All entries for Wednesday 17 November 2021

November 17, 2021

Writing for Academic Journals (Part 2)

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The second workshop in the Anthropocene writing development special issue project tackled peer review and exposed some of the common fears of early scholar authors.

Today was the second of my two part writing for academic journals workshops. I’ve been providing these sessions as part of the Anthropocene and more than human world project, which is tied to the special issue of Exchanges by the same name we have scheduled for 2022. It’s rather a lovely and mutually beneficial arrangement: I deliver training to a group of early career scholars from around the world in academic writing, and in return they all contribute articles to an issue of the journal. Given this helps satisfy both our journal’s primary mission of exposing new scholarly discourse from emerging voices, and provides the opportunity to support their authorial development, I couldn’t be more pleased to be involved. Plus, as those of you reading this who know me, I’ve never been one to shy away from the opportunity to speak publicly about academic publishing! [1]

I was originally invited to give a single three to four hour session as part of the workshop series. However, I concluded given these were being delivered online, and because I am well aware how fatiguing it can be to engage with training for even an hour, let alone for four via Teams, splitting them into two shorter sessions was a more satisfying solution. I think, reading between the lines in the comments from the participants that they recognised and were appreciate of this too.

Whereas the first workshop looked at creating impactful titles and abstracts, before moving on to building the framework of your draft article, today’s second session moved beyond these themes. Hence, we looked at elements such as effective editing, polishing and proofreading, alongside dealing with and responding to peer review feedback. There’s always lots to say about peer review, and I know it’s one of the areas many new scholars approach with considerable trepidation, so it is always worth exploring some more. In this way though, the two halves of the workshop were specifically designed to take the delegates on a journey from inception to delivery of their published article. Albeit in a slightly compressed mode. [2]

Additionally, by splitting the workshops in half, I was able to give the delegates the best part of two months to absorb and reflect on the first workshop experience, and begin to develop their article drafts. As a result, I designed this second session to run a little shorter because I wanted to give more time over to addressing the attendees’ questions and authorial concerns informed by this writing developmental experience. I am delighted to report they certainly didn’t disappoint as there were some excellent questions and comments, and I regret we couldn’t have been in the same room to continue some of these over a coffee and cake afterwards. [3]

One of the two hands-on exercises I had the delegates work through today, was intended to offer a moment of catharsis and revelation. In this they exposed their fears and trepidations concerning writing an article - any article - at this early stage of their academic career. I’ll be picking up on and returning to these comments and suggesting a few answers in a subsequent post and episode of the podcast. What was satisfying to spot, and I hope comforting for the delegates, is none of these fears were unexpected ones. Each were exactly the sort of thing I would expect to be hearing from relatively inexperienced authors.

I came away from the session invigorated and delighted by the discussions, and I hope some of that transferred to the delegates as well – it is always difficult to tell conclusively via teams. However, from the exceptionally positive comments and those delegates I spoke to during the session, I think I can file these workshops under the heading: major success.

Personally, I have considerable confidence that both workshop sessions will have gone some way to answering the delegates’ concerns. Alongside this I hope they will have strengthened the delegates’ resolve, confidence and self-belief that they can and will be able to write excellent articles which have something significant to say. Because, having read their abstracts, I firmly believe each and everyone of them does!

My thanks to Dr Catherine Price for leading on the project, and inviting myself and the journal to participate, and of course each and every delegate for their good humour, patience and engagement with the practical exercises! I await your articles with not inconsiderable interest.


[1] Or, to be fair, speak loudly publicly anyway.

[2] At the back of my head there’s a weeklong summer school which would seek to decompress what was covered in these workshops, and actually deliver a publishable paper at the end of it. I think I’ll hang on until post-COVID times to look into that though.

[3] Note to potential collaborators, provide me with coffee/tea and cake and I will talk for hours with and about publishing and early career scholars.

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