Browsing the archives for the publishing tag

How to be a Hackademic #14 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
Posted by atarrant

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.

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

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A primer on preparing to publish by Prof. Jan Draper
Posted by atarrant

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!

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Sending a journal article for peer review – what not to send, by Anna Tarrant
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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.

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

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

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5 tips for publishing a book from your dissertation by Gina Neff
Posted by atarrant

Today’s post is by published author Gina Neff. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University  of Washington. She is also a Chair of the Communication and Information Technologies Section, American Sociological Association and the author of Venture Labor: Work and the Burden of Risk in Innovative Industries. You can follow her on Twitter at @ginasue.

1. A dissertation is not a book. Figure out what makes your research useful, interesting, and relevant to your field. There are obvious differences between dissertations and books, of course, but when you start to “speak” like a scholar instead of a graduate student your work and your ideas will be heard differently. The wisdom of William Germano’s From Dissertation Into Book cannot be overstated.  Repeat: cannot be overstated. If you get a rejection notice (and expect to get one) that says you should read Germano, you’ve not done your homework.

2. Get advocates for your book. Books do not publish themselves (unless you’re thinking of self-publishing, and if you are thinking such silly thoughts as a junior academic then shame on you). Books, like all cultural and media products, are produced in social networks. Figure yours out and get advocates for your book who are established within that network or scholarly community. You already have advocates for your dissertation (presumably your chair, your committee, co-panelists from professional presentations). Figure out who will support you in revisions, proposal writing, picking the right press, finding the right series, etc.

3. Focus. This is advice for both you and your manuscript. Revising a dissertation into a book is hard. Figure out what you want to say to your field, what contributions you have, and focus that into a coherent manuscript. Along the way, you’ll need to find time to focus yourself – turn off the internet, step outside of the classroom, get to the library or shut your office door, and sit down and write.

4. Think about markets. Books are products. Even if you’re in a relatively small and specialized field (or perhaps because of it) you’ll need to think about who will buy your book and why. Your potential editors will be thinking these thoughts. Does your work speak across disciplinary lines? With a little work can you make your work relevant, readable, and intelligible to interested scholars in related fields? Thinking about how the book might be marketed shouldn’t be your first or primary consideration, but it should be one thing you consider when revising your dissertation.

5. Write your book. A first book is not for your dissertation chair, your department chair, or your tenure review committee chair. Those voices, or fears of those voices, may be in your head as you tackle the difficult job of revisions. But the book is yours—own it and advocate passionately for the ideas that lead you to pursue this work in the first place.

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Susan Nance, the Grad School Ninja talks book publishing with an academic press
Posted by atarrant

(C) http://www.flickr.com/photos/james_scott/

Today’s post, is the third in a short multi-authored series on PhD2Published where I have been collecting hints and tips from published academic authors, all about successfully getting an academic book published.  Today’s tips are offered by Susan Nance, an Associate Professor of US History and Affiliated Faculty with the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph. Her next book, Entertaining Elephants: Animal Agency and Business in the American Circus, is due out from the Johns Hopkins University Press in January 2013. For more information, you can visit her website.

My big five principles for getting a book out with an academic press:

1. Write your manuscript as a message to the best people in your field and for those who will accept the basic premise of what you’re trying to do, even if they might argue on the details and/or will learn something from your research. Do not write for people who don’t ‘get it’ about what your basic research assumptions are.

2.  Choose the right press for your needs. Just need to get tenure? Pick a no frills press that won’t make you do endless revisions. Do you want to sell books, for course adoption or trade audience? Pick an academic press with a strong trade title list since they have existing networks to market scholarly books to trade audiences. For example, the book I’m researching now I will try to publish with a Western US university press that has a robust trade list because I want my book to appear in all the touristy gift shops and the souvenir parlors of the national parks, historical societies and local history museums where lay history readers will find them.

3. When promising manuscript deliveries, don’t set self-imposed deadlines you can’t keep. We’ve all done it, but that doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t win friends at the press.

