I just recently published my first scholarly, peer-reviewed article in a library journal. It was a long and sometimes grueling process that was 9 months in the making, but it was worth it! I’d like to share a few points as to why publishing in grad school matters in the long run, what to submit, and how to approach the process.
Several advantages to publishing are:
- It will stand out on your resume: A publication section on your resume not only gives you a little but of extra edge in a highly competitive job market, but according to several interviews from the blog “Hiring Librarians“, it also shows that you are willing to extend yourself and that you are engaged professionally.
- Tenure: If you are interested in academic librarianship, you will likely be hunting for one of those highly coveted tenure-track librarian positions. Publications, particularly those that have been peer-reviewed, will likely be a contributing factor for your selection for tenure. In this way, your early publications can only strengthen your applications for such positions.
- Showing the world what you’ve got!: Engaging in a public forum and putting yourself out there to accept scrutiny from established experts is not at all easy, both logistically and emotionally. However, it not only proves that you can conduct viable research in your field that is accepted by the library community, it also sharpens your communications skills and teaches you how to deal with some brutal criticism (my anonymous peer-reviewers did not agree with everything I said, and were sure to let me know!).
You might be thinking at this point, “what on earth have I written that is worth publishing?!” A great way to start is to expand on a paper that you wrote for a class, particularly a class that you really enjoyed, or a paper that you felt rather proud of. I used a shortened version of my thesis from my first Masters in Art History, but I have also recently submitted cleaned-up seminar papers. You will likely have to do some editing to make sure the final submission adheres to the journal’s guidelines, and it never hurts to have another set of eyes look it over before you hit send!
Submission can be daunting, so it might help to start small and take it one step at a time.
- Choose the right journal: Before submitting to a large, well-known journal, it might be good to start small.
- Journals of regional and national associations with a focused and/or localized membership are an excellent place to start (for example, the Midwest Archives Conference has Archival Issues). There are also several specialized journals with a more narrow focus.
- Make sure your topic is relevant to the intended audience. Take a look at the other articles in that journal and imagine seeing your article there, does it seem out of place, or does it fit?
- Choose a paper that you spent some time on: You should be knowledgable of the topic and should have done some background work to show that you really know your stuff.
- Ask an advisor or professor to read it over: Be sure the reader knows you will be submitting for publication and they can likely give you some pointers on what to expect from the peer-reviewers.
- Make sure it adheres to submission guidelines: These guidelines will vary, but will include elements such as citation style, length, content, and overall cohesiveness.
In the end, there’s really nothing to lose! The worst that can happen is that your entry is rejected (which has happened to me twice already), and that is certainly not the end of the world.
What are some of your experiences with academic publishing? Do you have any publications? Have you had any experience with the peer-review process? Share your thoughts and insights with us!