Ever wondered what it’s actually like going through the process of publishing an academic article? Think you’re alone in awaiting a decision from a publisher? Well take a look at the following account, entitled ‘Life Cycle of an Academic Article‘, which documents the ups and downs of writing an article, from start to finish. Although it is a reflection of the feelings associated with the process of publishing, it also offers an insight into some of the mechanics. This post is written by our new (Anonymous!) part-time guest blogger, the Panicked PGR…
The Life Cycle of an Academic Article, by the Panicked PGR
Find the most fascinating source of my short career so far. Realise it is only tangentially related to my thesis so maybe I shouldn’t be spending precious archive time reading it all the way through. Disregard reason and read it all the way through anyway, having lots of fun in the process. On my return, I show my notes to my supervisor and he tells me to think seriously about writing an article about it. The material screams the name of a particular journal at me every time I think about it but think it might be out of my league. Panic.
Give first conference paper on the material. Goes very well, lots of helpful questions and comments. Give copies of paper to supervisors for their comments. Find out that my second supervisor is actually from the very same place as the subject of my research, so he can help me out a lot, which is nice.
January to March 2009
Use the material as a useful procrastination tool from actually writing my thesis, but don’t really get anywhere with either the thesis or the article. Panic.
Am supposed to be doing a paper for lunchtime seminar with staff at my own institution. Paper supposed to be on something entirely different. Realise that I don’t really have any desire to talk about what I’m supposed to be talking about. Change the title at last minute. Panic.
Paper goes well and lots of very nice people say very nice things. Somebody who works for aforementioned ‘dream journal’ encourages me to submit an expanded version to them. But quickly: they have an editorial committee meeting (of which there only a few a year) at the beginning of June. Panic.
Beginning of April – mid-May 2009
Get feedback on draft from both supervisors. Have meeting for feedback from first supervisor that ends in me leaving in a bit of a huff and having to apologise with cake. He explains that his criticisms were only minor and I realise that I am getting far too stressed about the whole thing.
Finally submit article on 13th May. Panic.
Meeting of editorial committee takes place. Unfortunately, I know when it is taking place so I get to feel physically sick all day. Fortunately, they seem to like the article and accept it subject to minor revisions. I get an e-mail from the administrative editor a few days after the meeting, followed by the actual reviews a few days later. Both are incredibly helpful: one slightly more positive than the other but both very constructive. Bask in glory for a few days before realising that I’d better start making revisions. Panic.
Spend the rest of the summer trying to get a draft of my thesis together, going on final research trips, etc. Sit on revisions for a bit before submitting my final draft of the article in the first few days of September, with an e-mail explaining how I have responded to their comments.
Copy-edited version of the article is sent to me for approval followed by the proofs (the typeset text) in late November. Have 48 hours to return them with any minor corrections of typos, etc. (you shouldn’t change anything else at this stage). Is strangely terrifying to see the text laid out like a proper journal article; feel a bit weird and vulnerable about the process of ‘going public’.
Catch a few errors in proofs (all my own) and start to think about others I may have missed. Panic. Double-check everything.
Send in all copyright forms and order my offprints. Start daydreaming about who I’m going to send them to. The Head of Subject Area specifically asks if I will sign one for him. Briefly feel like a celebrity, albeit a crap z-lister. The historical equivalent of Dean Gaffney, perhaps?
One of the editors e-mails me and suggests a title change to one more index-able (and ‘googleable’ – is that even a word?). After a little sad mourning of my previous title, I agree and the title is changed. I feel curiously detached from the whole piece for a while, even though relatively little has been changed in the editing process and the new title is a phrase of my own. I also know that the editors are right.
All goes deadly quiet on the article front.
A major new book comes out which makes liberal use of my fantastic sources. My first instinct is to put my head in the oven and I spend a few panic-filled days waiting for the book to arrive so that I can survey the damage. While the fact they are extensively quoted from takes the sheen off my originality a little, the book (although excellent) is written for a more general audience. Realise that author is using them in an entirely different way to me. But still panic.
The article is published and my work is finally opened up to the scrutiny of all and sundry. PANIC.