Best Advice: Writing [From the Hey Jane archives]

March 24, 2009 at 2:38 am | Posted in Dissertation, Hey Jane Column, Publishing, Writing | Leave a comment

Hey Jane! is a monthly advice column on the SWS listserv that addresses issues of interest to feminist sociologists and sociologist-activists. The name honors Jane Addams, a feminist sociologist not always recognized enough. This Q&A is hosted by the Career Development Committee, who solicits anonymous questions and responses from multiple SWS members.

Column 23 (January 2008)

For this month’s Hey Jane! Column I asked you to send me your “best” piece of advice.

Buy and use the book Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day (so that you don’t become paralyzed at the enormity of the project).

Regarding my dissertation, my mother (who is an academic) said to me, “Your dissertation is a brick, not a castle. Finish your dissertation and then spend the rest of your career building your castle.”

“Nothing, absolutely nothing substitutes for high quality publications — you can never make a ‘trade-off’ of this against anything else.  Period.”

“One idea per article,” meaning pace yourself in terms of articles.

My graduate school advisor told me to publish often – book reviews, instructor manuals, anything to get my name out there and lines on my vitae.  This was great advice – and if you can find a mentor to help you create such avenues for publication, all the better.

The best advice I think I ever got was to apply for every competition you see – campus syllabus competitions, theses, published and unpublished papers, books, and on and on.

Volunteer to be a reviewer for a journal in your area of study early in your career (ideally during graduate school).  Reviewing journal articles and book manuscripts has helped me to become a much better writer.

One time after multiple revisions requested by the editor of a journal, I found that I no longer recognized my own ideas.  A mentor advised me to “never let reviewers hijack your work.” In trying to appease several different reviewers, I had lost sight of what I wanted to say.  Use the feedback of reviewers and editors to help make your ideas better, but don’t let them turn your ideas into something you’re not comfortable with.  Rather, make the changes you find appropriate and then explain to the editor why you have decided not to make some of the suggested changes.


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