Apart from the research report, the research is often disseminated via other means. This may be a précis of the original report in the form of a punchy message in the mass media, or it may be a considered shorter form of the report as an article for a learned journal. It may be the transformation of the report into a published substantive book.
Sometimes articles are produced that deal with one aspect of the research findings, perhaps delving deeper into an element mentioned in the report. Or a supplementary article might discuss methodological or epistemological issues or may discuss in more detail the implications and, drawing on other work, explore potential action to address any identified problem.
For example, Margaret Fry et al.'s (2016) article 'Assessment and management of acute pain in the older person with cognitive impairment: a qualitative study' is, they write,
In some cases, the article derives from a PhD thesis, as, for example, Terry Lamb's (2006) article 'Listening to learners' voices: on task knowledge in language learning'
focused on understanding the emergency nurses' perceptions of pain and pain management for older persons with cognitive impairment and presenting with a long bone fracture. This article is part of a larger study focusing on emergency nurses' pain management practices for older Australians with cognitive impairment.
focuses on one aspect of a larger research project [his PhD: Lamb (2005)] carried out in a secondary school in England, which explored the relationships between motivation and learner autonomy in language learning. After a brief contextualisation and description of the research, the article turns to a rich description of learners' constructions of language learning, in particular the nature and purpose of language learning as they believe it should be and as they experience it in their classrooms. The article concludes that we have much to learn from listening to our learners' voices, and that we need to find ways of involving them much more in their language learning experiences.
Sometimes research is part of a large collaborative study but some researchers write up their part as an article. For example, Kate White and Özlem Özkanli (2011, p. 3) wrote:
This paper analyses differences in perceptions of gender and leadership in Turkey and Australia through qualitative interviews with university senior managers in the context of the differing cultures of the two countries…. This research is part of an eight-country study of women in university management… undertaken by the Women in Higher Education Management Network.
Time scale may be a major factor in deciding on further publication (as well as the other considerations listed in Section 11.5).
Note that the time spent on preparing a report, writing articles, drafting a conference presentation can be lengthy, often much more time consuming than is anticipated.
Articles sent to learned journals, for example, usually involve an initial paper, amendments, if accepted, following referees' comments, further copy editing and a final proof. All of this can take months (even years), especially if the referees are tardy in providing their responses to the journal editor.
Writing a book also takes a long time. Rarely will a book be published that is the outcome of a single research study. A book would need to take the research and contextualise it in a way that gives it longevity. First, the author has to convince a publisher that the book is worth publishing, which means a consideration of potential sales as well as the subject matter. Approval can be a lengthy process. Completing the first draft takes a lot of time, then there are revisions and proofing so that the lag from first draft to publication can also be many months, if not years.
11.6.1 Article for the media
Articles in the mass media (both print and on-line) tend to have a generic format. They need to be attention grabbing and make the key point in the first paragraph, to entice the reader and to provide the information before the reader gives up and moves on to the next item of interest.
Short media communications start with a headline and the first paragraph states the main conclusions of the research. This usually followed by a quote from the researcher that reinforces the newsworthiness of the initial paragraph. The implications often follow before brief information is provided about how the data was collected. The full report and its availability is normally mentioned at the end.
A (hypothetical) example follows:
Middle-class drug taking is rife in the Home Counties
A study conducted by the University of the Midlands has shown the very high levels of recreational drug taking by well-healed residents in the Home Counties.
In a survey, 83% of owners of homes worth £750,000 and more admitted to using illegal drugs at least once in the last six months. Cannabis topped the list followed closely by cocaine. Use of barbiturates and other 'prescription drugs' is extensive and heroin is the drug of choice of 15%.
Professor Kenneth Jones who lead the research said, "We were shocked not only by the extent of illegal drug use but by the candid way the users admitted to it".
Because these well-off users can afford the drugs without fuelling their habit by resorting to robbery or other illegal activities, the drug usage tends to go beneath the radar of enforcement agencies. Not only that, middle-class users have the resources to hide their drug habit.