4. Realize that you are making a big investment in the press, not just that they are investing in you. So, you have a right to have them treat you well, keep you informed of staff changes at the press, not abandon you because your editor leaves the press, give you a cut of e-book sales, publish the ebook or paperbook promptly, give you a say in the book cover design, trust you about what your audience will expect to see in the manuscript, etc.

5. Always be patient and NICE to production staff. They have more power over your book than you realize and don’t probably get paid as well as they should.

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Top 5 tips for getting your book proposal accepted by Beatrice Hale
Posted by atarrant

Todays post is by Dr Beatrice Hale. Her most recent, and first academic book is a co-authored book entitled The Age of Supported Independence, published by Springer, Dordrecht, with Dr Patrick Barrett and Professor Robin Gauld.  They’re next book is currently in preparation. Here Beatrice provides her top 5 tips for getting your book proposal accepted by a publisher.

1. Conduct a thorough search of relevant publishers,

2. Send them a well written book proposal,

3. Be courteous and inform the publishers whom you contact that you will be contacting a number of publishers

4. Ensure that the proposal gives a brief outline of the related literature of theory and data (social science here). You must identify and stress where your book has its place/or can fill a gap,

5. Do a thorough reading of the publishers’ websites, and comply with their list.

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Publishing journal articles post PhD: Top tips by Dr Kate Woodthorpe
Posted by atarrant

Kate is a Lecturer in Sociology in the Department of Social and Policy Sciences at  the University of Bath. She completed her PhD in 2007 and details about her publishing, research and teaching can be found here. In this post she shares her top tips for getting journal articles published post PhD.

1. Try to get a paper published on methods. This is good for contributing to your discipline in terms of how you ‘do’ the empirical part, and is also good for developing your teaching profile. I’ve found it useful to teach methods courses as you are involved in the ‘core’ teaching and having a few papers on methods is evidence of your interest in it.

2. Publish in a journal that you know your contemporaries will read (even if not high impact). They will be the ones that come to you for inclusion in research bids, book chapters, general advice etc,

3. Publish in a journal that is important to your discipline so it is clear that you are making a contribution to wider disciplinary debates
(easier said than done!),

4. Edit a book if you can – it is so interesting to see different styles of writing,

5. Get into the habit of reviewing journal papers – so you can see some of the stuff that gets sent in (and therefore breaking the illusion of
perfection). It is, as my supervisor once said, also a free education!

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Publish or Perish. Impassioned reflections of an Early Career Researcher
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(c) Moyan Brenn Berkut83@hotmail.it

Todays post by Tom Brock, an Early Career researcher at Durham University, is an impassioned reflection on the difficult journey ahead faced by many of his career stage with the desire to progress; that of getting journal articles published.

 Across the academic spectrum, the phrase ‘publish or perish’ has been heard by many. Today, it might be thought of as the condicio sine qua non of academic and researcher development. The idea behind it is simple: we must publish our research material or we will be cast out as failures of the system. We perish: we suffer complete ruin in a sudden or untimely way. It is a provocative phrase. It is meant to spur on progress. However, it resonates deeply with the early career researcher. It echoes throughout our day-to-day lives as we fear that in order to qualify our academic prowess (beyond the mere possession of a doctorate) we must face peer-review. If we do not publish, then we perish, and the alternative that we face translates into something quite unsettling.

Like the protagonist of 1995 hit-film, ‘Judge Dredd’, the unpublished academic is met with one choice: to face the ‘long walk’ alone. It is an uncomfortable truth but there are few options remaining and often each ends with the same inevitable call for peer-reviewed material. Unsatisfied by this, the unsuccessful scholarly graduate must leave the refines of the ivory tower to be greeted by the ‘Cursed Earth’: a space in the employment line where the skills of a doctoral researcher rarely translate into ‘business acumen’. In my case, this means a Ph.D. in Sociology, which does not directly translate into what the market requires: quick judgments, fast/competitive calls and rapid solution-based decisions. On the contrary, my forté is built around taking the necessary time to think, or explore and analyse. It often involves processes of rinsing, repeating and repeating again. If this is the case for other researchers, then, is it any wonder why the phrase resonates so deeply? Given what is at stake, there will be those for whom the publication process is both an emotional and physical challenge.

