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#acwri Twitter Chat: Dealing with Reviewer Comments
Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #52 by Linda Levitt

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


Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #49 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Read before you write, Part I. One of my mentors once told his students to read the scholars whose work we most like, and read as much of their work as possible. Read widely and deeply. Read for both theory and style. Determine if your favorite scholars are those whose writing you would want to emulate. If so, figure out why. What are those authors doing well in their writing that draws you to it and draws you back again? At the same time that you are learning what you want to emulate in those writers, you’ll learn their foibles and not let them trip you up in the same way. Next week: a different spin on reading before you write.

Overcoming a negative critique – by Virginia Yonkers

Sunrise_AuerbachToday’s post reflects on one of the commonly experienced–but less often discussed–aspects of academic writing: receiving a negative review of your work. The author, Virginia Yonkers, is a long term adjunct in the Communication Department at the University at Albany.  She has written articles in the fields of Language, Communication, Marketing & Management, Education, and Business Ethics.

A couple of weeks ago I received a rejection of my article submission from a prominent journal. What made it especially difficult was that it did not even get to the peer review process, but rather was filtered by the editor who decided it “would not fit” the journal. That was it: “would not fit.” My first inclination was to throw the article away, crawl up in a ball, and just stop trying. Of course, I did not. But that is the natural inclination when you receive such a strongly worded rejection.

We are often taught in Phd programs how to succeed, but not how to be rejected. A very successful colleague of mine related how she had at least 15 articles completely written her first year of post-phd, which she never resubmitted until mentor encouraged her to do so. She had 7 articles in a year as a result.

So how do you get over the feeling of rejection, especially as an early career researcher? Here are some tips in getting over the barrier of rejection in journal publishing.

1)  Give yourself a week before you do anything after reading a rejection. It takes some time to disassociate your emotions (rejection, anger, disappointment) from the piece you have written. It is necessary to disassociate them when you need to make decisions about your next step. After you have given yourself a week, reread your rejection letter/email for any feedback, then reread your submitted to piece. This allows you to analyze what your next step will be.

2)  You have 3 choices: Rewrite and resubmit the piece; submit the piece as is to another journal; or scrap the piece for a better time.

3)  If you decide to resubmit, you will need to do some additional work. You may want to email the editor to see if you can get specific direction in how to make the manuscript more acceptable. If your manuscript has made it to the peer review process, review each comment. I find having a table which addresses each point helps in your revision, but also in the follow up letter you will submit with your new manuscript.  If the manuscript was rejected outright (without indication of revisions), you will need to justify how the revised manuscript is substantially different than the original. In your follow up letter you will need to address each comment made by editors/peer reviewers.

You do not have to revise everything a reviewer comments on, but you do have to address it. For example, one of the reviewers of an article I co-wrote used a different theoretical  framework in his analysis of our research. We maintained our methodology and justified it in our comments (and why we DID NOT use the methodology he would prefer).

4)  You may decide to submit the same article to another journal or publisher (Note of warning: you should not have the same manuscripts at two different places at the same time). One possibility is to email the journal from which you were just rejected for recommendations for other places in which your piece might be more appropriate. This does two things: 1) it insures that the other journal knows you are withdrawing your article and will be submitting it elsewhere so they will not be allowed to print it in the future; 2) you may receive some additional feedback so you can make adjustments in your next submission.

If you decide to go to a different publisher, you need to do a little more homework. Based on your rejections, try to identify a publisher by which your ideas will be accepted. My recently rejected article was in a top journal (which I did not know at the time of the submission). In reviewing the list of reviews and the authors’ names, I discovered that there were very few outside of Ivy League/top 20 international universities represented in the articles and none represented as a reviewer. My assumption is that since I was not from one of these institutions, nor a leading researcher in the field, editors filtered my article out. Often they will have 100-200 submissions a month, so this helps decrease the workload for reviewers. Now when I look for new journals to submit to, I look at readership, topics (usually they have a description on their website), reviewers, and any professional organizations they are affiliated with.

