Writing for publication and professional impact

Concurrently with the week-long course on educational ethics, I also took the masterclass on writing for publication and professional impact. Usually I don’t talk about other people in this blog, but I’ll make an exception now. The instructor (hired by Laureate INC and approved by the UofLiverpool), Mariya Yukhymenko (Google Scholar), was an excellent choice (all tutors have been excellent, but not all publish extensively) and a good fit for this course. In a nutshell, she provided an inspirational model.

The week was based on a rather insipid video in which many functional ideas were described about how to develop a habit of scholarly writing. I do most of them as a matter of course, and the ones that I don’t do are either back-burner projects or ones that I have dismissed. Still, these ‘masterclasses’ are lighter, fluffier and less engaging than the 10-week modules and are useful in restarting the cognitive engines for the coming weeks.

My initial response looked at the notion of self-authorship. Clearly, this was a humorous rhetorical device that had some basis in my current reality.

Speaking up by writing down: self-authorship on the writing journey

The publish or perish mentality that pervades academia is often framed cynically. Universities wish for higher rankings and more visible research profiles (Lee, 2014), academic security depends less on teaching skill than on publication success (Skolits, Brockett, & Hiemstra, 2011) and self-aggrandisement amongst particular academics is not unheard of (Clapham, 2005). However, publication is perhaps better viewed through the lens of the academic’s social context (Brennan, 2008). It is the primary medium of interaction involving the academic and those interested in the knowledge produced. The semantic link between ‘publication’ and ‘public’ is clear. When Higginson relates her experiences on the Ed.D. course that made her “very public about her ideas … in writing” (Laureate, 2012), the subtext of the social role of the academic was established. Universities are in the knowledge business (Rowley, 2000). Without actively engaging with knowledge dissemination, academics might as well get “hit by a truck, [and] most of that knowledge will be buried with him or her” (Clapham, 2005, p. 390).

The idea of publication excites me. As an early career researcher, I yearn to participate in the wider academic discussions. I see publication not as a threat but as an opportunity to self-author my identity within the academic community. Writing is the act that defines scholarship(Casanave & Vandrick, 2008), and as a novice scholar, I am ideally positioned to begin to realise my role as a researcher by engaging in the public debate and “craft[ing my] own research story” (Dowling, 2014). However, to speak up I need a voice and a language. No one speaks academic language as their mother-tongue (Walker & He, 2013), which comprise a set of complex skills that doctoral candidates need to learn (Wellington, Bathmaker, Hunt, McCulloch, & Sikes, 2005). Hartley (Laureate, 2012) differentiates between several types of written language: that which should be read or spoken. The physical voice implied here also relates to the notional academic voice, a concept which has profound associations with identity, agency and position (Casanave & Vandrick, 2008). Each aspect is open to me for self-authorship, but how?

Higginson (Laureate, 2012) argues for the importance of imitation during the initial stages of the early career academic. Academic writing may be seen as a separate culture, and entry and acceptance involve learning the conventions and expectations of that culture. Reading expert papers with a critical eye for those elements may provide a mechanism for development (Wallace & Poulson, 2003). Wallace and Wray (2011) emphasise the need for modelling in writing through reading by focusing on cultural expectations surrounding the notion of the argument and what constitutes evidence. Imitation, though, can only go so far. A publication represents an expert statement. Scholars are authority figures, a persona the graduate student may feel that they are imitating, but in reality one they need to become (Collins, 2015). Therefore, I must self-author my own authoritative nature (Epstein, Kenway, & Boden, 2005), but I am left with a question: does the ontological state of authoritative being arise through the process of imitation, or does it emerge from transformational writing experiences?


Brennan, J. (2008). Higher education and social change. Higher Education, 56(3), 381–393. doi:10.1007/s10734-008-9126-4

Casanave, C. P., & Vandrick, S. (2008). Writing for Scholarly Publication: Behind the Scene in Language Education. Mahwa, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Clapham, P. (2005). Publish or Perish. BioScience, 55(5), 390–391.

Collins, J. C. (2015). Writing for publication while in graduate school: An accessible reality. New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development, 27(1), 51–55. doi:10.1002/nha3.20094

Dowling, G. R. (2014). Playing the citations game: From publish or perish to be cited or sidelined. Australasian Marketing Journal, 22(4), 280–287. doi:10.1016/j.ausmj.2014.09.005

Epstein, D., Kenway, J., & Boden, R. (2005). Writing for Publication. Sage Publications.

Laureate Education Inc. (2012). Writing for Publication and Professional Impact [Video].

Lee, I. (2014). Publish or perish: The myth and reality of academic publishing. Language Teaching, 47(2), 250–261. doi:10.1017/S0261444811000504

Rowley, J. (2000). Is higher education ready for knowledge management? The International Journal of Educational Management, 14(7), 325–333. doi:10.1108/09513540010378978

Skolits, G. J., Brockett, R. G., & Hiemstra, R. (2011). Publishing in Peer-Reviewed and Nonrefereed Journals: Processes, Strategies, and Tips. In T. S. Rocco & T. Hatcher (Eds.), The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing (pp. 13–25). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Walker, E., & He, A. (2013). Supporting pre-service teachers’ academic literacy development. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 36(3), 181–192.

Wallace, M., & Poulson, L. (2003). Critical reading for self-critical writing. In Learning to read critically in educational leadership and management (pp. 3–38). London: Sage.

Wallace, M., & Wray, A. (2011). Scholarly Reading as a Model for Scholarly Writing. In T. S. Rocco & T. Hatcher (Eds.), The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing (pp. 44–61). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wellington, J., Bathmaker, A. M., Hunt, C., McCulloch, G., & Sikes, P. (2005). Succeeding with your doctorate. London: Sage.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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