From Coursework to CV: Navigating Scholarly Publishing as a Student

This is the first of two guest posts on the publishing process. First, we have this contribution from Amy Williams (@a_williams06), graduate student at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. 

One of the most important professional development opportunities graduate students can experience is publishing in an academic journal. Publishing allows students to showcase their research to others in their fields. It also demonstrates to future employers that a prospective job candidate keeps up with trends in the field, knows how to conduct research, and effectively communicates to a target audience. Additionally, students can receive substantive feedback on their research and their research process. Lastly, it looks really good on a resume!

Finding opportunities to publish your work, however, can be difficult. This is especially true if you do not have the time or the energy to devote for researching, writing, and proofreading outside your other daily commitments. But that is not to say it’s impossible! If the timing is right, you can find a way to publish your research without having to expend a great deal of effort coming up with something new – sometimes you are able to submit research projects you have completed for classes. That is how I published my first article.

Back in 2014, I embarked on my MLIS degree with a concentration in archives – this was in addition to a master’s degree in public history. My first class was the prerequisite course for the remainder of the archives concentration: Introduction to Modern Archives Administration. Part of the course involved a final research paper on pretty much anything that we wanted related to archives. I chose to write on the world of digital repositories and how Web 2.0 encouraged a rise in participation, collaboration, and community building. At the end of the semester, my professor recommended that I submit the paper for publication. I was actually quite heartened with her feedback – I had not yet had a graduate school professor recommend that I publish research that I had done.

The course structure itself really facilitated the development of student interests, not just what the professor was interested in. The course gave students an overview of the field and covered topics like the history of archives and their significance; practices; records management; selection, acquisition, and appraisal; social impacts; metadata and descriptive practices; emerging trends; and many other topics. As a result, there was a chance we could find a research topic that interested us. Additionally, the final paper involved a research project of our choosing, not an assigned topic. This flexibility is quite important in a survey-level course because graduate students may always know where their interests lie until they are exposed to many different topics. I ended up being really interested in, among other things, digital collections and digital libraries. I had taken a History and the New Media course as part of my public history curriculum and had already been exposed to different types of digital repositories – it was an easy leap for me to make from learning about them to writing about them instead.

At around the same time, a call for proposals found its way into my email inbox. The call was for a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science on “Archives, libraries and museums in the era of participatory social Web.” I thought the timing was quite impeccable. I submitted my paper with minor adjustments and didn’t think anything else of it. I was in my second year of graduate school with almost no publishing experience behind me so I did not think it likely that my submission would be accepted. Was I wrong!

I received an email a few weeks later and learned my proposal was accepted. I was astonished; of course I had put in effort into creating a good final project for my archives course, but I did not think it was good enough to end up in a fairly well-respected journal as a graduate student (of course, after being referred to as Dr. Williams, I surmised the journal believed I was a professor). After many back-and-forth emails and edits, the University of Toronto Press published the special issue containing my article in the fall of 2015.

Getting published has been one of the highlights of my graduate career. Publishing had been one of my goals in graduate school, but I a) did not see a call for proposals that really piqued my interest or b) knew I would not have the time to dedicate to conducting a research project while working and attending class. That is where my introduction to archives course really helped. Being able to turn a class research project into a real-world one was a wonderful opportunity. Having the ability to research my interests coupled with a professor who sincerely wanted me to succeed made all of the difference in the world. My recommendation would be that if you see a call for papers or proposals on a subject you have researched, take a leap and see what happens! You may end up seeing your name in print and ultimately attain some minor bragging rights!

Amy Williams is pursuing a dual masters’ degree in history and library science with concentrations in public history and archives. Outside of school she is an avid reader, blogger, gamer, Anglophile, and general fangirl of all things Tolkien, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and other fandoms yet to be discovered. 

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