There are two areas you MUST change when you resubmit to another journal. The first is the style (most websites have a style guide). The other is your introduction. You need to always include in your introduction how your article will be of interest for the journal’s readership.

5)  If you decide not to resubmit your manuscript, you should consider how you can still communicate your research. You might want to consider submitting a paper to a conference (even having it published as a conference proceeding), upload it to a public depository (such as Academia.edu or your university’s working papers depository), or blog about it. Make sure you save the article. One of my most successful articles was an update of a colleague’s article that had never been published. She gave it to me to update and the two of use worked on creating a new model based on our discussions.

As an early career researcher, an article that was not accepted is a good starting point for collaboration or new research. So do not think of the unpublished manuscript as a failure, but rather a future starting point. It is important to continue to work even if you have had numerous articles rejected. If you feel that you are not getting anywhere with publishing, work with a mentor in your field who can give you direction on places to publish, ways to make your manuscripts more marketable, and motivation to continue to submit for publication.

Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks – Week Nine

Content_WritingEllie’s posts on Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks are  back after a holiday hiatus.

Ellie Mackin is a third year PhD student in Classics at King’s College London, and is working through Wendy Belcher’s ‘Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks’ while attempting to finish her thesis.

It’s already week nine.  That means there are only three more weeks to go before my article will be ready for submission, and sent off into the big, wide world to fend for itself against peer review.  So, I was pleased when this week was all about getting and giving feedback.

I’m not the best at giving feedback, I think.  I am highly critical of my own work but I tend to give others the benefit of the doubt (perhaps I am not a peer reviewer in the making!).  Because of this lack of feedback-knowhow on my own part I was pleased that Belcher started this chapter by talking about what makes good feedback and how to give good, constructive feedback.  Of course, being a PhD student I am no stranger to receiving feedback, but the process of giving feedback is somewhat alien.

The first point that Belcher makes is one that I found very surprising at first, but the more I have thought about it the more it make sense: don’t obsess over the bibliography.  Sure, you can recommend texts that might provide additional proof, or suggest something that a peer reviewer would notice is missing, but don’t go overboard on it.  As Belcher points out: ‘An article is not meant to be exhaustive.’  I think that’s part of the trouble switching from thesis to article writing.  One is clearly meant to be exhaustive and there is an element of ‘look how much I have read!’ to the thesis that just isn’t needed (or appropriate) for an article.  Her other points (don’t approach the article as a writer trying to fix it, and don’t judge the work) are clear and make a lot of sense.

Finally, this section ends with a few paragraphs on what you should be doing when giving feedback, and I found this to be the most useful, even though it goes a bit over the ground of ‘positive-sandwich’ but goes on to some very good stuff: be specific! (how often have we all got back essays that just have a tick or cross, ‘good’ or ‘needs work’ or some other vague comment and it doesn’t help you very much!  I think I am particularly prone to doing this!).  The most useful part of this section was the comment that you should focus on telling the other author what you understood and didn’t, what the main argument you took away was – all of this helps the author to make sure they are clearly getting across what it is that they are trying to say.  Tied in to this is to focus on the bigger picture – view the article as a whole, rather than looking right down at the micro-detail.

After this, the chapter started on what to do when you are getting feedback on your own work: ask, be specific about what you want, try to ignore the emotion in the reviewer’s words, and listen to what they have to say (I am particularly bad at these final two points, both in terms of writing and in life in general!).

So, I shared my article with a good friend and scholar from Australia, and did as Belcher suggested and gave detailed instructions on what I wanted to get out of the experience, based on Belcher’s own feeback form.  My instructions included: ‘please write a short abstract for this article, so I can see what you took away at the main argument,’ and ‘please comment on the flow of the article’ which is important to me because my article covers two separate topics for the majority of the length, and then brings them both together in the conclusion, so I wanted to make sure that this worked.  I also gave my friend a copy of the pages with Belcher instructions, which include giving instructions of the types of feedback, but also how to go about reading the article:  once without a pen, looking at the whole, on the second read you tick or mark the good parts, third time you circle the unclear parts, the you write a summary of what you think the article is about.  Then you go over the marks (good and bad) with the author.  Although Belcher suggests exchanging articles, we didn’t – she didn’t have anything ready to review at this stage, and we also did it all over email (which I think worked just as well, and now I have a written record of what she has said, so that’s a bonus for me).

