Monday, October 10, 2011

Publishing & Conference Workshop

I attended a workshop for doctoral students about the publishing process and presenting at conferences.  The faculty panel presenters were Stuart Kirk (my advisor), social welfare, and Randy Crane, urban planning.

The agenda topics and sub-questions were as follows:

• Publishing
o How to collaborate with multiple authors on scholarly papers
o Peer review process: from the perspective of journal reviewers/editors - what are the common mistakes made, what makes a good paper, etc.
o What are some tips to writing a publishable manuscript?

• Conference
o How to submit to them - what makes a strong abstract?
o How to get the most out of them/etc.

My notes:

General Comments about Publishing

Helpful questions -
Is my research question or article useful?
Is it relevant to practice?
Does this fill a gap in the literature somewhere?
What is the literature gap that I want to make contribution to?
Knowledge of literature and the contribution of others vs. being off on your own and doing something "smart"

The nature of my contribution is that I'm addressing a gap in the literature that is useful

Various abstract formats – 5 part – 1) What is the problem? 2) What is the purpose of paper? 3) Results? 4) Where does this fit into the lit?

An article is a bid to join the conversation – the conversation may have gone on for decades or may be a new conversation – with people who don’t know you but you know them.  The abstract and opening is a bid saying I have something to contribute to this conversation.  I understand where what I have to say fits into that conversation. Intellectually pull together themes and significance of conversation shows my mastery of the conversation vs. have something to say but don’t know where it fits

SW Research (NASW) – research journal – not read by practitioners, only read by small group of researchers.  Be very familiar with the journal you are submitting your manuscript to - their role, history, audience.  Your manuscript has to fit journal.

Read a journals abstracts to get a feel for topics, lengths, etc. of journal to which you will submit your manuscript – does journal have a specific abstract format?

1) you have to write – the smart & brilliant sometimes can't write (writers block) – so write frequently
2) you have to send it – get it out the door asap (even if you don’t think its quite done or perfect)

Common Mistakes

"Rejected" pile vs. "can be fixed" pile

Ask your advisor about the journal before manuscript submission

If manuscript queue is long, then the journal rejection rate is likely high to get queue shorter

Rejection: Don’t be oblivious about topic or try to reinvent the wheel, serious mistake about approaching topic, taken on a problem but just don’t know enough

To be fixed pile: ask for some changes up front, associate editors review, editor sends out manuscript for referee reports, double-blind process (author and reviewer don’t know each other, conceal author), peer review process (sent out to experts – experts write report of manuscript, up to 5 experts hard to agree)

Just like an advisor manages disagreement on your committee, an editor manages disagreement among reviewers/referees

Weak editor view and strong editor view – summarize vs. take a stand when it comes to reviewer reports

Purpose & Problem should be clear in abstract and introduction

Appeal to and negotiate with editor if rejected

2 referee reports may contradict each other

Acknowledge all questions, concerns and feedback from all referees/reviewers

Feedback vs. Conditional acceptance

Only half of papers where revisions are requested are resubmitted

Production process: Copyeditors, copyright issues for illustrations

Rejected with constructive advice about how to proceed or not good enough for our journal

Talk to someone who has experience with that journal (author, editor, review/editorial board)

Reviewers disagree quite a bit – you get contradictory feedback

When you get a manuscript to review – how far do you get into the paper before you get some feeling about whether the manuscript will be published (by page 2, 1st page, title – you can tell if it’s a smart title – did they capture and convey something interesting?)

Editors and reviewers have formed pretty good impressions in the first few pages – what do they see in a few pages that tells them that? Is it well written, clumsy, does it keep or spark your interest, engaging, well written, polished, voice with credibility and authority? In the space of a few pages, does the author encapsulate argument in a way that is interesting even if reader (reviewer/referee) is not an expert on your topic?

Article acceptance is a series of judgments made, decisions made early on.  Is writing clumsy or hard to follow in opening paragraph? 

Don’t show your first draft to anyone, revise and edit before sending out, take out every 3rd or 4th word and make it better, make every word/sentence count (concise)

Stuart is a lot better after 40 years of writing - he cringes at early career jargon.   Advice:  comfortably write bad drafts and successively revise, labor on for quite a while.

