Monday, March 10, 2008

The review essay

So I've been attending tenure and promotion hysteria-fests lately, and also started filling out my merit forms/activity reports. So I'm all about quantifying my work, right now, in this institution which is obsessed with research. (God, I wish I could explain the particulars of this situation - it would be really cathartic and also really contextualize the picture for you. But oh well, I can't.)

When I can stop feeling sick about the quantification of academic work, I am worrying about my output over the next couple of years. I'm going to write a monograph, and I have this edited collection that I'm working on. Those need to be where my energy goes for about two years...I don't have a lot of leftover time/energy for publishing elsewhere. I've got an article out for review right now (it's been six bloody months since I sent it out - have checked on it once...grrr), but I really need to get down to business with the book. My thing is that I don't want to put too much of the book material out there to be published elsewhere - that will jeopardize the chance of getting the book published (and make it all but impossible with a Canadian press, because of their reliance on the Aid to Scholarly Publishing program).

So I need to find ways to publish a bit while I work on the book(s). And this becomes hard because the book is really the only research I'm doing. I've got book reviews going on, but those don't "count." And it occurred to me today that I could do up a nice little review essay on a couple of recent titles. That wouldn't be too taxing - 3000 words or so - and I would be well-positioned to do it, and it would contribute to my thinking about my project. Here's my question - a review essay isn't considered to be refereed, is it? Probably not. (Update: No, it's not for the journal I'd want to do it for - I'd submit a proposal and then work with an editor if I was accepted.) But how does it get viewed and counted? I can't believe I'm asking you this crass question that really leads me back to quantification, but I am. Any thoughts would be appreciated.


Dr. Crazy said...

Ok, I'm not the best person in the world to give advice on this stuff, as everything in the whole world counts at my institution because we're not research.


1. Make the monograph your top priority. No ifs ands or buts.

2. If it's in any way possible, put the edited collection on the back burner. *EVEN* at my institution, where we value all things, a journal article would count more than editing a collection. I've gotten course releases for working on articles (articles that as yet have no publisher) while colleagues of mine have been denied for editing projects (that have book contracts, or at least strong interest). And editing no longer counts as "scholarship" for tenure at my university - it counts as "professional service". If even my university feels that way, I'd say it's a pretty good indication that collection-editing is not valued.

3. I'm not sure if it's possible in your field, but are there *teeny tiny* journals that are, technically, peer-reviewed? In other words, journals that wouldn't expect a full 30-page article but rather that would publish something from 10-15 pages, and yet it would "count" (according to the records) as a "peer-reviewed" (though lesser) journal article? I've published a couple of things of this stripe, and they count more than review essays, again, even at my institution that would count the church newsletter if you included it in your materials.

I hope some of this helps :)

Hilaire said...

Dr. Crazy, eeeenteresting! Thank you very much. Monograph is totally top priority, absolutely. The edited collection is a co-edited one, and it's well on its way, for better or worse. I knew when I took this on that it wasn't a very good idea, in some ways. But in others, I think it is - networking and collaborative ways, for instance. And ways that aren't about quantification, which I want to honour. It doesn't take the kind of brain power and idea-power that the monograph does, so I thought it would be okay. So far, it is...we'll see when it gets further along! In my own department's merit tabulation forms, editing a collection gets more points than a refereed gets 10 points (to a refereed article's 7 points, and a monograph's 14-28). I don't know if that's indicative of what would happen at the university's scary tenure and promotion committee, but it is probably some indication.

The idea of a small article in a teeny journal that is technically peer-reviewed is an excellent one! I have to weigh that against the idea of a weighty review essay in a top-notch journal like the one I'm thinking of. I just don't know what I would write my teeny non-review essay on, that's the problem. Ideas that are *feasible* are in short supply at the mo'.

At any rate, thanks so much for weighing in!!

Maggie said...

My college has completely weird standards about publications, BUT, most places I know of *don't* count review essays, or only count them with much pressure. (In my field, for example, a review essay in a top journal is a great thing. In the larger discipline, they barely know what "review essay" means.)

I also agree with Crazy on the edited collection. For all the work I hear they are, they don't count for much.

Get an advance contract on the book. This is what I did, and I am happy to share my meager how-tos, either in a blog post or email.

And, if you don't hear about the article you have out soon, yank it and submit it elsewhere. Seriously.

Maude Lebowski said...

i have no advice since i'm still so far away from even having a job right now--although what a great post and great responses. i need to copy these and file them away for future reference.

all i have to offer is support and cyber hugs.


Hilaire said...

Maggie, I will be shortly contacting you about advance contracts experience. You're not the only person who has recently told me I should try and do this...Hmmm...I know I need one chapter drafted to feel good about doing this...but perhaps when it is ready...

You guys have made me rethink the review essay strategy...instead I think I will try a short article at a refereed journal, as Crazy suggests. Maybe I can pull something more out of my dissertation...

(And your boook is being shipped to me while I type!)

Maude, I'm glad this little navel-gazing convo was useful!

Thoroughly Educated said...

Maggie, I'd love to hear your experience and suggestions about contracts, if you feel moved to make them a blog post.

Hilaire, I'm wrestling with the same questions myself. I will give you one cautionary tale: I came into my current job knowing that the monograph was the trump-all priority; I don't write quickly, though, to put it mildly, and so I came to my interim review with nothing published at all since they had hired me. They renewed me anyway, but it wasn't a happy situation.

My current dilemma is that my top priority is to get out of my job, not to keep it - as perhaps yours is, too - and, short of the monograph, the publications that best serve one goal will not best serve the other. For instance, I've been asked to write a chapter for the Ancient University Guide To My Field and contribute to a high-profile series of texts, both of which would be excellent for my public profile as a player in my field but will hardly count at all for tenure. The only plan that suits both goals is an article in a top journal, which comes up against the problem you suggest of not wanting to article-ize too much of the book. I'm going to try to get out an article that consists of part of ch. 1 and a smidge of ch. 2 and aim as high as I can, journal-wise. I figure that way I can stake a public claim to my book topic, but when the book ms eventually goes out, the material in the article will be substantially enhanced and differently contextualized.

Susan said...

I'm not sure about the advance contract bit: as TR (I think) said in a post last summer, the press can get out of them at a moment's notice. So think about what it does for you.

Otherwise, can you expand your idea of the review essay into an article (that would be peer reviewed). Take some element of your work, and use them as a jumping off point for considering conceptual and theoretical ideas from recent books? Or look at the books you are thinking of for the review essay, and then figure out how to connect to your work.
(I hope this makes sense).

Hilaire said...

TE - I don't think the book is the trump-all priority here for 3-year renewal, so I'm safe. I do think it'll help me immeasurably at tenure. I hope to not be going up for tenure here, but I'm basically gonig to proceed as if I am. Because you never do know, I suppose!

Your strategy sounds really smart.

Susan - Yes, I was starting to think about that possibility. It would be great to be able to do that...I will definitely ruminate some more...

sexy said...