newcastle and the University of Canberra. During the seminar, I spend some time explaining to students the new emphasis on publication impact. Publication impact is the influence that scholarly publications have on other scholars and the general public, and it is becoming more and more important in academia. Below, I consider some of the ways in which publication impact is making an impact in the research world.

Measuring Researchers
The quality and quantity of a researcher’s publications provide a key measure of their research productivity. Consequently, publication track records are often used to determine whether or not researchers get hired, promoted, or funded for their future research. In addition, at the institutional level, the quality and quantity of a university’s publication output help to determine its international reputation and the amount of funding that it receives based on national research performance reviews. So, there are several reasons why researchers find themselves and their research outputs to be objects of measurements.

Tape Measure

© Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity, Tape Measure, Creative Commons

The ethos of “publish or perish” has been around for a long time. However, in recent years, this message has become more articulated, and it now takes into account the impact of researchers’ publications. In particular, researchers are now told that they must not only publish their research but also get their publications acknowledged by other researchers and society at large. In practice, this means that researchers need to get their publications (a) cited in the work of other researchers and (b) discussed in traditional and online media. To help achieve a greater scholarly and public impact, researchers must promote and advertise their work as much as possible. In this respect, the message has now become “publish and publicise, or perish!”

Publications Need to Make a Big Splash!

A Little Trick

© Nathan Rupert, A Little Trick, Creative Commons

Measuring Publication Impact in the Scholarly Literature: The H Index
The concern about impact in the scholarly literature explains the growing popularity of the h index, a metric that is used to quantify not only the number of articles that a researcher has published but also the number of citations that these articles have accrued in other scholarly work. My own h value is currently 12, meaning that 12 of my 33 research publications have each been cited at least 12 times in other research articles.High impact researchers are expected to have h indices that are at least as large as the number of years since their first publication. The h index is not without its critics, and some have argued that a more comprehensive assessment of publication impact should take into account a broader array of alternative impact metrics, or altmetrics, that include more than just citations in scholarly work.

The H Index

Wooden Brick Letter h

© LEOL30, Wooden Brick Letter h, Creative Commons

Altmetrics
Altmetrics platforms such as altmetric and impact story count the number of times that scholarly articles are mentioned in both the scholarly literature and online social media and websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia.They can also measure the number of times that online articles are viewed, bookmarked, liked, and downloaded on document managers such as Mendeley and Citeulike. Like the h index, altmetrics has its critics. However, if used wisely, altmetrics can provide a useful tool for assessing publication impact.

Altmetrics

© A J Cann, Altmetrics, Creative Commons

“Facebook for Researchers”
In an effort to increase their scholarly impact, researchers are now advertising their work on professional social networking websites such as Academia and ResearchGate, which have over 12 million researchers signed up between them. Researchers can follow other researchers in their area and be notified about their activities, including when they publish new articles. These sites also allow researchers to publish self-archived versions of their research papers that other users can then access, further increasing their citation potential.

Research Gate Logo

By ResearchGate [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Funnelling News of Research Outputs: Research Blog Aggregators
Modern researchers are also blogging about their work. I do this myself and, although it takes a bit of time to prepare each post, I really enjoy turning a dry research abstract into a more accessible and appealing piece for my blog. Like many other researchers, I feed my posts through to research blog aggregators like ScienceSeeker and ResearchBlogging. These platforms funnel posts from many different research blogs into a single stream of the latest research.

I think therefore I blog

© Marsmettnn Tallahassee, I think therefore I blog,Creative Commons

Open-Access = Greater Impact
The drive to publish lots of highly cited and publically-acknowledged articles also helps to explain the rise of open-access journals. Unlike traditional journals, open-access journals publish articles 100% online rather than in print and, without the associated printing costs, they are able to accommodate a greater number of journal articles. For example, PLOS ONE published 23,464 articles in 2012, making it the largest journal in the world!