These wealthy users don't regard their activity as in any way criminal; seeing solely as harmless recreational activity. But it is far from that. Although they can afford the drugs, they are fuelling an illegal industry and handing the drug dealers millions of pounds a year. In addition, they are placing extra burdens on the health services. More importantly, says Professor Jones, "there is a high correlation between drug use and domestic violence".
The study, carried earlier this year, interviewed 359 owners of homes valued at three-quarters of a million or more in four of the Home Counties; Surrey, Kent, Essex and Berkshire. The report Middle-Class Drug Usage is available on the university's web site.
11.6.2 Article to a journal
When deciding that an article in a journal as the best way of dissemination, the author needs to be aware that on average fewer than 40% of submitted articles get published and hardly any get published without some changes from the original submitted manuscript. Hugh McLaughlin (2016) suggests that there are ways to increase the liklihood of publication:
It is not enough just to write, you must have something to write about....You might want to consider some key questions: does your article contribute new knowledge? Does it offer a unique way to address a social problem or policy dilemma? Will it have implications for practice? Considering these questions and being able to answer in the affirmative is likely to increase your chances of publication.
Furthermore, when sending an article for consideration by a journal it is important to ensure that it is being sent to an appropriate journal.
The main reason that journal editors reject articles without sending them for review is because they have been sent to the wrong journal! For example, the journal Quality in Higher Education is an international journal that looks at quality issues in higher education, as the title would suggest. It is, then, somewhat surprising when authors send papers that are about school education, or quality control in manufacturing, or about higher education in general but failing to engage with the issue of quality.
It is important that the author is aware of the journal before sending an article. If it is not a journal with which the author is already familiar then it is important to read an article or at least abstracts (available on line), to see what kind of articles the journal publishes.
Importantly, read the guidelines to authors and comply with them as closely as possible. If the paper accepts articles between 5000 and 7000 words do not send an article that is 10,000 words long. Remember to include tables, figures and references in the word count, they all take space in the journal so they all count.
Journal guidelines provide details of the format of the paper, including such things as the citation and referencing style, the use of footnotes and endnotes, numbering (or not) of headings, length and structure of the abstract and, indeed, whether there is a template for the article. Such guidelines also give an indication of the type of paper they are looking for. Quality in Higher Education, for example states that it:
is an international refereed journal aimed at those interested in the theory, practice and policies relating to the control, management, improvement and evaluation of quality in higher education. It is not a journal that publishes articles about quality in other contexts (such as quality control in manufacturing) nor does it publish articles about higher education in general.
Papers that have empirical research content are particularly welcome. The journal is receptive to critical, phenomenological as well as positivistic studies. The journal would like to publish more studies that use hermeneutic, semiotic, ethnographic or dialectical research as well as the more traditional studies based on quantitative surveys and in-depth interviews and focus groups.
Evaluations of the impact of quality procedures at institutional level or national level, backed up by research evidence, are welcome. The journal would also like to publish more studies that contain theoretical analyses of quality and of quality initiatives in higher education.
So an international critical dialectical study of the impact of quality processes on student learning, that deconstructs the notion of quality would seem an ideal candidate!
Quality in Higher Education also states in its Guidelines, among other things, that the 'journal rarely publishes case studies of programmes or single institutions or descriptions of the quality procedures in one country', yet the journal receives an endless stream of articles about how an institution implemented a new quality system, a programme improves its quality, or the results of a small-scale survey of academics at a given institution.
Some journals provide the editors contact details and if in doubt or have any questions write and ask. That is much better than sending an article into the black hole of a review process, which can take months. However, if writing to the editor be very clear when describing the paper, so that the editor can make a judgement to aid your submission process.
It might also be worth finding out what, for the target journal, is the typical time to publication of an article. Some journals can provide this with a degree of precision whereas others will suggest that the timeframe has enormous variations depending on the particular article.
