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Write that journal article in 7 days
Transcript of Write that journal article in 7 days
Day two: Write a 'tiny text'
Day One: Commit to the project
Day three: Do a 'spew draft'
Day Four: Now do a scratch outline
Day Five: Start cleaning the mess
Day Six: 'murder your darlings'
Day Seven: Let it rest
Day Zero: Before you start
Do you have a publishing strategy?
There's two reasons you should publish:
1) Publishing is explicitly mentioned in the guidelines to examiners as a way to tell if your thesis is good enough to pass
2) It helps you get noticed by scholars in your field. Citations only happen if people read it in the first place.
Both should inform your publishing strategy
See a longer article I wrote on this topic here http://www.phd2published.com/2011/03/08/publishing-in-academic-journals-part-2-selection/
Do your research first:
Where do I read articles?
Where else do people I like to read get published?
Which journals seem to get more citations
What are the ERA rankings of the journals I have identified?
Do the editorial guidelines seem sympathetic to the work I do?
Set a target: two articles a year is probably a minimum in most disciplines
What sort of paper will you write this week?
The genre of the paper makes a lot of the hard decisions for you
Writing an abstract for the paper before you start helps you focus.
Write that journal article*
or: how to be a plotter AND a pantser
This prezi was composed by:
Dr Inger Mewburn
Research Fellow @RMIT School of Graduate Research
in 7 days!
Data Driven Papers
This is the 'default' type of paper. It usually "reports and publicises the findings of some kind of empirical study".
Rugg and Petre suggest you include at least one of these in your 'portfolio'.
In the sciences it's the type of paper that is designed to help others to replicate the study
Key ingredients are:
What question is being addressed and why?
A description of the study and how it was conducted
The results (data collected, analysis, findings)
Discussion (significance, limitations, claims to generalisation)
Conclusion (implications, further work)
If data is the central focus: make sure it's good
According to Rugg and Petre this means 'solid' and 'interesting'
Sample size, quality, representativeness
useful and/or surprising
Some variations which Rugg and Petre urge you to consider:
Here's your subheadings!
Meta studies papers compile and analyse multiple existing studies.
Needs: a clearly stated purpose; good data and clear analysis method
And a good discussion section
Artefact papers publicise a new artefact, tool, system, pedagogy, instrument etc & provide information for critique / application
Needs: what the thing is, the gap it fills, why it's novel, what ideas it embodies, an evaluation and implications.
Work-in-progress papers stake out territory - helps you to lay claims to ideas you are working on (important to thesis writers)
Needs: strong idea, clarity about how the idea fits in the field and how it is distinguished from other work, speculation about the implications
Rugg and Petre say these describe a new method, technique, algorithm or process well enough for other researchers to replicate it. Usually written for a very particular audience or community
Key ingredients are:
What it is
How it works
What it's good for (both utility and how it's different)
Some variations Rugg and Petre outline:
Methods introductions: describe a new method invented or developed by the author and justify it (what is it good for, why do you need it, how do you know it works?).
Tutorial papers: describe a method and how to use it. Usually includes an example. Journals are usually reluctant to publish these, although they are widely quoted when they are.
Conciousness raising papers
Method mongering paper: describes a method with the aim of promoting it to other scholars in the field. Often includes an example without too much description of the method itself.
Demonstration of concept paper: demonstrates that a particular concept (method or framework) is feasible, useful and interesting. Can get away with using less data than other paper types.
Good precursor to getting funding
Raise awareness of issue which have not received enough attention in the field. They might give other researchers "interesting new toys to play with", usually by importing an idea from another discipline.
a strong idea
a strong, rich argument
weight of experience
speculation about the implications
Make sure your complaints about the field are justified before proceeding!
Rugg and Petre claim such papers help you to act like a 'navigator' for your research community. They are likely to be cited heavily by people... who either love or loathe you
These are the sort I like to write!
Good ones need:
genuine authority based on comprehensive and current knowledge of the field
Strong critical and creative abilities
This is the point where you take a step back and identify strengths and weaknesses of your work so far.
Do I have enough literature?
Am I making 'knowledge claims' or just reporting?
Is this an argument - or a manifesto?
Is my data sufficient to the claims I am making?
Am I being sufficiently speculative?
This is a good point to open your paper up to others to criticise. It can be a big ask when people are busy. Think about just sending portions of it... such as the 'idea heavy' bits like the abstract and the conclusion.
This day will be *much* easier if you use Scrivener:
I'm talking about editing people
Approach with care! Rugg and Petre claim these are usually written by very experienced scholars.
