Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Indefinite Article

I have just submitted my first article for publication. (yay! woo! cue fireworks!)

As I am therefore absolutely useless for doing any real work for the next couple of hours due to the adrenaline rush, I thought I should blog about it.

At some point during your PhD, you should try to publish an article. Ideally, the best time to do this is somwhere around the start of your third year as you presumably know enough to publish on it, but you're not yet in panic-stations-thesis-writing-mode. If you want to continue in academia at all, publishing is one of the most important things you'll do so it's good to develop those skills while someone's willing to read over and correct your work. The problem is getting to the point where you feel confident enough to a) start writing and b) submit.

I have friends who, for one reason or another, didn't publish during their PhD and instead planned to write up articles from their dissertations in the months following. It hasn't happened yet, as far as I know - it seems it takes at least a month to recover from the PhD process and be willing to even glance at your work again. And if you launch into a job straight away then that takes priority. But sometimes you get to the point where you can't worry about anything except your thesis and you just have to concentrate on that, no matter how good a journal publication would look on your résumé.

The trick (and the tricky bit) is to know which of the following pieces of advice to follow:
1. Do what you gotta do to finish your PhD.
2. Get as much experience teaching and publishing as you can because that's what you'll spend most of your time doing if you get a job as an academic.

Both these pieces of advice were given to friends by experienced academics and although somewhat contradictory, are both equally true.

Back to me:
I started writing my article after presenting at 5ICOM (5th International Conference on Multimodality) in December last year. My plan was to finish it by the end of January and I quite enjoyed the initial write, churning out 1000 words a day for a while there. When it reached an immense length, with absolutely everything I could think of on the topic in it, I submitted it to my supervisor for shaping and direction. So it went on the back burner for a while and in the mean time I submitted abstracts for conferences (most of which I've had to withdraw from), as well as the usual cycle of reading literature and doing analysis. The feedback, when it arrived, was to turn it into two articles.

So I did. And I've been sitting on them for a few months for one reason or another: getting feedback from my music supervisor (checking I haven't made any ridiculous musical gaffes); finalising those bits I couldn't quite get right. One of the best moments was when I sent the second article to an external expert. When he gave me good feedback, I started to believe it might be true. I sat on it further as I tried to wrestle it into adherence to the journal style guide and boggled at how to treat music notation: As a picture? Labelled figure or example? What about in a table? What about text and music together in an example from a student text? How do I handle copyright? It was like banging my head against a brick wall at times.

In the end I cut all the music notation out of one article, and limited the other to one music example which should be acceptable for copyright. It kinda sucks to talk about multimodality monomodally, but you do what you gotta do. I'll leave the second article on the backburner a while longer - at least until I have something else I want to procrastinate by working on it. It needs to be wrestled into adherence with the style guide and all my pretty colour-coded analysis needs to be turned monochrome.

What next for the one I did submit? I don't know. Probably a lengthy wait from what I hear. Either which way, I'll let you know.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats! That's so exciting! Of course, all of that initial excitement is followed by so much waiting you sometimes forget about it - but it's a good thing there is that whole thesis thing to do while you wait!