Some people want to know the rejection rate for articles on a target journal. However, this is unlikely to be very helpful given that reasons for rejection are so varied. Complying with the guidelines, both style and content is the best way to ensure that the article at least reaches the refereeing process.
Do not send your article to more than one journal at once. It wastes people's time and will ultimately have an adverse effect on both the author's and the institution's reputation.
A central element in the peer-review process is the commentary of the reviewers. Most journals use a double-blind system: the reviewers receive an anonymous manuscript and the author does not know who has acted as referee. Usually a submission is refereed by two people.
The comments made by the referee will determine the next step. If they do not think it worth publishing, then that is the end of the process and the article is rejected. If they suggest major amendments (and good journal reviewing will detail what these are, rather than vague comments that do not help the author), then the author may be asked to resubmit for further review. The author can clearly decide whether to do so (which is likely to be a time- consuming exercise) or to try the article, more-or-less as it stands, with another journal. If the comments suggest minor changes then the author is advised to take note of the comments and incorporate them into a redraft as far as possible.
Jacinta Browne (2014), in tips for writing for peer-reviewed journal, warns that:
As a new researcher to the process of writing a manuscript and undergoing the peer review process, it can sometimes appear that the review process is very harsh, as an objective report on the quality of the submission will be returned without any "sugar coating." The first review report can often come as a shock, but once you remove an emotional connection with the manuscript and look objectively at the manuscript in the light of the reviewers' comments, the process can help to refine your manuscript and improve its quality. It is important when reading and dealing with reviewers' reports that each comment is dealt with in turn, either with the appropriate amendment to the manuscript or a sound justification as to why no amendment was made. Writing a document outlining how each of the reviewers' comments were dealt with is a good way to avoid ambiguity when it comes to the reviewers reviewing the resubmission. A suggested date for resubmission is usually provided by the journal; this time for resubmission is reflective of the amount of work that the manuscript requires, i.e. a shorter time for minor corrections and a longer time for major corrections.
Not all journals provide a timeframe and if the recommendations from the reviewers are for relatively minor changes, the editor may then subsequently accept the revised version without further referral to the referees. It is increasingly difficult to get reviewers given the workload of academics and many journals do not send manuscripts that have been effectively accepted subject to amendment back to reviewers. However, when a paper requires reconceptualisation or further evidence or other substantive change, a revamped version is likely to be treated as a new submission and sent back to reviewers or even to different reviewers.
Having received the reviewers' comments it is important to read and consider these carefully. Remember, these are provided in the spirit of addressing weaknesses and improving your article. Respond to each reviewer separately showing how you have addressed the points they have raised. This does not mean you have to agree with all comments but you must treat them seriously and offer a reasoned argument in response to those you may disagree with. (Mclaughlin, 2016)
In view of the enormous pressure to publish in academia there is a tendency to produce multiple articles from the same data. This dissection of research into discrete bundles does not necessarily enhance a discipline but is rife. At its worst it becomes what is called salami publishing (see Section 10.8.2.5).
Brenda Beagan et al. (2008) is an example of two articles from the same data (in the same journal two years apart). In their first offering, they state:
Forty-six families participated in a study concerning how they make decisions about food. In British Columbia on the west coast, 11 European Canadian and 12 Punjabi Canadian families participated; in Nova Scotia on the east coast, 10 European Canadian and 13 African Canadian families took part. Researchers interviewing African Canadian and Punjabi Canadian families were members of the respective group. At least three family members over the age of 13 years (including a woman aged 25 to 55 years) were interviewed using a semi-structured guide.
The article on a related subject two years later (Beagan et al., 2010) states:
In total, the study included 13 African heritage families, 12 Punjabi heritage families, 11 European British Columbian families and 10 European Nova Scotian families. Analysis for this article was based only on adult participants 18 years and older, since teens were rarely involved in food purchasing.
There is nothing wrong with squeezing out more articles from the same data, provided that the author identifies related publications, is exploring a different issue than in previous articles is not simply duplicating prior publications (even if using different text).
