ISSST2013 has several goals that I’ll blog about in great detail shortly. However, one of the foremost goals is to accelerate the production, publication, archiving and dissemination of new knowledge in the form of scholarly works (mostly journal articles or books).
To do this better, we need to think of the parallel sessions a little differently. Often, at conferences academics lapse into a passive “lecture” mode. We tend to present finished works — or at least those that are nearly finished. We want to speak from authority. And audiences mostly want to be polite, so they don’t really challenge the presenters in ways that would advance the research.
But if the sessions are to be most useful, we should adopt an attitude that is more interactive. The audience should feel an obligation to critique the work. (Note that critique is not just criticism. It can be positive or negative, but it always comes from a position of expertise).
We should think of the parallel sessions as part of the peer review process. Presenters should expect a response from their audience,and they should have time themselves to react to the response. Presenters should be prepared to take notes, or have others take notes, and use the response they get from their audience to hasten their progress to publication. In this way, we have a specific end in mind — which is a journal article.
There is a lot of advice about how to get published in academia available on the web. Very recently, this advice has started incorporating digital media strategies — especially in sociology. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone be explicit about advising authors to think of their conference presentations as a part of their journal review process.
I don’t think the idea is very far-fetched at all. In fact, I think with a few adjustments from the Chairs, we’ll be able to improve the productive of each session for all presenters.
I recently came across a new blog post from Deborah Lupton that lists 30 tips for prospective authors, and I’ve listed my favorites here. Click thru the link for the full post. (The emphasis in bold is mine).
Next month I am running a workshop on academic publishing for early career academics. As part of preparing for the workshop I jotted down some ideas and tips to share with the group which I thought I would post here. In the process of writing 12 books and over 110 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters over a career which has mostly been part-time because of juggling the demands of motherhood with academic work, I have developed some approaches that seem to work well for me.
These tips are in no particular order, apart from number 1, which I consider to be the most important of all.
- Choose something to research/write about that you are passionately interested in. I find that most of my research and writing tends to spring from wanting to find out more or understand more about a particular phenomenon that intrigues me. In explaining it to myself I end up explaining it to others, hopefully in a new and interesting way that is worthy of publication…. .
- Make a start. Once you have an idea for a piece of writing, create a file for it on your computer and write down anything, however rough and however brief, even if it is just a provisional title and some notes about possible content. It can always be polished and developed later or even discarded if you decide eventually not to go ahead with the idea.
- Organise your writing into different computer files: articles in progress, submitted articles, accepted articles, conference papers, blog posts, book proposals, grant applications etc.
- If you are feeling unenthusiastic or have hit a wall – leave that piece of writing for a while and work on another piece of writing.
- Use your writing in as many different ways as you can – conference papers, articles/chapters, books, blog posts. Turn the small (unrefereed) pieces into bigger (refereed) pieces whenever you can and vice versa. What starts out as a blog post can be later developed into an article, for example. Conversely some of the main arguments of an article can be used in one or more blog posts.
- Never let a conference/seminar paper stay a conference/seminar paper – turn it into an article/book chapter as soon as you can. If there is simply not enough substance for a piece that is the length of a journal article or book chapter, consider polishing and referencing the paper appropriately. Once it is at a standard where you consider it ready to be available to others, publish it on your university’s e-repository as a working paper. That way, anyone will be able to access the paper digitally and reference it.
- Decide on an appropriate journal as you are writing an article and tailor the argument/length to the journal’s requirements before you finish it.
- Receiving feedback from academic referees on a writing piece or research proposal can sometimes be demoralising. Don’t let negative comments get you down for long. Grit your teeth and revise and resubmit as soon as you can, however tedious it feels. See this as an opportunity to make your piece the very best it can be. If the article has been rejected, take a good hard look at whether the referees’ comments are valid and if necessary, revise and then submit it to another journal. Remember that all successful academic writers have received negative feedback at times: that is simply part-and-parcel of academic writing and publishing.
- Make sure that your abstract is well-written and will lead others to your work (see here for guidelines on writing an effective abstract).
- Connect, connect, connect. Publicise your research and make connections with other researchers as much as you can. Make contact with others working in areas related to your interests even if they are in different departments or in other universities. Join relevant research networks or start your own.
- Strengthen your online presence. Think about using social and other digital media to promote your research, engage with the community and make academic connections. Set up a profile on Academia.edu at the barest minimum. Make sure your university webpage is kept up-to-date with your latest publications and research projects. Write blog posts (if you don’t want to commit to your own blog, do guest posts for others’ blogs or for online discussion forums), sign up to Twitter and relevant Facebook pages, put your PowerPoints on SlideShare, make Pinterest boards (see here for my introduction to social media for academics).
- Seek out advice or mentorship (from) more experienced academics whose research you respect.
- Take regular walks/runs/bike rides. This will not only keep you physically fit but will also provide a mental space to think through an argument or come up with new ideas. Some of my best ideas have come when I have been in motion and my thoughts are unencumbered.
- 30 tips for successful academic research and writing (simplysociology.wordpress.com)
- Academic Writing (Tips and Tricks to Help You Write the Best Essays) (personalwritingnotes.wordpress.com)
- 5 Great Reads for Grad Students (insidehighered.com)
- Why is Academic Research Important? (nancy-rubin.com)
- Essay on the issues of perfectionism, writing and procrastination (insidehighered.com)
- How to write better and more online (essay) (insidehighered.com)
- The pros and cons of academic blogging (bloggingforhistorians.wordpress.com)
- Moves to measure the ‘impact’ of research on society (bluesyemre.com)