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June 17, 2021

It’s so funny, how we don’t talk anymore…

Writing about web page https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/ias/postdocs/accolade/calendar/summer/#story8

I was speaking today as part of the IAS’ Accolade programme in an AMA (ask me anything) segment about the journal and the podcast. There was an excellent question from the audience about the different formats we accept for publication, and I waxed lyrical for a while about interviews. Hence, I thought it was perhaps worth capturing some of the points of interest for future authors.

Interviews, or conversations as they’re termed in the journal, were very much Exchanges’ stock-in trade in the early years. If you look at those nascent years, you’ll see time and again interviews with significant figures and scholars cropping up in the pages. This was, in part, an artefact of the close association the journal enjoyed (and continues to) with the IAS’ fellows programme. Many of the participants would, as part of their research programme, arrange for a significant scholar to visit Warwick for a period, to engage with the local community and potentially spark an ongoing collaboration. During such visits, keen fellows would stage a recorded and transcribed interview with these visitors, which would then be submitted to Exchanges as a partial record of the engagement success.

In recent years, as the journal has consciously decoupled from Warwick somewhat as part of our move towards a greater internationalisation, these interview submissions have dropped away. It is not that they solely come from Warwick, but with our close organisational and operational links, I suspect we spurred more of our local scholars to produce them than the wider author community. I am racking my brain currently to think about the last time I actually had a conversation piece which we saw through to publication.[1]

Nevertheless, what I wrote in an earlier blog post about the value of these interviews/conversations stands. They are always highly read, often downloaded and very warmly received by the readership. They provide an accessible gateway into a subject area for scholars old and new alike, and do wonders for the authors in associating their names with that of their interview subject in print! They are also, relatively speaking, an easy format to create an article around and as such I remain surprised we don’t continue to get more of them. Compared to the weeks and months you’ll labour over a peer-reviewed article, a conversation piece [2] is a relatively easy ‘win’ to add to your publication record: while also making a valuable addition to the wider disciplinary discourse!

Which brings me to today and my discussions about formats for the journal. In the past we’ve generally had conversation articles which are comprises of a singular subject along with one or two interlocutors providing much-needed context, asking questions and steering the debate. It is a talking head format which works well, so well in fact that I’ll confess it forms the basis of The Exchanges Discourse’s configuration when we have guest speakers on the podcast. What we haven’t had though on the podcast or as interview papers in the journal are true discourses: that is, debates between a small coterie of speaking-heads in discussion. I’m know such discussions are frequent occurrences in formal and informal settings aplenty, not just at our home institution of Warwick, but within the various interdisciplinary-led early career researcher communities around the globe.

While part of me thinks such a format would be ideally suited to appear on our the podcast [3], I think such a discussion transcribed would also create an engaging, entertaining and informative article. If I’m being honest, I can almost see one now with three scholars: one drawn from within the STEM social science and arts and humanities disciplines apiece; debating what they envisage or perceive impactful and fruitful interdisciplinary research and practice to comprise.

Such a discussion represents a titular topic for the journal, but oddly not one with which we’ve ever had an interview specifically dealing. There are undoubtedly many other topics which might be debated in this collegiate manner as a conversation article for the journal. Certainly, I would strongly encourage anyone who is inspired by this idea to consider proposing or submitting it. Naturally, I stand ready, as always, to provide guidance and advice on the format, and to act as a sounding board for any potential authors considering such a submission.

Of course, we could take one step beyond this and actually have the discussions appear in both print AND as an episode of the podcast simultaneously. Now, this would not only enable readers and listeners alike to access the debate in whatever media format they preferred, but serve to link together these two key arms of the Exchanges operation. It seems, the more I think of it, as an idea whose time has come.

So, there’s my challenge to our readership and any budding authors out there: start thinking about a discussion topic or interview subject that could form a readable and valuable article for Exchanges next issue. They don’t take long and you’ve a few months ahead of our next scheduled October publication date to go through our editorial processes.

I look forward to hearing more about your thoughts, and even more so, reading any submissions.

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[1] It wasn’t that long ago – Vol 7(3). But safe to say they have been submitted exceptionally rarely in the past two years.

[2] Or a critical reflection, if I’m being honest about the work involved.

[3] If you agree, and have or two like minded scholars, get in touch and let’s see if we can feature your discussions in an episode.


January 14, 2021

Getting Published: PG Tips Workshop

I had the pleasure this week (Tue 12th) to participate in my first teaching/seminar of the year. I had been invited, alongside my wonderful library colleague Julie Robinson, to participate in a 45 minute panel discussion for Warwick post-graduate students on the topic of ‘getting published’. Seasoned academic authors will likely realise 45 minutes is way too short a time to cover a great deal on this topic, but in the end, it seemed like we managed to pack a lot of content in what was a highly interactive and engaging session. So engaging, in fact, that we ran on for an extra 15 minutes or so due to popular demand.

Now, that’s the kind of session I like to deliver!

Thanks to David Richardson who hosted, we captured audience questions during the session. As a result, I thought it might be worth highlighting a few of the most salient ones and my responses as they refer to particularly apply to Exchanges.

