Reviewed by Jane Sjoberg
4 July 2018
Getting published can be a daunting prospect. This slim volume aims to provide a practical guide for those yet to begin their publishing journey, especially when completing a PhD. However, unlike many other ‘how to’ guides available, this book is more than a series of ‘do’s and don’ts’ for the less confident, and much of the guidance will also be of interest to those more experienced who wish to build on a successful journal publication acceptance or understand and learn from eventual disappointment.
The text proceeds in linear fashion, with five chapters taking neophyte writers from the initial stages of authorship with considerations such as how and when to write, and where to seek feedback and inspiration (Chapter 1: Writing for Academic Journals) to the end stage of publication which involves responding to reviewers, making revisions, and dealing with a possible rejection in a positive and professional manner (Chapter 5: Reading Reviewers’ Reports and Addressing Their Concerns). Advice is both sensitive and sensible, for example recommending appropriate language to appeal against rejections. There are also insights as to how to interpret a reviewer’s comments which, as pointed out, are usually intended as direct instructions even when couched as polite suggestions (p. 95).
Appropriately, at the heart of the book, the middle chapter (Chapter 3: Connecting Your Article to Readers) looks at the writing of an article per se, dissecting the different sections of a typical research article from a linguistic and genre-based point of view. The focus here is very much on encouraging the writer to consider audience expectations and intended readership rather than presenting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. It is perhaps in this chapter that the authors’ extensive experience working with speakers of other languages is most apparent. Those working with international students will be unsurprised to meet acknowledgement of Swales’ work (1990, 2004) in genre analysis and the use of terms such as ‘moves’ to explain functions within specific sections of an article (drawing on Swales and Feak, 2012) as well as reference to typical patterns such as IMRD (Introduction-Methods-Results-Discussion). More recent research on genre is also mentioned (e.g. Lin & Evans, 2012), indicating that, while useful, such patterns are not set in stone. Perhaps missing in this chapter are more practical tips as to how to approach the literature review, though a clear distinction is made between how the literature is presented within an introduction and in the discussion section (p.56).
Chapter 3 is perhaps the section of the book that makes most use of EAP terminology. However, the authors have generally avoided over-use of technical jargon. Most terms are explained clearly for the non-EAP specialist, making this a versatile text that can be used both by EAP instructors and international students and those working and studying in the broader academy such as supervisors and early researchers who identify as using English as their main language.
Stylistically, ideas are clearly expressed with use of italics and bullet points to highlight key points. The reader is addressed directly and advice is brought to life by a series of vignettes providing real-life accounts of writers’ experiences, including those of the authors. The authors write from a dual perspective both as writers themselves and as editors and reviewers involved at the other end of the publication cycle. This dual perspective ensures that information is relevant and based on current practice. There are, for example, ample references to new technologies such as online publishing and social media, with tips on how to make these innovations work to the writer’s advantage.
Of particular interest is the description of ways in which the standing and impact of journals is established and how to interpret acceptance rates (Chapter 2, pp. 22-25). This is accompanied by a clear message not to engage in ‘journal snobbery’ by ignoring less traditional formats such as online journals which are gaining prominence. The reader is provided with specific guidance, including checklists, to facilitate the evaluation and selection of journals to approach for publication. There are also wise warnings as to how to spot and avoid ‘predator journals’ – fake publications that commonly prey on early researchers who are understandably keen to publish as quickly as possible. Importantly, however, as the authors are also writers themselves, the reader is never talked down to and is treated with respectful empathy throughout. This is a book about shared experience, and not about putting the authors on a pedestal of perfection.
Of course, the authors are undoubtedly experts in their field who have much to share. It is pleasing to see, for example, that broader aspects of research are also dealt with, such as what it means for research to be sufficiently ‘novel’ to merit publication (Chapter 3). Other aspects of the publication process that often prove tricky are also examined, such as the decision of which journal to choose (Chapter 2: Deciding Which Academic Journal to Publish In) and what to expect when the article is sent for peer review (Chapter 4: Understanding the Peer Review Process). Here again, the insider knowledge of the authors is valuable as the reader gleans tips from the editor and reviewer’s points of view. This holistic approach to the publication process makes the text a valuable source of information and inspiration for anyone involved in academic writing, especially those who support others such as supervisors or those reviewing the writing of their peers (the latter also being suggested as one way in which inexperienced writers can actually gain experience).
Given the book’s relative brevity and that the authors have set out to guide the reader along the journal writing journey from start to finish, the text is clearly meant to be read as a whole rather than as a reference book to dip into selectively. However, as many readers (including the reviewer) may want to return to certain sections for guidance and inspiration, in future editions an index would therefore be a welcome addition.
Lin, L., & Evans, S. (2012). Structural patterns in empirical research articles: A cross-disciplinary study. English for Specific Purposes, 31, 150–160.
Swales, J. M. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge, UK.: Cambridge University Press.
Swales, J. M. (2004). Research genres: Explorations and applications. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Swales, J.M., & Feak, C. B. (2012). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential tasks and skills (3rd ed.). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
|Authors||Brian Paltridge & Sue Starfield|
|Publisher||Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press|
|Reviewed by||Ms Jane Sjoberg, University of Birmingham|