It is within this context that I jumped at the chance when Durham University’s Centre for Academic and Researcher Development (CARD) recommended that I attend a course entitled ‘Publish or Perish: an introduction to publishing and reviewing journal articles’. The course was straightforward enough. Participants submit a short article (1000 words), which is then peer reviewed by other participants. The article must be accessible to a general audience. Participants are asked to review two such articles, in accordance with set quality criteria, and are asked to supply referees reports for these items. Participants are then asked to revise their original submissions and resubmit it for acceptance. The whole process takes approximately 4 months (June-September) and finishes with a publication launch. I am currently waiting to receive feedback on my original submission but I have completed my referees’ reports.

The experience has been overwhelmingly positive and has served to contextualise the sobering depiction of ruin and catastrophe outlined above. Writing an argument in 1000 words, for a general audience, was no easy task. It took time and reflexive-critique. Through the process, I learnt the importance of writing shorter, snappier sentences. I learnt to omit concepts that I had no space to define and I would try to limit myself to a single idea or point per paragraph. These common-sense principles were impacting my writing style and it enabled me to keep the central argument of the article at the forefront of discussion. The course taught me something of paramount value: effective writing is what makes our ideas not only accessible but real. It gives our imaginarium a break and allows us to take hold of our ideas, communicating them in a style which has impact.

This moment of clarity had a lasting effect. It became the viewpoint from which I refereed the other articles. Many of the corrections I suggested were balanced on the issue of a clear and concise writing style. Unclear phrases or terminology were redressed and where conceptual rigour was an issue, I recommend omitting entire sections of the paper for straightforward, descriptive, prose. Each comment I made served an important function: it prompted a reflexive-critique of my own writing style. I was left with a new perspective on why we write as well as how we do it.

Taking this new stance, I still face the wider environment and it remains unchanged: there is a sense of urgency to publications and without them there is little chance of securing a place on the academic-tenure track. However, though the sobering nature and pressures of the environment echo in the distance, the process of publication has been demystified. The importance of effective writing has been crystallized in my working consciousness. Publishing content appears to be more straightforward when you know why you must turn your ideas into clear and concise prose. I only hope that this welcome development is enough to stave off the ‘long walk’ alone.

Dr Tom Brock is currently a Research Associate in the School of Applied Social Sciences at Durham University. His research interests lie in realist social theory, histories of radical thought and movements of political action. You can follow him on Twitter and see his website here.

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Book Reviewing: The Basics by Katie Faulkner
Posted by atarrant

Image c/o Eric Lanke

Todays post, written by Katie Faulkner is part of a short, multi-authored series of posts recently published on PhD2Published, all about book reviewing as academic publishing. Katie is a doctoral researcher and visiting lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She is also editor-in-chief of the Courtauld postgraduate journal immediations and Tweets as @katierosemary12

At the outset of our academic careers it can be so very gratifying when you realize you are now considered smart enough to review the work of your fellow researchers. Not to mention the joy of receiving a free book. Books for free are up there with complimentary conference lunches that involve chocolate brownies as far as I am concerned.

But reviewing books takes time, and tempting as it may be to imagine yourself as your favoured food critic writing a searing attack on your local branch of Nandos, a hostile or undiplomatic review could be potentially embarrassing. So before you eagerly sacrifice your precious Sunday to reading a book cover to cover, ask yourself the following questions:

What is in it for me?

