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The Pressure to Publish

It seems that the old ominous dictum “publish or perish” needs little updating to remain relevant to today’s emerging scholars. As many of us may have become keenly aware with the recent grant-writing season, there’s a lonely spot on our CVs that only publications can fill.  Peer-reviewed articles in top-tier journals represent the ideal way to disseminate our research, but with a growing global academic community, these coveted opportunities are limited much like the faculty positions for which they’re prerequisite. I was recently at a wonderful workshop on research dissemination and professional development whose facilitator gently broke the news that the very best most graduate students could hope for when submitting journal articles was a “revise and resubmit” letter – this response from the editor constitutes a notch down from the almost unheard of “accepted without revisions” category, and a promising step up from belonging to the “flat out rejected” pile. Since you can only submit an article for consideration to one journal at a time and it could take anywhere from six weeks to six months to hear back about the status of your submission – perhaps not including the rounds of revisions you must complete before final acceptance – it can be valuable as a confidence builder and a CV builder to pursue alternative publication venues.

Book reviews: Take a look at the websites of your favourite journals or the journals from which you’ve been assigned some interesting readings this year, and read their guidelines for book reviews. Some journals may accept unsolicited reviews, while others request that you submit your name and your areas of interest and expertise, and will contact you if they receive a book for which you’d be a suitable reviewer. These short (usually 1-3 page) publications are not considered peer-reviewed, but they still show that you’re part of critical conversations going on in your field, and so they’re an excellent way of building your publication record.

Magazines and Independent Zines: There are a number of publications out there, both print and online, that are not scholarly, but feature critical content about topics that may overlap with those at the center of current scholarly conversations. For example, I wrote an online column for two months at Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture. It was an interesting lesson in writing for different audiences and negotiating the special anonymity of online readership.

Graduate Journals and E-Journals: I’ll just talk about a few publications of which I’m personally aware that fit this bill. There’s a new online journal that’s come out of the Religion and Diversity Project (of which I’m a student team member), called Regulating Religion. Electronic graduate journals are not considered to be as prestigious as long-standing print journals in which established scholars are publishing their work, but it’s a perfectly legitimate first step for an emerging researcher. In fact, the number of peer-reviewed, indexed, electronic journals overall is growing rapidly. We may see a considerable change in the prestige associated with online publications in the coming years.

Here at Queen’s*, we’ve got Shift: Graduate Journal of Visual and Material Culture, which is an online refereed journal that received submissions from across Canada and the U.S. It is guided by a Steering Committee of graduate students and faculty members. Submissions are refereed by an Editorial Committee of graduate students. I spent one year on each of these committees and it was an excellent way of getting familiar with how journals operate! (*Well, every so often Shift relocates back to Queen’s – since 2010 it’s become a mobile publication, with its editorial and administrative components moving between host institutions every three years to expand the range of its networks.)

These are only a few examples of the publication opportunities available to you beyond traditional journals. Not only do they demonstrate that you’re actively getting your research out there and getting feedback from other scholars, but they also allow you to use your skills in different contexts and to find out what kinds of writing you do and don’t like. Getting your name out – whether it’s through something like a community publication or a consultancy report for a private business – is a chance to reap the trickle down benefits, and work up to a top tier journal publication.

What other alternative publication venues can you think of? Leave a comment and we’ll compile a list.


Posted in New Students, Thesis Tagged with: , , , ,
2 comments on “The Pressure to Publish
  1. Colette says:

    Hi Sharday
    Great way to introduce how you can find different avenues to promote your work. Learning the skills to write for different audiences is very worthwhile and grad students should consider these options. Like presenting there is more than one way to get your message across and alot of it is determined by your target audience.

  2. Deanna Mason says:

    If this blog post piqued your interest and you’d like to learn more about alternative venues for writing about your research, check out the two-part, hands-on Expanding Horizons workshop “Writing for a Broader Audience: Principles and Practice,” which the School of Graduate Studies and the Writing Centre are offering in the Winter term. For more details about the workshop, please see http://www.queensu.ca/sgs/exphor/themes/comint.html.

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