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Announcing Academic Writing Month 2014
Posted by Charlotte Frost

acwrimo1-01It’s back! Academic Writing Month 2014 starts 1st November!

If you’ve taken part before, you know the drill: get your reading done now, stock up on your favourite coffee [insert other productivity enhancement products here] and cancel what you can, because November means ‘write like there’s no December!’

 If you’re new to AcWriMo here’s the deal:

Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo for short) is a month-long academic write-a-thon that happens every November, it’s inspired by the amazing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) but caters to the specific needs of academic writers at all stages of their career (from undergrads to the most distinguished of professors).

It’s hosted by the online resource, PhD2Published, and throughout the month we provide dedicated posts about academic writing and share literally thousands of tips via Twitter.

The idea is that you set yourself a writerly goal and get stuck in with all the information, advice and support you’ll get from others taking part. The month helps us:

  • Think about how we write,
  • Form a valuable support network for our writing practice,
  • Build better habits for the future,
  • And maybe – just maybe – get more done in less time!

And if you can get a lot done in November – a busy time for us academics all over – think how easy it’ll be to get writing done the rest of the year!

So here’s how you get involved….

There are 6 basic rules:

1. Decide on your goal. You might count words, hours put in or projects achieved – it’s up to you. But try and push yourself a bit.

2. Declare it! Sign up on the AcWriMo 2014 Writing Accountability Spreadsheet and fill in the sections on what you’d like to achieve and keep us updated on your progress. Being accountable is key to this working for you. You need to feel a bit of pressure to get the work done.

3. Draft a strategy. Don’t start AcWriMo without doing a bit of planning and preparation. Get some reading done, carve out time slots in your schedule to dedicate to writing, even buy your favourite coffee. Sort out whatever you’ll need to write, and get it done now, there won’t be time when November comes around.

4. Discuss your progress. OK so being on Twitter and Facebook with us all day isn’t acceptable – you’ve got work to do – but checking-in at certain times is really important! We want to know how you’re getting on? What is working for you and what isn’t? Do you need help? Do you want to share a writing triumph? (You’ll find most discussion about AcWriMo on Twitter using the #AcWriMo hashtag, but if Facebook is more your thing, go there. Or use your own blog to keep in touch. You can even write little updates you want to share in the spreadsheet.)

5. Don’t slack off. If you push yourself, you’ll quickly discover the tips and techniques that work best for YOU and that’ll save you even more time in the long-run.

6. Declare your results. It’s great to use the spreadsheet everyday (or as often as you can) to chart how you’re getting on, but even if you can’t do that, you MUST announce your results at the end of the month. Our writing community benefits not only from sharing in your achievements, but knowing what didn’t work and being reminded that, at the end of the day, we’re all human!

We will have a team of AcWriMo Ambassadors supporting you at every. And if you have time, blog posts are a great way to reflect on your writing strategies with your peers (we always gather all the posts created during AcWriMo season here)

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

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

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

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.

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A short note about article conclusions by Linda McPhee
Posted by atarrant

In keeping with the writing theme, Linda McPhee of Linda McPhee Consulting, who contributed to the Guardian Higher Education chat on academic writing with me in July 2012, has written us a post about article conclusions. There are some interesting insights here that may be of use to those writing their own article conclusions.

A few of my classes in the past year have been looking at the strategies writers use in the conclusions of published articles. The published papers we took as a sample sometimes had separate concluding sections, and sometimes incorporated these into the previous section, although it was not really possible to see any difference between the two in content or strategy beyond presence or absence of a section heading.

One conclusion started by listing the authors’ assumptions and describing the problem that had been addressed. Another used a time structure: summarising the past, how this is now changing, and how the findings show the important factors in that change. The overwhelming majority began with a very brief summary of the most important findings – not a complete rehash of the findings, but a quick trip through the high points. Most were very brief and selective, though a couple provided more extensive summaries and examples from the paper.

The next part of the conclusion was more variable. Several explained how the paper fit into a larger, ongoing process (either a research process or in the actual case being researched). A few summarised the limitations of the work (all of which had been mentioned earlier in the papers at the relevant spots). One discussed why addressing the limitations could not supply enough data to change the findings, and ended with the implications of the findings. Several mentioned implications, either practical or for ongoing research. One that ended with long-term implications first discussed short-term implications. Similarly, one pointed out that although they had not found what they were looking for, the result was real and would change their research in particular ways.

