Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016
Maximizing Scholarly Output
From a Single Work to Multiple Scholarly Spin-Offs
Writing as Professional Development
One common question from graduate students and college/university faculty members is how to produce multiple publications from a body of work. The concept here is not to repeat the same work; rather, it is to show how, by changing the focus, audience, and purpose it is possible to produce different publications grounded in the same basic literature review. First, set expectations realistically by considering these points:
· For students, there are academic integrity policies that prohibit the use of the same basic paper to fulfill assignments from two different courses.
· For faculty members, savvy tenure/promotion/evaluation committees will investigate just how similar two publications are; duplicates will not be counted as a separate publication.
· It may seem as though generating two manuscripts on the same topic would be easy, but it seldom is. Although you will save time conducting a literature review, it becomes a new writing task when you change the audience, focus, and outlet.
Nevertheless, there is much to be said for “spin offs” from previous scholarly endeavors. Some advantages of building on previous work include:
· Developing greater depth and breadth of understanding. When you delve into the same intellectual terrain repeatedly, this offers the best chance of a thorough knowledge about a topic, issue, trend, or professional practice.
· Making the process more efficient. Instead of beginning at step one, prior work invested on a project can accelerate a subsequent, related project. Rather than conducting an entirely new literature review, for instance, you may be able to do just an update or a related literature review focused on a particular facet.
· Increasing visibility. If a fellow scholar searches a topic and finds your work repeatedly, this helps to establish a reputation as a leader in the field.
· Seeing new possibilities. Each success tends to build confidence and motivation to pursue other avenues for disseminating the work to different audiences for different purposes.
To illustrate how spin-offs can operate, I conducted review of the literature on faculty members’ scholarly productivity to secure a faculty professional development grant that was funded by the Provost. He recommended that I write a short newsletter article about the project for higher education administrators that was published. After that, I wrote a journal article that was published in The Educational Forum (Jalongo, 1985). Then, while browsing through the Chronicle of Higher Education, I learned about a “Best Essay Award” through the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE), submitted the manuscript and it was selected for a national award. This gave me an all-expense-paid trip to the conference, a lovely dinner at the Palmer House in Chicago, and a spot on the conference program. Using the same basic literature review as the foundation, five different scholarly goals were accomplished and none of it was self-plagiarized. Each was a related yet separate task.
One way to enhance creativity is to consider both transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary strategies. Transdisciplinary refers to distinctive work products; for example, a training for practitioners, a research paper presented at a conference, and a grant proposal. Interdisciplinary perspectives extend the concept beyond a domain of study. When work is interdisciplinary, it helps to foster “out of the box” thinking and build capacity for innovation (Lyall & Meagher, 2012). This occurs in at least three different ways. First, interdisciplinarity transcends the “silo” effect in organizations that keep people walled off from one another; second, it prompts people to look beyond narrow areas of specialization; and third, it counteracts the parochialism of being immersed in the local context only. All of this nudges faculty members to step outside their comfort zones and puts them in the position of needing to figure things out. Chances are, this is going to lead to more original and interesting outcomes.
A personal/professional experience helps to explain how the transdisciplinary/interdisciplinary dynamic works.
My doctorate is in curriculum and instruction. In recent years, I have written about humane education (Jalongo 2013b) and conducted some research on the effects of the human-animal bond (Levinson et al., 2016). Most of my community service activity has focused on advocacy for children and animals. Many years ago, I became fascinated by the concept of dog training in correctional facilities. It all began with a short-lived television program called Cell Dogs. Each episode featured a project in which carefully selected inmates became expert dog trainers. Some programs worked with local shelters to make homeless dogs more adoptable by teaching them basic obedience, others prepared service dogs trained to perform useful tasks for people with disabilities, and so forth. The potential of such programs to make a contribution to the community and equip inmates with reentry skills captured my imagination. In 2001, a large, high-tech, maximum security correctional facility was built a short distance from my home. A prison dog training program idea continued to percolate but I knew almost nothing about the prison setting or which staff member to contact. During a one-semester sabbatical leave, I decided to start talking about the idea and contacting people. I discovered that one of my colleagues has a spouse who teaches classes at the prison, so I wrote a proposal, he graciously reviewed it, and delivered it to the right person. Shortly afterwards, I received a telephone call. To my surprise, several employees had been working, behind the scenes, on a service dog training program over the preceding year. According to the American Disabilities Act, a service dog is an individually trained dog that performs tasks to mitigate a person’s disability. So, if a person is confined to a wheelchair, a service dog would such things as operating light switches, opening doors, and retrieving dropped objects. The program developers had chosen to collaborate with a group that had nearly 50 years of experience, United Disabilities Services Foundation (www.udsf.org). In their highly respected Service Dogs program, the dogs need to master 80 different commands in order to help a person with a disability. The training takes about two years, the client with the disability is required to attend classes to learn how to work with the dog, and the person/dog team is evaluated annually. To their credit, the prison instructors had first learned to be dog trainers themselves; now they would teach this skill set to inmates with support from UDSF. They also had modified the physical environment so that inmates selected to participate in the program were housed in cell block together and had access to an outdoor space for the dogs. The part of my proposal that they liked the most was the curriculum and instruction. Using the resources of leading professional organizations and local experts, I would design four, noncredit courses that would be offered through the community studies division of the university. Successful training of a dog, completion of the coursework, and the recommendation of the instructors would result in a certificate of dog training. The staff also needed opportunities to have the dogs experience a wide variety of situations that they would not encounter in a prison setting, so I used my connections with schools and in the community to support this. This project illustrates both transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches. Some different modalities within the project—the transdisciplinary applications—were: written proposals to the prison and continuing education at the university, PowerPoint/photo essays to educate adults and children about service dogs and the project; and course syllabi, handouts, online resources, tests, and portfolio guidelines for the four courses.