I have only just got the feedback back from her, so I haven’t had a chance to really go through it.  Her summary points out what my main point is, but I think I will need to clarify some of my sub-points which she seemed a bit confused about.  Overall, the first look at the feedback (with marks and circles done on track-changes) seems to indicate that my idea is clear but sometimes my delivery is not as clear as it could be.  There were a few passages that I wasn’t surprised to see big red marks around.

I’m going to go through this feedback in much more detail and make some revision to my article based on them.

How to be a Hackademic #47 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/ 
under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GBImage by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/ under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB
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 THE BIGGER PERSON. Be receptive to comments and advice on your writing style and content and remember it’s not personal. First, any criticism of your work is just that, criticism of your work, not you. Second, it’s useful. Every bit of feedback you get is information, even if you don’t act on all of it. Try to think about critical comments that seem unduly harsh as badly packaged generosity. It’s better to know as early as possible that your work might be received this way because you can adapt it in advance – depending on whether you agree with their points or not – or steel yourself for possible further criticism. You might also try to think of their input as somehow collaborative. All too often we are urged to see our written work as somehow finished, but really it’s a frozen chunk of an on-going and much more divergent conversation. When someone offers feedback, view your discussion with them as a way of working with them and making the exchange positive for both of you. You might even suggest working on an article together, and learning more about your own work and writing skills through theirs. Or you might go and scream out of an open window and move on because hey, life’s too short!

Maybe this tip can help your hackademic writing as well!

When is a Hashtag a Journal Article? by Charlotte Frost
picture by my Dadpicture by my Dad

hashtag in a squareRight that’s it, I’ve done it, I’ve gone and put my money where my mouth is. Or rather, I’ve put my open access politics where my REFables should be.

I’ve written a journal article on the nature of art historical knowledge and its philosophical relationship to its physical archives. But rather than present that article all nicely peer-reviewed and in a high impact journal, I’m publishing it free online and inviting anyone and everyone to peer review it – publicly. I wanted my first full-length academic journal article to be in line with the online areas of art history that I research, where art and art history are freely shared. Because I am interested in the on- and offline networks that create and support our ideas about art, I wanted other people’s opinions to be integral to the piece. And as I run an academic book series that experiments with the relations between the form and content of art history books, I wanted to dig my own publishing sandpit (or rather, extend the one I already built when created PhD2Published).

As it’s not enough that I’ve gone all open access on art history’s ass, I also wanted to consider – along with the media-aware ideas in my article – what post-digital art history might be. Partly this is reflected in the fact the article is not print-published but it is also reflected in my decision to work with media artist Rob Myers to manifest what might be best described as a physical version of the article. Embedded within the text itself are links to a project where you can order your own version of a 3D printed hashtag of the phrase ‘art history’. This draws attention the fact all art historical writing takes some sort of physical form – whether it’s printed words on pages or tweeted hashtags on Twitter – and re-enforces my argument that art historians need to better understand our own media. It also allows the article to generate a number of new research objects. That is, as #arthistory is interacted with beyond the space of the article itself, it can become new things – crowdsourced things – which also (if not quite directly) support the article’s theories about the value placed on participative modes in online art contextual activity.

So here’s what happens. To read the article itself you can go here: http://www.gylphi.co.uk/artsfuturebook/

Or if that’s too long winded, you can also get the gist of the #arthistory component here: http://hasharthistory.net/

Ideally you’ll then either offer your peer review comments on the article and or you’ll purchase your own hashtag and start sharing photographs of it in use.

And then let’s all meet back here or on Twitter (I’m @charlottefrost) and discuss what we think of this as a project. Does it represent a step in the right direction for open access scholarship, the digital humanities and new forms of publication and research, or does it try to do too much at once? Does the theory at the heart of the article suffer due to the playfulness of the #arthistory project? Should such projects be evaluated and if so, how?

