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Weekly Wisdom: Brought to you by the Letter G
Boxes

BoxesConsider being generous. Awhile ago there was a discussion about Tweeting during conference panels and whether doing so was making scholars’ research public outside of their established intentions. Academics are generally trained to be very protective of their ideas, their data, and their scholarship: there’s a reason for the term “intellectual property.” The inverse would be to apply the ideas of generosity and publicness to scholarship.

Michelle Moravec conducts her scholarly work in open places, inviting engagement and comments from others. She notes: “Writing in Public is my small contribution to making visible the processes by which history making takes place. I draft all my work in documents shared with readers for comments and critique.”

Author and artist Austin Kleon makes a similar pitch. His latest book is titled Show Your Work: 10 ways to share your creativity and get discovered. Kleon encourages readers to “think about your work as a never-ending process, how to build an audience by sharing that process.”

What might you gain from being generous with your scholarship?

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

Hackademic Guide to Networking: Tip Off the Press
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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
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Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

TIP OFF THE PRESS. Sometimes you’ll organise an event or publish a piece of work that has obvious impact beyond your academic field alone. When this happens make sure you talk to your university’s marketing and press team. Work with them to draft a brief and to-the-point piece of text you can send out — press-release style — to relevant news outlets. It might be that you’re organising an event that will benefit the local community so make sure the local papers know about it well in advance. If you can make life easy for them as well by presenting them with text that pre-empts their questions you’ll increase your chances of the event/project being written about. If your work has real national/international impact then it’s really important you work closely with the press team not just to make sure you get press but also so that they can protect you and your intellectual property (no matter how you choose to license it, whether with a Creative Commons license or a more conventional copyright).

 Academic work is seldom a fame-game, but it’s always worth publicising important work because it will be bring prestige to your university and give you added kudos in your department (not to mention it may well build an audience for your work and help sell books etc) and that can lead to bigger and better grants. Jesse writes more on this subject in his article, “Promoting Open Access Publications and Academic Projects.” There, he writes, “Our work has value, and it’s safe to openly admit that. In fact, at this moment in education, championing what we do should be a major part of what we do.”

 

Hackademic Guide to Networking: Hone Your Elevator Pitch
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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 continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

 

HONE YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH. Learn how to describe what’s very broadly at stake in your work. This can take years of practice to get good at — and it’s especially hard to do straight after completing your PhD — but we don’t have years (we usually need to hone a pitch before the PhD is even finished), so here’s a cheat. Imagine you have to convey the life or death importance of your work (and that your life actually does depend on getting the message across). What would you say? Instead of being lost in the intricacies and jargon of your field, you have to tell someone — anyone — just why your work matters. This sort of thing is often described as an ‘elevator pitch’, a short teaser you could recite to the most important person within or outside your field in a short elevator trip.

 

Hackademic Guide to Networking: Have a Privacy Policy
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Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/  under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Image 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 continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

 

HAVE A PRIVACY POLICY. Being an academic often means doing public work. Even if you see yourself as more of an introvert, research is about sharing and opening up dialogues in the classroom and beyond. Social media intensifies this so it’s worth working out how to approach social media platforms in advance and maybe devising a clear policy for yourself. For example, a Facebook post about LOLcats or a casual comment on Twitter about a heavy weekend’s drinking might not be things you want to add to your professional persona. Whether you have friended colleagues on Facebook or not, even with privacy controls, you can never guarantee these things won’t come to light elsewhere. With that in mind, you might like to consider firstly which platforms you are likely to use to communicate with colleagues and peers and which are for close friends only and second, lock down the privacy on the ones you want to be personal. Then decide what you are happy to talk about in public. Savvy social media users appear to be very open and friendly but are often extremely careful about what they do and don’t share. It might be useful to brainstorm a policy for yourself on paper, which you can keep handy to periodically remind yourself what you’re comfortable with.

 

Hackademic Guide to Networking: Have a Business Card
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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 continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

HAVE A BUSINESS CARD. It might seem strange for two Twitter-obsessives to suggest something as old-fashioned as a business card but what we’re really promoting is being multi-modal. Business cards remain useful ways to leave your details with somebody, especially if you’re easily connected with your card – the physical trace can work in ways different from our virtual presence. Also, you’ll find that different cultures respond better to different forms of networking/self-promotion. For example in Hong Kong, where Charlotte lives and works, business cards are considered an essential networking convention (even human beatboxes carry them). There is even a ritual to receiving a business card and reading all of its details before continuing to talk to the person who gave it to you. Today it’s quick, cheap and easy to get a stash of cards so the only thing to think about is how to present yourself. You might keep your card very minimal, you might go for lots of visual or textual information, you might even include a word cloud rather than job description to better represent your academic interests. And, if you are indeed a Twitter-obsessive, don’t forget to include your Twitter handle.

