Who Is an Author? - 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

Who Is an Author?
From Aspiring Author to Published Scholar
Professional Roles and Publishable Writing

How is the word “author” defined? Originally, the word was used more generally; it meant anyone who was the originator of something: Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defined authorship as “One who produces, creates, or brings into being.” Over time, definitions of the word author have become much more sharply focused on written composition. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language online defines an author as: “The original writer of a literary work. One who practices writing as a profession” and adds “to assume responsibility for the content of a published text.” In Academia, authorship conforms to all of these meanings; it also becomes part of the job description for students and faculty. Yet writing something original for publication and taking responsibility for it can be a daunting task.

Many times the papers produced while an undergraduate could best be described as “stringing pearls” of wisdom that have been gleaned from other sources. While students are taught to cite those works appropriately, their assignments seldom reflect much in the way of original thought. Even at the master’s level, there is understandably more emphasis on acquiring familiarity with leaders in the field than in generating something new. Many students, academics, and first time authors worry that they are pretenders who will be unmasked at some point.

Activity 1.1: Feeling Like a Fraud

Do you sometimes worry that your ignorance will be exposed? Many times, scholars seeking to publish fear that their performance on a task or in a particular situation will expose just how incompetent they are beneath the façade. These feelings are so commonplace that it has had a name since the 1970s: the imposter phenomenon (IP). Take the Clance IP Scale and get feedback on your responses by clicking on the arrow at http://www.gradpsychdigital.org/gradpsych/201311?folio=24&pg=26#pg26. Read the article by Weir. What strategies did you get for addressing the IP as it relates to scholarly writing and publication?

As Brookfield (2015) explains, authors can be particularly susceptible to this “imposter phenomenon”, believing that their ideas do not matter and that they lack the requisite intellect, talent, and right to go into print. Such misgivings may be intensified for those from working class backgrounds (Muzzatti & Samarco, 2005) or first generation graduate students (Davis, 2010; Ward, Siegel, & Davenport, 2012). Reflecting on her graduate school days, Gabrielle Rico (1991) writes:

Writer. I knew the word did not apply to me; inside my head was chaos I could not untangle in my own words; I was only a cutter and a paster, a borrower, a fake. While real writers shaped form and content, I felt little more than a hopelessly tangled fullness where ideas should be. (p. 4)

Yet if scholars pursue the doctorate and higher education, the single, most important expectation for their writing is that it “makes a contribution” and “advances thinking in the field.” Little wonder, then, that so many doctoral candidates falter at the dissertation stage and university faculty members balk at the pressure to publish.