Saturday, August 25, 2012

Publishing 2: Selecting A Paper, Schedule, Writing Site and Obstacles

Continuing yesterday's post, today I will be posting advice from Belcher (2009) on identifying and selecting a  paper to edit for publication, establishing a more realistic, productive and encouraging schedule, choosing a writing site and responding to common obstacles.

I. Identifying and Selecting a Paper for Publication 

Potential candidates for a publication paper

1. Praised paper - professor saying a particular paper should be published or feedback that it is particularly good and insightful. My own brilliance was never spotted by a professor :), so does not work for me. Some of my friends got a 'publish' feedback from a professor, decide on your own story

2. "Pleasure"-ful paper - any paper that was fun or enjoyment ro write and is gratifying to re-read. I, personally, don't have any paper I really enjoyed writing more than I enjoyed doing something else. If you have untraditional feelings towards your papers, maybe this will work for you

3. Relevance - a paper relevant to current debates and dialogue in the discipline. Or when you read something in a journal or a professional list and think of a paper that would add to the dialogue. I also saw some people re-doing or re-considering their papers in light of current events (Syria, Mubarak's fall, Russian protest dynamics) and then putting it on MonkeyCage or writing an open-ed in NYT or Washington Post and then getting huge attention. The latter part of this might be more relevant for Krugman or something, but not for a junior faculty or a graduating PhD, though there are notable exceptions.

4. Findings - strong or unusual findings or an original insights

5. Conference paper - seems to be a more common track for papers to be published

6. MA or PhD thesis - parts of it might be relevant as a publication. The keyword is parts and it would take considerable revising. My own MA is better left ntouched in the library archives. Maybe yours is a better case. As for a PhD publishing chapters from it are, in my view, the essential source of one's first publications to get the necessary record to apply for a job. Moreover, writing dissertation parts with publication in mind is an additional quality assurance mechanism and might serve as an external deadline. But here again, the kayword is parts and there is a lot of revising to be done.

7. Rejected article - to be resubmitted to some other journal. Might be the easiest track.

Candidates for papers that can be scrapped right away (according to Belcher. I think some of this stuff she discourages from submitting for a review, I still can get away with and publish).

Broad surveys of the literature - Belcher claims they are better done by veterans that have observed teh evolution of a discipline for a longer time. She still thinks you can put parts of it as an introduction in some other article. Two personal caveats are in order: I have a friend who published a literature review in a computer science journal, a place where one would think no one publishes that. He did some original work though, which was to typologize and classify literature according to some novel technique. I still want to go ahead and get my LR published, and the way I see forward is to organize the literature in some novel way. At the very least, Belcher says, you can write a review essay, which I think I would keep as a plan B. If you LR is rejected choose four or five books and write an informed review of then united by a single theme. You know those review articles in journals that review three or four thematically united books?

Research that is purely theoretical (no quant data or case studies), outdated, outside the discipline (don't publish a film critique term paper if you are a polisci student) and polemical (better published as an op-ed) is discouraged from being submitted to publication.

II. Choosing a Writing Site

It is recommended that writing becomes a habit that you practice for shorts amounts of time, but do daily. To encourage this habituation it is recommended that writing is done at a writing site - a special space designated for writing, which is comfortable and non-distracting. The most popular seem to be workshops and it is advised to change them if needed.

It is recommended that a writing cite has no internet/email and cell phone coverage. One extreme example from the book was a coffee shop or McDonalds which had renovation works going on and which had to wifi because of that and which was so loud you could not hear your cell phone ring. Email/Facebook/Twitter were said to be expecially distracted.

My own problem is staying close to sources - be it paper (library) or electronic (internet connection). The advice that Belcher gives is that it is better to leave out segments of text that you have to re-check through books or internet and carrying on. This is claimed to be very productive and to improve the quality of scholarship - I will definitely try it.

III. Schedule

The widespread belief is that you need big chunks of time to write and you need good ideas to begin. Both are attacked in the book as wrong. This book is built on the premise that writing for thirty minutes a day is much better in terms of quality of scholarship and much more productive that writing in big chunks of time (more than four hours).

Moreover, it is claimed that working on a single project is a bad idea and that it is better to diversify work on several projects. This has been my own experience as well. Writing a single paper the whole day I get burned out, too distracted, unproductive and what not. I tried to divide up the 4-6 hours every day I sit on computer writing and getting distracted into chunks of 1.5 hours and found out that working on two simultaneous projects made me much more concentrated and productive.

