I am, as usual, a bit late to this game. I am crafting my very first article for submission to a peer-reviewed journal. The plan is to complete the piece by early summer, coinciding with the time when my teaching load goes on vacation. The projected article actually stems from a short, five-page essay I wrote for a literature class in my doctoral studies coursework here. My instructor had offered glowing feedback and ample, fruitful recommendations of what additional directions I could take, both in terms of supplemental research and professorial collaboration within our department. In short, I need to expand and extend.
First of all, this entry is not meant to read as an immodest platform for my personal gloating (so, consequently, I apologize if it comes off in this manner). No, I only recount the above accolades because I want to learn more about this task of scholarly article-writing, about its process(es). I want it to seem less veiled, less covert a practice for those like me, those still sitting in a classroom as a student. And maybe it already is part of our premeditated curriculum; maybe I am just tardy to this party, too.
As if on cue, my quiet thoughts were recently acknowledged. Last week, an e-mail came through the wire about a dissertation, thesis, and ‘longer-paper’ writing workshop happening in a few weeks. This is brilliant. This seems like the proverbial step-in-the-right-direction for me, for my personal demystification. Now, I do not know the origins of sessions like this, but they seem designed to elucidate, to enhance the contemporaneous gaining of scholarly experience, to run parallel to our other intellectual pursuits as graduate students. One could argue that learning how to write a peer-reviewed journal article comes by simply reading loads of other peer-reviewed journal articles. This sounds straightforward and direct. After all, as an undergraduate and graduate creative writing student, my exposure to the published literary ‘greats’ that came before, being their witness, holding them as models, was a time-tested and positive practice that worked in improving my own fiction writing. Indeed that worked, to an extent, but it needed buttressing by the nitty-gritty of peer workshopping, the get-your-hands-dirty kind of text-delving exemplified by exchanging papers and, much more importantly, ideas.
I want to cite theory and criticism comprehensively and with either great respect or oblique disapproval, when appropriate.
I want to invent no less than one new term, something to add to the long-established nomenclature of my field. It should end, obviously, with one of the following suffixes: -esque, –zation, or the all-powerful, yet seemingly anachronistic, –ism.
I want to write long, lucid sentences: those curling serpentine things, scaled with stout, shiny language.
In an article entitled “’Predatory’ Online Journals Lure Scholars Who Are Eager to Publish” from the March 4th issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Michael Stratford directs readers’ attention to the proliferation of so-called pay-to-publish peer reviewed journals. As mentioned earlier, I came from a creative writing background, and thus I had a keen awareness of outfits such as Xlibris, Lulu, and iUniverse, companies willing to publish my collection of short stories for the banal ‘nominal fee.’ These firms, however, made no secret about what they did, how they crafted their intentions and/or business models. In Stratford’s piece, however, he suggests shadier dealings: that pay-to-publish academic journals add professors, unknowingly, to their editorial boards or by burying extravagant publishing fees so cryptically within their website that authors often only discover the excessive fees until receiving some staggering ‘invoice.’ Through a deeper uncovering of editorial board recruiting practices, ‘accept-all-article’ policies, and the prevalent over-charges existent, Stratford’s article was a well-timed and quite welcomed article for me.
Forwarding the Chronicle piece to some of my mentors and colleagues, I subsequently learned about things like pay-to-publish academic-level presses as well as some potentially dubious conferences out there. None were aware, though, of the likes of such ‘suspicious’ journals mentioned in the Stratford article. Maybe readers of this blog, by now, have already seen Stratford’s Chronicle write-up (or the almost equally interesting 29 reader comments that follow it) and do not need my evocation of it here. I cite it more for the fact that it is a small, but characteristic, part in a much larger machine that I know very little about operating.
A classmate, colleague, and fellow English Matters blogger, Todd Womble, introduced me to a useful website, created by the University of Pennsylvania English Department, that categorizes calls for conference papers by the numerous (though seemingly not all) sub-disciplines of English studies. This came about following the posting of his own blog entry a few weeks back, “This is Not Breaking Bad.” While a basic library search, even just a few Google clicks, would have yielded this same resource, I’m sure, the personal and trusted guarantee that came along with Todd’s information could never replicate under an electronic search. What does this mean? The navigation and creation of my extracurricular academic activities is not a wholly personal affair nor comes about from a mere repetitive style of practice. Additionally, it might also mean that the extracurricular should become the curricular. I am a novice and I may be needy. It helps me when I find things out from someone else in the program, whatever their level/ranking/distinction, rather than just doing a search on my own, shooting from the hip, into the vastness.
The parallel here to my own 1301 courses is rampant, apparent, and beautiful: you know, all that business about entering into discourse communities and such. An overarching goal is to help my students seek guidance, if not from me then from others. So, I need to be more cognizant of the moments when this same type of guidance is seeking me out, in my own continued studies of English. Working on this peer-reviewed journal submission will really help me to breach this doctoral discourse community in a punctual fashion. I hate being late.