When professors hear about the program, they say, “Oh, that’s criminology”. Actually, it isn’t. The prison staff have degrees in criminology and in-depth knowledge of the local facility; UDSF has service dog training expertise. My contribution is developing the curriculum and teaching humane education concepts. This project called upon me to be a “boundary spanner” as I: contacted national and state organizations to get the latest information, worked with community leaders to review course content (e.g., animal advocacy groups, veterinarians) to ensure that course content was accurate; conducted a review of the literature on dog training programs in correctional facilities; collaborated on grant proposals; taught specific lessons to the inmates, and made presentations to groups (e.g., at the public library, in college classes, to kennel clubs and professional dog training groups, to service organizations). The first group of dogs was so successful that the program has expanded to two additional correctional facilities; they regard these programs as important reentry tools for inmates. When we read the inmates’ dog training journals and the letters they wrote to the people who now own the dogs that they trained, their sincerity touched our hearts. After the placement of the dogs was made, it inspired all of us to do more and try harder. One dog is changing the life of a military veteran with physical and psychological wounds. Still another is helping a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder; the list goes on. As more people benefit and data are gathered, new possibilities emerge for presentations, publications, and grants. With my capable partners in this venture, what was once just a dream is an uplifting reality for staff, inmates, clients, and community.
Many times, our dream projects remain a secret—at least for a time. Even though they seem far out of reach, a passion for the project continues to burn. Over the years, I have learned to “blue sky it” and spend some time imagining what might be possible when some of the conditions fall into place. As with any invitation, you have to accept that your ideas may need to be modified considerably to fit the context, that some people will be obstructionist, or that your proposal may be flatly denied.
Activity 11.3: Your Dream Project
One of the advantages of working in higher education is considerable autonomy in selecting projects; in most other occupations, people are assigned to work on what others deem important. What project can you envision that would simultaneously stimulate your thinking and fire your enthusiasm?
Table 11.4 suggests strategies for generating more than one scholarly outcome from a similar body of work.
Managing multiple projects
Begin with class notes. An English professor began by conducting a review of the literature on writers’ groups that was shared during a doctoral seminar he was responsible for teaching. Then he planned a writers’ retreat for local colleagues, began a writers’ group, published a practical article about the experience, and published a qualitative research article based on interviews with the participants
Branch out from community service. That time-consuming service project can become a practical article if it is written in the structure best suited for descriptions of projects, namely: needs assessment, design/planning, implementation, and outcomes/evaluation. Writing the article this way also forms the foundation for a grant proposal
Write two manuscripts simultaneously. Try writing an article for the layperson at the same time that you are writing a manuscript for scholars. Each time a portion of the work sounds like something professionals would already know, move it to the article for nonspecialists
Move from small project to larger projects. For instance, you could write the abstract and proposal for a conference presentation, expand the idea into a paper informally published as conference proceedings, advance to publish a review of the literature or original research as an article or book chapter, and ultimately pursue a book contract—all on the same basic topic
Write while developing a program. Prior research shows that time spent writing grants is positively associated with conducting research (Bozeman & Gaughan, 2007). So, use a grant to support a project as the basis for writing a practical article. See “The Program-Page Connection: A Practical Model for Professional Writing” (Smith & McLaurin, 1999) posted at http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ592633
Use teamwork to tackle a formidable task. A faculty member/program director from Vocational Education, a professor of history/philosophy, and a statistician took on the huge task of analyzing exit survey data the first author had collected over a 5-year period. The strengths of each collaborator yielded a very different manuscript from the one the first author would have produced independently
Switch between research and practice. If you have been publishing more theory and research, collaborate with some highly respected practitioners to generate a practical article. If you have been writing mainly practical articles, pursue a line of research with the support of a more experienced researcher
Repurpose a failed manuscript. If a grant was not funded, could it be modified for another grants competition? Might the literature review section be expanded into an article? Could elements of a manuscript become a class activity? How about a conference proposal?
Apply for awards. If your work has been well-received, explore the different awards and forms of recognition at your institution, in your professional organizations, and conferred by other groups. For example, many professional groups give awards for outstanding dissertations, for service to the group, or to promising new researchers. Review all of the criteria and apply well in advance because these awards typically require letters of support from others
Activity 11.4: Identifying Spin-Offs
Using the strategies in Table 11.4, what possibilities can you envision for maximizing your output of scholarly work? Make a three-column list with the headings of teaching, research, and service. Then use arrows to identify connections across the columns.