  • Did I mention the free book? If there’s a book you want but can’t afford, it is worth seeing if you can review it for a journal. Look on the website of your chosen journal for contact details of their reviews editors.
  • A book review counts as a publication. It may not be peer reviewed, but a book review in a well-respected journal is a great advert for your knowledge of, and critical skills in your field.
  • How often do we study a book from start to finish? Writing a review gives you an opportunity to gain a really deep insight into the methodologies the author has used, how they have structured the narrative of their research and how they deal with the problems thrown up by their data and approach. Flexing your critical muscles is really helpful for thinking about your own writing, especially if you are working on a book or book proposal of your own.
  • Book reviews are meant to be succinct. They usually have a word count of anything between 300 to 2000 words, often without footnotes. If done well, writing a review is excellent practice in communicating complex ideas in relatively few words.

What is in it for the reader?

  • Why do people read book reviews? Usually, simply to work out if they need or want to read this book.
  • In mainstream publishing, the rise of social media, blogging and online magazines has diluted the power of the traditional literary critic writing for print journalism. Potentially, everyone is a critic. But as plenty of critics and authors point out, reviews from a trusted source are still valuable indicators of credibility and quality. In academic publishing, where success is reliant on the approval of your peers, the book review surely still has an important and useful place.
  • Bearing in mind that readers of your review will be looking for a fair and balanced assessment of the book in question, there are several necessary elements to every review piece:
    • A summary of the key argument of the book and the evidence used to support this.
    • A discussion of the author’s methodological framework and how this relates to the work of other scholars working in the same field.
    • The identification of any gaps, omissions or problematic areas in the gathering of data and subsequent analysis. How might it have been possible to interpret this information differently?
    • How does the book fit in with other research in the same field?
    • Who will find this book useful? Is it aimed at a specific audience or is it of more general interest.

What is in it for the author and/or the publisher?

  • There’s no such thing as a free book (I lied). In return for the shiny new tome on your bookshelf the publisher is hoping your review will drive sales of the book. By participating in the reviewing process, you are effectively implicated in the marketing of this book. This is probably fine if you think the book is great, but might niggle at your conscience if it is bad book.
  • If the author sees your review, they will know that at least one person has read their precious research with the attention it deserves. Choose your words carefully; remember how personally you can take criticism of your own work. Be rigorous, but don’t be personal or petty.

Want to know more? Check out the other two posts in the series by Laura Pasquini and Raphael Susewind.

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Part 1: A Primer on Open Access Publishing by Jason Colditz
Posted by atarrant

This post is the first in a series by Jason Colditz, who spends his days at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a full-time Research Coordinator (Department of Psychiatry), Teaching Assistant for the Dissertation Research Seminar (Department of Administrative and Policy Studies), and has consulted on several university-sponsored and individual research projects. In the Social and Comparative Analysis in Education graduate program, his comprehensive project focuses on policies and economics of Open Access publishing. In this set of blog posts, Jason extends a conversation started earlier on PhD2Published, introducing us to the world of Open Access publishing and exploring its implications for future academic publishing and careers.

Open Access (OA) publishing is a game-changer for researchers and academics who produce scholarly works.  While mathematics and physics have a rich history of making articles publicly available and medicine is moving in that direction thanks to funding mandates, OA is a relatively new development in social sciences and humanities fields. Over a series of posts, we will help you to understand the basics of OA, provide resources to help you make informed decisions about OA options, and consider the long term impact of OA publishing for emerging researchers and professionals in academia.

Background: Open Access as a Geopolitical Grassroots Movement

Recently, Open Access (OA) has received increased public attention on a global scale. The UK, Argentina, and others are moving towards federal mandates to make publicly funded research results available to the public, the US is under increased pressure to enact similar OA legislation, and advocacy groups are springing up around the globe. A driving force of this movement stems from universities and academic library associations that are unable to keep up with the hyperinflation of journal prices (i.e., “serials crisis”). The recent public mobilization arises from a growing awareness and discontent towards the unsustainability of journal publishers’ current business paradigms. In brief, for-profit journal publishers continually increase profit margins by charging the public to access the research that they have funded and by charging academic institutions to access the research results that they have produced. Researchers, librarians, and the public are uniting at a grassroots level, demanding a new model for sharing research results. Globally, researchers are boycotting publishing in Elsevier journals because of questionable business practices, and the public is petitioning the US government to mandate openness in publicly funded research results. As our global culture increasingly demands research findings to fuel innovation and social progress, and with technology making web-based electronic publications the norm, we are on the brink of shifting paradigms for sharing scientific knowledge…

Welcome to Open Access!

