Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016
From a Class Paper to a Publishable Review
Conference Proposals and Article Types
One criticism of dissertations is that they often take a “listing” approach to reviewing the literature rather than synthesizing the research to produce a conceptual landscape of the field. This chapter addresses the most common misconception about the work of reviewing: that a graduate student “already knows” how to do this by virtue of having written papers as class assignments. It begins with various purposes for literature reviews and distinctive types of reviews (e.g., integrative, systematic, meta-analytic, and qualitative/interpretive). It then examines a developmental sequence for reviewing and common characteristics of high-quality, publishable literature reviews. A wide variety of activities are incorporated to build the writer’s confidence and skill in reviewing the literature. This chapter takes the stance that, commencing with graduate studies, students should strive to generate a literature review with publication potential. The chapter concludes with a type of literature review that well-established scholars might pursue, the position paper.
Note: Portions of this chapter were excerpted, with permission, from “What is a Theoretical Base and How Can It Help You Write a Dissertation? “Bidding Adieu to Chapter 2” published in the All-But-Dissertation Survival Guide on July 29, 2011 “The Literature Review: Avoid the Pitfalls and Make it a Project!,” April 12, 2012
During my doctoral studies, I decided to minor as research, not because I was a statistical genius, but because I could do simple math. In looking over the curriculum, everyone was required to take three, 3-credit research courses and those 9 credits counted toward the 15 credits necessary for a minor. Thus, minoring in research enabled me to finish sooner. In order to get through those two advanced research courses, I was a frequent visitor to the Research Lab, a student support service staffed by statistics majors/graduate assistants. After our doctoral exams, I was astounded to discover that some of these brilliant students had failed. One of the questions on the exam on research and evaluation did not rely on statistics. Instead, we were required to respond to the assertion that, if a body of research is very inconsistent, we might as well rely on anecdotal impressions and opinions. It was the absence of one, right answer and the expository writing demands that had unnerved two of the Research Lab students. Finally, I was in the position of being able to reciprocate and help them with writing after they had been so helpful to me with statistics. The challenges they faced in answering that unexpected exam question were similar to the ones they would face in writing the first two chapters of the dissertation—namely, they would need to attain a high level of synthesis/evaluation, rely on evidence from the literature to support their claims, and present a logical argument in words rather than numbers. What makes these tasks so problematic? Perhaps the first hurdle is underestimating what is expected.
Commencing in secondary school, many students are called upon to write what is loosely described as the “research paper”. These manuscripts typically are produced by reading a handful of sources and building a paper around them. They frequently dwell in the shadowlands of intellectual property—ranging from outright plagiarism to barely paraphrased. By the time that most students finish a master’s degree, they have amassed quite a bit of experience with reviewing the literature. What they may fail to realize—at least, at first—is that the level of review required for these tasks and the level of review required to be publishable are as different as making a cake by following the directions on the box and creating beautifully decorated wedding cake. In the first case, producing a reasonably palatable outcome is well within the capabilities of an ordinary person while, in the second case, only a skilled baker could achieve the result. Many academic authors presume that that they are expert reviewers of the literature when they are not. This chapter will define the literature review, suggest a developmental sequence in acquiring the skills of reviewing, explore the different purposes for reviewing, provide guidelines for conducting a review, and coach authors in making their literature reviews of publishable quality. As an initial step in thinking about the literature review, respond to the questions in Activity 5.1. If you have completed your dissertation, go through the questions from the perspective of mentoring a doctoral candidate. Research suggests that advisers felt the least qualified to assist students with Chap.2 (Zaphorozhetz, 1987), and these items can assist with identifying common misconceptions about the literature review among doctoral students.
Activity 5.1: Rethinking the Literature Review
Please indicate your level of agreement with the following statements using the Likert scale below.