Monthly Archives: August 2014

The right journal for the right paper…

After the success of my DIY writing retreat earlier in the year which resulted in a full paper draft that then went on to be accepted with revisions, I was keen to lock myself away for another retreat to begin work on another paper. I’ve booked in days to have a retreat Monday & Tuesday of this coming week when I’m not teaching and this time I’m going for beach writing rather than a retreat on the olive farm. I’m lucky that I have retreat locations built in, living on a farm & having parents who live in a seaside town. The beach based retreat also provides the added bonus of having my parents make me cups of tea while I write! There are a couple of fave food places in my hometown that I will reward myself with as writing breaks, and of course, walking on the beach will be the way to kick start my brain when I begin to flag.

I don’t just head away with the goal of getting a paper started as I figure that’s a recipe for disaster which could involve me sitting at my computer for two days hoping that paper writing inspiration will come. The pre-retreat work involves looking at my publication plan and deciding upon which paper I will write, which data I will use and which journal I will target. I’ve got a framework for a number of possible journal articles based on some of my current research projects and the paper I’ve selected to write during this retreat comes from data collected last year. The main challenge I’ve faced with planning this retreat involves a dilemma regarding my target journal. The dilemma isn’t is much which journal to target but simply the fact that the journal I want to target is a journal that has already accepted one of my papers for publication this year. I’ve got some hesitation about writing another paper for that journal as I feel that I should be diversifying my publications and not sending things to the same journal. I’m torn between the positives and negatives of doing this.

The positives lie in the fact that by submitting another paper to this journal I’m trying to build up a body of work in this particular field, all the people I’m drawing from read this journal and publish in it. I think the topic of the paper is a perfect fit for this particular journal- in fact I tried to think about alternative journals to submit this paper to but it seemed like I was trying to jam a puzzle piece into a space it didn’t go. Most of the work I will draw from has been published in this journal. I think that I’m beginning to understand how to write papers for this journal as well, I read it a lot and have a sense of the structure, style and scope of the journal.

The negatives though lie in my concern about how this might he perceived by others. Will they think I am taking a more comfortable approach by submitting to this same journal? If I only submit to this journal am I shooting myself in the foot by limiting the exposure of my research and the chance to make others aware of my work?

I turn back to my publication plan to help guide me in this decision. Looking over the list of things I want to write, I see that other, future, as yet unwritten papers, have the scope to be sent to a range of different journals. This may be the last article I’m sending to this journal for at least the next twelve months. I could always write a different article during my writing retreat but this article begs to be written. It’s the one I think about when I walk through the grove, the one I’m pondering and planning as I drive to and from work. So the decision is made for me. I will write this article. I will target this journal and I’ll see how I go.

My pre-retreat work then involve some deliberations about which journal and once a decision is made it involves some more pre-reading so that I can flesh out my ideas in relation to the literature in the field and in relation to the theoretical frame of the work.
So the plan for this retreat is to get the bulk of a paper drafted, particularly the intro, lit review, method and analysis section. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to get the bulk of the discussion written as well.

But what about you? What are your thoughts on targeting the same journal twice in a year?

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DIY update

A few weeks back I was thrilled to hear that Siobhan O’Dwyer who tweets @suwtues was running a DIY writing retreat. After fostering us through virtual shut up and write sessions on Tuesdays, she had decided to take on the DIY writing retreat as a way of getting some serious writing done, and she was kind enough to say that I’d given her some inspiration in making it happen. I travelled to Warrnambool to meet her during her retreat, where we talked about academia, books, writing, life and of course the DIY retreat. In a nice act of serendipity, a week after meeting her, and while she was on week 2 of her retreat, I got the reviews of the article back that I’d crafted during my own DIY stint. If you need or want a recap on my retreat you can find it in my older posts, but the general idea is that I locked myself away on the farm for 2 days with a target journal, a plan, some data and some food, and walked out 2 days later with an article drafted.

I sent my article to two lovely colleagues who gave me some suggestions and I made some changes before sending it in to the target journal. Four months passed and then the email arrived. Favourable reviews, some minor revisions to be made, but it’s looking likely that my DIY retreat article will be on its way to publication soon. I’ve targeted a multidisciplinary journal and had decided that I wanted to apply a tool from one professional field to my field of education to see how it worked. In doing so, it might give others the ability to apply a similar framework to their own work.