Simply put, OA is the free release of knowledge to the public who sponsor and benefit from it. This paradigm allows patients and providers to access medical research that informs treatment, allows educators to draw from relevant findings in teaching and learning theory, allows public policy makers and advocates to make scientifically grounded arguments, and allows scientists and the general public to stay abreast of current knowledge across all research disciplines. From an epistemological perspective, OA allows researchers to more readily access and build upon previous knowledge. From an academic career perspective, OA creates broader dissemination and citability of published articles. The only downside (if you can call it that) in moving towards a more open model of knowledge sharing is that publishers will need to adapt their profit models and academia will need to adapt to new technologies and develop new standards for evaluating the prestige of published works. This is similar to the process of adaptation that the record labels and musicians undertook when technology caught up to the recording industry. If we can learn a lesson from this recent history: don’t spend time and energy clinging to dated market conventions and do spend some time gaining an understanding of the emerging system. If you should adapt to emerging norms and remain competitive in open knowledge markets, the upcoming posts will help you to become confident in choosing appropriate venues for publishing your articles and will show you how to share your results beyond conventional publication channels.

Moving Along…

Now that you have some background, it is time to move into applications and provide you with some tools to make the publishing process easier. The next post will talk a little bit about author copyright agreements and provide resources to help you publish your research directly into the public domain (the “OA Gold” model). That will bridge us into discussing the “OA Green” model where authors publicly archive their published works. Finally, we will wrap-up with some practical considerations of OA, assessing article prestige (i.e., impact metrics), and how OA is contributing to new ways of measuring article impact and how that might affect your future academic career.

In the meantime, if you want to do your homework on OA, I recommend starting at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). If you do the Twitter thing, there are always interesting live updates on the #OpenAccess tag, or you can tweet @ColditzJB with questions.

Stay Open,

Jason

Follow Jason on Twitter: @colditzjb

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Weekly Wisdom #95 by Paul Gray and Simon E. Drew
Posted by atarrant

SELECTING A PUBLISHER INVOLVES TRADE-OFFS. With a large pub­lisher that issues many books in your field in a year you gain the advantage of mass marketing and advertising. Large publishers em­ploy reps who visit campuses. However, these reps are given many books to push and their commissions depend on the number of books sold. As a result, they concentrate on freshman and sopho­more texts for required courses. Furthermore, since they receive the same commission no matter which book is adopted, they have little incentive to sell a particular book. Thus, you run the risk that pro­motion of your book will be lost among the many others with simi­lar titles being offered by that publisher. Small and specialty commercial publishers and university presses give you much more individual attention. You can judge whether they are a good fit for your book by looking at their publications list on their Web site, themailings you receive from them, the advertisements in your profes­sional journals, and the experience and recommendations of your peers. If a publisher looks reasonable based on these probes, go to your school’s library and look at their books they have published. Before signing a contract, make sure that (a) your publisher will have your manuscript peer reviewed, and (b) the publisher you chose “counts” with your field’s tenure committee. Under no circum­stances publish with a vanity press, that is, a publisher that charges you for publishing your book.

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Weekly Wisdom #94 by Paul Gray and Simon E. Drew
Posted by atarrant

PAY ATTENTION TO THE BOOK PUBLISHERS’ REPRESENTATIVES WHO COME INTO YOUR OFFICE. They are a valuable source of informa­tion. These reps have two missions: (a) to flog the books their com­pany issues and (b) to send intelligence back to the home office. They will be pleased to send you complimentary copies of the latest mass market elementary textbooks in your field. If your field is French, you can obtain many shelves of freshman- and sophomore-level French books. You can alsoobtain copies of books directly linked to specific courses you teach. It is a little more difficult (but not impossible) to obtain complimentary copies of books in your research area. There’s always the chance that you will adopt. Don’t, however, simply look at the reps as a source of freebies. Use them to find out what is going on in the book market. Sound them out on whether their firm is interested in a book manuscript you have under way. Their response will usually be positive. Ignore that. Just make sure that they get the wordabout your forthcoming manu­script back to the editors at the publisher’s headquarters.

