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Author Topic: Publication Anxiety  (Read 8455 times)
massive_attack
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« on: May 16, 2009, 11:08:27 pm »

I am anxious about submitting manuscripts and it is crippling my professional identity.

I am active and productive in my research field in social/behavioral sciences (for a SLAC professor, that is). I am always collecting data for some project, I present annually at major peer-reviewed conferences, I have published several invited book chapters, but I have *never* submitted a manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal. 

I think a lot of my anxiety stems from the fact that I came out of a very well-regarded graduate program in my field, where they groomed us to be R-1 researchers all the way and I was always more interested in the liberal arts environment.  Consequently, I've always felt like a disappointment, even though I'm at a prestigious SLAC. I admit that I have an inferiority complex as a result.  The sad thing is, I've had research that has gotten tremendous positive feedback from *major* researchers in my field and adjacent fields at conferences, and yet I've always been too intimidated to submit.  Now, much of that research feels too old to submit.

It's not that I don't have manuscripts-- I do!  They need revision, though, and I am so freaking intimidated by the entire process that I've put it off for years now. 

Does anyone have any feedback? Any advice? A kick in the ass?  It's not that I need tons of pubs for tenure, but I do feel personally like I'm not meeting my own professional goals and it is marring an otherwise exceptional professional identity.
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commprof57
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« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2009, 11:16:12 pm »

Maybe what you need is an initial confidence boost.  Why not take some good research and start out with some middle tier journals.  Assuming what goes on with that process it may inspire you to submit to other journals.  Make no mistake about it though, some of the reviewers can be harsh.  But in general I think they tend to be constructive.  I would suggest start with something that you think is reputable and a journal that you wouldn't mind seeing your stuff in.  That is what I did and it has led me to publish three articles in the last year in some of the top journals (plus publishing a book).
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jackit
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'Til the cows drive home.


« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2009, 11:16:57 pm »

You need a real-life mentor who can help you with issues like this.

My advice:

Prepare a manuscript and send it to two professional colleagues you know who do publish.

Promise yourself that if they both say it should be published you will submit it to whatever journal they recommend.

But the most important thing you can do is recruit a mentor who publishes.

Good luck!




« Last Edit: May 16, 2009, 11:17:46 pm by jackit » Logged

mountainguy
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« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2009, 12:28:32 am »

Massive_Attack, I sympathize with your anxiety. I'm in a doctoral program at a major research university, where it's a common attitude amongst faculty that only a-tier journals publish "real" research. In the past few months, I've recognized that I need to swallow my pride and start submitting to mid-tier journals instead. I guess I don't have any real advice, other than you're not alone.
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sciencephd
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« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2009, 1:30:54 am »

In a competitive hiring environment, how did you get a TT position without peer-reviewed papers ?
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marginalia
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« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2009, 11:04:50 am »

OK, here goes.

1. Choose a paper. One of your more recent papers will do nicely- something you cannot convince yourself is outdated.

2. Choose a journal to which you are sending this paper. one way to do it is email one of your senior colleagues who positively commented on the paper. Here's a sample email. "Dear X, it was lovely to see you at conference Y. Thank you very much for your comments on my paper. I am now in the process of preparing it for publication, and was wondering if you had any ideas about an appropriate venue for this article."  People love giving advice, especially if they really did like your paper (and they did, otherwise you would not be getting those comments).

3. Set a FIRM deadline. Mark it in your calendar. This is the date on which you are sending  the piece out.

4. If you can, find a buddy. A buddy is a person with a deadline of his or her own and a situation similar to yours. The goal is to check in with each other and to encourage each other to work. Some people meet each other in coffeeshops for "writing marathons" and proofread each other's papers.

5. Draft a revision plan, and break your tasks into very small units. The smaller the better. Completing each task will give you a sense of accomplishment.

6. Start working and good luck!

One other tip is to put on your "emotionless hat". You can do it as a ritual. I often do. When your imaginary emotionless hat is on, you do not worry, doubt, fidget, feel guilty, or otherwise obsess. You *just work*. While your emotionless hat is on, revising is no more anxiety provoking than doing dishes (or other routine task). Once your writing session is over, you can take the hat off.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2009, 11:06:37 am by marginalia » Logged

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jackit
Uppity
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'Til the cows drive home.


« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2009, 11:39:41 am »

...
One other tip is to put on your "emotionless hat". You can do it as a ritual. I often do. When your imaginary emotionless hat is on, you do not worry, doubt, fidget, feel guilty, or otherwise obsess. You *just work*. While your emotionless hat is on, revising is no more anxiety provoking than doing dishes (or other routine task). Once your writing session is over, you can take the hat off.

Hey, I love this idea!

(The rest of your advice is good, too!)
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king_ghidorah
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« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2009, 12:17:06 pm »

This is the best thread I've seen in a while.  Please, keep the good advice coming.
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msparticularity
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« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2009, 12:51:34 pm »

My best advice is to remember that placement is really, really, really important. This is yet another area where "fit" trumps pretty much everything else.