The final part almost always included a sales pitch for the research. This could be its uniqueness, why it was special, its implications, or its practical value. For a few papers, the ending described what the authors saw as the logical next step to be researched. Our small sample (about 30 published papers) seemed to group around three broad scenarios, each with several variations.

Could any one of the three serve as a basic model for the conclusion of the paper you are now writing?

 

Restatement of the problem & its importancePast to present of problem

Brief summary of most important findings

More extensive summaries of implications of each result, including its history, examples and assumptions

Summary: research question and processHow this fits into a larger, ongoing process

Summary of limitations (all  mentioned earlier)

Why limitations did not change researcher’s mind

Overall implications of results

Immediate implications

Sales pitch for the research, its uniquenessImplications

Practical value

Next step

 

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Society for Research in to Higher Education Conference 2012: Some reflections
Posted by atarrant

In a previous post for PhD2Published, I mentioned that I would be talking in a symposium at the Society for Research into Higher Education Conference 2012.

I went last Friday (14th December 2012) and really enjoyed the experience. Professor Pat Thomson started with a really interesting talk about her project with Inger Mewburn (aka The Thesis Whisperer) about analyzing blog spaces for academic purposes, followed by Dr Jeremy Segrott who presented our talk about #acwri. Andy Coverdale spoke next about the use of social media and the way in which it aids the research process for PhD students, and then I concluded the session with discussion of how PhD2Published is an empowering space (for me in particular as Managing Editor) and one outside of institutions that is transforming academic knowledge production.

We seemed to get a good response to our papers from a really engaged audience, which was encouraging and we all commented on the strangeness of meeting face-to-face having ‘known’ each other on Twitter for so long (there is proof in the slightly blurred photo in the Storify below!). The symposium was the first real opportunity to meet up directly as a group and to share our experiences and reflections on social media use as academics.

Below is a Storify of some of the Tweets from the day that we Tweeted directly from the symposium to give an idea of what the papers were about and what we discussed:

 

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Your AcWriMo Party Bag!
Posted by Charlotte Frost
With lots of love, Charlotte & Anna & Sam!

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Writing Obstacle No. 4 – Wendy Laura Belcher
Posted by atarrant

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 too depressed to write.

This is a very real problem and should not be underestimated. Depression among graduate students and faculty members is a common reason for under-productivity. Depression is variously defined, but some causes are useful for academics to remember.

Depression is an emotional disorder usually triggered by environment. Some researchers believe that continuous stress over a long period tricks the brain into responding to all events as stressful, which in turn triggers depression (Blackburn-Munro and Blackburn-Munro 2001). Since there may be no better description of graduate school than operating continuously in stress mode, it is not surprising that depression is such a common problem in academia. Although the trigger is environmental, the effect is chemical—an imbalance in the neurotransmitters called dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Low levels of these natural brain chemicals prevent the nerve cells in the brain from transmitting signals normally. This slow down makes people feel that performing daily activities is like struggling to walk through mud.

The terrible curse of depression is that it impairs the very faculty you need to solve that problem. So, if you suspect that you are depressed, go to your campus clinic and ask for an appointment with a doctor. If you don’t have such access, e-mail a few people for references and make an appointment with a doctor. This is the easiest step I know of to start moving beyond depression. The doctor can then refer you to a counselor, whose services are often provided free for graduate students, or can recommend an antidepressant. Taking any medication is a serious step, but antidepressants aren’t designed to make you feel euphoric or to take away your blue feelings. They are designed to help you get up in the morning and complete tasks. They are about escaping that feeling of moving through mud; they are not about escaping your life. The doctor may also recommend exercise, which has been found a good antidote to mild depression.

If you are depressed, I know how hard it can be to take the steps to take care of yourself, but you simply must. Your academic future and maybe your life depend on it.What is better than to set up some goal for your writing.