Rugg and Petre describe Theory papers as a ways to:
introduce new theory or explain someone else's theory in a way which makes more sense
Refine or extend existing theory or
critique and debunk it
Set an agenda for new theory
Are usually written every ten years or so - when someone (like a thesis writer!) "bothers to read everything in a field" again, summarises it and provides evaluative judgement.
Recognise it? Your literature review perhaps?
Once you identify the type of paper you are doing you should have an idea of the main subheadings which will help you sketch out the paper structure
This presentation is designed to show people how a messy bunch of 'academic stuff' can be turned into an article quickly.
I assume you already have some data and/or artefacts, a bit of preliminary analysis and ideas.*
A prezi is like a big, animated whiteboard. Click on something to view it, or follow the path I have set for you
Use these questions to help you decide which journal you will submit to
*You might find yourself bouncing around between these steps for awhile. It usually is a sign that you didn't have enough 'stuff' to make the kind of paper you are aiming for, or you lack confidence in your ideas.
Don't give up. You have two options:
1) Gather more evidence and read more, keep massaging the draft until you have enough to move on, or:
2) Go back to week one and rethink which sort of paper you can write with what you do have.
A scratch outline is a rough 'treatment' of your paper
In screen writer language, a "treatment" is a short description of the proposed project which will be expanded later into a full script
A good outline is like a beautiful snowflake. You can see the structure without needing more detail to understand what it is
There's lots of ways to do a sketch outline!
A clustering diagram enables you to see the relationship between parts without writing text. Start with a single idea in the middle bubble and draw out 'legs'. Put authors or bits of data in the other bubbles.
The 'treatment' for this presentation could be expressed as a list of instructions to myself, ie:
Title: "Write an article in 7 days"
explain why you should write articles
talk about the importance of doing research to find out the best place to publish
Talk about different types of articles in academia
Talk about the importance of audience - explain how academic audiences 'work'
Introduce the idea of a 'tiny text' as a way of focusing for your audience
Talk about the value of doing a 'spew draft'
.... etc, etc
Writing it as instructions, rather than statements, helps you focus on the flow, not the content
Cut and paste bits of writing you already have into your word processor and start writing the bits that are missing!
It's easy to lose your nerve at this point because you think as you write, not just before you write. Things change: new ideas appear out of the fog....
Which ever way you do your outline, you should work towards a file with a set of subheadings. Each subheading represents a 'chunk' of writing.
Now's the time to check what writing / analysis / data you already have on file. If there doesn't seem to be much which can be used, reassess you ambitions for the paper.
Move back and forth between the outline and the text, shift subheadings around and add new ones if you need to.
I recommend printing it out and using a pen at this point.
It stops you from making changes and forces you to read all the way through before deciding what should stay and what should go.
Beware of 'one step forward, two steps back syndrome here. If you find yourself 'polishing' and not moving on, use the table of contents function in word (or use a better program, like scrivener) to jump between sections.
The trick is to write as fast as you can - not as well as you can. Think "bee": you are flitting between pieces of text when you get stuck - not trying to 'finish' anything.
I love scrivener for this kind of work - read more here:
Kamler and Thomson ("Helping Doctoral Students to write") suggest you start by writing a 'tiny text' or abstract because they "compress the rhetorical act of arguing into a few sentence" (pg 85).
Kamler and Thomson suggest your abstract should have four "moves":
Kamler and Thomson suggest you use a series of questions to help you start:
What's the research problem being addressed?
How do I locate the significance of my work?
What conversation am I in? Where am I standing in relation to this research problem?
What do I offer as an alternative to existing research?
What is my arguement (thesis)?
If this presentation had an abstract it would look something like this:
Many Doctoral students have to write journal articles for their PhD. Although there is a lot of advice out there, it is often hard to follow because it is not put in context with the daily activities of a professional writer ( Kamler and Thomson, 2006). This presentation collects this advice and puts in in a 'temporal' frame work based on days of the week. This framework helps PhD students see writing a paper as a purposeful, step wise process, rather than a set of "do's and don'ts".
Focus - tells us what the presentation is for
This sentence explains what I did to achieve my aims, which were stated in sentence one and two.
Think hard about this and the paper will follow...
I locate the presentation amongst the extensive literature of writing advice and make a case for why I am doing it this way and not some other way. Here I 'lean' on Kamler and Thomspon's authority by using a citation.
The last sentence tells us what becomes possible because this presentation exists.
The last 45 minutes of this workshop will be devoted to crafting your own 'tiny text'.
This is where you start massaging your text into the first draft
What separates an *ok* paper from a great one is a big red pen.
There's not room to deal with the whole topic here, so here are two techniques
Do you have too many words?
