Posted on

How to turn a seminar paper into a publication

The Director of Graduate Studies for your department has made noises about “the professional turn,” namely, writing for publication and not merely to demonstrate to the professor what you know. While you had a vague idea of what was meant, this is the first indication you have that you may be in the turn. What do you do now?

Your first stop is a meeting with your professor. Ask where it is likely to be publishable. And ask what else needs to be done to the paper to make it able to pass review.

Armed with these suggestions, seek out two other faculty members in your department and ask if they will read and comment on the paper. Emphasize to them you want to try to publish the paper, so their comments should be toward that end.

Armed with the opinions of three colleagues, revise the paper. Ask them to reread it in this new form. See what else might need to be clarified, rewritten. You will find particularly valuable the comments of faculty who have served as editors or reviewers for journals.

Offer your paper for presentation at a department colloquium in your school or, better, another college or university in your area. Offer it for presentation at a regional or state-wide meeting in your field. Offer it for presentation at a national conference. If appropriate, reduce its results to poster format and submit an abstract to a conference that has poster sessions.

After each such presentation, rewrite the paper, taking into account the discussion. Pick a journal based on its recent content. Reformulate your paper to comply with the journal’s style sheet. Write a cover letter to the editor, asking that it be considered and indicating you are willing to revise. Send it in. Wait.

Journals vary in the length of their reviews, but after a month passes, contact the editor and politely ask when you will have reviewers’ comments. When they arrive, take them seriously and revise. Resubmit. Wait.

If the paper is rejected, revise and send to another journal.

Final advice: write simple, declarative sentences. Keep it short and to point. When your paper is accepted, celebrate! You have made the professional turn and are now writing for the profession.

Richard Hull

Richard Hull retired from 30 years with the Philosophy Department at State University of New York at Buffalo in 1997. He has continued to publish, edits several series, and has 13 volumes in print with such presses as Wadsworth, Rodopi, Kluwer, Prometheus, Thoemmes, and AuthorHouse, as well as a self-published e-book. Hull is the former Executive Director of TAA and the TAA Foundation.