Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016
The Perquisites of Publishing
From Aspiring Author to Published Scholar
Professional Roles and Publishable Writing
Writing for publication is widely recognized as an imperative for faculty members in different departments housed in colleges and universities throughout the world (Glatthorn, 2002; Wellington & Torgerson, 2005). In 1998, sociologist Morris cautioned graduate students, “your prospects later in life may depend on having a convincing number of refereed publications on your CV…sooner or later the moment will come when a selection committee will start counting your refereed articles and comparing them to those of other candidates” (p. 501). Expectations for publication have increased considerably since these observations were made. This pressure to publish not only affects faculty members; it also has trickled down to doctoral students who are urged to publish during doctoral candidature. Indeed, some doctoral degree-granting institutions throughout the world accept publication in top-tier scholarly journals in lieu of the traditional dissertation as evidence of the candidate’s ability to plan and conduct research (Badley, 2009; European University Association, 2005; Francis, Mills, Chapman, & Birks, 2009; Lee & Aitchison, 2011).
Consider the case of a faculty member has been employed for 4 years at a state university since she earned the doctorate. Within 3 years, a tenure decision will be rendered. As she reads the letter written by departmental colleagues that will go forward to the Dean with her portfolio, she feels proud of her achievements in teaching and service. However, as she comes to the final paragraph on scholarly work, her face flushes with embarrassment. The letter is accurate; it states that she has made several presentations at conferences. However, the final paragraph concludes with: “The committee urges Dr. X to identify a research agenda and publish in the leading professional journals in her field.” Her first reaction is to protest with thoughts such as, “But, my student evaluations were excellent; I’ve been concentrating on teaching well and it shows.”, “I am serving on so many committees—unlike some of my colleagues—and just don’t’ have the time.”, and “What if I’m denied tenure? Maybe I should start applying at other institutions, just in case.” Why should she heed the committee’s advice?
Because it will contribute to expertise
When someone raises a question and the respondent just happens to have written a paper on that topic, a well thought-out answer is much easier to formulate. That is because writers have organized their thinking on the subject and understand the information in a deeper way. The same dynamic holds true when teaching a class; if a professor has written about the topic already, that is a huge head start in preparing for class. Although nonwriters take the stance that research competes with effective teaching that need not be the case (Hattie & Marsh, 1996; Lindsay, Breen, & Jenkins, 2002). A research agenda—defined as a short- and long-term plan for inquiry, writing, and publishing—can be deliberately planned to correspond to teaching responsibilities so that teaching and writing enrich and enlarge one another (Boyer, Moser, Ream, & Braxton, 2015; Jalongo, 1985). In fact, there is a whole line of research referred to as “the scholarship of teaching and learning” (SoTL) that aims to strengthen linkages between research and teaching (Starr-Glass, 2015). (For more detail about the research agenda, see Chap.13).
Because it is attached to the rewards system
Publication in a respected journal demonstrates that authors have thought through an issue and presented it in scholarly way and that their peers are willing to hear them out, through writing. While publishing in top journals also has a statistically significant effect on income (Hilmer & Hilmer, 2005), many new scholars are surprised to find out that—unlike newspaper reporters or writers for popular magazines—they are not paid to write professional journal articles. There are several reasons why this is the case. First of all, journals often are published by nonprofit professional organizations; they refer to their authors as “contributors” for good reason; they are freely sharing their work as a service to the profession. Secondly, the financial rewards that university faculty get for publishing typically emanate from their employers; scholarly works subjected to anonymous peer review play a pivotal role in tenure and promotion decisions (Rocco & Hatcher, 2011). Third, there is a long tradition of expecting scholars to pursue the truth rather than be influenced by the promise of compensation. When scholars write books for commercial publishers, there is compensation in the form of royalties; however, unlike a New York Times best seller, the audience for scholarly publications is quite small, so book royalties are almost never a major income boost or a route to early retirement. Nevertheless, if a book is successful, it frequently leads to other forms of compensation—such as supported travel to deliver a keynote address at an international conference or university support for a sabbatical leave.
Because it creates positive energy
Academic life can be exhilarating; it also has many disappointments. Success with writing is an achievement that bolsters confidence and increases motivation; it also opens up new possibilities. The doctoral candidate whose research poster was accepted for a conference starts to imagine success with a presentation at a research forum while the professor who has published articles in a respected journal starts to consider editing a book and contributing a chapter. At its most basic, education is about widening opportunities and, as each writing milestone is attained, possibilities for professional development expand.
Because it will build satisfying professional networks
Throughout a career, department colleagues can be helpful and supportive—or not. If a student relies on classmates and a professor relies exclusively on departmental colleagues as a source of validation and support, it is bound to be lacking at some point. Affiliating with like-minded individuals through scholarly work offers a professional safety net. These people can support professional goals and are capable of providing a fresh perspective on troublesome issues. While it is important to be regarded as a responsible university citizen at the home institution, establishing a professional network beyond the local context can exert a powerful, positive influence on career satisfaction. Across their professional lives, faculty members who have learned to balance teaching, writing, research, and service not only exhibit high levels of publication productivity but also enjoy their careers more than colleagues who focus on just one facet of academic life (Boice, 1992). These advantages cannot be realized, however, unless scholars make a plan to meet the challenges associated with various writing tasks.