Publish or Perish (the thought)

There seems to be a lot of conflicting or conflated information circulating about how to get an academic job in the Humanities. (I can never write that word without thinking of the Humani-Tee t-shirts with animals and rainbows on them that were so prevalent in certain Girl Scout groups in the 1990s.)

From what I’ve heard, it seems like 6 published articles and a book deal are your best hope for getting hired, but though they are necessary to get a job, they are not sufficient to keep it. With so many more people getting PhDs now, blah blah blah, you can read about the glut of doctoral degree earners elsewhere.

Today, I’d rather talk about how to survive the notion of “publish or perish,” a trope that has been with academia since at least 1966 (based on that link to The New Yorker).

Phase #1: Aspiring young scholars should know what they’re getting in to. Be wary of publishing scams from China and Libertyville, Illinois. Try to get published through conference connections and legit publications, some calls for which can be found here. I usually only ever find one conference in Hawai’i annually, but it never hurts to continue the search in other places if that’s your bag. You might be surprised (but hopefully not!) at how often calls for papers / publications / proposals (CFPs) align with your research. Conferences can be great places to meet people researching in your field, network your way into a publication or someone’s good graces, and score free coffee.

Here’s a sneaky pro tip for getting your presentation accepted at a conference: use the CFP buzz words or conference name in your proposal. For example, I really really really really really wanted to attend GRIDLOCK because it sounded so perfectly suited to my dissertation research (about cultural cartography – and maps are often on grids!), so I titled my presentation “Off the Grid with Santa Claus and Superman: Mapping ‘The [True] North’ in Canadian and American Literature, Popular Culture, and Cartography.” This is not only pretty spot-on as far as my research focus for the talk, but – as you may have noticed – it also used the word “grid” AND it has been selected for inclusion in the conference! *victory lap*

It’s a good idea to look into the journal impact factor before you submit a paper. To my mind, the good things about submitting to open-access online journals are:

a) Open access! I hate when there is a compellingly titled article and it’s not digitized or the library doesn’t have permissions or there is some other hang up. It is so annoying. One solution for this would be for people to stop using good titles (don’t!). Another option is to digitize everything. A third option is to force everyone to submit to on-line journals. Until one, some, or all of these things happen, you should still try to submit to a traditional, established, organization-affiliated, professional, usually printed, journal

b) Some journals have you submit three (or more) printed paper copies for review. While I understand that this saves on paper for the editorial review board, I am a pretty big fan of “track changes,” and I am not a super huge fan of killing a tree for each journal submission. A solution is to include your SASE, but if your paper is not accepted, you likely have to make some revisions, so having your old version in triplicate doesn’t really do you any good unless you chop up the blank sides and turn them into buttons. Say, that’s not the worst idea…

c) The odds for wider distribution could be higher on the Internet. Journal subscriptions available only through specific organizations could be seen as a narrow and limiting way to distribute your ideas. That being said, that particular organization is probably going to find the audience that is most interested in — and liable to read — your publication. Plus, it’s the system we have for now, and to get a job you need to have good ideas, communicate them effectively, and get them published in a respected, established (likely, printed) journal.

Always remember: if at first you don’t succeed, revise and resubmit.

Phase #3: Profit! Just kidding – you’ll be poor for life, but perpetually rich in spirit. Unless someone steals your ideas.

But seriously, folks, just do your best, contribute to The Scholarship, play nice with others, hope for the best, and never send money orders to China! Those rules can apply to most things. Best wishes for a long, happy, Long-Island-Iced-Tea-free career!


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Glad that’s out of the way.

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