As I was finalising the third volume in this series of books, my editor suggested that I might want to write a series introduction. I published the first volume, The Scholarly Writing Process in November 2016. The 2nd volume, Finding Time for your Scholarly Writing was published in April/June 2018. Volume 3, Scholarly Publishing, was published in the first quarter of 2019. The fourth volume, Peer Review, will be published in late 2019.
My journey to becoming an academic career guide began in 2005, though I didn’t call it that at the time. In the early years, my work focused on supporting Canadian social science and humanities academics with grant applications. Drawing on my experience as a programme officer and policy analyst at the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and my own eight-year academic career as a sociologist in the UK, I focused on helping academics understand how funding competitions worked, improving their project descriptions, and advising them on their applications.
Two issues came up repeatedly. The first was the quantity and quality of previous publications. Many of my clients expressed frustration with the publication record required to be competitive, especially if they worked in institutions with heavier teaching loads. The second, related issue was the concept of “impact on the advancement of knowledge”. Many academics were confused about why some scholarly publications were more highly valued than others, and how such publications related to the increasingly pressing demand to reach audiences beyond the academy. This confusion had consequences for their ability to frame their research in relation to its likely impact on the advancement of knowledge, as well as their confidence in the importance of the questions they most wanted to research.
The impossibility of addressing these difficulties on a short-term basis (difficulties that, after all, affect much more than just the ability to secure funding) was frustrating for everyone. In 2009, I started shifting my focus to take a longer-term view, creating a website (JoVanEvery.ca) and starting to blog. In 2011, I started A Meeting With Your Writing, a synchronous virtual writing group, as a way of providing practical support to academics who were struggling to protect their writing time due to the pressures of all their other responsibilities. I gradually built a coaching practice that wasn’t focused directly on grant applications, sharing what I was learning through my blog.
By 2015, I had over 400 blog posts, most of them still relevant but a bit difficult to find in the archive. The Short Guides series organizes, summarizes, and builds on those blog posts to create practical resources based on what I’ve learned over the years. An important underlying principle of the Short Guides is that there are many different ways to do most things. You have particular values and goals. Your brain and body work in particular ways. You work in a specific kind of institution with its own values and goals. Things that used to work well for you stop working. Your priorities change over time. You need to make decisions – and maybe experiment with new strategies – in light of how all these things come together, right now, for you.
Each Short Guide focuses on one area of your academic life, providing advice in a format you can apply to your own specific circumstances. I’ve started with topics related to scholarly writing. They are short, so you can spend more time writing and less time reading about writing or time management. They are practical, suggesting strategies you can try right now. The tone is deliberately conversational. Notes and Further reading are at the back sorted by chapter. I expect you will read each Short Guide through from beginning to end when you first acquire it. However, they are really intended to be kept close by, so you can refer to the section that addresses your current frustration as and when needed. Coffee rings have been pre-applied, so don’t feel guilty about using a Short Guide as a coaster.
Enjoy your writing!
The books in the series:
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Updated 17 June 2019 to update the intro paragraph with publication dates and add a sentence about the tone & notes and further reading to the final paragraph.