As universities compete for students and research funding, the pressure to publish is growing. For today’s academics, it’s no longer enough to be an inspirational teacher or an outstanding researcher. The shadow of the Research Excellence Framework looms over all departments, and staff are hired for the quantity and quality of their journal articles.
In this highly competitive environment, academics face a major challenge. How can they write articles that meet the standards of the journals in which they wish to be published? How can they make their article stand out from all the other submissions? And how can they convince both their academic referees and the journal editors that here is a piece of work that combines academic rigour with a clear and compelling voice?
In response to this situation, Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellows lead a variety of interventions on writing journal articles. Recently, Duncan Forbes and I ran a two-day immersive workshop for academics from a range of disciplines, including Nursing, Dance, Education, Business and Social Work. Some had already been published in academic journals, while others were embarking on their first major article, but all were seeking help on how to translate their research into a well-structured and cogent piece.
Duncan and I led activities on planning an article (introductions, arguments and conclusions), style and editing, aiming to make the sessions as interactive as possible. We hoped that participants would learn as much from each other as from us, and would leave the immersive with the core of a new article.
During the workshop sessions, participants worked in pairs and groups. Several sessions began with a paired interview, in which each participant refined their thoughts through discussion with a partner. After the initial discussion stage, participants felt ready to produce a written statement, and this working document was then discussed with a partner.
Participants found the paired work especially effective in our opening activity, in which they responded to prompts to help them produce a ‘statement of intent’ (see below).
WHAT’S MY ARTICLE ABOUT?
(Paired activity in three parts: interview, write, respond)
* What are you aiming to do in your article?
(What question are you aiming to address?)
* How does your article relate to what’s been written before?
* Why is it important?
The use of interviews and discussion as the first step in the process proved very helpful in clarifying ideas. Participants reported that they appreciated the interactive style, which ‘provided inspiration and motivation’.