Hackademic Guide to Networking: Buy a Domain Name
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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
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/  under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Image 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 continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

BUY A DOMAIN NAME. This is relatively simple. If you don’t own your own domain, buy it now. You don’t necessarily even need server space or a website to put up. In lieu of anything more elaborate, simply forward your domain to your work profile or Academia.edu page. Eventually you might build a blog or substantial website and use the domain for that. The point is to start laying claim to your online identity. You’ll be glad you did as your career grows, because you’ll have an easy-to-find web presence with some history that will help your work show up in google searches.

How to be a Hackademic #41 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
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How to be a hackademic pictureHybrid 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.

HAVE AN EMAIL SIGNATURE. Make sure your email contains a short signature detailing your current job and the main place people can find you online. You might even consider regularly updating this signature with a link to your latest piece of work, whether that’s a journal article or a blog post. Just like an online bio/image combo, this consolidates and re-enforces your persona and area of expertise. It is also a way to get your work under the nose of new people whose curiosity in link-clicking will be satisfied in spates.

This tip also can help you with your thoughts.

How to be a Hackademic #34 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
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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

How to be a hackademic pictureHybrid 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.

BE ADAPTABLE. You’re going to need expertise in more writing styles than just thesis/dissertation writing. When we write academic dissertations, we are learning how to write for a very niche academic audience. Now you need to adjust your writing style for a new audience (the one that isn’t examining your PhD). For example, if you are writing for a more popular or generalist audience, you’ll want to use a lot less jargon. When writing a dissertation, we laboriously chose and qualify our terms, such precision ensuring the intricacies of our argument are clear. The typical dissertation is very different in tone and structure from the typical academic book. While a dissertation is usually directed toward a very small audience, a successful book must be accessible to a wider audience. This modulation of tone may take time to master so it is worth practicing early on.

What else does it take to be a Hackademic? Click here to find out.

OMFG! I just got re-tweeted by Justin Beeber!?!?! Social Media Academia by Ben
Image from Mochimochiland.comImage from Mochimochiland.com
Image from Mochimochiland.com

Image from Mochimochiland.com

This blog post by Ben (author of the Literature HQ blog) is part of a series that asks after new forms of scholarship and demonstrates how academic out-put is changing in the digital age.

From blogs like the Thesis Whisperer to Twitter communities like #PhDchat there are a number of ways in which academics are harnessing digital communication technology to support each other and their work within and without institutions. And some are even outright reinventing what academic scholarship might be. We are well beyond the early phase of academic listserves and blogs and into a – perhaps third wave – of digital discourse design.

In this series I’ve invited the people responsible for these types of projects to share what their intentions were when they established them. How their projects have changed the way they (and we, as participants) work, research, share, support and interact with each other as global colleagues. And how they might describe what the emerging skill-sets are and their benefits and pitfalls.

Today’s celebrities are more accessible than ever before. It’s not uncommon for me to see my friends gushing after being mentioned by a minor (or sometimes major) celebrity on Twitter. While this may seem trivial, for me it’s amazing. I think it represents the shrinking of oceans between us and people who we thought were totally inaccessible. This includes vacuous celebrities, but more importantly, it also includes the greatest minds of the 21st Century. This incredibly powerful phenomenon has become the new focus of my growing blog.

So where did it all begin? Well, I suppose my site is first and foremost an experiment. Now I have some idea of how I want it to progress but at the start I certainly didn’t. I just wanted to make a “complete” resource for people doing an academic literature review. By complete I mean that I didn’t just stop half way through but made it into something that someone could ultimately use to succeed with their own project.

Based on my early goal and the vision that I had the site has far surpassed my initial expectations. However, as the site has grown so have my ideas hopes for the future of the project. It has been a great vehicle for me to experiment and learn about communicating useful information through digital media such as Twitter, You Tube and Webinars.

Initially it was just me rattling around on the blog, not much of a community or input from others. Now I think that the community and the other contributors are the most important part. Perhaps the most influential section of the blog is a podcast that I use to talk to experts from all different academic fields to try and help my readers/listeners with their literature review. This was popular when it first started but I’ve recently been hosting the podcasts live with input from the audience which has been a huge success. I think it highlights the changing tide of media in general. It is no longer acceptable to just preach to crowds from a pulpit. Our audiences expect to be engaged by the people who are providing them with information.

