Class on journal article writing

Last spring, I taught a graduate class on how to submit an article to a journal. Our department, like many, has a qualifying paper requirement, where students write two “publishable” or “near-publishable” research papers as a stepping stone to the dissertation. Faculty have always had the expectation that students would submit these papers to a journal, but my impression (as Director of Graduate Studies) was that this wasn’t happening as quickly or as frequently as it should. Hence this class.

Students were third and fourth year graduate students. They had all already passed our qualifying paper requirement, and had at least one manuscript to work with. We met once a week for an hour as a group, and the students met with a partner outside of class for at least an hour too. During our group meeting the students reported briefly on they’d done with their writing buddies. I also did all the activities.

This is a writing-intensive class for graduate students in linguistics who are interested in gaining more experience with writing and publication. Student may enroll with the permission of instructor and need to have a QP or other piece of writing that would be suitable for submission to a journal by the end of the semester.

The class counts towards the departmental seminar requirement for graduates in third and fourth year.

In order to pass the class, students will need to do the following:

. Submit at least one paper to a journal.
. Submit an abstract to at least one conference.
. Provide a referee report for at least one paper for a colleague.
. Have a ‘writing buddy’ within the class, to whom you provide regular feedback.
. Provide weekly feedback to the group regarding progress.

We will meet weekly as a group for an hour, and you will also meet your writing buddy for an hour.
Assessment: this was a pass/fail class.

Here was the weekly schedule. I did not make detailed handouts for class, since this was an additional class for me. We did not use a textbook. If doing this again, I could see some advantage to using something like “writing a journal article in 12 weeks” but I don’t think it’s crucial.

Week 1: General writing and research skills. Backing up, some techniques for writing consistently, and the like. Expectations of working with a writing buddy (regular time to meet with them). The students made a research project list for homework and posted it for everyone (I showed them mine, which led into a discussion of how many projects someone should be working on at any one time). We also talked about how to identify self-sabotaging tendencies in academic work.

Week 2: Identify the manuscript to submit and what needs to be done to it in order to make it publishable/submittable (e.g. ar the data sufficient, writing clarity, organization, length, engagement with the literature). We talked about word limits, general properties of journal articles, minimal publishable units, and the like.

Week 3: How to pick a journal. We talked about main journals in the field, how to figure out what’s an appropriate place to send a manuscript (what goes to Language, for example). Homework was to figure out what journal (+ backup journal) they wanted to target. We brainstormed journals and the decision process for where to send a paper.

Week 4: How to submit an article to a journal. We walked through the Diachronica online submission process, registering for the site, creating a submission, explaining all the steps, and talking about how different platforms are different. We also talked about how to interact with journal editors, what a presubmission inquiry looks like, and when it’s ok to ask for an update.Homework for this (and previous weeks) was to continue working on what needed to be done to the paper to submit it.

Week 5: Check-in. We went through what each person was doing on their paper, where they were at, what still needed to be done.

Week 6: What a referee report looks like. How long they take to do and receive, what sort of things get commented on, tone, etc. We wrote a report on a published paper (anonymized) and I shared reports I had received on a couple of papers.

Week 7. Revising and resubmitting. How to respond to referee reports. What to expect from an editor’s decision, whether you need to respond to everything, how to deal with conflicting recommendations, what to submit in a revision. Desk rejections and what they mean. I shared copies of an original submission, referee reports, resubmission, and subsequent acceptance of a paper.

Weeks 8-11: Refereeing our papers. We did three rounds of refereeing. Each week, everyone brought two copies of their paper to class, and we spent half an hour commenting on two papers. Homework was to revise the paper in accordance with the suggestions from the class “referees”. We also talked about the comments they were giving.

Week 12: Turning a journal article into a conference paper abstract. Differences between articles and conference talks.

Week 13: dealing with proofs. Proof marks, what sorts of things can be corrected at proof stage, etc.

I also had a paper I wanted to submit that spring, and since there were 5 students in the class, I teamed up with one of them as a writing buddy too.

The deadline for submission of papers was May 10, and most of the papers were submitted fairly close to that date. Of the 5 students (+ me), the results so far are: 1 accept with minor revision (a few days ago), 1 revise and resubmit (last week), 1 reject with helpful reviews for revision and submission elsewhere (in June), 1 technical rejection (+ submission elsewhere; about a week after submission), and 2 still under review.

I think it worked pretty well, and I will probably offer it again in a year or two (not this coming year).


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