Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Journal Editors Perspective - Emma Coonan Journal of Information Literacy

Guest post by Emma Coonan, Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed open access Journal of Information Literacy

After several years of peer reviewing and two years of editor-in-chiefing, I’ve managed to boil down what I’m looking for in a journal article to five bullet points:
  • An original contribution to the field
  • A research-informed and evidence-based approach
  • Designed around an arguable research question
  • Contextualised with reference to previous and current advances in IL thinking
  • Methodologically robust with a demonstrable research design
So at JIL we’re looking for research that helps readers understand a new development in information literacy, or understand existing thinking more deeply; that builds on evidence from other literature to back up its arguments; and that shows that the writer did some thinking and planning about what they wanted the research to achieve before they went ahead and did it.

Don’t be scared by the M word - methodology. It brings a lot of people out in hives, but having a clear and well applied method is simultaneously essential for a research article and not as terrifying as it’s often made to sound. The simplest way to think about it is to remember that a research article is about investigation, not description. JIL has a separate section for sharing good practice, where you can tell us about your teaching practice and resource design, but to be published in the peer-reviewed research articles section, your paper needs to not just describe what you did, but also say:
  •      why it needed to be done to start with
  •         why you went about it the way you did
  •         how you made sure the process wasn’t full of assumptions, errors, biases and holes

If you look at a few papers in your field, especially ones from the journal you’d like to publish in, you’ll see how this investigative approach translates into a written article. You can also use a handout I made, based on xkcd’s ‘Thing Explainer’, that describes the structure of a journal article in simple language. You can see it on my blog or download a copy.
It’s a brave thing to release your writing into the wild. Showing other people what you’ve written can make you feel vulnerable; receiving even the most kindly framed criticism might make you feel (temporarily) homicidal. There’s a brilliant Storify on dealing with reviewer comments, and you should also engrave the following principles on your heart:
  •  Journals have a specific scope and remit
  • If your article doesn’t fit, maybe the container is the wrong shape. Try a different journal: your work has something to say to somebody.
  • ‘Resubmit’ doesn’t mean ‘Reject’. It’s been known for authors to react as though they’re the same thing. If you’ve been invited to resubmit your work for further review, it means they like it
  • Reviewers and editors are writers too
and we know it sucks to have your writing criticised. At JIL we make a point of giving authors constructive, practical, workable suggestions for how you could improve your paper. We aim to not only be humane, but objective and evidence-based: the same principles that apply to all scholarly communication. 

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