How to Get Started in Academic Publishing
The pursuit of knowledge is a two-part process that involves completing research and study and then disseminating the results and outcomes. The second part of disseminating the results and outcomes is often more important than the first part because only when results are shared, discussed, and added to with further study can research help local communities. In the words of scholar Cheryl Crazy Bull (Lakota), “if research is to benefit the community, it must be shared with the community.”
Crazy Bull has been an active proponent of research at tribal colleges for over a decade, contributing to the 1997 special issue of the Tribal College Journal with a very informative article about tribal college faculty research called “A native conversation about research and scholarship” (TCJ, Vol. 9, No. 3). At the end of the article, she cited 15 sources that, at first glance, look to be quite promising leads for investigating the topic further. However, only 4 of those 15 sources have been published in any forum. The rest are cited as “Paper presented at the Native Research and Scholarship Symposium, Orcas Island, WA” or “Unpublished manuscript prepared for the symposium.”
To locate and read the unpublished works that Crazy Bull cited for use in my own writing and research, I conducted an exhaustive internet search, made general inquiry calls to five of the tribal colleges whose names were mentioned in the titles of the unpublished papers, attempted emails to writers’ last known email addresses, and called three of the college presidents for suggestions about how to locate these unpublished works. In the end, I was able to locate and read just one of those unpublished papers. In all, approximately 10 hours went into tracking down that one paper, which is not a particularly easy way to build knowledge.
It could be that sharing research amongst tribal college scholars is limited by lack of an effective model or forum. In their article in TCJ in 1993, Jack Barden and then-editor Paul Boyer said that in the American Indian community, “there are some who believe the Western research model does not allow all of the right questions to be asked, the right methods to be used, and the right conclusions to be drawn” (TCJ, Vol. 4, No. 3, Ways of knowing: extending the boundaries of scholarship.).
They suggested four broad categories for evaluating whether scholarship allows researchers to move beyond traditional boundaries of research. Those categories are: (1) Is the research consequential? (2) Is there integrity in the process? (3) Is the methodology fully described? (4) Are the limits of the effort understood?
Perhaps there is an important fifth category missing from their list: Are the people who can use the information aware of the results at the end of the study?
In TCJ’s 1993 interview with John Red Horse, he made an important point: “Hopefully, we do not pursue research for abstract reasons, but with the intent to communicate with non-Indians and American Indian audiences” (TCJ, Vol. 4, No. 3).
Several scholars involved with tribal colleges have made calls for research to be shared and shared in a way that benefits communities. Below are a few suggestions and resources for scholars wishing to take their own research results from abstract findings to published works that can benefit both their own local community as well as the larger academic community.
TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED
Show work to others. Many new researchers are self conscious and hesitant about sending out manuscripts for publication because they are nervous about having others read their work. Overcome this fear by sharing work with family members, trusted colleagues, and others you know are interested in similar topics.
Be open to feedback and constructive criticism. This is a part of the academic writing life. Even those who publish extensively benefit from the critiques and suggestions of others. Reviewers are often frank in their comments. Keep in mind even senior scholars receive requests to revise and resubmit work on a regular basis.
Expect rejection, and keep trying. Very few journals, books, conferences, and meetings accept every submission they receive. If you aren’t receiving at least a few rejections in your pursuits, you are probably not setting your sights high enough. When you receive suggestions with a rejection, incorporate those tips, and try again.
Create your own opportunities. Pay attention to your field of interest. Talk to others and ask for ideas. Use the internet to look up topics that interest you to see if anyone else is also working in that field, and if so, contact that person for further ideas. Do not expect opportunities to come to you: all successful researchers and scholars create their own opportunities for sharing and discussing their work. This is how knowledge is slowly built.
Read, read, read. Continually look for journals, books, articles, and presentations in your field. Most of these sources offer opportunities for new scholars to share their work and submit papers or articles. Several of the resources in the “Further Reading” section at the end of this resource guide provide tips for organizing and preparing academic papers for submission.
Have fun. Pick a topic you are truly interested in researching and writing about, and then enjoy and be proud of contributing to knowledge in your field. This will keep you motivated and inspired, and help you persist if and when it gets challenging. Remember the larger goal in publishing information is to share knowledge with those who can use and put that information to work to improve a situation for others.
IDEAS TO BEGIN SHARING YOUR RESEARCH
Contact your former advisor to ask for ideas if your work was completed as part of a graduate degree. Your advisor will know your topic area well and know what journals are likely to accept work similar to yours. Most advisors are willing and able to help former students share their work. Some may even like to assist and be a co-author on your paper or manuscript submission if you are interested.
Share your work with peers at your own institution. Ask administrators if you can have 10 minutes of time at the next faculty meeting to briefly describe your research to peers, and let them know you would like to discuss it further with anyone who is interested. Prepare a one- to two-page summary to hand out as a first “publication.” Get comfortable summarizing your ideas in writing and building knowledge.
Team up with a mentor who publishes in your subject area. Search journals and other periodicals for researchers in your field who are writing about similar topics. Do not be shy about contacting others to express your interest in sharing your research and asking for publishing ideas and suggestions.
