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November 15, 2021

Session Reflections – Educational Podcasting Panel

Follow-up to Educational Podcasting Panel from Exchanges - Editorial Reflections from Warwick's Interdisciplinary Journal

I am pleased to report the Accolade session on education podcasting, organised in collaboration with Exchanges, certainly exceeded my expectations. All of my panellists were as expected excellent contributors and I am naturally deeply grateful for the time and enthusiasm they provided over the hour-long discussion. I was, perhaps, even more satisfied in how I did not have to work my way through many of the pre-prepared panel questions, as those which arose from the floor came so thick and fast. As a consequence, I think the debate was more dynamic and wide ranging along with hopefully being more directly applicable to the audience’s interests.

The session’s format, such as it was, featured introductions from each of the panellists, highlighting their own take on podcasting. What was unexpectedly delightful from a contextual as well as a performative standpoint were the ways each introduction seemed to seamlessly flow into the next. I would love to suggest this luscious flow was directly the outcome of my careful curation of the panel members. However, I would counter it was most likely primarily a serendipitous outcome from gathering an assemblage of knowledge enthusiasts in one place and time. Nevertheless, the manner in which the panellists resonated with each other reinforced nicely why each was there alongside demonstrating from the outset how they would be contributing different perspectives on higher educational podcasting within education.

For my part, I was happy to have a few moments to chip in the odd comment, although from the outset I made it clear I was there as a ringmaster rather than performer for once. Understandably, keeping the conversations managed took up a little more of my main focus, additionally perhaps diminishing the pressure to contribute anything myself!

Regretfully, such was my focus on enabling the conversation I wasn’t taking any notes of the debate. However, thanks to the joy of a Teams based discussion, I was able to capture most of the questions asked. Hopefully, were you not present, the reader will be able to gain an appreciation of the discussions that were consequently sparked through the selection below:

How did you get into educational podcasting, as a creator, user or listener?

In what ways has podcasting played a role in your educational or research practices?

Do you have to pay to upload podcasts to, for example, Spotify?

Can we talk more about the technologies, platforms and techniques for creating a podcast?

Are people willing to listen to podcasts on multiple platforms, or are there ways to distribute them more widely from their original, native, upload host?

Have you experienced any barriers to introducing podcasts as part of the curriculum or within modules? E.g. as a form of assessment, as well as an information resource.

How can you make a podcast with a guest who is not in the same room as you? Is it best to interview via video and extract the sound, or are there other ways to capture good quality audio/performances?

What's the best length for a podcast? Especially in the light of guidance for recording 'long' lectures to chunk them into 10-20 minute segments.

What is your favourite podcast to listen to, and why does it appeal?

From the comments on the day, it was clear the session was very positively received by the audience, which is a credit to everyone who was involved. Hence, I think everyone who attended - including panellists - felt they gained something of interest from the discussions.

Additionally, I am exceptionally pleased in the way the Exchangesbrand has once again been able to be associated with the organisation and hosting of a useful workshop session. Hopefully this is not the last we will hear of podcasting within Accolade or indeed Exchanges itself! Perhaps we will be able to return to this topic afresh in a year's time and see what other lessons or experiences we all have to share by then.

Useful Related Resources:

A few links were shared during the session which included:


November 09, 2021

Educational Podcasting Panel

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

This Thursday I’ve the pleasure of hosting an Accolade Roundtable panel on educational podcasting. During the session invited panellists will share their personal experiences and perceptions on how they have engaged with podcasting within various higher educational and research contexts. Following this introductory exploration, the floor will be opened for participants to ask questions, add comments or share their own experiences with podcasting. The majority of the session though will be shaped through participant insights, comments and questions.

Hosting this panel naturally stems from my experiences creating and hosting the Exchanges Discourse podcast, but for once I’ve the pleasure of sitting back and let my invited guests hold forth. A bless’d relief for those who might be tired on my voice, perhaps, but more importantly an exciting opportunity to hear lots of different views on podcasting as a medium for professional development, research outreach and educational impact.