 

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A Primer on Open Access Publishing: The Grass is always Greener (When Your Publications are Freer) by Jason Colditz
Posted by atarrant

This post is the third in our series by Jason Colditz that explores the new and complicated world of Open Access Publishing. Post One provides a general primer on Open Access for the un-initiated and Post Two explores copyright issues and the “Gold Rule”.

This post discusses alternate routes to making your research publications available to the public (“OA Green” model). This model allows you to publish in a variety of journals (even journals that aren’t Open Access) and then to publicly archive the manuscript so that others are able to read and cite your work. This builds on my previous post that describes copyright transfer agreements and OA Gold, and assumes that you have some familiarity with Open Access in general.

A Fairly Common Scenario:

You want to make your results freely available for others to read, cite, and build upon. Unfortunately, you can’t afford to spend a couple thousand dollars to unlock the published version to the public, or maybe you’ve made up your mind to submit your manuscript to one of those ‘really prestigious’ journals that don’t offer such options. After two grueling rounds of revisions and some tweaks from the copy editor, you have an article in press. Congrats – your department chair (or tenure review committee, if you’re so lucky) will surely appreciate your accomplishment! Unfortunately, many of the researchers/practitioners in your field don’t have a subscription to the journal that you’ve published in and they probably won’t wager US$30 to purchase the full-text, even for an article as potentially groundbreaking as yours (note: write a good abstract so that others are interested to read the full-text).  You want others to cite your article, but the journal doesn’t allow you to post the published version on your website for the world to see. You need a work-around, preferably one that doesn’t cause the publisher to take you to court for violating your copyright agreement. Some journals are more permissive than others when you want to share your work with the world, and you might still have a trick or two up your sleeve: time to review your copyright transfer agreement!

Your copyright transfer agreement specifies what versions of your article you may share, with whom you may share them, and when. If you haven’t yet signed a copyright transfer agreement (better yet – if you haven’t yet decided on a journal), you can look into the permissiveness of various journals/publishers at SHERPA/RoMEO. “Self-archiving” your publication means that you’re uploading an electronic version of it to a publicly available Internet archive. Journals/publishers may allow you to post your final print version to an archive for various reasons.  Best case scenario: you are mandated to publicly archive your works if your research was funded through the National Institutes of Health (in the US) or Wellcome Trust (in the UK), and publishers are required to honor these mandates. Some universities also mandate that your work is added to publicly available university archives (e.g., Harvard in the US). A growing number of universities have such institutional mandates, and you may be able to find your institution in the Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies (ROARMAP). In this case, you should consult with your university librarians to determine how they can help you to archive your publication. If you don‘t have a government or institutional mandate for public access to your article, you may still be able to share your research on an institutional, topical, or other Internet archive.

Many institutions have non-mandated archives listed on the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) (search for your institution from the search bar in the top right corner), which provide an opportunity to archive your work. At this point, every institution has different methods of collecting and distributing publications, and so you will need to conform to the regulations of your institution as well as those of the journal that you publish in.  ROAR also lists topical repositories that you can search for by keyword (e.g., “education”), but be advised that topical archives are sparse for many fields.

At this stage of the game, you may want to post a pre-print in an institutional archive or on your personal website.  A “pre-print” is a version of your article that isn’t the final published version.  Many journals will allow you to archive the semi-final version of your article before editorial changes (i.e., the version that was accepted, but not the version that was published). More stringent journals will only allow you to archive the version that you submitted before the first round of peer-review. Based on the version that you are allowed to publicly archive (if you are comfortable sharing that version), it will still be helpful for other scholars to access and cite it.  If you archive a pre-print, be sure to list the full citation for the publication up-front, so that others are able to cite the published version of your work.

“OA Green” gives you the opportunity to share your scholarly publications with anyone (and everyone) who is interested in reading them, not just the scholars at institutions that subscribe to the journal. This is important because journal holdings are shrinking at university libraries and your publications are important to a broader audience than the handful of research universities that can afford it.

Stay open!

Jason

Resources:

Follow Jason on Twitter: @colditzjb

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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
Posted by atarrant

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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Announcing AcWriMo!
Posted by Charlotte Frost

Remember AcBoWriMo, last year’s experiment in a month-long writing productivity drive? Well, it’s back, bigger and better than ever – but without the ‘Bo’!

