Grad School Tips: Writing Strategies a.k.a. Best Advice I Ever Received

Hands down, the very best advice I received in grad school was: Write every seminar paper as if you were going to publish it and then do so.

Publishing articles of original research while in grad school (in peer-reviewed academic journals) not only helps you when you’re on the job market (you’ll notice that other candidates who are getting hired, even for teaching-intensive positions at community colleges, will have numerous publications), but it helps you with your funding proposals because it shows that you’re already a productive scholar and a sound investment for grant dollars.

The way to do this is to actually talk to your professors in your seminars and say, “I’d like some direction about where and how to publish the final paper from this course.” Journals aren't interested in just literature reviews, so you'll need to gather your own data, which you'll turn into evidence, and then into argument. To reiterate: you'll need to do your own original research.

The general stages of publishing seminar papers are this: do the research, write the paper, get feedback from professor, incorporate the feedback, present it somewhere at a conference, get feedback, incorporate the feedback, send it to a journal, wait a while, get a rejection (or a revise & resubmit) with some feedback, incorporate the feedback, re-submit to journal, get rejected & submit it elsewhere or get accepted with some feedback, incorporate the feedback, re-submit, edit, and wait until published. (Two years, if you’re lucky!)

For graduate students who are about to go on the job market or are already on it, my advice is to find some low-hanging fruit (i.e., a chapter from the dissertation, a seminar paper for which you did original research three years ago, etc) and work on polishing that and getting it submitted to a journal ASAP.

Many academics swear by Wendy Laura Belcher's Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success. Though I haven't used it, I find the practical ways she breaks down the process very compelling. By demystifying the process, Belcher dispels some of the myths that lead to perfectionism. Perfectionism is your enemy.

Writing Inspiration Here: youshouldbewriting

Caveat: my advice comes from the social science/humanities disciplines I know best. It's important to figure out the conventions of your field on this. You do this by looking at the CVs of newly hired assistant professors in your department and at Liberal Arts Colleges throughout the U.S.

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6 Responses to Grad School Tips: Writing Strategies a.k.a. Best Advice I Ever Received

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