I am deeply grateful to the various panellists I reached out to who were able to participate, and a few who weren’t as they helped steer me towards others who were able to attend. For the session our panellists will include: Arun Ulahannan (Institute for Future Transport and Cities, Coventry University), Jessica Humphreys (Academic Development Centre, Warwick), Jim Judges (IT Services, Warwick), Julia Gauly (Warwick Medical School), Naomi Waltham-Smith (Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, Warwick) and Rebecca Stone (Faculty of Arts, Warwick).

Some of this wonderful group are podcast creators and hosts, some have participated in podcasts as guests, and most if not all have found ways to incorporate, apply or embrace podcasting within their professional practice. While the panel is only an hour long, with so many engaging and interesting personalities on the panel, I suspect it will be a fun and informative session. I’m currently sitting here writing some provocations to get the conversation flowing, but I suspect I won’t need to use many of these before the audience start firing off their own inquiries. At least, that has always been my past experience of chairing Accolade sessions.

Will we inspire members of the audience to take up their own podcasting mics? Perhaps, although this is not the principal aim! Nevertheless, what the session does hope to provide is for everyone to gain a better understanding of educational podcasting principles, techniques and practice. At the same time, I would hope the audience and panellists alike will develop a greater appreciation for how, when and where podcasting can enhance pedagogical and research practices. Moreover, if nothing else, the delegates will become more aware of the ways in which podcasting can form a component of their career development strategy. And perhaps along the way we’ll all emerge with an awareness of some great academic podcasts we can all enjoy and from which we can profit.


March 12, 2021

Lonely Nerds Workshop: Speaker Biographies

Follow-up to Lonely Nerds Special Issue Workshop from Exchanges - Editorial Reflections from Warwick's Interdisciplinary Journal

Today and tomorrow, Exchanges is co-hosting the Lonely Nerds workshop. You can find out more about the programme via this link to an earlier entry. Here though, for more information about who will be presenting their work during the event are the speaker biographies.

Speaker Paper Session Biography
Benjamin Schaper Conquering the Meatspace: The Reception of David Fincher’s The Social Network (2010) in Baran bo Odar’s Who am I (2014) Session 1, Friday 12th

Benjamin Schaper is a Stipendiary Lecturer in German at the University of Oxford. He previously taught at the Universities of Munich and Durham and was a Sylvia Naish Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Modern Languages Research in London. His postdoc project analyses loneliness and human-machine interaction in Romanticism, Modernism, and the Digital Age. He is further editing a volume on German cultural history in transnational film and television and has an interest in literary networks.

Filippo Cervelli Saved by the Nerd: Otaku and the Space of Family in Summer Wars Session 2, Friday 12th

Dr Filippo Cervelli is a Senior Teaching Fellow in Modern and Contemporary Japanese Literature at SOAS, University of London. His research is broadly concerned with representations of individual and social crises in contemporary Japanese literature and popular culture. He completed his PhD in Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford in 2018, with a thesis exploring immediacy and the emphasis on the present in contemporary Japanese novels, manga and anime.

Kwasu D. Tembo The Jackal and the Genius: Jake Gyllenhall's Representation of the Pathology of the Occidental Nerd in Nightcrawler and Donnie Darko Session 2, Friday 12th

Kwasu David Tembo is a PhD graduate from the University of Edinburgh’s Language, Literatures, and Cultures department. His research interests include – but are not limited to – comics studies, literary theory and criticism, philosophy, particularly the so-called “prophets of extremity” – Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, and Derrida. He has published on Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, in The Cinema of Christopher Nolan: Imagining the Impossible, ed. Jacqueline Furby and Stuart Joy (Columbia UP, 2015), and on Superman, in Postscriptum: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Literary Studies (2017).

Carolin Fleischer-Heininger Lonely Heisei Japan: On Murakami Ryū's In za miso sūpu Session 2, Friday 12th

M.A. (Magister Artium) in theatre studies (major), German literature, Japanese studies. Doctoral candidate and research associate at LMU Munich. Dissertation deals with: Terayama Shûji (1935–1983); writer, theatre and film maker; key figure of the counter culture in postwar Japan

Natalia Rumak Sherlock And Sha:rokku: Detectives With ASD. Will East And West Ever Meet? Session 3, Saturday 13th

PhD in linguistics (2007). Graduated the Institute of African and Asian studies, Lomonosov Moscow State University in 2000, majored in Japanese language and International Economic Relations. Defended PhD thesis on the problem of translating Japanese onomatopoetic words into Russian, field of scientific research – translation, semantics, teaching methods of Japanese language. Author of the Japanese-Russian dictionary of onomatopoetic words, a teach-yourself guide on Japanese language and guidebooks on Japanese onomatopoetic words and numerals. Also published several articles on translation and semantic problems of Japanese onomatopoeia and a number of articles on problems of Japanese language education (in Russian).