The idea hails from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) an initiative designed to turn the whole of November into a month-long write-fest for current or would-be novelists. The idea is that you set yourself the task of writing 50 thousand words in November alone and bingo, you’ve got yourself a whole big chunk of novel!  In 2011 I decided academics should give something similar a go and, I can happily report, it went brilliantly!

For AcBoWriMo, I invited people to join me in wearing comfy clothes, drinking a lot of coffee, napping at strange times and seeing how close we could each get to writing 50 thousand words. I admitted at the time that it was an insane target, but that it wasn’t the word count that was the point. Rather, it was a bid to gather people together for mutual support in the, at times, painfully difficult and soul-crushingly lonely task of academic writing. In the last year alone, I’ve watched with awe and excitement as so many academic communities have grown and expanded on social media platforms like Twitter (examples include #phdchat, #ecrbook, #digped, #fycchat with plenty more to be found here). Not to mention that our own AcBoWriMo off-shoot (and collaboration with Jeremy Segrott), the regular live Twitter chat on academic writing, #AcWri, has co-ordinated a huge amount of valuable discussion. Nice work Anna and Jeremy!

So I decided it was worth giving it all another go – with some revisions…

This year’s event will focus on ALL aspects of academic writing, and will encourage participants to set their own (wild) goals. As a result of that, and the strength of the AcWri community, it will be called AcWriMo. Just like Craig David, I copped some flack for the ‘Bo!’ part. Although I never intended to promote the idea that an entire academic book could be written in a month, by calling the event Academic Book Writing Month, it seems I over-emphasised that part. But we still want you to join in on setting yourself some unrealistic targets and fighting alongside us to achieve them.

So, here are the rules for #AcWriMo 2012

1. Set yourself some crazy goals. Try and come up with some outcomes that would really push you beyond anything you ever thought possible. I always said 50,000 words is a bit of a nutty goal for academic writing in one month (it works out at something like 2,500 words a day and that’s just bonkers) but if you’re bonkers, go ahead and set that target. Otherwise, think about how much you are comfortably able to write a day and set yourself the task of regularly exceeding that amount. If you can manage 300 words a day then we want 400, if you can do 1000, then we want 1500 – something like that. Last year, a lot of people preferred setting themselves a time-based goal. They would try to write for so many hours a day or week and often used the Pomodoro technique to count units of productive time. If that’s your thing, go for it! How about sneaking in an extra Pomodoro a day? Or, look at all the writing tasks you’ve got to achieve over the next few months and decide to get a set amount of them done in November. In the US it’s job season, so how about you count your job-letter-writing-time. Or article drafts maybe?

2. Publicly declare your participation and goals. You can do this by adding to the comments of this very blog post, by tweeting using the hashtag #AcWriMo, or by writing on our PhD2Published Facebook page. Being accountable is key to this working for you as a way to push yourself, but if you want to silently take part, at least tell a friend who is likely to hold you to it. [edit: you can now also add your goals to and keep track of your progress with Jenn's AcWriMo Accountability Spreadsheet - thanks Jenn!]

3. Draft a strategy. This is essential if you’re going to make a success of this. Sitting down to write without preparation is the first step towards being struck down with writer’s block. We’ll be blogging and tweeting lots of ideas to help you, so before you start, work out a strategy for how you’ll tackle your set tasks. For example, establish how much you’ll need to write a day, and on which days you can definitely do this. Offload as much other work as you can, and get in some supplies (we recommend stocking up on decent coffee of course). Think about how you work best and adopt that approach from the start – this means planning everything from comfy clothes to reading sessions.

4. Discuss what you’re doing. OK so being on Twitter and Facebook with us all day isn’t acceptable – you’ve got work to do – but checking-in at certain times is imperative! We want to know how you’re getting on? What is working for you and what isn’t? We want you to tell us all if you need help with something but also to celebrate your successes with us too. And nothing is TMI when it’s AcWriMo because that’s the point: sharing!

5. Don’t slack off. As participant Bettina said of AcBoWriMo, you must ‘write like there’s no December!’ But guess what? If you work super hard now, there’s going to be more December to go round. Remember how December usually creeps up on you and suddenly its Christmas Eve and you’ve failed to buy gifts or take time out for yourself. Well, if you put the work in now, there’ll be so much December you won’t know what to do with it all!