From Panel to Publication: Putting together a special issue for a journal by Adia Benton

writingToday’s post by Adia Benton provides some useful advice about preparing a special issue for a journal. Adia is an assistant professor of anthropology at Brown University. Her research focuses on humanitarianism, development, and technology and their interface with issues of race, gender and sexuality in sub-Saharan Africa. She can be found regularly tweeting @ethnography911 and blogging on Ethnographic Emergencies about engaged anthropology, ethnographic research and teaching. 

A few years ago, after organizing a well-attended conference panel, we – the panel co-organizers and panelists — decided to put together a special journal issue based upon our panel. The only problem was that none of us had ever done it before. So we each reached out to our mentors and advisors for help, compared notes and put together a proposal. Last year, some two years after putting the proposal together, that issue was published. In this post, I outline the steps we took to go from panel to publication.

1. Draft your proposal for the special issue.

a) Provide a brief overview of the special issue. Ours was about a paragraph. As is often the case, our original conference proposal, although narrow enough to have the panel accepted (ahem), was still fairly broad and did not specifically address the papers’ common themes and what specific new conceptual, theoretical and methodological insights they provide. Therefore, we circulated the abstract to all panelists and modified the proposal to ensure that we narrowed our topic appropriately and described the gaps in the literature that the papers address collectively.

b) Abstracts for each paper – maybe 250-300 words—that are also modified to better fit the overview of contents.

c) Timeline: Without a timeline, you will have difficulty convincing anyone (including yourselves) that you have what it takes to pull together a special issue. Here are some milestones that you can include (with suggested time allotment):

  • Agreement with journal editor (within 8 weeks of submission of the proposal);
  • Article submission (3-6 months after agreement);
  • Article review (8-12 weeks);
  • Revisions (6-8 weeks);
  • Proofing, typesetting, articles in press and online (8-12 weeks)

Note: These are rough estimates and depend on the journal’s existing publication schedule. The editor who accepted our special issue told us that our dates were all wrong because there was a backlog of articles, slow turnaround on peer review, and two special issues already forthcoming. Although this was longer than we would normally expect for a single paper, it seemed to be normal for a special issue. On the bright side, this backlog meant that we had more time to write, edit and circulate our papers within the group of authors.

2. Circulate the proposal among the special issue participants, and perhaps, to colleagues who have editorial and/or topic area expertise. Edit using their suggestions.

3. Make a list of all relevant journals. I used a spreadsheet that included:

  • contact information for the editor;
  • general submission requirements;
  • any special requirements for special issues so that you can modify your proposal accordingly;
  • length of the average journal (number of articles and number of pages). This is important because you want to ensure that your final product falls within the range of what they are capable of printing in a single issue. Some editors have a bit more leeway when it comes to the length of issue, but it seems that most of them have an issue/page limit for each year.
  • If you have mentors, advisors, and friends who are on editorial boards, they might be looking to bring in new stuff. Ask. They might be able to push a proposal through too.

4. Submit the proposal to all journals on your list. I used a free email merge program back in 2010, but Outlook and Mac Mail allow you to perform an email merge.

5. Await a response. Within a couple of weeks, we received responses to most of our inquiries. A few well-respected journals responded positively but did not provide any firm commitments. One journal immediately accepted our proposal, which ‘fast-tracked’ our timeline a bit… But she also suggested that we prepare a backup plan in case all of our articles were not accepted. We had a colleague ‘on call’ in case we needed his contribution, but because we planned to devote a lot of time to editing amongst ourselves, we felt fairly confident that our papers would make it through.

6. Submit the papers according to the agreed-upon timeline. After circulating and editing papers over a summer and part of the fall, we all submitted our papers for peer review.

7. Await peer review comments and… darn we should have done that call for papers. One of our papers was rejected, and another that was on the cusp (ultimately, a revise and resubmit that was later accepted). The editor had also received two articles that fit our theme, so we would have had a full issue — even if it did not include all our original gang. Had we been less self-assured regarding our editing abilities, we probably would have posted a call for papers on our sub-discipline’s listservs and the journal’s website.  And we would have posted it immediately after we had our initial proposal accepted.