In the case of Beagan et al., the second article data was clearly not as up-to-date as when used in the first publication, which rather coyly does not mention when the interviews were undertaken.
When producing supplementary articles, it is preferable that the material used from the original study is still up-to-date. Many journals will reject data that appears to be out of date. Amazingly, though, Muriel Darmon (2009) reported a small study of anorexics in Sociology in 2009 that used data collected from 1997 to 2001.Thus some of the data was already a decade old by the time the article appeared. The study drew on a small sample of 14 hospitalized anorexics and three formerly-diagnosed anorexics, comparative interviews on body and food practices with 11 high-school girls plus their teachers (11 interviews). Eight years from the end of the study to publication seems an inordinately long time for such a small relatively insignificant study that concluded that the orientations and practices developed through being anorexic clearly builds upon activities and attitudes identified with middle- and upper-class status. The world has moved on and no explanation was provided for the tardiness in reporting.
Although not quite such a long delay, Talja Blokland's (2008) study of violence in an American housing project, also published in Sociology, drew on ethnographic data collected between 2000 and 2004.
The research report could also be reconstructed as a published book. However, this involves more than just getting a publisher to publish the report, it will almost always involve a substantial rewrite. Furthermore, most research reports will need considerable enhancement if they are to become published books because the report, while an important contribution to the discipline knowledge is not, in itself, likely to be sufficient to attain the sales and readership that is required to cover the cost of publishing a book.
Turning a research report into a book is a time consuming and often slow process. There are several key stages to the process.
First, identify what it is about the research that would warrant a book: what is the key theme or angle of the research that would make a good book. While the book may still be on a specialist topic, it needs to appeal to a wider audience than a few specialist academics. So what is it that the book will say that will engage the potential audience? (See Section 11.4).
Second, try and 'sell' the idea to a publisher. This will involve: (a) identifying possible publishers; (b) writing a synopsis of the idea to present to publishers; (c) identifying how what the book has to say is distinct and, in so doing, identifying all possible competition for the potential audience; (d) specifying who is likely to buy the proposed book and making a case that your book would appeal to the potential audience. Contacting an academic publisher is easier than in the case of mass market publishing, where publishers will often only engage with agents. Academic publishing relies on academics contacting the publisher and the website will provide instructions to authors about how to get in touch and what they want by way of first contact. The book proposal will usually go through a peer review process: the reviewers will focus on the novelty and potential impact of the book; they will be aware of the competition (so the proposal needs to be comprehensive); they will assess the potential readership. It is worth thinking about any academic book series published by the publisher being approached and ensuring that, if such series exist, the proposal fits into the series: this will enhance the possibility of publication.
Third, rewriting the report as a book, which will involve both a change of 'voice' and a 'restructure'. A research report normally starts with a problem, shows what is already known (literature review) sets out how it has been tackled (methodology) provides results and explains how they have moved knowledge forward. A book usually starts with bold assertions about solutions and then develops a 'plot' that shows how knowledge has moved forward. Commentators suggest that in writing a book, the 'academic tone' has to go and that the author has to be the authority on the topic rather than the research. That, if the original research report was actually a PhD thesis, remember that it was primarily written for examiners, while an academic book is written for scholars in general (or even for a general readership). Almost always, a book involves contextualising and expanding on the research report; the idea is the core of the book and the research provides the material, rather than the research being the core (as in the research report).
For example, in turning the PhD thesis on the Chicago School of Sociology, Lee Harvey (1987) retitled the book Myths of the Chicago School, which emphasised the key, novel focus of the analysis of the history of the Chicago School, excluded the first, very technical, definition-focused, first chapter of the thesis and more or less started with the second chapter, with whatever orientation was necessary for the less informed reader. The conclusion was also rewritten to make it more accessible.
All in all, writing and publishing a book is ultimately rewarding but is a time-consuming process. It is thus disappointing when the book attracts no attention or sales (not that academic publishing is likely to significantly enhance the author's income!). So, before going down the book publishing route it is important to seriously consider whether the time and effort are likely to be worthwhile.
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