 

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Book, and other reviews by Raphael Susewind
Posted by atarrant

 

Image c/o Eric Lanke

is a political anthropologist at the Universities of Bielefeld and Oxford. He works on Muslim belonging, the ambivalence of the sacred and diplomatic culture in India – and blogs and tweets about these issues and academic life in general. Today’s post also gave him a good excuse to further delay his seventh book review

In her last post, Laura Pasquini suggested that publishing book reviews provides not only writing practice, but also improves one’s reading skills and habits. Today, I want to highlight one more synergy: book reviews prepare you for grading student papers (and probably also for other kinds of reviews) and vice versa. I learned this lesson when I recently had to write a stack of concise narrative evaluations of undergraduate disserations; the next book review flowed from my pen (well, keyboard) like a charm. Pleased about this, I discovered three similarities:

  • Firstly, as Laura emphasized, book reviews require analytical reading – and they are best if you are able to concentrate on one key point only (which should be the key argument, if present). The same holds for grading student papers: for speedy marking alone, you need to read analytically rather than sequentially – and students generally prefer one major and substantive suggestion for improvement over a heap of nitty-gritty details of what else could have been better, too. Though admittedly finding the key point in student papers can be harder than in a good monograph…
  • Secondly, and again going back to Laura, book reviewers should evaluate. There are good books, and there are not so good ones – your readers want to know your reasoned opinion. Likewise, lecturers have to decide in the end which mark to assign. If all book reviews and marking sheets screamed excellence, the whole point of the exercise were lost. Because they are rare, review editors in fact love differentiated evaluations (almost as much as submission on time); one even called me up to congratulate me for my balanced, but in the end negative review. My judgement balance now stands at two excellent, two good, one “ok” and one terrible book – which about reflects the state of publishing in my field.
  • Finally, book reviews and narrative evaluations of student papers (as well as other kinds of reviews) share the same basic structure: one introductory sentence, a weighted summary highlighing one particularly mentionable section or chapter, an evaluation of the key argument, a comment on style and presentation (only if particularly commendable or really dismal, in my opinion), and a final mark/recommendation. Practicing this structure in book reviews will make your grading more effective; and evaluating student work can improve your review style.

Importantly, the two formats have differences as well however. Above all, they are written with different audiences in mind: other readers in the case of book reviews, but authors in the case of student papers (or other kinds of reviews). This difference needs to show:

  • In book reviews, your suggestions on how to improve should preferably target the field at large, not the specific work under review. The book has been published and cannot be changed anymore: it is as good as it is. If it isn’t good, it is sufficient to point out why; you need not make the author suffer by demonstrating that you could do better within your 800 word review. But more can always be done by others, and lessons can be learned by the whole discipline. Focus on these. In contrast to books, however, student papers can be resubmitted – and it is only the student him- or herself who hopefully learns a lesson. This should render different kinds of suggestions.
  • And book reviews are of course public, so being nasty or sloppy is not an option (and will most likely backfire, too). Oh wait – shouldn’t “being nice and careful” be an integral part of teaching, grading (and journal refereeing) as well, precedent notwithstanding? How could I forget…

Finally, there is a last similarity between book reviews and teaching: neither count for much on the academic career ladder. Which is another good reason to be rather efficient about them (and efficiency stems from practice, and from synergies such as the one pointed out above). But going back to Laura’s earlier post, both teaching and reading (and by extension book reviews) are also seedbeds for ideas: they may not count directly, but practicing them will ultimately help you achieve what counts.

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