Saturday, September 19, 2009

60 days of journal article writing

One of the characteristics of Booklab faculty author writing groups is that I'm writing along with the team. After all, what good is a publishing guidance office unless the Director publishes too? And although I have published in the past, once this job got underway in 2006 my output went from "okay but probably not enough" to "hmmm, needs more." Meh. Time to get back to it. In other posts I've blogged about the book I'm writing on an 18th-century woman author, but now I'm ready to stare down the Scariest Thing Since Grad School: the scholarly article.

The role of articles in academic life varies depending on the department and the field. I can't speak for the world, but based on faculty anecdotes I have learned quite a bit about some campuses similar to Georgetown. Fields like psychology, philosophy and business are articles-only disciplines. You can publish a book if you want to, but articles are the lingua franca, and for tenure or promotion they have to be in certain scholarly journals. Who ranks what journal how high is a fraught process that I won't detail here (I actually can't -- it's subjective), but each department comes up with its own way of communicating what it values for tenure, various pay grades, and promotion to full professor. Other departments such as Spanish & Portuguese, English, and History, consider books more of the cornerstone, with articles like satellites circling the planets -- important and necessary, but not the key documents in promotion decisions. Scholars should still have articles, and some departments communicate a sense of how many and where they should appear, but books must happen as well, and the emphasis remains there.

Since I came from the English Department and that was my core background training (although truth be told, if I had my education to do over again I would have figured out a way to be a psychologist as well as a literary historian, and that day may yet come), I will focus my publishing efforts on the field that I studied and still love: the English Stuart era from 1660 until about 1714. My dissertation was broader, but the early part is most interesting. In the future after this next book I will begin learning more about early American/colonial literature as well.

So here we go. 12 five-day weeks of working through the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks , and working on a scholarly article for submission to the journal Eighteenth-Century Studies. I will blog about the daily exercises in the book, and how it feels to work with my authors on a project that feels, well, unfamiliar and scary. I'm excited about doing it, but also filled with the good kind of trepidation (humbled by my predecessors, cognizant of my strengths and weaknesses, hoping I can measure up).

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