Importantly, the appeal of open-access journals is not only their ability to publish more publications, but also their ability to make those publications more accessible to readers. Unlike traditional journals, which tend to hide their content behind subscriber-only paywalls, open-access journals make their content freely available to everyone with internet access. This has the effect of increasing publication impact by increasing citation rates among scholars as well as online discussion among the general public.

Open Access (1)

© Research and Graduate College Graduate Studies Office, Open_Access_PLoS, Creative Commons

Hello? Can Anyone Hear Me!?
If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no-one around to hear it, then does it make a noise? I can’t answer that one I’m afraid. But I do know that, nowadays, if a researcher publishes an article in a journal and no-one views it, downloads it, cites it, or Tweets it, then it certainly doesn’t make an impact!

Trees

© Sue Langford,Trees, Creative Commons

How to be a Hackademic #14 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/ 
under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GBImage by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/ under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost rethink academic life and writing productivity in this on-going series of hints, tips and hacks.

SHARE. Pay it forward by sharing your own writing and publishing experiences. Over the last few years, academics at all stages of their careers have been able to network more and more widely using new digital communication technologies and social media. This work is not only useful but necessary. Frankly, there is still too much gate-keeping and secrecy in academia, so the more transparent we all are about our processes the better. As educators, it really is our job to foster the growth of others. If you help someone else get published, that is a career-success for you too.

What else does it takes to be a hackademic ? Click here to find out.

Thinking From Dissertation to Book, and back again…A review of William Germano’s From Dissertation to Book by Helen Wainwright
German

Todays post is written by Helen Wainwright. Helen is a final year PhD Candidate from The Department of Art History at The University of Nottingham, researching conceptual art’s supposed demise in the early 1970s in New York, and the concurrent redefinition of the spaces and/or places of artistic practice and dissemination stemming from the period. She is particularly interested in the work three separate artists: Stephen Shore (1947-present), Gordon Matta Clark (1943-78) and Anthony McCall (1946-present), and the gap that exists between their early works and later (re)interpretations of them.

Twitter: @adxhw1

http://nottingham.academia.edu/HelenWainwright

Recently, the thoughts of what to do post-PhD have started to worm their way into my mind – a good six months ahead of schedule. Rather than ignoring my subconscious efforts to prompt me into a premature job search, I used them as a nudge in the right direction to think about what I really want to accomplish in the year leading up to my viva, and likewise what I would need to accomplish in the subsequent year (or two) after it. This is when I metaphorically stumbled, via Twitter, across William Germano’s book From Dissertation to Book, an extremely useful and accessible text first published in 2005 by University of Chicago Press. I initially approached it with caution, thinking it would ultimately lead to a flurry of self-doubt, but what I actually found was an insider’s guide to what it takes, and how to make the first moves towards publishing your thesis as a book, and what decisions and barriers will more than likely be encountered along the way.

As the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social sciences at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and a former Vice President and Publishing Director at Routledge, William Germano knows exactly what it takes to take those first steps towards publication. The message running throughout the book is clear: be willing to revise, rework and even rethink your PhD research. This advice is coupled with a hefty warning: a thesis is not a book manuscript and will more-often-than-not be rejected by a publisher without any form of editing. Germano provides his readers with a list of eight options to choose from when considering what to do with the thesis once complete: ‘do not resuscitate’; ‘send the dissertation out as is…’; ‘publish the one strong chapter’; ‘publish two or three chapters as articles’; ‘revise the dissertation lightly’; ‘revise the dissertation thoroughly’ or ‘cleave the ample dissertation in two’ (p.38). It is safe to say that readers of From Dissertation to Book are most likely seeking advice on just that topic, and are thus left with the sole prospect of gentle/hefty revision. However, reading between the lines, I think the underlying message of the book is clear: there are more routes towards writing your first book than simply turning your doctoral dissertation straight into a manuscript.