Using the strike through tool - can you live without it?
Moving some text to footnotes
Starting a 'maybe later' folder
Triaging your text paragraph by paragraph
Performing 'bypass surgery'
Stephen King once said: “… kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
Or is it just too 'wordy'?
Use brackets to diagnose ‘fuzz’ in your text
All writers (will have to) edit their prose, but (the) great writers edit (it) viciously, always trying to eliminate (words which are) ‘fuzz’ – (excess) words (which are not adding anything of value). Zinsser compares (the process of editing out) ‘fuzz’ to fighting weeds – you will always be slightly behind (because they creep in when you aren’t looking for them). One of my (pet hates) is (the word) ‘also’. (If you search and replace all instances (of this word) you will find you can live without it and your writing will improve (instantly). (Likewise the word)’very’.)
Let’s try that again:
All writers edit their prose, but great writers edit viciously. The point of editing is to eliminate ‘fuzz’, or excess words which don’t add value. Zinsser compares removing ‘fuzz’ to fighting weeds – you will always be slightly behind. Two examples of fuzz are ‘also’ and ‘very’. Work at keeping them out of your text and your writing will improve.
This tip is from Zinsser's excellent book: "On Writing"
Editing is part of the process, not an end point: there is no such thing as 'writing' - only 'rewriting'
Like Bread dough, a paper needs time to rest before the cooking process can resume
Even if you have sent the paper to some readers before this, make sure that at least one other person reads it before you submit
Draw on the services of a 'critical friend' who wont laugh at you. This is someone who will read your draft and provide you with useful feedback without judgment.
Good critical friends are hard to find. Cultivate them.
Coffee dates are a good way to cultivate critical friends
In his book "Writing for social scientists" Howard Becker asked his students why they were afraid to show their writing to others:
"They feared that what they wrote would be "wrong" and unspecified people would laugh at them"
Writing a paper is what designers would call a 'wicked problem'.
This means there are no 'right' or 'wrong papers'...
Just good and bad ones.
The more you write, the better your papers will be.
The urge is to do an outline first, but this can hold back your thinking process
But don't hold on too tightly yet - this is just way of giving shape to your ideas
I want you to write as much as you can about a single idea in 10 minutes. Write the idea at the top of the paper - it's easier if it's phrased as a question. Then write. Don't stop until the 10 minutes is up. If you are stuck for a word use another/different word separated by by forward slashes so you don't slow down.
Lets try 'free writing'
Ideas which are strong in your head can look weak and lame as they creep onto the screen.
At this point you stop being like this...
And start being more like this
So which one should you bother writing if you want to be cited? All researchers (including you) are selfish, time constrained creatures who will only read something if it’s worth their while. If you always know the WIFM ('what's in it for me?') for your audience you will be a successful writer.
Different types of papers will appeal to different kinds of researcher audiences. A scientist will be more interested in a methods paper which gives them ideas for what they can do next, than a theory paper which questions the veracity of the scientific method.
All of us, as we go about our everyday academic doings, generate ‘academic detritus’ – bits and pieces of writing, tables of analysis, notes and jottings.
My quick and dirty method presumes that you have a bunch of this stuff lying around which could be turned into a paper given enough of the right kind of attention.
I hope this presentation helps you to write more papers
You might also like to try these:
5Ws / 1H:
This paper explores candidates' experiences of...
There is little research available on...particularly from...
Seventeen doctoral candidates and 6 supervisors were...
The study was situated in the School of Education at...
All candidates were in their last year of study or had...
A nested multiple-case study using semi-structured...
...Write a set of bullet
Organise these in the
best way to tell your story...
...then delete those that are
Develop each into
Identify a set of headings
Focus on the story:
Here is a problem/question.
It's an interesting problem/question because...
It's an unsolved problem/unanswered question.
Here is my idea
My idea works (details, data)
Here's how my idea compares to other peole's approaches
Remember that a journal article has
a different purpose and audience
to your thesis.
Think about the journal's readership:
The audience WON'T want:
information they already know
a long literature rview
lot's of process-focussed information.
They WILL want:
results that support the conclusions
to be clear about how it contributes to the field.
The introduction should grab their attention.
The conclusion should be convincing.
BELIEVE that you have someting to say that others want to read.
Distill the main ideas from your whole thesis
Take one section of data and analyse by:
building a case from a small sample of respondents,
or just the key respondents
only using interview data that is concerned with a specific theme
using data from a group of questionnaire questions that deal with
a common theme or issue,
etc, etc, etc
Dr Judy Maxwell
RMIT Study and Learning Centre