June 22, 2017
Whether you're a graduate student or the most seasoned scholar, publication of your research remains an essential facet to a career in academia. However, starting out on this road to publication can oftentimes be a difficult journey. From choosing a research topic to seeking accredited journals, the process can morph into a daunting task. Despite the stress that may loom over your first submission or your 10th, Texas Tech librarians Jon Hufford and Brian Quinn offer fundamental advice to keep in mind as you actively seek publication.
As a first step in your research process, Hufford suggests seeking out fresh and unique ideas in your field that haven't been covered extensively. To estimate the importance of your topic, he says to conduct literature reviews as a way to compare the ideas to what already exists in print. Doing this keeps your topic interesting to the audience without echoing what has already been said.
"If you don't do a careful literature review, there's a risk involved where you might end up reinventing the wheel," Quinn adds. "I advise people that once you've done a literature review and you've determined that nobody else has done this, then to begin working very quickly to complete the article and get it out there. Chances are, somebody else is working on the same idea at the same time as you are. You don't want to be in the situation where they get their publication out just before yours."
Once you've completed your manuscript and it is ready for submission, both Hufford and Quinn stress the importance of keeping a wary eye on predatory journals. Predatory journals, or predatory publishing, actively solicit articles from authors for exorbitant fees, ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars, without providing any services reputable publishers provide, such as editing and marketing.
A key identifier of predatory publishers is their solicitation of scholarly articles. In most cases, Hufford and Quinn say, reputable academic publishers tend not to solicit the work of authors. Young faculty or graduate students especially are susceptible to predatory publishers because they may not yet be familiar with reputable journals. Citing any one of these predatory journals on a CV could also threaten academic reputation and academic careers. Familiarizing yourself with prominent journals and publishers within your field can reduce the risk.
Hufford suggests identifying four or five journals in your field and prioritizing them. If your manuscript is rejected by the first, and there's nothing further you can do for them to accept, then move to the next journal on your list. Upon acceptance, Hufford notes the significance of heeding the advice of the journal editors and reviewers especially. Reviewers will be experts in your field and will have been published in your field.
"Reviewers are there to help you make your manuscript better, and that's what you want," Hufford said. "You want to have the best possible manuscript published, so it's to your benefit to listen to the advice of the reviews and the editors. The editors are going to be the go-between of the reviewers and the authors. Take the comments very seriously, and, if at all possible, follow them."
Just like any skill, Hufford and Quinn say being an author is something that you will improve with over time. They say the key to improvement is practice. Reading books about writing, seeking critique from established colleagues, becoming familiar with the research within your field and persistence with your writing are also essential to moving forward with an academic career.
Hufford and Quinn will hold multiple workshops throughout the academic year that will cover everything from publication to predatory publishing to scholarly impact.