One suggestion is the transformation of chapters into publications. Not only will this allow ideas to be transmitted to a larger audience; gaining much needed publicity, but it will grant the opportunity for a moment’s pause to deliberate whether these ideas could actually form the basis of further research, and lay the foundations for an entirely different book proposal. Likewise, such reflection may aid in the dissection of the thesis as a whole; allowing it to be sliced in two, moving both parts in separate directions, and therefore furthering the possibilities of future research and publication. Alternatively, as Germano continually recommends: revision is the key. Whilst attempting to re-work the thesis, it is also highlighted that a publisher who can recognise the potential audience for a book is far more likely to accept a manuscript or proposal, because they can clearly see who the text is aimed at and who it will be sold to. In contrast to the doctoral thesis, which will only ever meet the eyes of a handful of people, despite best wishes, the book must have a definite audience, and therefore a direct and highly relevant message. If you can argue this case straight away, then perhaps you are on to a winner.

The awareness of your thesis as something far from finished, but as the stepping stone into the world of academia is a daunting prospect, given the amount of blood, sweat and tears which are poured into the work. However, this realisation is also entirely invigorating when realisation dawns that all the routes of thought that had to be closed off in order to concentrate on getting to the finish line, could one day be re-opened. As a researcher you are expected to be adaptable and full of belief in your ideas, and From Dissertation to Book echoes these basic assumptions, asking its readers to think in the same way about their doctoral research: that it is malleable and full of potential, whether published as a book on first attempt, or not.

A primer on preparing to publish by Prof. Jan Draper
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Today’s post by Prof. Jan Draper reflects on her own experiences of carving up her PhD thesis into publications and provides excellent advice for post PhD-ers about what to consider and how to do it. Jan is a Professor and Director of Nursing at the Open University, UK, in the Faculty of Health and Social Care.

I don’t have an academic book (unfortunately!) but when I completed my PhD (2000) I did approach a number of publishers to see if they were interested. I think my recollection from this (very dated now of course) was that the publishers could ‘spot’ a PhD ‘conversion’ a mile off, so you have to be very careful in this regard. Some publishers are very happy to consider conversions from PhDs, others are not. So in order to maximise chances, I think one needs to be very well informed about which publishers do what.

With that in mind here are my Top 5 Tips for getting published:

  1. Write a good PhD in the first place! Sounds obvious but you would be surprised at the range! Include in this writing a very solid theoretical foundation. Theory can really liberate and help make connections that otherwise might not be made.
  2. Make sure that you have a good publication strategy arising from your PhD. You may need to seek some help in gauging this – either supervisors or other colleagues, depending on the nature of your work. If you are located in a practice-based discipline for example, in addition to conventional academic papers arising from your thesis, there will also be professional/practice-related papers that you could write. So think very carefully about how you ‘cut’ your thesis.
  3. Think creatively about the above. Don’t just think the obvious i.e. the description of the project and the findings. Is there something about the method that was innovative, that I can write about? Was there something about the theory I used? How helpful was this theory? Did my work advance the theory in any way? Was there something about ethical considerations that was more unusual in my study that could be of benefit to the wider community in some way? Think also about conference presentations – not just papers.
  4. Think very carefully about where to publish. This may sound very obvious. But, I was very fortunate that I ‘stumbled’ across this important factor. Don’t settle for low impact journals but think about your academic career – if of course, that is something you wish to develop and enhance. Go for high impact journals that will get your work noticed. Not only will it get your work noticed, but it is likely that the feedback you get from reviewers will be of excellent quality. I learned so much from the feedback from reviewers working for The Sociology of Health and Illness not only about the papers but also about the process of reviewing. Their contributions to me as a writer have influenced by ongoing, longer-term work as a reviewer. Strange!
  5. Don’t underestimate the time it will involve! Cutting up a thesis is a traumatic and bloody affair! It has taken so long to write the thesis to get it to its current format, so to think about carving it up in a different way can actually be quite difficult. This is where wise counsel from either supervisors or other colleagues can be helpful. But my advice would be that no matter how hard it feels – just do it! To get to this stage and not publish would be a travesty so I would always encourage students that no matter how hard it feels, you must do it! From my own personal experience, I know that getting 5 good papers out of my PhD created a solid platform for my ongoing academic career. So it is worth it – honest!