Rebecca Lewis The Fear of Belonging: The Simultaneity of Loneliness and Popularity in Dear Evan Hansen Session 3, Saturday 13th

Rebecca Lewis is a doctoral researcher at the University of Westminster in London. Her thesis focuses on cultural policy, globalisation and representation in the South Korean television industry. Her further research interests are in audience studies and cultural production, particularly in relation to young adults and teenagers.

Daniele Durante From Misfit to Leader: Towards a Revisionist Representation of Otaku and Hikikomori in Japanese Video Game Persona 5 Session 3, Saturday 13th

Born and raised in Rome, Italy, I have studied Japanese language and literature at "Sapienza" University. Currently, I'm enrolled in the PhD program of the same institution for a research on the representation of male same-sex love in Japanese court literature. So far I have been to Japan to take part in two study and research programs. My area of interest includes the history of sexuality, Japanese classical literature, and Japanese contemporary popular culture.

Janée N. Burkhalter ‘Gus, don’t be the comma in Earth, Wind & Fire’: Understanding Psych’s (sometimes) lonely blerd Burton Guster Session 4, Saturday 13th

Janée N. Burkhalter, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Marketing and the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs in the Erivan K. Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University, USA. Dr. Burkhalter teaches and researches at the intersection of entertainment, marketing strategy and social media. She is a marketing scholar, educator and strategist with practical experience in marketing communications, career services, entrepreneurship, diversity & inclusion

Sharon Coleclough So Many Ways to be an Outsider – “Nerdism” and Ethnicity as Signifiers of Otherness Session 4, Saturday 13th

Dr. Sharon Coleclough completed her PhD in Cinematic Performance at the University of Salford in 2014. A Senior Lecturer in Film Production and Sound Design at Staffordshire University, her work combines the theory and practice of moving image production; focussing upon the ways in which meaning is created through the technical application of craft. Recent publications consider the relationship of BAME actors to lighting and camera for Viewfinder Magazine with an inspiring lecture series submission requested by Learning on Screen on the same subject. Sharon works internationally on a collaborative digital project, “The Laptop Tour” which considers the ways performance can be realised through the use of technology.

Alena Cicholewski A place where everybody is a legendary hero… and a total dork” – Representing the American Nerd Community as an Antidote to Loneliness in G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel Comics (2014-2019) Session 4, Saturday 13th

Alena teaches at the Institute for English and American Studies at the University of Oldenburg (Germany), where she completed her PhD in English literature in 2020. Her research interests include, but are not limited to, Afrofuturism and postcolonial science fiction and graphic novels.

Marta Fanasca Communicating isolation and sexual negotiation: Nagata Kabi’s My Lesbian Experience with loneliness Session 5, Saturday 13th

Marta Fanasca obtained her PhD in Japanese Studies at The University of Manchester and she is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The Higher School of Economics, Saint Petersburg. Her work investigates gender performativity, Female to male (dansō) crossdressing and the commodification of intimacy in contemporary Japan. She has published several articles focused on the dansō phenomenon in Japan. Her research interests involve and put together Japanese contemporary culture and pop-culture, queer theory, gender and media studies.

Christopher Smith Consumable Bodies, Consumable Self: The Queer Potential of Otaku Subjectivity in Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken Session 5, Saturday 13th

Christopher Smith received a PhD in Japanese literature from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and is currently an Assistant Professor of Modern Japanese Literature at the University of Florida, where he teaches courses on modern Japanese literature, manga, and anime. His research focuses on postwar Japanese literature, particularly contemporary literature (Heisei-Reiwa), as well as Japanese pop culture, including manga and anime. He is especially interested in examining how literature and culture represents, manipulates, and ultimately plays with Japanese history, examined through the lenses of nationalism, national identity, the historical legitimation of power, and postmodernism. He recently published a translation of Tanaka Yasuo’s Somehow, Crystal (Kurodahan Press).

