For most people, writing is very hard work • Many people find publishing to be the most intimidating part of academic work. • Argyris – 500 words a day • Starbuck – staying at home • Before word processors, rewriting the same first sentence • Many people procrastinate
Why is writing so hard? • Writers have to convert complex ideas into simple, linear text. • Writers and readers see text quite differently. • Success depends on being able to deal with editors and reviewers. • You must satisfy reviewers who do not know more than you do but who seem to act as if they do know more.
Subtopics • Research on reviewers • Some trends in journal publishing • How authors see it • How authors should deal with editors and reviewers • Writing introductions and conclusions
"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction". Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872
Research about reviewers1 • Reviewers tend to agree about the criteria for judging manuscripts. (Gottfredson, 1978) • But they agree much more weakly about the qualities of specific manuscripts. • Evaluators’ judgments of manuscripts’ quality correlate only 0.24 with citations to the published papers. • Reviewers’ judgments of papers’ quality correlate only around 0.25 to 0.3 with manuscripts’ true value. (Starbuck, 2005)
Research about reviewers2 • Reviewers give positive ratings to papers that support their beliefs and vice versa(Mahoney, 1977). • When they reject papers that do not support their beliefs, reviewers attribute the discrepant findings to poor methodology. • Journals are very likely to reject papers they have already published. (Peters & Ceci, 1982)
Research about reviewers3 • Because each reviewer makes unreliable judgments, pairs of reviewers disagree with each other. • Reviewers’ judgments correlate between 0.1 and 0.4. • Because reviewers say “Reject” over half of the time, they are much more likely to agree to reject than to agree to accept. • Although some journals publish more top-quality articles, the differences between journals are unclear and gradual.
Changes in academic publishing from 1980 to 2006 • 1980 • 900 libraries would buy any book. • Sale of 1200 copies could be breakeven. • Between 1980 and 2006 • Many new journals appeared. • Libraries reduced their purchases of books to buy journals.
Changes in academic publishing from 1980 to 2006 • 2006 • 600 libraries buy any book. • Breakeven sales volume can be around 600, depending on typesetting methods. • Additional copies can be printed in lots of 20.
“It is commonly known and a constant course of frustration that even well-known refereed journals contain a large fraction of bad articles which are boring, repetitive, incorrect, redundant, and harmful to science in general. What is perhaps even worse, the same journals also stubbornly reject some brilliant and insightful articles (i. e., your own) for no good reason. . . . bad papers are submitted in such vast quantities . . . the small fraction of them that gets accepted may outnumber the good ones.” Rousseeuw (1991)
How authors see it1 • Some reviewers are insulting. • Some are ignorant. • Reviewers make inconsistent demands. • Reviewers are biased.
How authors see it2 • BUT authors must communicate with and satisfy these rude, biased, ignorant clods who disagree with each other. • To gain discretion, authors can seek loopholes in reviewers’ comments and juxtapose their conflicting demands.
How authors see it3 • To “submit” a manuscript has a double meaning. • Authors must thank even the reviewers they despise. Since thanks is mandated by asymmetric power, it is probably false. • Repeated revision can create contracts.
Choosing a journal1 • Proceedings give little visibility. • Articles are more useful than books for younger researchers because of speed and circulation. • Pick a journal before you start to write, then match its style: • Tables? Statistical tests? • Quantitative versus qualitative? • Propositions? Flow diagrams? • Density of references?
Choosing a journal2 • Does your paper cite several articles that were published in the journal? • Citation frequencies indicatevisibility. • Citation frequencies are on my web site:pages.stern.nyu.edu/~wstarbuc
Choosing a journal3 • Are multiple submissions OK? • More than one manuscript - yes. • The same manuscript - never. • As with any investment situation, a diversified portfolio reduces risk. • The tradeoff is weak between high prestige and probability of rejection.