Sending a journal article for peer review – what not to send, by Anna Tarrant
Running the peer review gauntlet (from GenomicEnterprise.com)Running the peer review gauntlet (from GenomicEnterprise.com)

Running the peer review gauntlet (from GenomicEnterprise.com)

I have learnt a lot about academic publishing in the past year, particularly about publishing journal articles. This is partly because I have been writing up my PhD thesis into journal articles and in part because of my work for PhD2Published as Managing Editor. In todays post I share some of my recent experiences of peer reviewing to provide advice about what not to send to reviewers.

In the past four months I have gained experience of peer reviewing journal articles. I have reviewed 3 in total; two I was asked to do by a known colleague and mentor who also happens to be a journal editor, and one came out of the blue but related well to my research interests (suggesting I am getting known for my research interests –yay!). I have found peer reviewing a really interesting and fruitful experience. Seeing less than perfect academic writing has been a real eye-opener and has given me a new, more confident perspective on my own writing.

Today’s post is based on my experience of peer reviewing one of these journal articles. Of the three I have reviewed, I have awarded two ‘major revisions’ and one I actually rejected. I found it very difficult to reject the article because as an early career researcher sending out my own work for review, I know how nerve-wracking it can be to put your writing out there. I also thought that the paper had real potential but unfortunately the more I read, the more disappointing it became. I was very careful to give constructive feedback and to fully explain my decision so as not to discourage the author or to offend them. As it turned out, it appeared my decision was justified. The other two reviewers also rejected the paper (which shows I know what I’m doing. Double yay! ;)).

If I’m being honest, I was quite surprised that the paper was sent for review in the state it is was in. Perhaps the looming REF meant it was sent under pressure, or perhaps the author just wanted some feedback at an earlier stage? Perhaps there is a genuine issue in academia that not all of us know how to write a strong first draft of a journal article, an issue that PhD2Published at least has tried to remedy (e.g. Inger Mewburn’s series on Writing Journal Articles). Either way, there were some significant problems identified by all three reviewers. And having gained this insight, I wanted to write this post to share some of these significant issues (without revealing the author of course) so that others who are new to publishing journal articles or asking for early feedback know what to avoid. While some of these examples may seem far-fetched, they are based on my experience. There are other things to be aware of, of course, but for me, these are key and are what I look out for when reviewing.

So here are my tips about what not to send if you want to be accepted:

  1. If your paper is based on empirical findings don’t send a paper that doesn’t explain what methods were conducted, who the sample was or how the data was analysed. The readers need to know that your findings and conclusions are based on a well-designed research project.
  2. Don’t make grand claims that cannot be substantiated with evidence from data or literature. Your points and claims need to be believable and convince the readers that your arguments are well-grounded throughout.
  3. Don’t write a conclusion that does not explicitly state the take-away point from your article. Likewise don’t send a paper that does not explicitly state its aim and purpose in the introduction. Tell the reader what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them.
  4. Avoid making assumptions about the prior knowledge of the readers, particularly if you discuss an event or situation that is only well known in your own context. Make use of foot or endnotes for explaining things that aren’t pertinent to the text but need explanation.
  5. Avoid over-using jargon and complex academic language that you haven’t explained or referenced, especially if this affects the clarity of the paper.

And here’s a bonus tip from a review of one of my own papers:

Don’t send a paper that hasn’t been edited thoroughly before submission. Irritating grammar errors annoy reviewers and may detract from the quality of your paper.

Publishing your Thesis as a Book: a Question of Planning. Part Two by Karen McAulay
mug

Todays post by Karen McAulay follows on from her first, and discusses her experiences of publishing her thesis as a book. At the end of Part One, Karen had received the contract for writing her book and Christmas 2011 had arrived. So what next? This is when the Planning, Prep and writing really began.