Get in touch if you'd like to attend, and haven't already registered - there's no charge!


March 03, 2021

Publishing Strategy Accolade Session

This week, Exchanges is hosting a session on the IAS’ Accolade researcher development programme loosely titled ‘developing your publication strategy’ (Thu 4th March). I’m delighted that for once I’m only hosting the panel rather than being the main speaker. Instead, we’ll be joined by a range of other academics from both the institution and beyond to share their insights, thoughts and advice on the publication experience. I’m hopeful we’ll have a lively debate.

As part of this session, we’re also inviting questions to be put to the panel ahead of time via email or on Teams. Naturally, people are more than welcome to suggest questions ‘from the floor’ on the day in person or via chat too. Hence, if you’ve got a burning query all ready to go – don’t keep it to yourself, but get in touch.

I’ll try and capture some of the essence of the session for a later blog post – or at least as much as one can when one’s the session chair (never easy to take notes then!).


February 25, 2021

Lonely Nerds Special Issue Workshop

Through its analysis of artistic takes on nerds, our issue aims to intervene in the debate about technologies' and popular media’s influence on social bonds, with a particular focus on loneliness. We suggest a broad understanding of loneliness that includes a wide range of societal issues such as stances vis-à-vis society, the positionality of nerds within or outside of it, their intergroup behaviour dynamics and belonging, their feeling of loneliness both derived from physical and/or emotional isolation, or even conceptualised as loneliness within a group. The issue will hence analyse varying cultural representations of the nerd’s relationship with society in order to critically discuss how various art forms approach the notion of the “lonely nerd”.

We want to ask questions such as: Can we still find common characteristics in representations that are not overtly about nerds? Is loneliness inextricable from any representation of nerds, or do we see narratives where nerds actually become, quite anticanonically, the centre of their community, as small as it may be? And if so, what do these representations tell us about their culture? Are they representational? If this is the case, how can it be used to interrogate relevant phenomena of isolation and loneliness in general? Possible topics include, but are not limited to, fictional explorations of nerds and loneliness (Call for papers, Exchanges, 2020)

------------------------------------------------------------

We’re delighted to announce a two-day workshop as part of our preparations for our ‘lonely nerds’ special issue, to be hosted by the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick, Friday and Saturday 12th/13th March. This online event will be a chance to hear papers from the authors contributing to this special issue on a range of topics concerning the representations of nerds in cultural milieu around the world.

Hosted by myself, in partnership with Dr Ben Schaper (University of Oxford) and Dr Filippo Cervelli (SOAS, University of London), it will be two highly engaging, insightful and challenging talks given by speakers from around the globe on a diverse and fascinating topic.

To reserve your place contact: exchangesjournal@warwick.ac.uk. There is no fee for attending.

[Edit: Biographies of the speakers are now available]

Event Schedule (Fri 12th-Sat 13th March)

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Friday (Day One)

15.00 Welcome

15:15-16:45 Session 1

  • Guido Furci (Paris 3, Sorbonne Nouvelle): Through the Nerdish Glass: Rereading Antiheroes in Modern Italian Culture
  • Benjamin Schaper (University of Oxford): Conquering the Meatspace: The Reception of David Fincher’s The Social Network (2010) in Baran bo Odar’s Who am I (2014)
  • Aneesh Barai (University of Sheffield): Child detectives, specialist knowledge and the sociable genius: Detective Conan and adult-child identities

16.45 Tea break

17:15-18:45 Session 2

  • Filippo Cervelli (SOAS, University of London): Saved by the Nerd: Otaku and the Space of Family in Summer Wars
  • Kwasu D. Tembo (Independent Researcher): The Jackal and the Genius: Jake Gyllenhall's Representation of the Pathology of the Occidental Nerd in Nightcrawler and Donnie Darko”
  • Carolin Fleischer-Heininger (Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Munich): Lonely Heisei Japan: On Murakami Ryū's In za miso sūpu

18:45 Close

------------------------------------------------------------

Saturday (Day Two)

