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« "Is there Philosophy in India?" and what this question tells us about "Philosophy" in general, an essay by Ankur Barua | Main | Reader query on publishing persistence »

02/24/2015

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Jerry Green

Glad you asked this question: this is something I disagreed about with Lin's take on professionalization.

Journal articles and conference papers are, I think, very different kinds of work. The main factor, obviously, is length: a conference paper is 3000-5000 works, while a good journal article tends to be 5000-10000 (yes, I know, Analysis and similar, but they're hard to get into). But there are other, less tangible differences, in terms of scope, tone, level of scholarship, nuance, etc. Also, I think its hard to excerpt a few sections of an article to turn into a free-standing paper. Its doable, of course, but ideally a well-written paper can't have anything removed and doesn't need anything added. To the extent that you can successfully excerpt one chunk of a paper, you're not hitting that ideal.

So what one often has to do is write two versions of the same paper, one for conferences and one for journals. I find that really hard. Its a long process to write a 3-4000 word version, submit it, wait a few months to get accepted, wait longer to present, and then start incorporating the feedback into what is essentially a new paper on the same topic. I often find that I get bored with the topic or distracted or what-have-you in the interim.

So the mode that's worked best for me is to just write different kinds of papers from the outset. Some papers I write for conferences, others for journals. They might be thematically related, but they're still fairly distinct. For instance, right now I"m working on a 3000 word draft that will end up as one chunk of a larger argument, but I'm approaching the issue on its own terms first.

To give some data to back all this up, I've done 15 papers at conferences (usually 2 presentations/paper). I've submitted 3 or 4 to journals, with no success. I've submitted 5 papers to journals directly, netting 2 publications and a current R&R. I think the refs can clearly tell when you've written something intending it to be a journal article, and when you're submitting something that you've tried to transform into a journal article.

So that's my very long two cents. Your mileage may vary.

Jerry Green

Oh, and on the issue of finding appropriate conferences. This can be a problem in many fields. Your best best is probably submitting to general conferences. Obviously its great to get feedback from other experts in your field. But feedback from outsiders can be great too. The best Q&A questions often reveal a hidden assumption or illicit inference that stems from talking to much with people who all already know what you're up to.

The APAs are, in my experience, pretty hit-or-miss, but they're an obvious option (the Pacific is usually more fun, less cold & depressing than the others!) Grad students conferences in particular can be quite nice. They may not be the most prestigious, but you can make friends, visit new places, and often get good feedback, especially from a commentator that's taking your paper very seriously. I've gotten great comments from fellow grad students, and in one case got distinctly better feedback at a terminal MA program than at an Ivy. So don't be afraid to cast the net wide.

Anon

In general, it's a good idea to run your paper by as many people as possible. Naturally, conferences are a great way to do this since they afford you the opportunity to have a whole room of people give feedback on your ideas; however, they are not the only way to make this happen. It is a good idea to develop a network of people who can give you feedback on your work that include more people than just your advisors. Peers are great, but feedback from other people outside of your home institution is better. If you haven't developed a network like that, this is an opportunity to build one. It might be a good idea to ask your advisors to make introductions to people whose feedback you'd like. Alternatively, you might tell your advisors that you want to send your work out soon, but want more feedback from different people and ask if they know anyone that might be useful.

Clayton

Hi Jason,

You should certainly talk with your advisors about this, but here are a few thoughts.

First, I think that people (esp. junior people) are often disposed to make the mistake of not sending things out without some special trigger that they shouldn't wait for. That trigger might be encouragement from someone they respect or it might be some sort of deadline. I think that this is a mistake. You should ask people on search committees what kind of publication record will help you get your foot in the door for an interview and come up with a mid-term goal of hitting that number. In formulating this plan, remember that the review times are slow, acceptance rates are low, so you'll probably need to have more things under review than your target number. To do this, you really can't wait for this trigger. Junior people shouldn't wait for someone to encourage them or give them permission. (And they certainly shouldn't be in the business of telling themselves 'no' as often as they do and decide against taking a chance with a good piece of work. Let the referees and editors do that!)

Second, if you're going to do this, you face a practical problem. The problem is getting some feedback on your work. Conferences is one way to do that, but it's really impractical and inefficient to make that a necessary part of bringing a paper to submission stage. Think of conferences as a good way to network, but not a good way to get feedback on your work. Time is too short and good conferences are in short supply. To get feedback, use your advisors, your peers, and try to create networks using social media so that you can exchange papers for comments with people with similar interests outside of your department. (I found this to be incredibly useful when I was a graduate student.)

