How to write clear, concise (and more enjoyable to read) scientific academic articles

Scientific writingAcademics are often trained to write in a way that actually runs directly contrary to the principles of effective scientific writing, said Kristin Sainani, an associate professor at Stanford University, who has taught a popular open online course on writing in the sciences.

“What we need to do in science and academia is to convey our ideas in a clear, concise, and even enjoyable way,” she said, during her TAA webinar, “Principles of Effective Scientific Writing”. “Even if we are talking about complex ideas, we don’t need to use complex language. I think a lot of times when academics sit down to write we don’t really have in the back of our minds, ‘oh, I want to make it enjoyable for the reader’. But we should think about that because we do want people to read what we write, and if it’s very hard to get through and not enjoyable, people aren’t going to read it.” [Read more…]

3 Steps to consider when crafting an article introduction

writingtreeThe introduction is perhaps the most important section of an article, but unfortunately it can be notoriously difficult to write. To help make the process less painful and more productive, Meagan Kittle Autry, the Director of Thesis and Dissertation Support Services at NC State University, shared advice for writing exceptional introductions in a recent TAA podcast entitled How to Write an Introduction That Will Get Your Article Accepted. [Read more…]

How to write a great manuscript cover letter

How to write a manuscript cover letterWriting a compelling cover letter to submit with your manuscript is more important than most authors realize. After all, publishing, at its core, is still a business built on relationships. Tailoring your cover letter to the interests of the acquisition editor makes a good first impression. This is especially important if you have not had the opportunity to meet the editor at a conference or in some other venue.

Ironically, part of the power of a brief cover letter also relates to its short length. In this age of information overload, short pieces of writing have an impact disproportionate to their size. Their very brevity makes it more likely they will be read. To get the most out of this potentially powerful little document, consider the following tips shared by Amy Benson Brown, a writing coach with Academic Coaching & Writing and contributor to the ACW Academic Writing Blog. [Read more…]

How to publish an article in an academic journal: Avoid rookie mistakes

publishingI have reviewed an insane amount of articles this past year and have noticed that many of these articles should never have been sent out for review, because they were missing key components.

The authors of these articles thus waited three months for someone to tell them that they do not have a clear argument, that there is no literature review, or that they need to describe their ethnographic methods. Sometimes they waited this long or longer only to hear other fairly generic advice.

I frequently am in the process of submitting an article to a journal. As such, I was inspired to write this article both to make sure that I practice what I preach, and to offer some examples from my own writing that might be useful as you prepare your own article. This article is primarily directed at authors of empirical social science articles, but I believe the main points may be applicable to other fields as well. [Read more…]

Anatomy of a thriving faculty academic writing program

Dannelle Stevens, Ph.D., Portland State University

Dannelle Stevens, Ph.D., Portland State University

What does it take to spark faculty imagination and engender faculty commitment to academic writing? Over the last three years, through the use of research-based strategies, the Jumpstart Academic Writing Program at Portland State University (PSU) has had remarkable success.

The key features include attention to both the text as well as the context of academic writing. The text, of course, is what is ultimately written and submitted for publication. The context, on the other hand, includes opportunities to practice organizational, social, and even creative strategies that foster insight into current practice and boost motivation to change.

The purpose of the program is certainly to increase productivity as well as to help faculty build a solid foundation of new writing practices that lead to a more satisfying and sustainable writing experience in the long run. [Read more…]

10 Tips for ESL/EFL academic writers (and everyone else, too)

academic writingCongratulations on learning English, the current lingua franca of international communication and the most difficult Western language to learn. I’m really glad it’s my native language. As a copy editor, I have worked for many years with scholars whose native language is not English. In 2008 I became house copy editor for the International Review of Public Administration, which at that time was published by the Korean Association for Public Administration and is now published by Taylor & Francis; more recently I took on the same role with Korean Social Science Journal. The majority of articles accepted for publication by IRPA and KSSJ are written by academics native in a language that is not English (with the majority of authors native in an Asian language). That work has led to my developing a specialty in working with ESL/EFL authors. [Read more…]

TAA Podcast – Millions of Articles, Thousands of Journals: How an Individual Scholarly Author Can Thrive in Today’s Scholarly Publishing Ecosystem

The changing scholarly publishing ecosystem provides new opportunities, and some perils, for scholarly authors. Listen to this session by Jeffrey Beall, “Millions of Articles, Thousands of Journals: How an Individual Scholarly Author Can Thrive in Today’s Scholarly Publishing Ecosystem,” recorded at the 2014 TAA Conference in Baltimore, MD, which addresses how authors can better expose, promote, and share their research to reach a larger audience and achieve greater impact.

Focusing on scholarly journals, it will update you on some of the problems associated with predatory publishing, such as research misconduct and the publication of pseudo-science. It will also help authors select publishers that provide greater added value to their work, such as basic copyediting and digital curation.


Download PPT [Read more…]

How to Write a Sophisticated, Dynamic Scholarly Argument

Tweed Gears

It is incumbent upon early-career academics to distinguish their research as mature scholarship, not student work. So as an editor who often works with junior faculty and recent PhDs, I’m always on the lookout for hallmarks of amateur writing that scholars can identify and excise.

Perhaps most academics can name some of the tics that unfortunately characterize graduate-student writing: overqualification, hedging, extensive literature review, and a high ratio of quotation to original material are just a few.

Another quirk I’ve noticed is that less effective manuscripts—whether they’re written by early-career scholars or not—tend to organize information into lists. That may not sound so damning, but lists become vulnerabilities when they are presented as arguments. [Read more…]

How to navigate the peer review publishing process

Success CompassWhen an author submits a manuscript to a scholarly journal, the manuscript will face one of three basic responses: accept, reject, or revise and resubmit. Samantha Elliott, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education (JMBE), and Jeffrey Arnett, editor of the Journal of Adolescent Research, offer the following information to guide you through the different responses you may receive from editors.

Accept/Accept with Minor Modifications
Manuscripts that fall into this category are exceptionally strong papers that received glowing peer reviews, and the only modifications needed might include clarification on certain points, or formatting issues specific to the journal. While this is every academic writer’s dream response, it is a very rare occurrence. If this happens to you, Elliott recommends that you celebrate, and then take a good look at the feedback you received to find out what impressed your reviewers. You can use this feedback to help shape future manuscripts.

[Read more…]

19 Tips for getting published in academia