Publishing: How Should Graduate Students Navigate the Process?
Reviewed by: Megan Keaton, Florida State University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chairs: Megan Keaton, Florida State University
Rachel McCabe, Indiana University Bloomington
Speakers: Victor Villanueva, Washington State University
Lynee Gaillet, Georgia State University
Matthew Sansbury, Georgia State University
The Graduate Student Standing Group is designed to offer graduate students direction in academic and professional matters, such as identifying and working with a dissertation chair or crafting a digital professional identity. At the 2017 CCCC meeting, the focus was publishing while in graduate school. The meeting opened with the chairs introducing the three speakers: Victor Villanueva, Lynee Gaillet, and Matthew Sansbury. Villanueva and Gaillet were both professors, which enabled them to provide a prospective of those on hiring committees. Sansbury was a graduate student who had publishing experience, meaning he could speak from the perspective of the student. After introductions, the speakers each took a few minutes to share their experiences and knowledge of publishing in graduate school. The speakers then answered questions from those in attendance. Throughout the individual speaking and the question and answer period, three themes emerged.
Publishing with the Job Search in Mind
The speakers agreed that publishing while in graduate school is helpful for the job search. Gaillet stated that graduate students should publish as much as is necessary for them to get a job. Villanueva continued this thought by explaining that, though texts published before a person is hired will not always count toward that person’s tenure, publishing in graduate school suggests that that person is more likely to publish once they have obtained a position. This makes the person more desirable on the job market. The speakers also suggested that, in order to find the time to publish during graduate school, students should write about what they are already working on. For instance, a student can write an article adapted from a dissertation chapter or compose a bibliographic essay based on the reading they have done for the dissertation. At the same time, Villanueva stated, students can publish content that is not from their dissertation. For instance, a person can publish a paper from a seminar. It is important, though, that the publications and the dissertation show consistency and that they can fit together as part of an intellectual projection. In other words, the student will need to explain how their work fits together into a particular scholarly identity. Gaillet suggested that one way to accomplish this consistency is to blend research and teaching. A scholar should write about what they are teaching and teach what they find through research.
What to Publish
The speakers asserted that students should remember that different institutions have different values. Gaillet suggested that reading job postings can give the student a clue as to what kinds of publications will be valued by a particular institution. For instance, many institutions will value single-authored pieces over co-authored pieces. Villanueva also explained that author order will matter to many CV readers. Additionally, he stated that hiring committees may have prejudices against online journals. The speakers suggested, then, that the student should first concentrate on writing single-authored pieces for notable print journals. Gaillet added to this, stating that not everyone can publish in College Composition and Communication. Therefore, a writer should try the most popular journals first, but also think about other places the piece could be published. For instance, the student could look for specialty journals in their field. The speakers agreed, however, that no matter what, the publication has to be vetted; peer-review is essential.
Sansbury also shared from his experience to point to opportunities for publication. He suggested that students find mentors in need of research assistants. This allows the student to learn about the process of beginning research and eventually turning that research into a publication. Additionally, this research assistance builds a relationship with the mentor and can lead to other publishing opportunities. In a similar vein, Sansbury suggested that students can find publication opportunities through fellowships.
How to Get Published
The speakers emphasized that voice is incredibly important when writing for publication. Villanueva explained that the move from dissertation to article or book monograph is moving from a graduate education voice (i.e. showing that the student has done their homework) to a professional voice. Gaillet asserted that this professional voice must match the voice of the intended journal. The student, then, should research the journal and write with that press in mind. The professional voice must also match the theory about which the composer is writing. Villanueva stated, for instance, “When writing queer theory, you need a voice of queer theory.” Gaillet explained that the professional voice is a balance; the writer should not simply mimic another theorist voice or get locked into the discourse. The writer should be able to adopt the theoretical voice without becoming so esoteric that the reader is lost.
Gaillet offered the strategy of writing stipulative definitions. The writer can explain how they are using a particular definition in their work. This gives the writer their own voice and offers the opportunity to use different definitions for different pieces. Stipulative definitions also help the writer define the scope of their work. Villanueva offered a strategy for writing a stipulative definition: find commonalities among disparate definitions. He also explained that, when writing, it is more beneficial for the writer to state what they are doing in the piece as opposed to what they are not doing; this is why definitions are important. Furthermore, the speakers emphasized that the writer needs to make sure that all claims are explained. Villanueva asserted that some students may feel as if a claim is obvious, but it is often only obvious to them because they are so immersed in their research. Along the same lines, Gaillet stated that some writers claim that their pieces are rejected from journals because the readers “just didn’t get it.” She stressed that this is not a valid claim and that, if the readers do not understand a claim or the piece as a whole, it is the writer’s fault.
Finally, the speakers discussed rejections and revise and resubmits. Villanueva emphasized that the people who get published are those who are willing to let the piece go and submit it to journals. When a piece is rejected, he explained, it may be rejected for two reasons: (1) the piece is not ready yet, or (2) it does not fit the journal or the conversations in the journal at that time. Therefore, the writer should accept the feedback from the readers, be willing to revise, and be willing to send the piece to other journals. Gaillet suggested that, when submitting a piece, the writer should have an idea of three journals in which the piece may fit. If the first journal on the list rejects the piece, the writer should send it to the second journal on the list. Villanueva also stated that a revise and resubmit is not a gentle rejection; it really means revise and resubmit.