6. Publicly declare your results – and please be honest! As a writing community, we’ll all benefit from sharing in your achievements, but it is also good to see what works and what doesn’t. And if you don’t make your targets, you’ll still be achieving the selfless goal of making the rest of us feel more normal – so it’s a community win/win really.

We’re raring to go, we hope you are too?! :-)

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Becoming a journal editor by Dr Tseen-Ling Khoo
Posted by atarrant

Dr Tseen-Ling Khoo blogs regularly for the Research Whisperer and is currently Senior Advisor in Research Grant Development at RMIT University. Prior to joining RMIT, Tseen completed research fellowships at Monash University (2004-2010) and the University of Queensland (2001-2004). She also convenes the Asian Australian Studies Research Network (asianaustralianstudies.org; 160 members), and was editor of the Journal of Intercultural Studies (Routledge; ERA A-ranked) which she reflects on in today’s post. 

There is no better way to fast-track your grasp of academic productivity and evaluation than becoming a journal editor.

A stint as an editor for a collection of essays in a book or the role of a guest-editor for a journal will give you taste of what it’s like, but nothing can prepare you for being an ongoing journal editor.

It’s not for everyone, and its rewards can be great.

What makes a good editor?

The qualities a good editor needs are:

  • The ability to make fast, good decisions about papers or issue proposals.
  • Thoroughness with processes and around reviews and revisions.
  • Good academic network, or the potential to grow one.
  • Tenacity about doing the job well, even though it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t often get concrete rewards. It’s also the kind of role where the recognition you might get never reflects the amount of time you’ve put into it.

Given this somewhat daunting list that nudges close to martyrdom, why would you do it?

  1. Being an editor of a good journal repays you with prestige points, and you get to list it on your CV as an ‘esteem factor’.
    With your name on the mast-head of every issue and on the publication’s website, it also helps with getting your name out there consistently.
  2. You get to grow a field in your own image. Sort of.
    With journals that cover more specific topic areas, you can often manage the content such that areas you feel are neglected get more love or, if you feel they’re overrepresented (over-saturated), these topics get ‘rested’. You can tap promising early scholars to submit and have your journal associated with their probable rise through the ranks.
  3. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to work with a good, tight editorial team.
    In my experience, if you couldn’t work well with your editorial team colleagues, life as a journal editor would be hellish. I was lucky enough to have a team with whom I loved working and could have a laugh. We also had a publisher who treated us to 3-course lunches once a year. This helped.

That’s all very well, and what many academic mentors may tell you, but here’s why I say you should do it:

  1. Being a journal editor gives you a crash course in high level, on-the-job professionalism.
    You think you have editing expertise? It’s not until you are editing a constant stream of papers, revisions, and whole special issues that you appreciate what ‘being an editor’ means.a) You get an intimate perspective on how your own work may travel through a journal’s processesand start to realise the profoundly unpredictable input and schedule that’s involved in just one paper’s review. The editing skills you pick up as a journal editor feedback, of course, into the quality of your own writing and how you may pitch proposals to journals or editors in the future. You will necessarily have picked up on what kinds of things slow or expedite work through the academic journal system.b) You realise what the time pressures really are in producing publications. I had always thought I was a fairly organised and efficient worker, but it wasn’t until I became a regular editor of publications that I realised I had a shallow idea of the intricate juggling process that gets a book or journal from go to woe. If you’re lucky, you’ll have an associate/assistant editor who also works on the journal and they may well take responsibility for the lion’s share of the proofing and stylistic aspects (all hail associate editors, I say!). Still, ensuring that the publication is consistent, each piece as intellectually exciting as possible, and any glitches are addressed and accounted for (with authors and publishers) is gruelling. As a guest-editor, it’s bad enough; for an ongoing editor, multiply this by at least four.
  1. You get to see the seedy and noble sides of your colleagues.
    It would only really make sense to take up big editorial duties with a journal if the publication was in your area and fed your critical and professional knowledge. When I say “professional knowledge”, I’m not referring here to the process of editing per se; I’m talking about how you get to know the academics in your discipline. Chances are, they’re your reviewers and contributors. How do they assess their peers or deal with criticism of their own work? As I’ve written about in more detail elsewhere, you can tell a LOT about your colleagues through how they review (and are reviewed). This kind of information pays dividends immediately in your broader academic life and ‘insider’ knowledge about the personalities at play in a given field.

