Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Top Tips from Published Authors: Barry Houlihan, Archivist, NUI Galway

Guest post by Barry Houlihan, Archivist, NUI Galway

Publish in the Right Place: The position of the major publishers of journals, books and other print and e-resources is coming under closer scrutiny. The best place to publish may not always be the traditional outlets. Be aware of any specific criteria that your research grants may entail. Certain funders, especially some publicly funded projects and research require that all findings as well as research data be made available. This could determine where you publish but also who your audience will be. Open-access publishing is becoming increasingly popular and importantly, more indexed and resourced. Consider your own desired outcomes – if an immediate and wider (public) readership is the goal, then open access is for you. If a more specific, academic and ‘profession-based’, then an established journal might suit best. Always pitch and measure your tone accordingly!

Keep a single argument for a single piece: If your article turns into a sprawling piece of writing, it can easily lose focus and become unwieldy for both you as an author and for others as readers. Ensure that each paragraph lead consequentially to the next, forming a flow of thought and argument that stays focused - think of it as a ‘domino’ process – a sequenced and well-structured framework leads to a logical end. If one of those pieces are out of sync or miss-placed, all comes to a halt. This allows you to ‘bring the reader with you’ through the published piece.

Don’t be self-indulgent: No one may want to hear this! But it does mean a lot and it is obvious to a reader. Avoid the grandiose statements and the nomenclature that is so specific to your individual role, research or field of expertise that it becomes the case where you are writing for yourself more so than others. A great exercise on this is to allow your writing to read by someone outside of your field, if they can follow it and glean the key points without the in-depth working knowledge your core readership will have, then you are on the right track. This can be part of a shared ‘peer-review exchange’ with colleagues in other fields or disciplines and can be mutually beneficial.

Be Generous: The aim of publication is within the word itself– to be ‘public’, to share with others your knowledge, research, work, successes and failures. It can greatly help others to learn from real-time experience. Be proud of what you have achieved but also not so that one’s output looks blemish-free. It rarely is. Give practical overviews, Don’t be afraid to say what went wrong (“Fail better” and all that) Present your own voice and share the value of what you have learnt.

Learn your own craft of writing: Before anything will be published, it has to be written. The craft of writing is difficult. It is time-consuming, requires focus and can often leave you feeling infuriated. Observe your own processes and methods – be open to a changes in how you approach writing; the environment in which you do it, the research time, the outline plans etc. Most important is to be your own editor. This requires discipline and objectivity. If you cannot be open to seeing faults and removing them, others certainly will. Drafting and revising is crucial! Be prepared for rounds of both, your published work will be all the better for it!

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