I submitted the theoretical foundation for my dissertation to a couple of conferences and couldn't get accepted--and they weren't all that selective. When I took a close look at the reviews, it became clear that the reviewers really lacked familiarity with both the fields I was drawing from and the specific scholarly work I was focused upon. What I was talking about was not very user-friendly to someone who lacked that background. Further, while the implications had fairly broad interest, the actual argument was of fairly limited interest to someone outside a relatively small circle.

So, in a moment of bravado I submitted it to the top journal in the field, the one where a lot of similar scholarly discussion I'd been reading on related issues had been published. My reasoning was, "Okay, if these guys don't get what I'm doing, then I need to drop it and move on because nobody is going to get it." I got an R&R, along with reviewer and editor comments that spoke directly to the issues I had raised and encouraged me to think more deeply about them. After a pretty thorough revision, they took my article.

My point is that I had a really interestingly idea that was of interest to a very limited group of people, and about which I had written semi-competently. There was an audience for whom my idea my sense, and was important enough that they would coach me through polishing it for publication. There was also a much larger audience to whom my argument made no sense at all, and who were impatient with my less-than-stellar writing. :)
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slacwriter
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« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2009, 5:29:54 pm »

I know the feeling. Even though I have five peer reviewed articles (I am three years in to a TT position), I have recently been very nervous about submitting (though I have been actively producing other manuscripts: an edited volume, book chapters in others' volumes, and a book manuscript of my own). I had two pieces almost ready to go, and just couldn't find it in me to send them in. I think it had something to do with the fact that both were tangential to the agenda that had produced most of my other peer-reviewed work.

I recently revised and polished the first manuscript and then sent it off to the top journal in the field. I figure if it's accepted or if I get an R&R, that will be terrific. Even if it's rejected, I hope to have decent comments from editors and reviewers that will help me revise it for another venue.

The second manuscript should go out this week to a slightly more targeted journal.

What helped was doing something like putting on my "emotionless hat" (though I had never thought of it that way: I just made a schedule and used the schedule to help me let go of my need to control the situation and to accept that I can get something out of a rejection, as well, should things not go well the first time around.

I think it also helped that I had other work that I wanted to get to. That also helped me let go of the anxiety a bit, as I focused on what I could get done while the article manuscripts were under review.
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massive_attack
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« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2009, 5:40:42 pm »

I want to thank everyone for some really great advice.  I'm going to start putting some of it in action tomorrow, so I don't just keep putting things off. 
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mickeymantle
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« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2009, 7:58:44 pm »


I remember the first three years after completing my doctorate constituted sheer hell.  I did get one article published in a rather obscure journal, but whenever I tried to publish in more prestigious journals, I got the back of the hand, so to speak.  I remember one reviewer saying that my argument was "phony."  But I persisted, and within the next few years started publishing consistently in better and better publications, even winning an award for one of my articles.

I think that, as in almost any endeavor in life, persistence plays a big part in getting published.  I also would say that successful articles tend to go in streaks, for some reason....For example, in the last year I had three articles accepted, but one of my last attempts has gone through several journals without so much as a R-and-R.

All I can say, therefore, is keep plugging away!

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runwithscissors
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« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2009, 7:22:05 am »

I think in this case you might want to consider a scatter shot approach. Get together all the manuscripts that you think have a chance at publication and send them off to different (relevant) journals. Therefore even if only one is accepted, it gives you a confidence boost and helps you to revise the others if they don't fare as well. If you just send one and it's rejected, will this just reinforce your self-doubt and prevent you from sending anything ever again?
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reader52
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« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2009, 1:41:00 pm »

One other tip is to put on your "emotionless hat". You can do it as a ritual. I often do. When your imaginary emotionless hat is on, you do not worry, doubt, fidget, feel guilty, or otherwise obsess. You *just work*. While your emotionless hat is on, revising is no more anxiety provoking than doing dishes (or other routine task). Once your writing session is over, you can take the hat off.

This is likely the most useful, realistic idea I've seen in a long time.  Thank you.

I'm also interested in hearing other people's experiences of rebuilding a supportive network of research colleagues.  Mine has become very fragmented.  My perception is that reconnecting carries a probability of me feeling embarrassed/ judged/ angry/ disappointed/ misunderstood.  Nothing shady or unethical happened, just a series of life circumstances that had me prioritizing other things over research.  During that time I experienced some judgment over that and I'm still sensitive about it.  Hmm, perhaps the emotionless hat?  Though how does one re-engage with people in an emotionless state? Oh, wait, it's academia.... (laugh). But seriously, if anyone has worked through rebuilding a network of research colleagues it would be helpful to hear what happened on the other side.
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banana
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« Reply #14 on: May 19, 2009, 2:05:03 pm »

Remember, too, that the "problem" you're trying to solve is an honorable one.  You actually care about the quality of what you send out.  We all know of people with the opposite problem, who send out whatever first-draft piece of crap comes out of the printer, so long as it reaches some minimum standard of publishability.  So, as you work toward overcoming your anxiety and sending out manuscripts, don't be too hard on yourself.  It's an honorable impulse that has led you to this place.
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