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5 simple steps toward publishing

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Kate-Walker.jpgAre you looking to publish, but don't know how to proceed? Too often lack of time, confidence or discipline gets in the way. Good ideas languish, important work goes unshared, and contributions go unrecognized. I've had my share of good and bad publishing experiences, benefited from amazing mentors, and picked up a few lessons along the way.

Here are five simple steps to get you moving toward the sometimes daunting process of publishing:

  1. Present at conferences. Conferences force you to develop publishing.jpgand articulate ideas for future articles. Posters and presentations provide a forum to get ideas out and gain valuable feedback. If you get in the habit of presenting regularly, you build in a structure (deadlines!) for generating new topics and keeping your writing moving forward.
  2. Enlist buddies. Writing doesn't have to be isolating - recruit writing partners. This might mean writing collaboratively, inviting colleagues to be reviewers, or creating a writing support group. Let's face it, it helps to be accountable to others, and more heads are better than one.
  3. Find a home. Location, location, location. A recent post reminds us that it can be hard to find outlets for youth development research. Start with your own bibliography. If a number of articles come from the same journal, it might be a good place to start. Also, consider your audience (e.g., Afterschool Matters, International Journal of Volunteer Administration) as well as your methodology (e.g., Action Research, Qualitative Inquiry) when trying to find a publishing venue.
  4. Follow a template. Once you've picked the journal you will submit to, find a similar article to use as a model and imitate its structure. It doesn't need to be the same topic, but should use similar methods (survey, interviews, case study). The model can help you outline sections and know how long each section should be. Academic writing can feel formulaic and stifling, but I'd argue that it's easier to follow rules than make our own!
  5. Make a plan. I recommend Wendy Laura Belcher's book, "Writing Your Journal Article in 12 weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success". It helps demystify the writing process and offers practical steps to move that conference paper into a published journal article. Also, Rich Furman and Julie Kinn's book, "Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles; Writing and Publishing in the Helping Professions". It guides readers through each step of the process, and even includes sample submission and revision letters.

How about you, what gets in the way of publishing? Do you use any of these methods? What other strategies or tips work well?

-- Kate Walker, research associate

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6 Comments

Anne Stevenson said:

thanks Kate! I appreciate the 2 book recommendations too! I agree being accountable to someone is useful. The other thing I am learning is that you need to block out chunks of time to write, away from other work or office distractions. This is hard to do but the one message I hear from those who write and publish is that you have to block off time away to write! Thanks for some good tips and encouragement!

Kate Walker said:

Thanks Anne! Yes, you are right, making time for writing is a struggle. And I second your suggestion to schedule blocks of time for writing (and, I would add, for writing-related tasks like outlining, note-taking, editing, checking references). In fact, some people recommend blocking out 15 min-2 hours every day. Frankly, that seems unrealistic to me, but I appreciate the idea of building in writing in smaller, more regular ways.

Nicole Pokorney said:

These are great tips! I have two articles that I playing with and this helps with the direction of the work!

Kate Walker said:

Way to go, Nicole! I’d love to hear more about what you’re writing, and am happy to be one of your writing buddies!

Joanna Tzenis said:

This is such a useful blog post, Kate. Thank you for making the process seem far less daunting. Do you have any tips on the peer review process? I have been warned that it can be a discouraging process to have your writing scrutinized so critically.

Kate Walker said:

Great question, Joanna. While you need tough skin to read reviews, getting asked to “revise and resubmit” is actually quite a feat! After licking my wounds, I list out each suggestion by reviewer and set out to craft a response to each. You don’t have to concede, but you do need explain when you do not make changes and why. Basically you need to address each point in your resubmission letter. And even if the reviewer’s words are harsh, don’t complain or get defensive -- try, "good suggestion" or, "thank you for catching this.” :-)

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