Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Publishing: "Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Article"

On Friday, April 19, 2013 EGSA hosted an event focused on publishing, in which Dr.Laurence Roth, Editor of the journal ModernLanguage Studies, joined us via Skype for a talk titled, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Article,” in which Roth gave us advice, as junior scholars, on how to approach the daunting world of publishing in peer reviewed journals. Besides being the editor of MLS, Roth is Professor of English and Director of the Jewish Studies Program at Susquehanna University, where he founded the Publishing & Editing minor. He is currently co-editing a The Routledge Handbook to Contemporary Jewish Cultures with Nadia Valman, and working on a book project, Unpacking My Father's Bookstore: Collection, Commerce, Literature, for which he received a fellowship at the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan for Spring 2013. 

In case you missed this wonderful event, here are the highlights of Roth's immensely helpful advice:

Before delving into the thirteen ways of looking at an article, Roth spoke briefly about the fact that as writers it is almost impossible for the pieces we set out to write to match the intentions of our writing: “Does anything ever hit the mark of what we intended to write?” he asked. This paradox is part of our profession, Roth asserted. We will always have to grapple with the mediation of our ideas and the practice of these ideas.

The following steps seem to be a methodology for making this mediation slightly simpler:

  1. An article is an idea story with a beginning, middle and end: Like a piece of fiction, an article should also have a discernible narrative arch that grips readers and clearly presents why an idea is important. It must convince readers to turn the pages.
  2. An article talks back to the literature: Although one cannot grapple with everything that has been written about our topic in one article—i.e.: Shakespeare's Othello—Roth recommends demonstrating specific engagement with a particular current within the conversation—one that is pertinent to our argument and demonstrates our deep engagement within the field.
  3. An article is about the “new” because it is your way of looking at the topic: Roth mentioned that while our articles may not be speaking about completely “new” ideas, our particular perspective and our explanation about why our ideas are important makes it new. This should come across clearly in our opening and through the article.
  4. An article knows exactly what it’s about: When writing an article, it should be clear from the outset what it is trying to argue and the methodology it will use in order to present this argument and its proof.
  5. An article wants to show, not tell: Much like a piece of fiction, our “idea story” wants to show its argument. Roth suggests getting to our evidence quickly, making sure it is well examined. The evidence is the most important part of the article, Roth stated, and suggested we avoid using other scholar's ideas when analyzing our evidence.
  6. An article reflects and does not reduce: Our arguments should anticipate the objections and responses of critics and readers (reflecting), stating clearly what the take-away of our argument is—why our idea is important.
  7. An article is not a book: Articles are narrower and more discrete—they cannot contend with all that has been said, or can be said about a subject or text. Many times, Roth advised, articles can be taken from pieces that do not fit within a larger book project; therefore we should make sure that our articles are focused and specific.
  8. An article speaks to an audience: Roth advised us to read, read, read journals in our specific field in order to know what editors and readers are looking for. Roth differentiated between journals such as American Quarterly—published with other scholars in mind, and therefore its language and focus is more “jargon” and academic—and the Yale Review—published with a wide-ranging audience in mind and therefore less "academic" in its language and direction. Our articles should fit within the guidelines and aims of the journals to which we submit. 
  9. An article speaks in a recognizable voice: Editors and readers can differentiate between authentic and inauthentic voices, and our articles are most effective and powerful when our personal voice comes through. Roth stated that even the smallest of details affects our voice. For example, for many years Roth fought against using contractions in his articles, yet finally deciding to incorporate them into his writing because it felt more authentically like himself.
  10. An article wants to be understood: Roth recommended avoiding unnecessary jargon, taking the opportunity to translate theory taken from others—how you interpret this theory and are going to use it in the article—and when accepted into a journal, working alongside an editor and being open to editing suggestions.
  11. An article takes time: To write a successful article that will be accepted to a prestigious peer-reviewed journal takes time (Roth gave a 1½ year - 5 year timeline). This is a process that cannot be rushed, and seeing as one can write a book in about the same amount of time (toward the longer end of Roth's timeline), one has to decide where one wants to invest one's time—i.e.: Do you want to write a book instead?
  12. An article is not timeless: An article is not going to be perfect and must be sent out for peer-review at some point. Let it go!
  13. An article is not the final word: An article is part of a transient and fast moving conversation (vs. a book), and while it should be treated with seriousness and respect, do not get overwhelmed with making an article a perfect, timeless piece.