Writing Obstacle No. 13 – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

I really can’t move forward on this writing project.

Sometimes, through no fault of your own, you cannot write. Perhaps you must wait for a result or further funding or your advisor’s response. If the way is blocked on one project, turn to another. Success correlates with authors who are not monomaniacal but have several writing projects going at once. If bored or frustrated with one, you can switch to the other. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that only full-time dedication to a single project will result in success. If you’re brought to a standstill, work on a grant application, revise an old article, or draft ideas for another article. You should always be moving forward on some front.What else is common writing obstacles ? Click here to find out.

Writing Obstacle No. 12 – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

My childcare responsibilities are preventing me from writing.

Interestingly, students with children are often the best practitioners of the tenets of this chapter. Caregivers simply do not have big blocks of time, so they get used to working in time-bound segments of one to four hours. They cannot make writing their number one priority, so they do not fixate. They cannot stay up all night binge writing and then take care of the baby the next day, so they plan ahead. For those of you who don’t have kids, no, I’m not recommending that you adopt. But if you have friends who are caregivers as well as students, you might want to study how they get it all done. You can learn good lessons from them.

If you are not getting writing done due to childcare responsibilities, you already know the answer: getting others to care for your children several hours a week. Many students would love to have such help, but are far from family and cannot afford to pay someone. Perhaps you might look into a shared childcare arrangement. Find another student who is a care-giver and arrange to trade baby-sitting so that each of you gets a full morning for writing. Or, if what you really need is some sleep or to run errands, exchange for that as well. Just remember to get fifteen minutes of writing done in that time. If none of this is possible, focus on working with the small amounts of time that crop up. Write for half an hour after you put the kids to sleep and before you start cleaning up.

If it’s any comfort, studies differ as to the effect of marriage and dependents on faculty productivity. One study found that female faculty with children have lower tenure and promotion rates, while male faculty with children have higher tenure and promotion rates (National Science Foundation 2004). Another study found that family has little effect on the actual productivity of either female or male faculty (Sax, Hagedorn, Arredondo, Dicrisi 2002). These scholars speculate that the gender gap in publication rates, which has steadily been closing, is not explained by the weight of domestic responsibilities. Rather, this slightly lower rate seems to have more to do with women’s prioritizing of “social change” over advancement and field recognition. This isn’t to imply that male and female faculty experience family responsibilities in the same way. Among men and women with the same publication rates, female faculty did more work around the home and spent fewer hours per week on writing and research than male faculty (ibid.). That is, women were more efficient, producing the same amount of writing in less time.

Besides kid, yourself can also be an obstacle for writing.

Writing Obstacle No. 11 – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

I’m not in the right mood to write.

Many people believe you have to be emotionally ready to write. If you are not in the right mood, they argue, don’t even try getting started because it’s not going to work. Yet, many can testify that it is possible to get in the writing mood. Behavior modification theory shows us that emotion follows action, not the other way around. If you don’t feel like doing something, then start doing it and usually your feelings will follow.

Individuals who procrastinate frequently confuse motivation and action. You foolishly wait until you feel in the mood to do something. Since you don’t feel like doing it, you automatically put it off. Your error is your belief that motivation comes first, and then leads to activation and success. But it is usually the other way around; action must come first, and the motivation comes later on. (Burns 1999, 125)

David D. Burns’s book Feeling Good describes many techniques for thinking positively about your life and work so that you can overcome perfectionism and guilty feelings.

You can also use ritual to overcome feeling unready. You can jumpstart the mood for writing by lighting a certain candle, playing a certain song, or doing certain stretches. When someone I know was writing her first book, she started every writing morning by reading a section from the King James Version of the Old Testament. The beauty of the passages always called up a writing response in her. Even on those days when she didn’t much feel like writing, she responded to the ritual. If Pavlov’s dogs can do it, so can you.

So, don’t wait until your feelings catch up with your goals. Just make a plan and follow it.

Maybe this is another difficulties you are facing.

Successful Academic Writers Pursue Their Passions – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

When students list positive experiences with writing, they often note genuine interest in a topic as a real engine. Successful writers do not write primarily for their professors, their classmates, or their hiring committees. Rather, they focus on the questions that fascinate them.