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Q: If I wanted to submit an article to Exchanges, would it be better to submit an abstract or the full paper already?

A: Very much the author’s personal choice. As a journal we don’t expect, unless part of a specific call requirement, authors to send us pre-submission abstracts or draft versions of their papers. Some choose to do so, and I’m always happy to provide some feedback and guidance at this stage, although I’ll hold off any fulsome critique until the final manuscript is submitted. Likewise, I’m always happy to schedule a video-call to talk through an author’s ideas for their paper, if they might find that helpful. On the whole though, the bulk of our submissions are the full paper manuscript, received without any prior conversation or engagement with the author: which is perfectly fine too.

Q: What are the most important elements that should be in abstract if the journal you are targeting is only allowing you to submit an abstract rather than the whole paper?

A: There’s a lot written online and by other authors on this subject, I personally like Rowena Murray or Helen Sword’s writing on this topic and would advocate seeking out their work. However, in brief, the abstract should be the article in miniature, containing the key ideas or arguments, along with a taste of the most significant finding or conclusion. What it should do is whet the appetite of the reader, from your prospective editor to the wider academic community, and draw them in to want to read (or accept for consideration) your paper. The abstract should also closely resonate with your paper’s text, with each abstract line approximating an introductory sentence within the article itself. This provides essential structure and signposting to guide the reader through your writing, methodology, methods, arguments, findings and conclusions in a structured and more readily comprehensible manner.

Q: Do you have any advice about how to choose the journal to publish in?

A: Aside from suggesting you consider a wonderful, friendly and highly early-career author focussed title like Exchanges I would suggest thinking about:
(1) Who are your audience and what titles are they reading?
(2) Where are your peers/supervisor publishing?
(3) Consider, but don’t be a slave to, journal metrics/impact factors etc – although be wary as ‘significant journals’ are more likely to reject your submission.
(4) Do you know or have contacts with any editors? Knowing someone will be receptive to discussing your submission can be a big help in choosing your destination.
(5) Especially for a first paper, consider seeking out early-career specialising journals. They may be more forgiving of initial errors, formatting oversights or typographical errors than some of the more core/mainstream titles.

Q: How different should a journal [article] drawn from thesis or dissertation work be?

A: This is a common and understandable issue for first time authors. An article manuscript needs to be its own discrete and contextual entity, with a slightly different authorial voice than you would likely use within your thesis/dissertation. Especially too, where you’re adapting a chapter, you need to ensure the piece can stand entirely on its own legs, supported naturally by appropriate citation. You might even need to consider simplifying the work, because there may be too many contrasting central ideas or themes in your original text to coherently present in your article. You should also consider adopting the style/voice of other pieces which appear in your chosen target journal or field, to enhance your chance of acceptance.

Q: How does one go about proposing a special issue to Exchanges or working with/for this journal as an editor?

A: As to the first part, I’d recommend listening to our recent podcast on exactly this topic. Then coming and having a chat with myself as editor-in-chief about the idea. One thing to bear in mind, we have a lead time of at least 12 months from initiation of special issue to publication, so this isn’t going to be something we can achieve overnight. There’ll also be some expectation of work from the proposer to bring the issue to publication too, part of which may well be involvement as an associate editor. We do issue periodic calls for associate editors, usually via our twitter account (@ExchangesIAS) and the journal's announcement pages - so you should follow and visit these periodically.

Q: What are the main outcomes after articles are peer-reviewed? Are articles rejected by journal editors when reviewers actually suggested major corrections?

A: At Exchanges we have four major post-review outcome: acceptance (rare!), revisions requested and then acceptance (most), additional reviews (occasional) or decline (aka reject). Hence, usually after peer-review there will be a period of revision and rewriting by the author, and in the case of where there are major (extensive) revisions requested by the editor, the piece may need to undergo a further round of peer-review, and minor corrections ahead of acceptance for publication. Different journals will handle these post-review steps slightly differently, indeed some take ‘major revisions’ to equate to reject and request the author work on them for a future resubmission. Read their author guidance to find out how it works for each specific journal/publisher.

Q: Is it better for your cv and career to publish with your supervisor or independently?

A: This varies enormously and is often affected by discipline. STEM authors are often members of team projects, and frequently only publish as one of a number of authors, with sole-authored works rare. Conversely, AHSS scholars often are lone or at most pairs of authors. That said, if you have a good working relationship with your supervisor, it can be a really great learning experience to co-author a paper with them. Just remember, just because they’re your supervisor, if you’re doing most of the writing, be prepared to insist on being the first named author on the work! You may find though, that co-authoring a paper with an established author like your supervisor might make it easier to publish in a ‘higher’ ranked journal…but there are not guarantees, and I’ve heard of many supervisors who are busy/get distracted and don’t come through on their contribution to an article: so approach, with caution!

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These are only a handful of the topics we touched on in the session, hence if you have questions of your own about publishing, and especially in Exchanges, then please leave a comment or get in touch with me. I look forward to talking more about this fascinating, and essential, area of academic development.


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