When tackling revisions I normally begin by rewriting what it is the reviewer is seeking clarification on, thus setting myself a to-do list for action. This morning, however, I tried something new having seen that Raul Pachecho-Vega had shared a great blog post on twitter. The post is from 2011 from Get a Life, PhD (http://getalifephd.blogspot.mx/2011/03/how-to-respond-to-revise-and-resubmit.html?utm_content=buffer20554&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer) and examines how to respond to revise and resubmit feedback. I really liked the suggestions in this post about putting together an excel spreadsheet with columns for reviewer, suggestions, response, done, and I used this as the beginning step of my revisions by identifying what exactly it was that the reviewers were seeking. In putting the suggestions into this document, I realized that the reviewers had similar feedback relating to clarification of terminology, something that is crucial in an international, multidisciplinary journal. It became the central focus of my revisions and involved adding more clarity around terms and moving these to earlier in the article so that readers had a base to work from. There are a number of steps in the blog post and I recommend checking it out when tackling your own revise and resubmit. One of the things I also liked was the way it made resubmission much easier. With my document clearly showing which reviewer had made which suggestions and my notes on how to address them, along with changed text, I was able to slot in my response to the reviewer feedback really easily in the online management system.

I think a process such as this is a really valuable one in enabling you to take feedback and process what it might mean for the paper, you can begin to build a sense of what the changed paper will look like and how it might hang together to give the reader a better understanding of your research. I find the table process also enables me to move beyond an emotional response to the feedback (what?! They didn’t love everything about my paper?), and instead to step outside my paper to see what readers find confusing or need clarification on.

One of the other things I have also started is a file that traces the kinds of feedback I get from reviewers on my papers so that I can begin to see common areas for improvement in my writing. In this paper the common element was terminology, in anther paper it was setting the international context more effectively. By creating a table that contains this kind of tracing of my writing I can be alert to these areas as I write to try and stop myself from falling into my own writing cracks. So with my paper revisions sent off and my file started, it’s time for a new paper, and a new DIY retreat project. Stay tuned and I’ll fill you in on that tomorrow!

Life in the margins

For one crowded hour
You were the only one in the room
– Augie March

I’m sitting in a plane winding my way back home after 9 days in the UK for work. I’m reading and providing feedback and editing suggestions to the first 3 chapters of my sister’s masters thesis. Here in this flying bird I am utterly absorbed in the act of reading, thinking, critiquing and questioning. I put music on and Augie March’s ‘One crowded hour’ begins to play. As I listen I have a bodily, visceral response to the music and the lyrics. I am momentarily distracted from the task of reading the chapters and I make a conversational note in the margin telling my sister this – sharing this snapshot of something from the world outside her thesis – speaking to her as a reader while responding as a reader of her work. I’m instantly captured by this thought, by what it is that goes on in the margins.

What can I learn about myself and my pedagogies of supervision by examining the margins and my annotations? I hadn’t explicitly considered this before- I’d responded to work as an academic reader by making notes, questions, comments, but I begin to wonder what knowledge I can generate for myself through examining the nature of my annotations. It seems to me that what I do in the margins is tacit and taken for granted and I wonder what I would find if I turn a lens on myself. I’m interested this as I’m putting together a self-study project that explores my pedagogy as a supervisor and this gives me an idea for the project. I wonder if my notes and annotations have a particular focus? Do I devote more time and attention to issues of grammar? To the mechanics of language? Or am I more interested in theory? In conceptual ideas? On the articulation of the methodology? Do my annotations shift and morph in focus through different chapters of the thesis?

What is it that I am seeking to do through these annotations? Am I (simply) giving feedback? Pointing the way forward? Trying to foster deeper thought from my students? Tying to encourage them to think about some of the conventions of academic discourse and ways they can enter the conversation?
For one not so crowded hour on this plane, the work is the only one in the room. I’m focused on it and all of what it says. But in undertaking this focus and engaging in life and annotations in the margins– what do I convey about myself and my pedagogy of supervision? It’s time to find out.