10:25 Introduction

10:30-12:00 Session 3

  • Natalia Rumak (Lomonosov Moscow State University): Sherlock And Sha:rokku: Detectives With ASD. Will East And West Ever Meet?
  • Rebecca Lewis (University of Westminster): The Fear of Belonging: The Simultaneity of Loneliness and Popularity in Dear Evan Hansen
  • Daniele Durante (University of Rome, Sapienza): From Misfit to Leader: Towards a Revisionist Representation of Otaku and Hikikomori in Japanese Video Game Persona 5

12.00-13.00 Lunch Break

13:00-14:30 Session 4

  • Janée N. Burkhalter (Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia): ‘Gus, don’t be the comma in Earth, Wind & Fire’: Understanding Psych’s (sometimes) lonely blerd Burton Guster
  • Sharon Coleclough (Staffordshire University): So Many Ways to be an Outsider – “Nerdism” and Ethnicity as Signifiers of Otherness
  • Alena Cicholewski (University of Oldenburg): “A place where everybody is a legendary hero… and a total dork” – Representing the American Nerd Community as an Antidote to Loneliness in G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel Comics (2014-2019)

14.30-15.00 Tea Break

15:00-16:30 Session 5

  • Marta Fanasca (University of Manchester): Communicating isolation and sexual negotiation: Nagata Kabi’s My Lesbian Experience with loneliness
  • Christopher Smith (University of Florida): Consumable Bodies, Consumable Self: The Queer Potential of Otaku Subjectivity in Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken
  • Ozgur Cicek (Freie Universität, Berlin: Young, male, and unruly: The representation of nerds in Turkey between 2000-2020

16.30-16.45 Tea Break

16.45-17.15 Final Discussion

17:15 Close


October 08, 2020

Exchanges AMA 2020


Today we rolled out the annual Exchanges session for the IAS’ Accolade programme, although with being online this year it was slightly different. Last year we had a fantastic [1] gamified workshop on publishing traumas, and the year before that more of a chalk and talk session. This time, well, the opportunity to host a Reddit style AMA (ask me anything) session seemed ideal. It was discursive, well suited to the online format, allowed for written or spoken questions and best of all, I didn’t need to do too much preparation.

Well, that is aside from ensuring I’d pre-written answers for the three outline questions I’d posed in the event blurb, to ensure we had something with which to kick off discussions. My thanks to my esteemed colleague Dr Sarah Penny for hosting and acting as session chair. Also, my thanks to those research fellows who listened and questioned me for what became a surprisingly fun 30 minutes of chat about the journal and publishing in general [2]. I hope you all got something useful, interesting or at least vaguely entertaining out of the session!

So, reader of the editorial blog, you’re probably wondering what was asked. Well, and I’m slightly paraphrasing, here are the topics we touched upon today.

  • ‘Are articles rejected by journal editors when reviewers actually suggested major corrections?’
  • ‘Are you approaching people to take part in the podcast or are people approaching you?’
  • ‘Do you have any advice for starting out reviewing in journals? [Especially] do you have any tips for overcoming imposter syndrome?’
  • ‘Do you prefer outlines [abstracts] before the completed paper [is submitted]’
  • ‘I’m interested in if [Exchanges] is interested in new methods to integrate data (rather than findings from research studies’
  • ‘I’ve never published before, and it’s nerve wracking’. Can you offer any support to someone like me?’
  • ‘What are the three best ways to really annoy an editor?’
  • ‘What’s a/your journal impact factor?’
  • What’s the deadline for the upcoming issue?
  • ‘Why should I publish in Exchanges?’

As for the answers…ah, you really needed to be there. However, I might pick up on one or more of these themes in future posts and podcast episodes, so maybe I won’t leave you all entirely hanging. Safe to say one or two of the questions above could probably have filled the entire 30 minutes had I given them the full answer.

Will we run this session again? I’d be keen to, and I’m sure we might find time down the line for a later Accolade repeat. Or of course, a royal command performance elsewhere. As readers, and those who know me, are aware, I will talk about Exchanges and scholarly publishing until the cows come home, so I look forward to the next session – whenever or wherever it might be!

---

[1] Well, I loved it and really want to run that session again, albeit, slightly reconfigured.

[2] Not to forget the hirsute Dr Marcos Estrada, one of my two longest serving and most prolific members of the editorial board for his input today too.