Planning and Preparation

Although I hadn’t been asked to rewrite anything, I wanted to go through the manuscript with a fine toothcomb, looking for anything too wordy, unclear, or where a footnote could be pared down or incorporated into the text.  Adopting the same approach that I’d taken with my thesis, I counted the chapters, introduction, appendices and bibliography, and allocated a set portion of time to each, with a bit more for the new chapter.  So long as I kept to my own deadlines, I knew I’d be fine.  To ensure I wouldn’t come unstuck, I booked a couple of weeks’ leave from the day-job, in the run-up to submission day.

Now, I know that sometimes one fixates on trivial details as a form of procrastination.  In my case, I awoke on 2nd January, after a dreadful night’s sleep, convinced of just one thing: I needed a new laptop.  Showing resolution over and above my customary bloody-minded determination, I went online, checked the PC World website, then leapt in the car and bought one.  (In my own defence, I have to explain that my very old PC had a couple of problems that I’d been unable to resolve.  USB drives and dependable internet connections are somewhat crucial when it comes to writing a book!)

And I treated myself to a new mug (featured in the image above): ‘Writer’s block – when your imaginary friends refuse to talk to you.’  I’ve often said that I know more dead people in Edinburgh than live ones.  Since they were all getting an honourable mention in the book, I decided my ‘imaginary friends’ might just as well sit right there on my desk with me while I wrote!  I only used that mug when I was working on the book, as a point of principle.  Don’t knock it: it worked for me!

That sorted, I was able to get on with the job in hand.  I started a blog (another blog) for the purpose of monitoring my progress, in the hope that friends and colleagues would occasionally murmur the odd word of encouragement.  ‘True Imaginary Friends’ has been a useful outlet.  It provided me with somewhere I could write informally, and jot down any problems I came up against.   Such as the day I realised that the new chapter was far from the walk in the park that I’d anticipated

On the whole, the existing chapters didn’t take long to tidy up, but I had to pare down the chapter that would precede the new one, add some of the pared material to the new chapter, and rearrange the entire new chapter to accommodate the work I’d done in recent months.  Apart from the intellectual exercise involved, it was also rather time-consuming.

Time

Having a full-time job places constraints on my writing time – I’ve become used to that.  I did my PhD part-time, after all.  I just book annual leave when the need arises.  Where I nearly came unstuck, though, was when I then got the opportunity to do a few lectures at another institution.  I was already committed to the book; and to writing and presenting two conference papers; and now I had lecture-plans to prepare.  There followed an invitation to speak to a local piping society.  (Bagpipes, that is. I’m not a piper myself, but my subject interests pipers.)  Could I say no?  Certainly not!  It’s all advance publicity for the book, after all.

Images, Maps …

Whilst I had no illustrations in the thesis, I thought a few well-chosen images would enhance the book.  One per chapter … so I scanned some of my Victorian song-collections.  The scans weren’t quite up to publication quality.  I ordered up the appropriate images from the uni library.  They, and another one, had permissions to be sought.  Gradually I whittled away at the list, until there was just one problem: finding a map.  I didn’t want just any old map – it had to have the names of various Hebridean islands and key Scottish locations, but nothing else.  If you want a map drawn, Daniel Dalet, c’est l’homme – he’s the French cartographer who runs D-maps.com.  And he’s very helpful indeed!

And an Indexer

As I worked on the manuscript, questions kept occurring to me.  One concerned the indexing.  Find out what your publisher prefers: I had the choice of having the indexing fees subtracted from my royalties; doing it myself using the facilities available on a pdf; or engaging my own indexer.  Conference networking proved its worth, when I was lucky enough to be put in touch with an indexer actively looking for indexing in my general subject area.

Looking Ahead

At the time of writing, my book has an ISBN; is in editorial/production; and is advertised on Ashgate’s website.  Oh, and it has a publication date: March 2013.  It’s really happening!   There’s only one problem: what shall I write about next?

Websites and Contact Details

  • Tweet me @Karenmca
  • Email: K.McAulay@rcs.ac.uk