Lessons learned at the 2014 Clark Scholars Seminar: Notes from the panel discussion, Publishing in Academic Journals
Participants included Alex Bowers (Columbia University), Bridget Terry Long (Harvard University), Jonathan Supovitz (University of Pennsylvania), and Julian Vasquez Heilig (University of Texas at Austin).
- 2-2-2-2-2-2 Plan: This highly ambitious plan suggests that at any given time, you should strive to have 2 articles coming out, 2 articles in press, 2 articles in revise and resubmit, 2 articles submitted, 2 articles that you are writing, and 2 articles for which you are conducting research. Sounds exhausting, right?
- Find the right fit: One suggestion for finding the right fit is to look at the reference lists for the articles that you are citing in your work and observe where those authors are publishing. Since your interests are similar, looking at the journals where your predecessors are publishing should give you an idea of which journals publish work in your area of interest. The following journals were mentioned by panelists as top journals in educational leadership and policy: EAQ, JEA, JRLE, AERJ, EPA, and ER. Check out this article from Educational Administration Quarterly (available free to Clark Scholars for the upcoming year) for more advice on choosing a journal that is right for you: Richardson, J. W., & McLeod, S. (2009). Where should educational leadership authors publish to get noticed by the top journals in the discipline?. Educational Administration Quarterly, 45(4), 631-639.
- Meet the needs of journals: Submission requirements for individual journals are available online. You should print those requirements and follow them closely. You should also pick out 2-3 articles that have been published in the journal and deconstruct them. Then, follow that structure when you write. Another suggestion from the panel was that you should shop your papers around. As you become more familiar with individual journals, you can contact the editors. Let them know what you are working on, and find out if they think your research fits their needs. One panelist even suggested that you should look at the editorial board for the journal and cite members of the board towards to beginning of your manuscript, bringing their attention to your paper.
- Create a line up of journals: Take the time to think about the line up before you begin writing, and be aware that you may want to work on multiple versions of an article to expand your options. The submission process is often slow. Although after you have been rejected you can submit the same paper to other journals, it is beneficial to be strategic about the first submission and subsequent options. You want to aim high but be reasonable so that your hard work does not get held up awaiting an acceptance letter that may never come. The panelists pointed out that your dissertation is written in a highly supportive environment with more readers and more input than you will have later in your career, so you should aim high with the articles that make up or accompany your dissertation.
- Pay close attention to feedback when you revise and resubmit: Whether or not you are ultimately rejected from the journal, the revise and resubmit process can be very useful for tightening your paper. If you copy the feedback that was provided by the journal into a letter, you can use that outline to craft your response that accompanies your next draft. Also, the suggestion was made that you should send a paper when it is 90-95% ready, and use the reviewers’ feedback to figure out what you need to add to further drafts of the paper.
- Make your contribution clear: You need to put together a carefully constructed argument that is at the center of your article and justify why your work is a contribution to the field. Make sure to explain how your work fits into the already existing body of literature.
- Translate research across disciplines and formats: Simply put, different audiences require different formats for your writing. You should be prepared to write about your research for academic use, practical use, and policy use. While a little disheartening, the truth is that most people will not want to read your full-length journal article. By creating reduced versions of your work such as brief summaries or concrete applications that policy makers and practitioners can easily digest, you increase the likelihood of practical application of your work. Another suggestion was to create online appendices that can be accessed alongside or in lieu of your journal article. Also if you feel strongly about a topic and you want your ideas to reach the greatest amount of people, you may want to translate your academic findings into a blog, Facebook entry, or tweet.
- Negotiate your contract wisely: Ensure that you are maintaining ownership of your work when you negotiate your contract. You can request to have access to your work and to be able to post PDF’s of your published articles on your personal or university website. While many journals are open to this contract change, some will not be. Decide ahead of time if you are willing to work with journals that do not allow self-archiving. Check out Sherpa Romeo (http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/), a searchable database of publisher's policies regarding the self- archiving of journal articles on the web and in Open Access repositories. Concerned about open access? Contact your librarians and fight back versus the journals. For those not prone to activism, see the suggestion above.
- Build in rewards: Academic work requires high levels of concentration and a commitment to structuring your own time wisely. It is also induces self-doubt and lends itself nicely to procrastination. For these reasons, it can be difficult to complete a manuscript. By building in rewards such as nice meals or fun trips, you create your own self-imposed deadline with something satisfying on the other end of submission. Once that the manuscript is out of your hands, go enjoy yourself.
- Last but not least . . Use the "compliment sandwich": When you begin serving as a reviewer yourself, it is helpful to offer your critique by leading and ending with what the author(s) have done well and then providing the more critical analysis in between. This format will help the recipient of the feedback be more open to your suggestions, and you will be paying them a professional courtesy that you will hope to have extended to you.
For more advice on this topic, panelist Alex Bowers suggested an ebook for the bargain price of $3, Fabio Rojas’ Grad Skool Rulz (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/93455). This book contains advice for PhD and EdD students on how to negotiate writing a dissertation, getting a tenure track position, and succeeding in the early years of the academy.
Written by Erin Anderson, UCEA Graduate Assistant and 2014 Clark Scholar