The pressures and pleasures of publishing

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Book review: “Publish and flourish: Become a prolific scholar”

Thomas Basbøll at Research as a Second Language just published a review of Tara Gray’s new edition of her book Publish and Flourish: Become a Prolific Scholar. Here is some shocking information about how much time scholars actually spend in writing:

[Gray] cites research by Robert Boice to make a very instructive point. If you ask a researcher how much time they spend working, they’ll say about 60 hours, and they’ll tell you about half of that is spent on research. But if you get them to keep records of how they actually spend their time, you find that they spend on average 29 hours per week working, of which about an hour and a half is devoted to research. “So these faculty members were working 30 hours per week,” she concludes, “and worrying another 30.” According to Boice, of the 1.5 hours spent on research, a half hour on average is spent writing.

Half an hour a week spent on writing. That’s sad.

After reading this excerpt from the book, Publish and Flourish went to the top of my must-read list. I’m so excited about this book without even having read it, that I wanted to you a heads-up about it.

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Now I want to share some of what I have learned about boosting my publications.

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“Write from the first day of your research project”

Gray says to “write from the first day of your research project.” This has always been my practice.

Many scholars think about publishing as something that happens at the end of the research project. Because I see publishing as one way to broaden the research conversation, I take opportunities to publish at every step of the research process.

My doctoral research project originated in a community health care agency. I was working as a researcher partnered with a team of elder abuse social workers. These workers were looking for help in intervening with older women living with intimate partner abuse. My first literature review revealed that there was almost nothing written on the topic and as a result, we developed the research project that became my doctoral study.

The first article on this study was submitted before we even got the research funds. It consisted of my critical review of the literature, demonstrating the gaps and introducing our study. It got published in a leading journal in the field.

The second article was published while I was thinking about the theoretical framework for the study. Because the problem spanned two fields that did not communicate with each other (woman abuse and elder abuse), there was an opportunity for theoretical reflection that could help spark a new dialogue across the boundaries of these two fields. At the time I wrote it, theoretical thinking in the field of intimate partner abuse had stalled and I wanted to make a contribution to getting it going again.

Had I been a full-time faculty member, I would have published numerous other articles before finishing the research. For example:

  • an article on the new approach I developed to training graduate student research assistants
  • an article on the tensions of doing action research within the context of a major research project and a doctoral dissertation
  • the four keys to successful research-practitioner partnerships I came up with during my reflections on this project.

And that’s just off the top of my head. All these articles would be publishable and make a contribution to knowledge.

Of course, if you are a reflexive scholar, such ideas are constantly germinating throughout the research process.

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Blogging

I want to also talk about the controversial idea of academic blogging.

Blogging can help me to increase my publications because it requires the regular writing of mini-articles. It forces me to put emerging ideas into words and it allows me to get some feedback.

Through blogging the sometimes overwhelming task of publishing can be broken down into bite-sized pieces, until my thinking is clear enough to write the article.

Blogging nurtures my own thinking in some of the following ways:

  • Comments on my blog often spark my thinking into new directions
  • Reading other blogs in the field expands my thinking and exposes me to cutting-edge ideas
  • Making comments on other people’s blogs helps me make connections to my own work
  • Twittering helps me expand my academic network across disciplines and to nurture my thinking in unexpected places

Anything that nurtures my thinking ends up nurturing my writing.

Blogging and the use of other emerging media bring exciting opportunities for new ways of communicating our ideas.

(For additional reading on academic publishing and new media, I suggest you read Waking Tiger’s provocative post on Academic Evolution, as he challenges the status quo about academic publishing.)

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These are two ways I have discovered to increase my writing and publishing. But I’m still a neophyte and would like to hear from others. I invite you to respond in the comments section.

  • What have your learned about how to increase your writing and publishing?
  • Academic bloggers: Does blogging increase or take away from your rate of publication in traditional journals?

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Image thanks to iDream_in_Infrared

© Silvia Straka and A Just Society, 2008

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2 responses »

  1. I really do not believe that blogging gets the respect that it deserves. I think it is because it is largely viewed as the rantings of a discontented rabble when if done properly it is a conversation. I actively engage in my comment section because I want to be challenged and I want to grow. I don’t think many consider the various reasons why people choose to blog in the first place. The media also does blogging not service by continually running us down at every opportunity.

  2. Renee, you are one of my blogging role models. Your comments section is indeed very active and lengthy — you have a gift for engaging people in conversation. Thanks for highlighting this point. It makes me realize that social work bloggers should be especially good at engaging people in conversation.

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