Is this novel? Am I feral, hybrid and outstitutional? When Charlotte asked me this I couldn’t help but smile. I’ve never really thought about it before but yes, this is how I feel at the moment. I feel that what I do is provide an alternative to the way that a lot of skills training (especially writing) is done in universities. I feel like I’m providing an education that I needed myself about 3 years ago! I’m ok with this. It’s certainly not that the academic institutions are doing a bad job, but it’s very difficult to cater to everybody. That’s why I like what I do and I like providing an alternative resource and an alternative point of view. I think it’s ok to be feral as well. This way we are all a little bit leaner and meaner, ready to adapt to the ever-changing tides as larger institutions simply can’t be.

How would I describe Literature Review HQ now? Well I’d say deep down it hasn’t really changed. I still want to make a “complete” resource for anyone doing an academic literature review. However my definition of “complete” has changed. Now it’s not just about me sharing my experiences and advice. I feel like now it is my responsibility to find the very best experts in the world and to try get them to impart their wisdom to my audience. In the future I also want to focus even more on engagement. I think it’s really exciting how we can deliver information online. I also think it’s exciting how accessible people genuinely are. We really have the best information within reach. If we want we can talk to experts and learn an awful lot. I feel that it is my responsibility to use my blog as a platform to aggregate all this information for the benefit of anyone who wants to really write an amazing literature review.

How to be a Hackademic #26 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
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How to be a hackademic pictureHybrid 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.

FIND AN AUDIENCE. Without an audience, you have no real motivation for writing. Your work becomes an exercise in speaking to an empty room, which is – to be fully honest – kinda crazy. So first it is a good idea to really think who you are aiming your work at? Who would you like to speak to and why? And then think about building this audience more literally. For example, students can be an excellent audience for rough pieces of writing and early ideas. Blog posts and conferences are other great platforms for building an audience for your work as you’re writing. Of course you need the writing to really win an audience, but building an audience one step at a time works really well. Then, once you have an audience, the demands of that audience will keep you writing.

 

Want more tips on Hackademic? Click here!

Writing for a non academic audience by Marcia Hughes
boulders_02

Today’s post is about writing for non academic audiences. Marcia Hughes, the post author is one of the founders of the Boulder Group Ltd, a communications consultancy founded in 2007, dedicated to working with universities and higher educational institutions in the delivery of knowledge to wider audiences.

If you’re passionate about communicating your research with as wide a public as possible, then the chances are you’re already presenting your ideas clearly and simply to diverse audiences outside of academic walls. Hopefully, you’re also benefiting from your public engagement.

As a journalist and reporter with the BBC for nearly 15 years, I had to ensure my ideas ‘educated, informed and entertained’ the public. I found it rewarding making programmes for a general audience to absorb and appreciate.  Working mainly for Business and Financial News and Current Affairs, I had to turn quite complex issues into accessible listening and viewing for TV and Radio. I quickly learnt some important steps for engaging a general audience:

  • Developing a clear and simple narrative for the audience to follow
  • Choosing interesting case studies (voices) with relevant human interest or experiences
  • Making sure interviews with experts outlined key themes in a straightforward way
  • Removing any jargon or specialist speak
  • Using simple and concise language and using short sentences

Of course, it wasn’t always plain sailing. At times, appealing to this unknown “general audience” felt like being in the firing line from a group of people with the same “Am I bothered?” attitude as the infamous teenage girl played by Catherine Tate. Reaching out to the world beyond my like-minded BBC peers and financial experts took me out of my comfort zone. It constantly challenged me to think more simply and develop a much more open mindset every time I thought of a new programme idea:  Why am I making this programme; Who am I really trying to reach? What do I want to say?

These questions centre on two key areas: Audiences and Messages. They are as important and relevant to an academic individual writing for ‘non-academics’ as they are to a journalist.  What are the potential audiences are out there for you? What are their needs? What are their interests and values?  What are your key messages? Why does your research matter to them?

The more you ask yourself these sorts of questions, the sharper your focus. The more straightforward your communication, the more likely your research will resonate with a non- academic audience.

At the Boulder Group Ltd we are committed to supporting individual researchers, academic professionals, and post-graduates in their communication with the wider world. Our founding belief is that the knowledge created in our universities and HEIs, and the great ideas of researchers deserve a much bigger audience and greater appreciation.

Our service Researcher AM focuses on Audiences and Messages. It gives one-to-one help in audience engagement and current thinking on public engagement in order to help you define your research’s key audiences and choose the most appropriate means of communicating with that audience.

Contact Marcia: marcia@bouldergroup.co.uk

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!

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