For me, having been an editor in various capacities (including five years at the helm of a rapidly growing quarterly journal), the experience and insight I’ve gained is invaluable.

No doubt, the time that the editing gigs took up could have been channelled into a few more papers and chapters on my CV. But there is no way I would have known as much about the academic game, or as many players in that game, as I do now.

 

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

In this post Karen McAulay shares her experiences of planning and publishing her first academic book. In the first of two posts, she reflects on planning to publish.

     ‘And when I get my PhD’, you muse, ‘then I’ll publish it as a book’.  Admit it!  Haven’t we all thought this, in an unguarded moment?

Advice

Several years ago, I stumbled across this advice:

  • Leave it a year or so after getting your PhD
  • Deliver a few papers and/or publish a couple of articles
  • Start thinking about publishing your thesis as a book.
  • You’re a more attractive proposition to a publisher if you have already published on your subject.

I graduated in December 2009.  I diligently wrote papers – and published a few things – and didn’t start thinking about ‘the book’ until Autumn 2010.  But where to publish it?  I really didn’t want to go down the self-publishing route.  I didn’t want the expense, or the bother of production and marketing.  I did want to be published by a reputable company that would (a) know where to get the book reviewed, and (b) be as keen as me to sell a reasonable number of copies.

I could see that my topic would probably fit into the scope of several academic publishers.  I also wondered about a couple of publishers who might have been interested in my topic for its regional connections.  However, I was fortunate enough to be approached by the series editor of one of my target publishers, before I’d even contacted their publishing house, and that was the one I decided to go with.

The Book Proposal

So, what can you expect when you have a publisher interested in your title?  Submitting a book proposal comes first.  You have to be able to describe your target audience, and demonstrate how your book fills an unfilled niche.  It’s crucial that you’re up-to-speed with what has recently been published in your field.  If A says this, and B covers that, but you can demonstrate that you’ve devoted a good part of your thesis to some other aspect – or taken a different approach – then that’s all good!

You may have to submit a demonstration chapter.  Only you will know if the tone of your thesis reads like a book, or would still need more work to make it more accessible.  I suspect this is partly a question of writing style, and partly of subject matter.  I was asked for the link to my e-thesis, and that was that.

If you’ve published scholarly articles, you already know about the peer-review.  This can take a long time.  (I wouldn’t venture to pronounce on how long is too long, because I don’t know what’s normal in the book-publishing world.)  Similarly, I imagine there must be a wide range of responses, between “No, thanks”, and “Yes, please”, but I can only speak for my own experience.

The Contract

At the end of the day, I wasn’t asked to re-write anything.  However, I was asked if I could add another chapter, so that the book would have added value over and above the online thesis.  I was only too pleased to do this, since I’d gone on researching post-graduation, and this offered the perfect opportunity to get it in print, in context.  (I’d spoken on my subsequent research, and had a paper that would serve as a draft, but more work was needed before it would be a chapter that I could feel proud of.)  I agreed to supply the manuscript in four months.

It was by now just before Christmas 2011.

Once we’d taken down the Christmas tree, I decided, I would get started….To be continued.

About Karen

Websites and Contact Details

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

My day-job is Music and Academic Services Librarian at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  After hours, I’m a musicologist specialising in historical Scottish song collections.

My first degree in Music at Durham, was followed by a research Masters in mediaeval English plainsong uses at Exeter, then doctoral studies into mediaeval English music.  A subsequent postgraduate librarianship diploma at Aberystwyth left me with insufficient time to finish the mediaeval music research.

Librarianship at the University of East Anglia, Metropolitan Borough of South Tyneside and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has filled in the decades before I resumed research again, this time into Scottish song collecting c.1760-1888. After 5 years’ part-time study concurrently with my full-time work, I graduated with a PhD from the University of Glasgow in 2009. I submitted my book MS at the end of April 2012: Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting from the Enlightenment to the Romantic Era.

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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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