TOOLS AND TIPS TO SUPPORT YOUR RESEARCH Prepared by Debra Umberson Department of Sociology and Population Research Center University of Texas, Austin firstname.lastname@example.org
TOOLS AND TIPS • AGENDAS. I always keep an “agenda” that keeps track of my professional and research goals for the year. You can use any variety of formats for an agenda and I’ve included two examples here. You may not meet all of the goals on your agenda each semester/year but having an agenda will help to keep you focused and organized. I update my agenda every few months (this might mean just changing the dates for more realistic deadlines). • FLOWCHART—THE EDITORIAL PROCESS. I’ve included a flowchart that shows the decision points that editors follow when reviewing manuscripts. This flowchart shows the process that we follow at Journal of Health and Social Behavior. But most academic journals follow a similar model. • QUESTIONS THAT REVIEWERS WILL ASK THEMSELVES WHEN THEY REVIEW YOUR MANSUCRIPT. Before submitting a manuscript for review, you should consider how reviewers are likely to answer these questions. If you see problems ahead, fix them before you submit your manuscript for review. • HOW TO STRUCTURE THE INTRODUCTION TO A PAPER. There is a basic recipe that you can follow when you write the introduction to your paper. You can save yourself a lot of time and headaches if you follow the recipe. I’m not saying this is the only recipe that works—but this one is simple and straightforward.
Flow Chart—The Review Process Reject Without Review Send Out For Review Conditional Accept Reject Revise and Resubmit ACCEPT Reject Revise and Resubmit Again Conditional Accept ACCEPT Population Research Center The University of Texas at Austin
QUESTIONS REVIEWERS WILL ASK • What is the unique contribution to the literature? What does this article tell us that we didn’t know before and why is that important. Is the contribution to knowledge substantial, modest, limited, or negligible? • Is the method of analysis commendable and appropriate or does it have problems or serious flaws? • Will this article stimulate additional research (substantially, modestly, a limited extent, negligibly)?
Fatal Flaws—The Reviewers’ Perspective • The most common problems identified by reviewers: • Poor theoretical framing, underdeveloped theory/argument • Inadequate data • Underdeveloped or flawed analysis • Weak link between theory/framing and analysis • The “so what” factor Population Research Center The University of Texas at Austin
Basic Format for Writing the Introduction to a Paper (usually no more than 2 pages, double-spaced) • Paragraph 1: the big picture, the hook. • Focus on the public problem/issue: For example, “the most important debate in sociology is…” This is where you think about why your Congressman should care; why your mom should care. • The last sentence of this paragraph should raise the SPECIFIC TOPIC of your paper. • Paragraph 2: Specifically, what you are going to do. • “Therefore, I will….” OR “In this spirit, this study will…” • Don’t talk about the data/method as special or important UNLESS that’s part of your contribution (e.g., you are applying a particular technique to the data in order to provide new insights…). • Your research question(s) here. • Paragraph 3: This study is important because…