Choosing a journal4 • Should you send a manuscript to a newly launched journal? • Yes if you are old and famous and you want to help the journal • Yes if you have written many papers • Yes if you are feeling insecure • No if you are young and unknown • No if you have written only a few papers • No if you are confident
Submitting initially1 • Address your letter to the correct person and use the correct name of the journal. • Your manuscript should be tidy, with no typographic errors and no spelling errors. Check the references. • Do not signal carelessness. • Perhaps, hire an editor. (Ming Jer)
Submitting initially2 • Wait three months, then if you have heard nothing, make an inquiry. • Telephone may be better than a letter. • Journals often have poorly organized offices. • Electronic services are changing this.
Getting a response1 • “No reviewer is ever wrong.” • React as coolly as you can. • Wait at least two weeks before you do anything . . . better six weeks.
Getting a response2 • Regard reviewers’ comments as data about (a) your writing and (b) how readers are likely to react to your writing. • Reviewers’ comments are NOT judgments about the quality of your research.
Getting a response3 • If the reviewers misunderstand you, write it more clearly. • If they suggest you are ignorant, show your knowledge. • But you might really be ignorant! • If they say you used the wrong methods, explain why you used the methods you did. • But the reviewers might know better methods!
ALWAYS revise1 • Good data about readers are hard to get. Colleagues are too supportive, too tactful. • Reviewers think they are saying something intelligent. • If they appear to be stupid, they may have stated their concerns poorly, or you may not be interpreting their remarks correctly.
ALWAYS revise2 • Make SOME change(s) in response to every comment of every reviewer. • But, do not do everything they ask. • Eric’s three revisions, twice
Usually, send it back to the same journal1 • Repeated revision can create a contract. • With your revision, send an elaborate point-by-point explanation of how you dealt with each comment by each reviewer. • The editor will send this explanation to the reviewers themselves.
Usually, send it back to the same journal2 • You can argue with the reviewers but do so tactfully. • Look for loopholes in their comments. Juxtapose their inconsistent demands.
Writing Everything I could say is on-line: http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~wstarbuc/Writing/Fussy.htm
The most important parts of an article are the introduction and conclusion These should -- • entice readers to read the article, • convince readers that the author is credible, • summarize the main conclusions of the article, and • persuade readers that they are happy to have read the article.
Why introductions and conclusions are important • People are most likely to remember what they learned last. • They are next most likely to remember what they learned first. • They are least likely to remember what they learned in the middle of the sequence.
Start seductively • Tell a story. • Defend an implausible statement. • Contradict an authority. • Contradict common sense. • For example, Daft and Weick began "Organizations as interpretation systems" (AMR, 1984) by saying "Consider the game of 20 questions. Normally in this game one person. . . . Organizations play 20 questions."
Also start by showing credibility • Why should readers read what YOU have to say? • You cannot report your qualifications, of course. • You can exhibit command of the relevant literature. • You may be able to reframe the literature to show a novel and insightful perspective.
Give a brief road map of the paper • Readers do not know the paper’s structure. They may find themselves wondering why they are reading what they are reading. • State the main thrust of your argument. • First tell them what you are going to say • Then say it • Then tell them what you said • Explain the outline of the paper. • Although this seems mechanical to you, it can be brief and it seems less mechanical to readers.
Just before you end • Summarize the main arguments and main conclusions • One to two pages • Essentially, a long abstract • Assume that readers have not read any of the preceding parts of the paper.
Do not end depressingly • Do not point out that this paper does not answer all questions or that more research is needed. These are clichés. • Do not end by emphasizing the deficiencies of your paper, thus making readers regret having read it.
End memorably • Point out a few practical implications. • Tell a story. • Spring a surprise. • Give your findings an ironic twist. (Univ of Paris) • Synthesize conflicting positions.
Introduction + Conclusion = All • Together, the introduction and conclusion should tell readers everything they need to take away from the paper. • Someone who reads ONLY the introduction and conclusion should be able to state what the paper contributes. • Exercise: Give someone only the introduction and the conclusion.