It’s week 3 of writing and accountability. This week and next, we’ve bumped up our #AcWriSummer accountability group meeting to Tuesdays (6/21 and 6/21). With my #acwri co-conspirators — Patrice, Catherine, Caroline, & Elvira — are continuing to work through the Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks book. This week we focused on directing our manuscripts we are working on and consider how to read/reflect on the relevant literature. Here are some highlights for what we will be discussing this week:
Advancing Your Argument (Week 3)
This chapter details a number of reasons why articles are rejected, specifically around an article argument being too narrow, too broad, off topic, too defensive, not sufficiently original, poor structure, not significant, theoretically or methodologically flawed, and too many misspellings and/or grammatical errors. It is important to review the direction of your paper as you prepare your manuscript for journal publication. Belcher (2009) encourages readers to identify if the current manuscript has problems and to consider how to revise the following issues:
- Focus: contextualization, audience aim, proper length, and giving pertinent examples related to the argument;
- Topic appropriate for journal selected: subject matter, methods, scope, etc. ;
- Scholarliness: meticulous about documentation, reference multiple sources, cite recent and relevant literature, reference debates in the field, use discipline-related expertise, provide a critical framework and evidence;
- Defensiveness: avoid extensive quotations, excessive documenting, monotonous accounts of others work, jargon, and dogmatism;
- Originality: read literature in your field, focus on what’s new, argue what is, claim your ideas, and develop a voice for your research;
- Structure: Present your structure clearly, stick to your point, delete the redundant or irrelevant, link article evidence to support argument, and state findings at the beginning of the article;
- Problems with Significance: did you articulate how this research fills a gap or adds to the topic, and did you target this manuscript for the appropriate journal;
- Theory or Method Issues: have your work peer reviewed for feedback, detail and describe your methods, avoid imbalance in writing, and review the analysis of your data or interpretations
- Spelling and Grammar: improve your paper for these issues, run a spelling and grammar check, ask a peer for review before submission, get help in a writing group, hire an editor, and follow the submission’s guidelines for author.
Homework: Find an Article (or a few) to Model Your Article’s Argument
Find “model” articles for your manuscript that might be:
- part of your literature review search
- from the target journal(s) you selected (from Week 4)
- outside your discipline or topic area
- the way you will structure the presentation of your article’s argument
BONUS WORK: Abstract Revisions: Abstract examples on pp. 86-87 will help you in revising of your abstract; consider how you to present entire topic and findings in short form.
Reviewing the Related Literature (Week 5)
This chapter shared strategies for reading literature directed towards your articles focus. I like how it suggested setting up your electronic software or platforms first. This is critical — here are a few I have used or currently use myself with a quick “about” the platform:
- EndNote: EndNote is the industry standard software tool for publishing and managing bibliographies, citations, and references. You can search, store, match, create, and share references with others on your writing/research team. There is a 30-day trial and paid subscription only.
- Mendeley: Mendeley is a combination of a desktop application and a website which helps you manage, share and discover both content and contacts in research. It allows you to store, save, annotate, and share documents with scholarly collaborators. You can manage and sync your references with a team in a group, or for yourself on a file. You can easily drop in PDFs into the system to tag, cite, and organize your literature review. This is an excellent tool for team research and writing projects working from a distance.
- Zotero: Zotero is utilized by a number of scholars as it is “an easy use tool easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.” Both a well-known and popular site with a growing research community. Zotero hosts groups that allow users to connect and collaborate with other scientists and scholars, and discover the works of others. It contains several disciplines through which a user can keep updated on and search for people to connect with. It is free to sign up and you download it to your computer. Did I mention it is free?
I really appreciated Belcher’s (2009) suggestions on refining and targeting the literature review by reading materials that specifically contribute to the central argument of your manuscript. Here are a few categories to limit how you collect relevant literature:
- Set a time limit: i.e. read nothing written over 10 years ago or five or two depending on your field of scholarship/topic of research
- Language: read articles in English or designated other languages
- Questionable or not recommended publishing outlets e.g. trade journals, non-peer reviewed, some conference proceedings not always suitable (find a journal publication)
- Journal outside your discipline (if not interdisciplinary work)
- Certain kinds of authors (established vs. early career?)
- Different geographical areas (by author country of origin)
- Different time periods (related to your genre — this might apply to humanities more)
- Different kinds of experiments (by your methods of study/research)
- Different kinds of participants (by research sample type, size, etc)
- Different variables (e.g. gender, age, etc.)
- Without your keywords in the title or abstract – focus your search for these items
- Non-electronic formats – if you can’t access the research from home/library resources
Homework: Share How You Review Literature
-Explain methods of how you search, find, read, review, and select your literature
-Outline strategies for effective ways to approach this part of the research process
Here are a few of my suggestions and approaches for how I read & review literature:
- Make reading/review social – find others to collaborate and add them into your Mendeley (or another software program) group to add and review publications
- Scopus Search (ALL.THE.PUBS) and Track: I record the different search strings, track what I find, and set an alert to receive any updates — this is relevant in my field as technology, methods, and research continue to build. Here’s a screenshot of one of recent Google spreadsheets for search with a colleague:
- Search for Publications Beyond Reach: articles I don’t have access to in my own library databases I tweet #iCanHazPDF [in action #icanhazpdf], ask a friend on Twitter, or email the author
- Take fewer notes: Tag articles in the software, group articles into specific folders, skim abstracts to code/organize, and identify literature for easy recall and use later
- Don’t wait to write: Create annotations about publications as you would write it
- Create an annotated bib for focused/small literature collections: include the APA 6th edition citation + a quick line or two making note about the study, methods, findings + personal thoughts on articles/methods
- Google Scholar search the “Cited by ###” section of the site: this is to identify other relevant paper on topic or learn more about this research thread, i.e. a discovery search for missing literature
- Use Backward & forward referencing search method: for collecting and reviewing publications to be inclusive of empirical literature
- Concept mapping the Literature: Check out the great post from Pat Thomson on “spaces between the literature” for reviewing research; a.k.a. bushwhacking
- Key Searching Suggestions from Doing a Literature Review (Hart, 1998) was blogged about in my Book Review post.
Here’s our continued #AcWriSummer 2016 Plan schedule for the remaining 5 weeks:
- 27th June WEEK 4: Chapter 6: Strengthen structure =>Article outline (Meeting Tuesday, June 28th)
- 4th July WEEK 5: Chapter 7 & 8:Presenting evidence & Opening/Concluding =>Draft article (Meeting Friday, July 8th)
- 11th July WEEK 6: Chapter 9 & 10: Give/get/use feedback & Edit sentences => Give feedback on manuscripts (Meeting Friday, July 15th)
- 18th July WEEK 7: Chap 11 & 12 (Wrapping up & Sending article!) => Final article (Meeting Friday, July 22nd)
- 25th July WEEK 8: X & Other (Meeting Friday, July 29th)
- Updates to our writing progress are shared via the #AcWriSummer 2016 Accountability Spreadsheet
Belcher, W. L. (2009). Writing your journal article in 12 weeks: A guide to academic publishing success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
Hart, C. (1998). Doing a literature review: Releasing the social science research imagination. Sage.