Contact the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). Tribal College faculty are invited to post abstracts, working documents, and research papers to a TCU Faculty Projects page on the AIHEC website. Contact Katherine Page (firstname.lastname@example.org) to request to have a document posted. If your project is available as a web resource, and is relevant to American Indian higher education, you can share it through the AIHEC Virtual Library by sending the link to email@example.com. Also, let those in leadership positions at your own college know that you would like help in sharing the results of your research.
Contact the American Indian College Fund. If you are a faculty member at a tribal college or university (TCU), investigate the Mellon Faculty Research Program facilitated by the American Indian College Fund. This program provides faculty the necessary time off to complete scholarly research, prepare publications, and present research at national conferences, with the support of a tribal college student research assistant. More information can be found here at the website, www.collegefund.org/colleges/mellon_09.html
Use the internet to search for calls for papers. Search first by using Google and “Call for papers _____”, inserting your own topic. For example, using Google to search “Call for papers American Indian education” yields many promising leads, and you can narrow your search even more if you like. For example, “call for papers indigenous languages” also provides many promising leads for upcoming conferences, calls for papers, and submission guidelines.
Consider ProQuest. This is a service that publishes dissertations and theses to make them available for others as primary research. There is no peer review process, and almost all work from accredited institutions can be included. More information can be found here: www.proquest.com/en-US/products/dissertations/authors.shtml
Consider ERIC Digest – If your work relates to education, consider sharing it through the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) Digest (http://www.eric.edu.gov/). Full dissertations and theses, as well as shorter papers and journal articles, can all be shared here and become widely available as primary research. These works receive slightly more scrutiny than ProQuest, but the process is easy and more accessible than publishing in a peer-reviewed source.
Submit your work to a “substantive news” or “general interest” periodical that publishes work in your field of interest. These works are not peer reviewed and therefore easily accessible by a wide variety of writers. They can generally be identified by their goal of providing information to a wide audience of concerned citizens, use of editorials and articles that may or may not cite sources, and the inclusion of illustrations and photographs. The Tribal College Journal is an excellent example of this kind of periodical. An extensive list of periodicals by topic is located here: www.cos.edu/library/periodicalsalpha.htm. Those in the list at the end of the page not marked with (p) are general interest and substantive news periodicals. Use this list for ideas, and then look up the journal directly and go to its website for manuscript submission details, which should be followed exactly when sending work.
Submit your work to a “peer reviewed” journal (also called refereed or scholarly journal). This is the preferred form of publishing for anyone wishing to build an academic career at a four-year institution, as publishing in this format is almost always a job requirement. Other peers in your same field review an article before its acceptance and publication to ensure the highest accuracy and quality of information sharing. This kind of publishing is challenging because many submissions are not accepted, and those that are accepted are frequently returned for further editing and revisions before publication. A list of current peer-reviewed journals can be found here: www.csa.com/factsheets/supplements/paispeer.php. When submitting work to a journal from this list, go to the journal’s website and review the manuscript submissions guidelines and follow them exactly for the best chance of acceptance.
SUGGESTED READINGS AND RESOURCES
Kitchen, R. & Fuller, D. (2005). The academics’ guide to publishing (Sage Study Skills Series). SAGE Publications Inc. Thousand Oaks, CA.
This book discusses conducting academic research as only half of the knowledge pursuit. The other half, and often more important part of academic research, is disseminating that knowledge. Sharing knowledge requires specific skills and information, which are covered well in this guide.
Drake, S. & Jones, G. (1997). Writing your way to success: Finding your own voice in academic publishing. New Forums Press, Inc. Stillwater, OK.
This book takes a unique look at the academic writing process, acknowledging that many academics take a non-traditional path into publishing, while others find it to be difficult, painful, and even too frustrating to pursue. The authors give practical tips for overcoming obstacles to sharing work, and they also share information about their own non-traditional writing paths along the way.
Glatthorn, A. (2002). Publish or perish – the educators imperative: Strategies for writing effectively for your profession and your school. Corwin Press, Inc. Thousand Oaks, CA.
This book provides a solid introduction into converting ideas into written words and articles for publication. It is intended for academics and covers many different forms of publication including journal articles, funding proposals, creative articles, opinion pieces, and more. This is a great starting point for those with ideas who are struggling to put them into words that can be shared.
Publish, don’t perish: Submitting research articles to refereed journals: www.nacbs.org/forum/publish.html
This article shares tips about why, when, and where to publish. It is geared toward early career writers and addresses many of the common concerns and questions about the academic writing and manuscript submission process.
Arizona State University Libraries: American Indian Periodicals: www.asu.edu/lib/archives/periodicals.htm
This list may help generate ideas for forums to share work with those who are interested in topics relevant to TCU communities.
Genamics Journal Seek: Education: http://journalseek.net/educ.htm
This website provides lists of journals that publish work about topics relevant to education, by specific subtopic area.
Cornell University Library: Distinguishing Scholarly Journals from Other Periodicals: www.library.cornell.edu/olinuris/ref/research/skill20.html
This website provides specific tips for identifying characteristics of different sources that may help identify the best place to share your own information.
Joanna Vance holds a Master’s Degree in Physiology from University of Colorado at Boulder and a Ph.D. in Education from Colorado State University.