For example, one of my students was writing about the negative effect of welfare reform on Cambodian women. She drafted and revised her article in record time because she was so angry about the policy’s consequences. A Korean student who grew up in Japan persevered despite several obstacles to publish her research showing that Koreans in Japan labor under legally imposed hardships. A student who wrote about pedigreed dogs and another who wrote about food metaphors always worked steadily because the topics were also life-long hobbies. Other students used their own experiences of ethnicity, gender, or nationality to reinterpret canonical texts, placing the traditional in a completely new light.

The lesson? The world changes quickly, so you are more likely to have positive writing experiences if you follow your deepest interests rather than passing fads. As the authors of The Craft of Research point out, “Nothing will contribute to the quality of your work more than your sense of its worth and your commitment to it” (Booth, Colomb, and Williams 1995, 36).

My model for this is an artist I discovered while doing research on street art in Washington, D.C. I spent a summer walking the inner city photographing everything creative I could find: murals, street games, hair weaving, garbage can musicians, fence art (Belcher 1987). I spent a lot of time in alleys looking at graffiti and I kept coming across the same thing. Huge spray paintings of women’s shoes. Not just life-size, but ten feet across. All of the shoes were portrayed from one side, in profile, and all of them were pumps. I became an expert on the development of this artist whom I never met, soon able to distinguish early pump (when shoes went untitled) from later pump (when shoes appeared with titles like “Black Evening Pump” or “Leopard Skin Pump” and were signed “Ray (c) 1987”). Whenever I found a new one, in yet another out of the way place, I was delighted. Because this artist took his or her idiosyncrasy and pushed it, unafraid to paint feminine footwear across an entire urban landscape. So obsess about things, pursue your passions, do not be bullied. Whatever your pump is, paint it.

Writing Obstacle No. 10 – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

I’m afraid of writing because publication is so permanent.

This fear is one that professors often aid and abet. Graduate students in the humanities are often warned not to publish until they are completely ready and in absolute control of their topic. Professors caution that early articles can come back to haunt and embarrass the author. Nevertheless, the benefits of publication outweigh its dangers.

The argument for waiting to publish goes something like the following story, told to me by a friend who is a professor. An assistant professor in the department was up for tenure when hostile committee members dug up the professor’s first article. They proceeded to lambaste the professor with it, calling it a “vulgar tract.” In this case, my friend pointed out, publication had hurt rather than helped.

I asked my friend two simple questions. First, had the professor gotten tenure? My friend had to admit that the professor had. Perhaps the professor told the committee that the article was early work, and that if the later work could develop so far beyond the first article, this boded well for the trajectory of the professor’s career. Apparently, whatever the defense, it won the day. No one expects that scholars are going to have the same theoretical or ideological approach over the course of a lifetime

My second question was, had the professor published the article in a peer-reviewed journal? In fact, the professor had not. The article had been published in a collection of conference papers, where the papers were not properly vetted. That’s why I emphasize that students send their work to peer-reviewed journals only. The review process, however faulty, provides a safety net. If a peer-reviewed journal accepts your article, it probably won’t embarrass you later.

Other professors are more to the point than my friend. “There’s enough bad writing out there, why increase it?” one said. “Most graduate students have nothing worth publishing.” All I can say in response to such critics is that they have not read my students’ articles. Students’ first drafts for the classroom can be rough, but those students willing to do real revisions often produce fascinating, cutting-edge work that many professors would be proud to publish. Certainly, if quality were the only criteria for publication, many a faculty member dedicated to the obtuse would have to recuse him or herself from this debate.

You should set up goals for your writing as well.

Successful Academic Writers Persist Despite Rejection – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

The writing life is filled with rejection. This is one of the few shared experiences of great writers and terrible writers. A quick read of Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews & Rejections offers the comfort of knowing that most canonical authors (for instance, Hermann Melville, T. S. Eliot, and Virginia Woolf) had their work rejected in the strongest possible terms (Henderson 1998). Jack London received 266 rejection slips in 1899 alone (Kershaw 1997)! The economist George Akerlof received three rejections for a journal article that later won him the Nobel Prize (Gans and Shepherd 1994). Indeed, studies of Nobel Prize winners found that editors had rejected many early versions of their award-winning work (Campanario 1995, 1996). If you write, you will be rejected. This is unavoidable. The important thing is not to let it stop you.