November 14, 2019

Building a Better Journal Workshop

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of contributing to the Institute of Advanced Study’s (IAS) Accolade researcher development programme once again. Last year, I contributed a session to the programme on Exchanges and related scholar-led publishing topics which lasted around 90 minutes; although this year due to room availability my slot was regretfully cut back to an hour [1]. I’d originally been planning something a bit different for this year, as after reflection on the previous session I concluded that it contained too much ‘chalk and talk’ and insufficient discussion and interaction. Before I heard about the session’s length, and with my own kinaesthetic learning tendencies in mind, I’d outlined a healthy 90 minute workshop deconstructing scholar-led publishing in a series of interlinked exercises. Yes, a healthy dose of gamification was included in the outline too.

Faced with my ‘reduced Shakespeare’ session, I reconfigured the workshop into roughly 20% talk and 80% activities for the research fellows. It was, thankfully, a highly energised session which engendered plenty of questions and group discussion during the guided activities. As with any lectrure, seminar or workshop there were still elements I’d tweak for a future performance, but nevertheless it was a clearly workable format that I’ll be able to reuse elsewhere [2]. Additionally, the input, questions and insights from the fellows were extremely useful in helping to clarify various issues.

Given the appropriately spooky date for the session, I posed a question asking people to talk about and share their publishing horror stories. Every academic has them, and some may even keep people awake at night! I captured a few of them here, and I’m sure it’s a rare scjholar with whom these don’t resonate on some level.

Publishing fears


I also ran the prototype of an exercise which challenged attendees to prioritise editorial and process elements to construct for their ‘perfect’ journal. Once again there were some key learning outcomes from this. Firstly, for the timescale I gave people too many options, and a re-run would likely need to introduce a prior winnowing technique or utilise fewer options. I might also need to introduce some clearer rules or criteria for assigning items to each category, although given the point of the exercise was to leave as much decision making in the hands of the delegates, that aspect may remain as it is. For example, here’s one of the six group’s final grids [3] showing one possible configuration using about 20% of the possible options.

Process Document

Practically, I also learned that if you’re printing paper props off give yourself plenty of time, as I spent my entire lunch break cutting out strips of paper. Obviously, as this was the inaugural run for this session it was difficult to realise how it would work under-fire, but I’m confident with some slight tweaks it’ll produce a series highly stimulating and reflective exercises. I might also enhance the ‘playing pieces’ somewhat to make them clearer. Failing to realise that not everyone speaks fluent editor terminology was a very apposite point of feedback.

So in conclusion: what did I learn? Well, aside from the comments on the efficacy of running the session, I gained some insightful feedback on running a journal like Exchanges, and the perceptions of people within our potential contributor community. I’ll be using this feedback to help shape my planned focus groups, where I want to explore some related issues with groups of post-graduates and early career researchers alike. Naturally, I’ll talk about the results of these here.

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[1] Rumours of a second slot in term 3 abide, but have yet to be confirmed! I'll worry about that in 2020.

[2] Possibly in my other teaching and workshop commitments over this academic year

[3] Image credit Hsiao Lie, to whom I note my thanks!


September 12, 2018

Peer review and critical academic writing (Day 1)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this week I’m helping to facilitate various workshops and sessions at the PLOTINA Summer School on Peer Review, although strictly speaking there’s a lot about Critical Academic Writing in there too. Today, I was providing input to an Academic Writing Boot Camp – a mildly terrifying title, which practically boiled down to a safe, focussed and supportive environment for ECRs to write while having access to expert advice. I was there to provide that ‘expert’ [1] insight, or at least as much as I can muster from within my professional editorial experience. It was a very enjoyable session, during which I spent a lot of time reading through one paper and making (hopefully) helpful editorial remarks on it. A kind of pre-peer-review review. I’ll be doing a lot more of that on Friday afternoon, where hopefully the event delegates will be bring more of their work out to share with me. I suspect, I may be challenged by how many words a minute I can read critically though!