Some journals have a quick turnaround (few months), others take a year

Don’t send things in that are not ready - don’t waste their time

Start reviewing manuscripts early on in your career – practice – best way to keep up in the field

Sharing referee notes among referees ups their accountability

When resubmitting, draft an essay that addresses every referee problem and how it was responded to in the paper

"Thank you for the reports – they have increased the quality of the paper – deep respect for your assistance" sample language for responses

Lip service, disagree, to all referee feedback, don’t be dismissive, manage emotions but don’t have to coddle them, do it in a spirit of negotiation and respect

Target journal in mind, journal that is cited in my literature, manuscript that cites other work published in the same journal, send the paper to the best journal – shoot high – revise and resubmit – reject and revise with feedback in mind and send to the next journal on the hierarchy list – work your way down the list and improve your manuscript

Revise, reframe, re-analyze before resubmitting

Marty Wax – revise & resubmit response within 48 hours – better chances than 1st submission – very few cold acceptances on first draft – review & revise is a half-acceptance (vs. rejection)

Set specific due dates for your work

Forcing your self to get things done in a short period of time

Journals have a stake in publishing best work

Think things through better and see things clearly

Journals like provocative and controversial papers, also papers skeptical of accepted wisdom, papers that will get people talking and reading.  Say early on – I think these people are wrong and I’m right – get people’s attention – spend a lot of time on titles – will title suggest something that is interesting to read?

Settle up front about collaborators, co-authors, how many articles and who will lead on which article, who will do more of the work, if unspoken and lots of work gets done, then potential for misunderstanding/hard feelings, make it explicit up front and can change it later, decide ahead of time and don’t wait, clarify up front, my work and you're helping me, your work and I'm helping you, order of authors based on who does the most work, if mentor reads the work and gives suggestions - this is not sufficient for co-authorship, PI of giant study may review manuscript and be co-author.

Mid-Career review – between earning PhD and getting tenure, need sole author work to attain tenure

If collaborations lead to more papers then it is always a good thing, unless you are always the fifth author on 20 papers, think about how clearly your value is coming through, collaborative work always makes my work better (clarifies and cleans up thinking and writing), take turns taking the lead

All things being equal, controversy is interesting but things that are different are too hard to review, when you try to do something so different, make it easier for reviewers to understand (too brilliant and risk being rejected/misunderstood because others are not familiar)

Methodologically unusual study – persuasive critique in lit review about what was missed, when making a departure from the mainstream – meet the mainstream on its own terms.

Toughest intellectual task is laying foundation in lit review – pointing out a gap and showing what has been missed – the way an author summarizes a state of knowledge and how we got here – summarizes for someone that is not an expert, use lit review to advance a topic


Getting to know colleagues in the research community, socialize with people doing same work, valuable in stimulating ideas for work, get you to do things, economists can be mean (conference question from economist:  it took 4 people to do that paper?)

Only do conference presentations for papers you are working on for publication (don’t have time to do both) – can't afford to squander time on presentations vs. papers

Great networking – 300-400 people – know for years only through conference – you get known and know – find yourself calling on these people

What makes an effective presentation? What works? What is boring? Good info from observation for job talks – what works in an effective oral presentation – don’t overscript self (nervous that I won't know what to say – prepare 1 page of notes and wing it)

Too dense vs. more streamline in early career presentations

3 big points to make and lots of pictures/photographs

You have to be really comfortable about what youre talking about

Job talk – sound smart, sophisticated about research, “I used binomials logit" without going into too much detail about it

Conference abstract is a marketing pitch and a promise – you’re gonna give it a shot – provocative, engaging, I’ve identified a gap and this is how I’m going to fill it, don’t show up without results

Preliminary results, "we fry ours in butter" topics, "this is how we teach HBSE"

Make conference presentations that will turn into papers

Paper on a speaking tour – make yourself available for talks – to soften the crowd and hit referees with a talk – get feedback before submitting paper – access to older scholars that might not read your work and give you feedback

Some course papers can become conference presentations or articles – stop writing for professors

Ideas I’m working on now will be developed over the next 10 years. Don’t work on just one thing in order to be productive. Work on multiple papers to publish 3 per year.

Drafting articles from dissertation, collaborating, starting new projects, when you get sick and tired of one paper, put it aside and go to another project, come back to paper that you are stuck on, mix it up to write more over the long haul.

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