My First Publication!
One of my goals for 2018 was to publish an article about my work in a scholarly source. It was my stretch goal, one of those things that, if achieved, I would be thrilled, but if not, I wasn’t going to beat myself up over as long as I made an attempt. After all, the publication business is long and convoluted and highly dependent on the moods of those who happen to review your article for the publication at the time they choose to do their reviews.
A colleague of mine offered a tip: a professional organization she is involved with has a publication that was running a special issue on instructional technology in learning. I looked at their call to see if anything I was working on could fit into the topics they were hoping to cover and quickly got to work getting my ducks in a row to allow me to ethically publish about a course I was designing. That was my first exposure to the IRB process, and the beauty of exempt research. I got their blessing to move forward after a couple back-and-forths with my IRB contact and off I went to survey students about their experiences with the video discussions in the course.
I managed to pull an article together in time for the submission deadline, and lo and behold, I was notified in the summer that it was accepted on the condition of some revisions based on reviewer feedback! I was excited and nervous to read the feedback. It was my first time doing anything like this, and I was worried that it would be painfully obvious to anyone who read my work. Honestly, I did not expect to hear back about the paper at all - perhaps it was so terrible that the reviewers would think it was a joke or a hoax to see what their standards of quality were.
I did read my feedback, of course, and the reviewers brought up so many helpful points and perspectives to what I had written. I actually ended up being glad that I had the chance to revise because otherwise I would have missed out on this opportunity to learn. One of the biggest takeaways in this vein is how people can interpret conclusions differently. Some of my reviewers agreed with the supporting literature I used in my paper, while others thought I needed to eliminate or re-read because in their perspective I had completely missed the point of some work. It was a great reminder that it’s important to be clear and reiterate when writing.
After I submitted my revision, I actually did not hear anything back for a long time. The semester started, I started my grad program, work picked up, and I figured either my revision wasn’t good enough or something had happened to cause the publication to hold off on the special issue. Either way, I was happy with what I had produced and what I gained from the experience.
Fast forward to the end of January! I got the email that my article was published after all! The special issue is backdated to December 2018, so I suppose that technically I even managed to accomplish my goal within the timeframe after all. So, here it is: behold my first citation in all its glory!
Wehr, K. M. (2018). Asynchronous Video-Based Discussions in the Online Classroom. eLearn Magazine. Retrieved from: https://elearnmag.acm.org/archive.cfm?aid=3236691.
Some of my main takeaways from this process were:
- The IRB process is incredibly helpful in outlining your project. It’s good to think through everything in your project design before you start!
- Literature review is time consuming but important. It is essential in your writing that connections between existing literature and what you are trying to add to the conversation are obvious and overstated because of point 3.
- Reviewers have widely variable backgrounds! For some reason, I assumed that the people reviewing my article would be instructional designers with Ph.D.’s. Or at least that is how I subconcioiusly wrote the paper. But not every reviewer will have the same background as you or the others in the review group, which is why it is so important to be clear with your writing and how your ideas connect.
- Feedback is not entirely awful. Some of the reviewers were harsh, but for every “bad” review, there were good ones too, which kind of demonstrates the randomness and chance involved in actually getting published. And even in the bad feedback, there was usually something to be gained. Example: “This citation is totally irrelevant to the topic being described,” translated, for me, to “I am clearly not explaining this in a way that makes sense to people who are not like me.”
- Having a stretch goal makes you better, whether you reach it or not. Even if I had not gotten this article published, I would have at least gone through the process of the IRB and writing in a format that was new to me. There were valuable lessons in those phases.