Seek Out More Knowledgeable Others - From Aspiring Author to Published Scholar - Professional Roles and Publishable Writing

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Seek Out More Knowledgeable Others
From Aspiring Author to Published Scholar
Professional Roles and Publishable Writing

When learners are determined to achieve mastery, they can be expected to ask questions, watch demonstrations, participate in simulations, conduct observations, seek coaching, and practice. Many academic authors treat writing as a form of self-imposed isolation that keeps them away from family and friends. While it is true that there will be times when authors need to be free from distractions and work alone, writing has a social aspect to it as well. Successfully published authors have learned to capitalize on social support. The opportunity to work with a person who has been highly successful with the task you are tackling for the first time and wants to help you is a boon to growth as a writer. Just as sea faring sailors relied on others to literally “show them the ropes”, less experienced authors can turn to more experienced writers to figuratively show them the ropes of scholarly publishing. Although it may be assumed that mentors are older and protégés are younger, age is not the important variable, experience is. So, an untenured professor might be mentoring a tenured faculty member on the use of technology or grant writing because the younger person has more experience with these tasks.

Academic authors often experience their first success with publishing through co-authorship. For students, this collaboration frequently is with the supervisors of their graduate assistantship or dissertation and for faculty members, the collaboration often is with a more experienced departmental/university colleague or a co-author from another institution identified through networking (Levin & Feldman, 2012). Just as it is easier for many people to follow a GPS than a road map, mentoring by more experienced academic authors calculates that route. Table 1.3 outlines the mentor/protégé relationship as it pertains to academic writing.

Table 1.3

The mentor/protégé relationship in academic writing

Criteria for selecting a writing mentor

 Is trustworthy, respected, and has a reputation for treating others fairly

 Has successful experience with publishing

 Wants to support the protégé in achieving writing/publishing goals

 Provides candid evaluation of the work

 Offers specific, constructive criticism rather than generalized praise

 Provides guidance at various stages of manuscript completion

 Understands the intended audience for the work (e.g., practitioners, international scholars)

 Accepts the agreed upon role (e.g., second author, an acknowledgement)

Protégés responsibilities

 Produces written work rather talk alone

 Submits work that truly represents the best of her or his ability

 Expects both positive and negative comments

 Views criticism as a route to manuscript improvement

 Does not complain or quit when more work is required

 Responds appropriately to recommendations for revision

 Submits rewrites in a timely fashion

 Recognizes the level of the mentor’s contributions appropriately (e.g., in an acknowledgement, as a co-author)

 Informs the mentor about publication, thanks him or her, and supplies a copy

Research conducted by Cho, Ramanan, and Feldman (2011) concluded that outstanding mentors: (1) exhibit admirable personal qualities (enthusiasm, compassion, and selflessness); (2) guide careers in ways tailored to the individual; (3) invest time through regular, frequent, and high-quality interactions; (4) advocate achieving balance in personal/professional lives; and (5) leave a legacy of mentoring through role modeling, standards and policy-making.

Activity 1.5 Working with a Writing Mentor

Working with a writing mentor is an informal contract that must be built on reciprocal trust and respect. As you review the guidelines in Table 1.3, identify one or more people who would be effective writing mentors.

Online Tool 

Check the University of Michigan’s pdf’s for protégés How to Get the Mentoring You Want and, for mentors, How to Mentor Graduate Students

Writing arrangements between scholars should not be entered into lightly. The best advice is to check up on people before agreeing to work with them and to choose any writing partner very carefully.