Finally, during the Q&A, Roth also suggested that if an article is rejected do not be afraid to revise and resubmit. However, make sure that the revision is drastic and demonstrates to editors of the journal that you are able to re-write and take suggestions seriously. Do not be afraid to write editors for advice on how to revise your article, asking specific questions about what it is they exactly want in a revision. Another good piece of advice was to research who the editors and board members of journals are, seeking them out at conferences. Network with editors and board members, mentioning what you are working on, can be an effective tool for getting published. Roth also mentioned the emerging market of online publications, such as ImageText, but did question their efficacy and whether these were good venues for junior scholars.

As a junior scholar, I found this event to be extremely helpful, putting the world of publishing in perspective. The break-down of how to go about writing and revising an article—thirteen things to keep in mind when writing and sending out an article—has helped me put my writing in perspective, and hope this summary is helpful for you. Now, go write! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Curating Your Online Presence

Post by Maia Gil'Adi

On March 4, 2013 Alex Huang, Associate Professor of English, Director of the Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Program, and incoming director of graduate studies, gave a guest lecture titled, “Curating Your Online Presence” (you can see the full presentation here) and answered questions about how junior scholars can better shape and polish their image online, not only as students in a PhD program, but moving forward into the job market and in their future careers. In case you missed this wonderful event, here is a summary of the information and tips Alex provided:

Before you can begin curating your online presence:
  1. Search for yourself online and gauge your online impact: Before one can start honing and molding an online presence, we must assess our presence online. Google yourself and see the places you are mentioned—see the impact of your online presence (digital footprint).
  2. Keep everything up to date: Make sure that all online profiles (these include, but are not limited to:, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MLA Commons) are updated regularly. Decide your desired time commitment in maintaining your various profiles and monitor them regularly. Alex made very clear that less is more—having fewer pages in which one actively participates is better than having a vast array that are neglected or not update regularly.
  3. Self-archive and share what you can: Make sure that your academic output is available for view.
  4. Connect and interact online: Comment on blogs, tweet, Facebook with other academics, making your presence and opinion heard and available to other academics.

When creating and maintaining your digital presence, Alex recommends creating a consistent, clear and concise message as a scholar. By honing and maintaining your digital footprint (an active contribution to your profiles and interactions with others online), hopefully your digital shadow will grow and echo—those things that others post about you and your work will increase in visibility. Interestingly, Alex indicated the importance of creating a brief but comprehensive view of yourself as a scholar, specifying the importance of using different jargon for the multiple sites one is on (i.e.: LinkedIn is useful, Alex mentioned, but better for the private sector and academic jargon should probably not be used on it).

A key way to ensure that one has a wide-range of online impact is by identifying key platforms in which to share scholarly output (i.e.: articles, teaching resources, etc.), and redundantly share the same work in a variety of formats (i.e. MLA Commons, personal websites,, etc.). For me, one particularly revelatory and useful fact that Alex shared during this conversation was the advantage of posting accepted conference abstracts, conference papers, and seminar papers which you consider to be excellent on sites such as

In the case of full-length articles (as opposed to abstracts), he did mention that once an article is being peer reviewed and considered for publication, you should take down the article from these websites. The abstract itself can stay up.

Other key bits of information:
  • Twitter is a useful but an ephemeral medium because of its brevity—Alex did not find this online activity to be the best for scholarship dissemination, but did mention its use for finding CFP’s, new texts, and connecting with other scholars/writers. 
  • It has become the responsibility of the experts to disseminate their own information.
  • GWU provides students and faculty with the space through which to create a personal website ( and can be set up by visiting:
    • Alex did mention, however, that this is not the most advanced place for a personal website, but is useful (and free!) for junior scholars before they go on the market
  • Facebook is a great place through which to connect with other scholars and place people into groups—Make sure that (acceptable) information is open to the public, but use the security/privacy settings on the site to ensure that certain information (i.e.: pictures, posts) that should remain private (for personal friends eyes only) remain private.

Alex Huang’s comprehensive presentation was a great how-to for junior scholars in creating, maintaining, and expanding their online presence in productive ways in order to make their work more visible. Make sure to read through Alex’s presentation, and feel free to contact me with any questions:

Maia Gil'Adi is a second year PhD student of American Literature and Culture in the English Department of the George Washington University.