Good luck!

MH

I have a similar question.

As a soon-to-be grad student I'm wondering how often I should fill comfortable sending drafts to various scholars I may not personally know. Obviously, this does not ensure my getting feedback on my paper. But are there possible negative consequences for just emailing someone out of the blue with a draft and a note?

A Reply

MH
You should always first ask someone (via e-mail) before you send them a draft. Further, unless some draft relates quite directly to the receiver's research, such e-mails will be unappreciated. There is no compensation for commenting on peers' or junior colleagues' work, so it had better be worth their time. Do not send unfinished things either.

Michel X.

One suggestion, if nobody's told you about it yet, is to sign up to philevents and to search through their listed conferences. You'll turn up far more than you would with just the listserv.

The suggestion to look at general conferences (including grad conferences) is, I think, a good one, especially for those in subfields that don't have their own national association/annual conference. I think A Reply is also bang on with not waiting for some magic trigger, and to just actively seek out comments yourself, and to eventually just send things off. I myself could benefit from a dose of that.

anon

I have a related question: for conferences that don't otherwise specify, is it ok to submit papers that are also (in some form or another) under review at a journal? There are cases where I'm simultaneously trying to get something published and also would like to draw attention to it via conferences. My thought is that generally, given how long and uncertain the publication process is, that more often than not, I'll still be able to use conference feedback for papers that are already under submission.

Are there norms/guidelines for this?

insight

Anon:
It is fine to present a paper if it is not yet accepted for publication. Indeed, you can even present one accepted but not yet in print.
But I think you probably over value the exposure you get presenting it. As a publication it should get about as much attention as it will get (and more than a presentation). In fact, to ensure it does get attention, it is probably a good idea to post a copy of it (mail = post) to anyone whose views are discussed at any length in your publication.

anon

I'm anon 6:00.

Thanks anon 8:05 for your responses. One more question: APA invited papers (not colloquium papers) -- you have to submit to these pretty far in advance. Is it ok to submit published or soon-to-be published or is it the same norm where papers can be under review or accepted but not actually in print?

insight

Anon: This is me again, insight. I do not know what you mean by APA invited papers. In general, you should not be presenting papers accepted for publication at conference. Indeed, you can present such a paper for a job interview, but the purpose of a conference is not to advertise your paper. You are presenting your research on the way to getting it published.

anon

thanks again, insight. the APA invited papers I was referring to are these: http://www.apaonline.org/members/group_content_view.asp?group=110424&id=202872 You can submit an invited paper or suggest a cluster of papers around a topic.

I'm slightly surprised by your claim that the purpose of a paper is not to advertise it. I can think offhand of two instances where a paper I saw presented (and not job talks) were actually in print. One was an official department colloquium and the other was a workshop. Both speakers were senior, if that's at all relevant.

I have to say that for my ow part, much of my awareness of work not in my own area is from talks. I find it much easier to get a gist of someone's work from a 2-hour talk than from reading it, though others may find the reading to be the easier route. So while I know publishing my work will get at least a few people in my area to look at it, I think (perhaps vainly..) that it may be of interest to others who wouldn't actually take the tie to read it. Hence my desire for presenting work, even work that's more or less in the final stages.

I'd be curious to learn what others think about this issue of presenting work that is already in print.

Also if anyone has successfully submitted invited proposals (as opposed to colloquia submissions) to any of the APA meetings -- either in the form of a single paper or as part of a cluster of papers -- any tips on how to do this successfully? And were the papers all in progress or were some recently in print? The problem with APA colloquia sessions, which I have presented work in, is that pesky 3,000 word limit. These days, everything I'm working on is *much* longer than that.

Marcus Arvan

anon:'insight' is right on this. I suspect that those senior figures got away with it because (as you note) they were in a workshop and colloquium talk. Workshops and colloquia are one thing, conference talks another.

It is generally recognized to be inappropriate to either (A) present already published work at a conference, or (B) submit an already-accepted but not-yet-published article for presentation at a conference. You should only submit material to present at a conference that has not yet been accepted for publication.

Trust me, you don't want to get known as a person who violates these norms. They are well-established norms of professional etiquette.

anon

Thanks, Marcus and Insight, that is helpful. So, under review is fine but accepted is not. Got it.

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