Regarding ideas being born before writing, both this particular author and many other people I have consulted told me that the best way to get ideas is to actually write, write whatever that is, criticuq of other people's work, blog posts and what not. In my own experience, one of the more important parts of my Dissertation Chapter 1 i started as a one-page reaction i wrote to myself on a news story.

it is also claimed that writing daily in small chunks of time (15-30) mins keeps one much more focused. Writing more than that is actually discourage, even when you have 'a flow' because, again, the book is based on the premise that writing is a regular unemotional exercise and not a bolt of insight.

The only thing is that planning and goal setting has to be there, so that at some point a writer will stop and submit his paper to a journal instead of waiting for a perfect paper to come out in three more years of regular wrting.

IV. Obstacles

I will list all obstacles that Belcher listed, but will only discuss those that I found common and my own. If you want more, let me know I will scan those sections to you or something. j

So the obstacles are:
1. I am really busy - you really really have no time, because you are so overloaded. Belcher's advice (and my own experience and advise) is that you have to seriously review your priorities and time management. It is just abnormal. Many 'too busy' people are actually 'too busy' to follow this advice of Belcher, so it is kind of a trap.

2. Teaching prep takes too much of my time
3. I'll start as soon as __________________
4. Too depressed to write
5. I will make writing my number one goal in life - that is just abnormal, as well as counterproductive
6. Could get to my writing site - print out a draft of your paper and work on it where you are in your limbo
7. Still reading up and review the literature - this is my personal problem as well and it is aggravated by all th online research tools that give you references, quotes, similar articles, suggestions and what not. The great advice given in this book is that you have to start writing to find out what exactly you have to read up on. To pu tit differently, leaving holes in the draft text keeps the literature review much more focused and narrow, saving tons of time. With the current amounts of literature it is impossible to skim everything. The mastery, Belcher's argument goes, comes from writing, not reading.
8. Can't get started
9. My topic too emotional or controversial
10. If I screw up my early publications it will hurt me later, when I become an established scholar
11.Not in the right mood
12. Kids
13. Can't work on this project any more - don't. Switch to other project or other type of writing (grant application, other article, chapter of the dissertation. In my personal experience this even works with sections of the paper. I could not finish a section of the paper in a very long time, so I just dropped it and moved to the other one, to come back in a couple of days and move it forward considerably.
14. My idea sucks - still write it down and you will see where exactly it sucks and what can be done baou tit. Good ideas are born in writing, they don't precede writing.
15. My supervisor is an obstacle with his critique
16. Can sit still - write in small chunks of time, put alarms and tie yourself to a seat with a belt (the last one is an anecdote from the book)
17. Feel guilty about not writing
18. Write slowly and don't get much done - that's normal, that's how the industry works
19. Long productive day and burn-out the next day - don't have a long productive day, limit your writing efforts so that there is no burnout. The book reports that some over-writers who used this advice found it helpful.
20. Don't want to change my writing habits.
21. Want to write but don't have scholarly or material resources. I come from this background. The advice given in the book is that you can have comparative advantage by having unique data, because those who don't have access to resources are usually on the ground, so they have better access to data and texts (as well as people, I should say).
22. Several projects with similar deadlines, I am in panic - that is actually good. I have this thing right now and I found that several projects simultaneously makes me more productive and focused.


  1. On your criteria for choosing a paper to try to publish, I would recommend putting most of the weight on #4 (but to include negative findings), followed by #2. With the exception of relevance, the others will follow, and I think relevance is oversold. If the paper's good, people will see its relevance. And if you don't enjoy writing it, that'll show in the paper, and many readers will get turned off.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Jay. You know it better, you published a lot already. Those are not my criteria though, I got tjem from wendy belcher's book. Any thoughts on piece-meal regular writing vs completing chunks of writing in a single gigantic efforts?

  3. What's up it's me, I am also visiting this website daily, this website is genuinely pleasant and the visitors are actually sharing good
    Check out my weblog : skin whitening pills

  4. Right here is the perfect web site for anyone who wishes to understand
    this topic. You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not
    that I really will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a new spin on a subject which has been written about for a long time.
    Great stuff, just wonderful!
    Also see my page: male breast reduction

  5. This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger.
    I have joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of
    your great post. Also, I have shared your web site in my social
    Also visit my site ;

  6. I've been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It's pretty worth enough for me.
    In my opinion, if all web owners and bloggers made good
    content as you did, the web will be much more
    useful than ever before.
    My page