I think, in terms of guidance for ECR writers, some of the lessons that came out repeatedly during the today’s session were:

  • Choose your journal as soon as you can.
  • It will help guide you in terms of style, layout, word limits and the like. Writing an ‘on spec’ article can be good, but it’s no use producing a 10,000 word masterpiece if your eventual publication destination only accepts articles up to 6,000 words in length. Editors can and will decline to publish submissions which don’t meet their basic requirements without them even entering peer review or considering their intellectual contents [2]. If you’re not sure if your article will be suitable for a particular title, contact the editor in chief or one of the editorial board, their contact details are normally online. They’re generally committed and encouraging scholars, who will only be too happy to offer a little bit of guidance in terms of potential suitability.
  • Word limits matter to editors and peer reviewers.
  • For online journals there is no longer any physical concern in terms of ‘page space’. This means articles technically don’t have to be limited in length, the restricting factor is the time it takes peer reviewers and editors to review and edit articles of increasing length. It’s the major reasons most journals continue to have such limitations – I’ve had more than one prospective peer reviewer contact me to check the article they were about to review wouldn’t be too long for the time they had allocated to them. Time, for us all, is a precious commodity.
  • Turning a thesis chapter into an article can be challenging.
  • The good news is, many a chapter makes for a great article. The bad news is, there’s quite a bit of work involved. To start with, an article really needs to exist as a single entity, that means you can’t rely on material that appeared ‘earlier’ in your thesis to introduce your research. Nor can you rely on work appearing ‘later’ in the thesis, although you can introduce that as ‘future/prospective work’ in any concluding remarks. Additionally, there’s a common error by ECRs of writing material in the wrong tense (e.g. this research will review…), especially when adapting text from an introductory chapter. There’s also the question again of word length as discussed above. Your chapter might be perfection itself at 12,000 words, but you probably won’t be able to use all these words. Then, finally, there’s the question of authorial tone: what reads fine in a student submission, may not ideally cut the mustard as a contribution to the scholarly literature. Writing is rewriting, remember.
  • Style matters:
  • Simply put, if you’ve not followed the style (in terms of font, layout, footnotes, location of tables & figures, citation etc) of your chosen journal, don’t be surprised if an article is declined for publication unread. Many editors are dealing with such an influx of submissions, they simply do not have the time to be bothered with trying to deal with potential articles which haven’t bothered to read and apply their guidelines. At Exchanges we’re a little more understanding, but I’ve still declined submissions which have made no attempt at all to adopt to our style. My advice is if you’re not sure about the journal you’re writing for, create a document using as simple a set of formatting as possible, to allow you to adjust the style to suit the journal. Better yet, find a target journal and see if they have a publication template you can use to write with – Exchanges does!
  • Engaging readers is key:
  • Building up aspirations and expectations in your abstract and introduction to a paper is great, and indeed is key to getting people to read on. Alongside that claim to originality and contribution to knowledge (e.g. what does this paper offer to develop scholarship, discourse, learning etc.,), there is a risk of either offering too much or too little. I’ve seen papers that make wonderful claims and get me really excited, only to discover there’s not much intellectual filling to gnaw on. Be ambitious in your intentions, but be prepared to deliver, because peer reviewers (and editors) will take a dim view on papers that don’t actually match up against their initial claims or assertions.
  • Clarity is everything:
  • Never assume your prose, narrative or explanation is clear. We all get too close to our topics at times, and fail to see where we’ve muddled an issue, obfuscated something important or simply omitted a critical topic. If possible, always get a friendly fellow scholar from a similar (but not exactly the same) discipline to give your paper a quick read before you submit as they’ll always be able to point out where they just can’t quite follow your reasoning. It’s one reason why developing a good network of peers from different disciplines is an essential skill for today’s ECR, I should add. After all, I’m afraid I don’t normally have time to review pre-submission versions of work to any depth, as I’m too busy reading actual submissions!

Now, as an ECR myself, is my work subject to any of these issues? Yes, probably every single one – I’m still learning and growing as an author myself. That’s what being a publishing academic or peer reviewer is about, being able to spot which of the common issues your own work has, and learning how to work around them to produce a more polished and scholarly piece. Good luck in your own authorial journeys, and don’t forget, that as a title dedicated to publishing ECR research, Exchanges more than most journal titles, is here to try and help new scholars develop their voices.

[1] I suspect my old English Language teacher would have died of shock through this revelation

[2] For the record, Exchanges will consider longer than standard articles, but only if you talk to me before you submit them.


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