Reflections on writing conferences July 2014

· Bibliography
6th ESRC Research Methods Festival, St Catherine’s College, Oxford 8th July 2014
One of the sessions that I attended was ‘Publishing in Journals and Peer review Process’
This was convened by Professor Melanie Nind, University of Southampton and included presentations form Helen Taylor, Taylor & Frances (a publisher’s perspective), Professor Liz Tood, University of Newcastle (the editor’s perspective),  Professor Pat Sykes, University of Sheffield (a reviewer’s perspective) and Dr Yvonne Down’s (an authors perspective)
The point that all of the presenters had in common was that they are all associated within their respective roles with the International Journal of Research Methods in Education.
The publisher’s perspective
This was focused on tips to succeed and included an overview of the publishing cycle. Helen suggested the importance of knowing your audience. Evidently only 30% of writers write with a journal in mind,. It is important to chose the right journal for your genre of writing. Helen gave an overview of open access which is not as straightforward as it seems. Authors need to be very wary if they are asked for money to publish their article. Only bonafide open access should request this and these are listed on the following website
Impact factors may be important but the overall suggestion from the presentation is that doctoral students should publish as they go thorough their journey. The advice is to be critical of your writing and think like an editor and suggest the following dos and dont’s
  • A good abstract contains the key issue, methods used and  conclusions drawn
  • Etiquette upon rejection- don’t get into discussion with the editor unless invited and stay calm
  • Once you are published get your paper on reading lists and use social media to promote it
Helen recommends that prospective authors visit The Taylor & Francis website (see our resources section)
The editor’s perspective
Liz Todd sees the key issue for the editor is to support writers. Unsurprisingly reviewers do not always agree. Liz suggests that rejection rates are about 26% overall and recommends sending an abstract to an editor in advance can be a helpful strategy and recommends the following blog as a resource for writers
The reviewer’s perspective
Pat reminded the audience that reviewers are human too. As a reviewer there is a responsibility to the academic community and high levels of carefulness and time is devoted to reviewing. Pat’s perspective is that reviewing is a formative process to produce better work. Reviewers for the International Journal of research Methods in Education are selected either because of discipline knowledge or the particular research methods that the writer is employing. A big challenge for the journal is finding writers who can write about quantitative research methods in an accessible way. It is important for writers to utilise informal peer review prior to submission. Pat has been reviewing for over 30 years and has reviewed over 600 papers and has never seen a paper that has not required amendments. These are the top reasons for rejection
  • Wrong journal selection
  • Not a proper article
  • Too long or short
  • Poor regard to conventions of journal
  • Bad style/ grammar
  • Fails to say anything
  • Not contextualized
  • No theoretical framework
  • Unethical
Author’s perspective
Yvonne feels that a big turning point for a writer is the realization that publication is achievable. She considers that a great motivator is the imposition of structure from a selected journal. Her personal perspective is that publishing in journals is a component of social interaction. Unless your work is published then it cannot be classed as research. Yvonne has noted that people who frequently publish tend to write a lot about writing. Yvonne’s recommendation to the prospective writer is to reflect upon what you would like to be known for. Yvonne also shared some examples of different genres of writing within a discipline, for example a poem in a peer-reviewed journal about accountancy.
This was a very well thought out session so top marks for the presenters. Many of the points raised were congruent with discussions that we have had within the writing group, especially some of the advice from the facilitators. The most refreshing thing for me was the reviewer’s perspective.
Writing Development in Higher Education (WDHE) Conference, Coventry University, Centre for Academic Writing
9th July 2014
I presented the writing group project at WDHE This was my second attendance at a writing conference but the first time that I presented to the academic research writing community audience.
WDHE came at a good time in that the team are  strongly focused on evaluating the impact of the project as it reaches the end of the second and final year. I have carried out some individual interviews of participants over the last few weeks and this has added a lot of richness to the additional data that is being included in this as an action research project.
Putting the presentation  together has helped to organise thoughts about a proposed journal article aimed at Innovation in Education and Teaching International
The audience was packed at WDHE. One of the assumptions that the team are currently working under is that the dyads (academic + student/alumni) within a writing group is a novel idea and it was useful to verify this with an expert academic research writing  International audience.
I was very interested in receiving feedback from the audience about their perceptions of the project. The questions or the discussion points were,
  1. What is the typical way in which a dyad operates within the writing group?
  2. What has happened in the writing retreats?
  3. One person’s take home point was the diversity of the writing group and multi- voicedness.
The answer to the first question, is that there isn’t a typical way in which a dyad interacts but it is clear from the data so far that the academics who have come forward for the project have established personal strategies for their dissertation supervision and participating in the writing group has extended  and developed this further from supervisor-supervisee to two professional colleagues working together in a shared zone of proximal development.
The writing retreats have been very special and the resources that accompany a University teaching fellowship award has enabled expert external facilitation from Sarah Hass. Every participant within the writing group has cited the impact of the first retreat on their ability to manage their time to fit in regular writing snacks and free writes. The second writing retreat focused on story telling and narratives which helped participants understand that there are different ways of telling a story and thus different ways of writing an academic research writing paper.
The writing group is incredibly diverse and this is more so as we have welcomed new members. It is great to have the expertise of Mary and Sarah , Faculty colleagues and alumni and students with a very broad range of research interests. The other life skills that participants bring have enabled them to share expertise, for example we have just been joined by a newly undergraduate qualified nurse who is a published poet and has taught creative writing in the past.
So WDHE has been a great opportunity to learn from others and help focus on evaluation of the project. One of the initial aims was to ensure sustainability of this group and opportunities to present at conferences to a receptive audience helps to validate the value of the work that is being undertaken within the writing group.

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