Showing the Seams of Scholarly Publishing

My first peer-reviewed article has just been accepted by College & Research Libraries. I feel relief, gratitude, euphoria, and the desire to take a three-day nap. However, I recently attended Library Instruction West in Salt Lake, where Donna Lanclos gave a fantastic keynote about the value of professional vulnerability and showing the seams of scholarship, including the messy parts of what we do (GULP). I very much like the idea of taking scholarly publishing down from its seemingly unattainable pedestal and making the process more transparent, something I wish had been more available to me early on. After four years of work on this project, I thought I’d reflect a little on the ups and downs and what I’ve learned about scholarly publishing so far.

Also, here is the preprint of “Research in the Real World: Improving Adult Learners’ Web Search and Evaluation Skills Through Motivational Design and Problem-Based Learning.” The article will be published in July 2017. Wheee!!!

  1. It takes a village to publish a scholarly article. Seriously. From the early days of conceptualizing this project as the capstone for my masters in library science through a hairy IRB process to the final recent drafts, I’ve talked with and received feedback and suggestions from so many, many kind and helpful people. Here are a few: Krystyna Matusiak, my wonderful advisor, who met with me many times as I struggled to conceptualize the study. Her reading suggestions gave me a solid foundation in the evolution from bibliographic instruction to information literacy and now metaliteracy. Myntha Cuffy, my RMS teacher who was willing to critique my project proposal over Thanksgiving break; Jeff Sauro, whose wonderful Usability class helped me strengthen my hold on basic statistics and pretty Excel graphs; Martin Garnar, who suggested the title for the project, Research in the Real World; Chris Brown for reviewing a draft of the manuscript and providing encouragement; the wonderful library staff at Arapahoe Community College, including Lisa Grabowski, Casey Lansinger, Ann Priestman for their suggested revisions and support, and Andrea Reveley (who didn’t read the manuscript, but heard me groaning in my office as I revised the Chicago citations by hand, over and over). My sister, Niki Miyata for her sensible suggestions to improve flow. I have a huge debt of gratitude to my parents, Michael and Theresa Roberts, who read several versions, helped get me out of tight spots with my data analysis (never use “check all that apply!;” definitely pilot test your instruments), and kept me going by politely asking now and then, “how is your article coming along?” They offered tough, honest, and always constructive feedback. Also beer.
    Once my paper was submitted to C&RL I received extremely helpful feedback from three reviewers. Their suggestions helped me reframe and reposition the paper within the current literature, broadening the conclusions to apply to the wider community of teaching librarians. I’m also thankful to a CU Boulder colleague for sharing a sample letter in response to reviewers’ comments. This was so helpful in letting me see the tone and type of comments for my own letters. The paper became far better as a result of everyone’s suggestions, time, and care, and I am so very grateful.
    In spite of Western academia’s longstanding mythos of scholars in monastic solitude, it is clear to me now that scholarship doesn’t exist in isolation. From the thoughts and writings of others in the literature review to the casual hallway conversation, everything we experience contributes to how we think, plan, process, and (maybe) produce a final product.
  2. There is no good reason not to use citation management software. For the first several rounds of drafts, I completed footnotes and in-text citations by hand. This was dumb and I really should have known better. I kept thinking that I was so close and just had a few more small changes to make. Looking back, it would have saved enormous time and energy to have used Mendeley or Zotero earlier on. I was concerned that College & Research Libraries’ citation style is an adapted version of Chicago’s Author-Date format and that the automated citation style wouldn’t quite get it right. It seems to be close enough, though, and a huge time saver. It actually only took about half a day to convert all of my in-text citations to Mendeley, which then made creating the bibliography a three-second process. Now I know better!
  3. The process moves in fits and starts. While I started thinking about this article and reading related literature in late 2012, there have been weeks and sometimes months where progress stalled for one reason or another. In French, there is a wonderful verb, perfectioner to describe the process of making something perfect. For some reason, instead of translating this to “perfecting,” I think of it as “perfectioning,” which somehow feels more accurate. In the last four years,I did a good bit of perfectioning, feeling like an imposter, and feeling overwhelmed, which is part of why I took as long as I did to submit the article to a journal. I did learn that I could completely revise and overhaul the article in a short turn-around time–one month after the initial round of revisions from C&RL. Then two weeks after the second round. I think the most significant progress I made was in these kinds of short, highly focused, intense bursts, followed by lots of fallow time to rest and mentally/emotionally regroup.
    Since this was my first try at scholarly publishing I was also surprised at the timeline and not sure what to expert. Here is a summary of what I experienced, though I hear this varies widely:
  • October 31, 2015: Held my breath while clicking the “submit” button to finally send the article to C&RL.
  • February 23, 2015: Received the first round of revisions and feedback from C&RL with a decision of “revise and resubmit” and a one-month deadline.
  • March 24, 2015: Submitted my revisions while running a high fever and battling the flu. We were also having a huge snowstorm and I was worried the power (and therefore internet) would go out at any time.
  • May 5, 2016: Received second round of feedback from reviewers with a decision of “accept with revisions” and a two-week deadline.
  • May 20, 2016: Submitted my final revisions and then went fishing.
  • May 31, 2016: Received final acceptance for the article. HOORAY! Signed and submitted the Author agreement. Then realized there was a typo in the title and frantically emailed everyone I could find at the journal to ask to have it corrected before the preprint was posted. Rookie mistake, after all my rounds of revisions, and one I won’t make again.
  • June 1, 2016: Pre-print posted online.
  • July 1, 2017: The real deal shiny copy-edited article will be officially published.

I would love to talk more with others about their experiences and processes with planning, writing, and publishing. Especially the messy, seam-y, and rewarding parts.

2 responses to “Showing the Seams of Scholarly Publishing”

  1. Thanks for sharing that timeline, Lindsay. For those of us not in that world, it’s interesting to see how long the process takes AND how much work goes into it from start to finish.

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