Although it is tempting to let others’ criticism be the measure of your writing or even your own worth, don’t let it be. The business of reviewing is a subjective process rife with bias and carelessness. Work rejected by one journal is often embraced by another. The only difference between much-published authors and unpublished authors is often persistence and not worthiness. Published authors just keep submitting their work. If one journal rejects their article, they send the article to another. They keep a positive attitude. A professor I know has fond memories of her dissertation advisor, who papered his office with his article rejection notices. To see him working away amidst the negative notices of a lifetime, she says, was inspiring and encouraging.

Several of my students have exemplified the usefulness of persistence. In one of my classes, Carrie Petrucci revised her wonderful article arguing for introducing the apology into the criminal justice system. She knew that resistance to her argument would be high, but felt committed to demonstrating that criminal apologies provided some real benefits for victims and perpetrators. So she was very disappointed, but not surprised, when the first journal rejected her article. Petrucci stopped everything she was doing and took two days to make changes based on the comments she had received from the editor and previous readers. She then sent it right back out again to another journal, this time to a social science journal rather than a law journal. After that second journal also rejected her article, she again devoted two days to making changes. Making writing social helped her persevere. “What kept me going through two rejections,” she e-mailed me, “was the fact that I had had several people read it prior to my submitting it to any journal and a handful of those people, who had nothing to gain by it (including yourself), had given me the impression that it was strong. . . . Believe me; I clung to those comments as I got some pretty negative feed- back on rounds one and two.”

So, she sent it out a third time, to an interdisciplinary journal in law and social science. A few months later, she got a message from that journal accepting her article for publication and stating that the reviewers were extremely enthusiastic about the piece. “Congratulations,” the editor exclaimed. “It is quite unusual to have a manuscript accepted without requiring any changes. But yours is a high quality product. Good job.” Her persistence paid off. She later won the first Nathan E. Cohen Doctoral Student Award in Social Welfare in 2002 for this article and then got a job working to improve the criminal justice system (Petrucci 2002).

One of my students told us the story of a friend who was more faint-hearted. When she received a response from a journal, she opened the letter with trepidation. The first paragraph included the sentence: “The reviewers’ reports are in and both agree that your article is severely marred by poor writing.” Upset, she flung the letter aside and spent an hour in bed ruing her decision ever to enter academia. When her husband got home, he picked the letter off the hallway floor, read it, and entered the bedroom saying, “Congratulations, honey! Why didn’t you tell me your article got accepted?” Upon actually reading the letter through, she found that the editors had accepted the article pending major revisions. She hired a copy- editor to work with her on her prose and resubmitted the article. When starting out, harsh criticism can stop you in your tracks, but if you persist, you often find that things are not as bad as they seem at first.

Writing Obstacle No. 9 – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

I’m afraid of writing because my idea is very controversial or emotional.

Again, this is a very real concern. As one of my students put it, “sometimes I’m afraid my idea will come back and bite me.” One student had done a study on earnings and ethnicity, hypothesizing that salaries would be lower for a minority group in a certain profession. Her analysis of the data revealed that there was no significant difference. This finding went against her own experience and was disturbing to her advisor. Whenever she thought about writing, she felt shut down. Even if her initial findings were true, were they what she wanted to associate her name with? She felt an obligation to the truth, but also to justice and her career. How could she write when she was caught between such hard places?

As is so often the case, she found her way out through writing. She used the discussion and conclusion section of her article to suggest some alternative approaches to understanding the findings. She then used them as a platform for extending her future research to incorporate a more detailed investigation of earnings by adding qualitative in-depth interviews to her previous quantitative approach. In other words, she used an obstacle to become a better scholar. If you find yourself in a similar position, talking and writing can be the cure.

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