Writing for Academic Journals

Writing for Academic Journals

Writing for Academic Journals

Writing for Academic Journals


This revolutionary text is the product of thousands of hours of discussions with academics about their writing. Busy academics must develop productive writing practices quickly. To pass external tests of research output, academics must write to a high standard while juggling other professional tasks. This may mean changing writing behaviours.

This book draws on current research and theory to provide new knowledge on writing across the disciplines and is jargon-free, user-friendly, practical, and motivational.


The title of this introduction, 'Beyond reason and vanity', echoes Skinner's Beyond Freedom and Dignity, the intention being not only to introduce, from the start, the important behavioural dimension of writing but also to reposition writing for academic journals: it cannot be reduced to a set of professional imperatives. Given the lack of immediate, or even long-term, reward for publishing, there must also be personal motives. The satisfaction that writing a paper brings only comes later, sometimes much later, long after the writing. Nor will publication necessarily bring any tangible reward.

Academics who publish regularly must therefore have somehow moved beyond 'reason', not in the sense that they have lost their minds, but in the sense that they do not, they say, find their deepest motivation to publish in organizational or political directives; ironically, the scoring systems used to value – and devalue – publications is, for some, the last thing they would think of if you asked them what motivates them to write.

Given that few academics who aim to be published in the top journals will ever achieve this, most must have other reasons to write. They must also have moved beyond 'vanity', in the sense that they aspire to more than making themselves look good by collecting a pile of publications. Nor is regular publi- cation a guarantee – for everyone – of career progression; for most academics publication does not automatically bring status and promotion.

In fact, the dominant characteristic of academic writers is their persistence, as much as anything else, which keeps them going when others have given up:

A writer needs obstinate perseverance to succeed. Writing is a fairly
thankless undertaking. I think people get tired of it pretty quickly, so
sticking with it is the greatest part of the battle.

(Messud, quoted in Roberts et al. 2002: 50) . . .

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