How to Begin Publishing in the Humanities
There are ways to start working on your publication record before you publish your first peer-reviewed article
If you are a graduate student in the humanities, adding that first publication to your academic CV can be a long and anxiety-provoking process. Luckily, there are ways to start working on your publication record before you publish your first peer-reviewed article. Listed below are a few ideas that you can start working on while you’re still completing your required graduate courses or if you still haven’t settled on your main research project.
Book reviews are an excellent way to make your first entrance into the academic publication world and are also legitimate additions to your CV. It’s a good idea to work on a book that will help you with your dissertation, your qualifying exams or a paper you plan to publish in the future. Typically, researchers will be contacted to review a specific book, but it is also perfectly acceptable for you to contact a journal. Most journals have a reviews editor who you may contact to ask about books he or she would like reviewed. Signing up for a listserv, such as www.h-net.org/, is also worthwhile, as these email lists oftentimes send out calls for reviewers. In general, it’s a good idea to get on listservs specific to your discipline or area of interest. Note that different journals have different requirements as to the length of the review and novelty of the book. Usually, reviewing any book that has been written in the last two years is acceptable, but this varies from journal to journal.
Conference proceedings serve as important vehicles in scholarly communication. This writing can be an important addition to your CV if you are a graduate student and can help you gain experience in producing an article that is publication ready. Edited volumes that gather conference or workshop papers are also common. If you give a successful presentation, you might be asked to present your paper for consideration, or sometimes, conference or workshop organizers might want to publish it outright. One very important thing to keep in mind is that if you publish a paper as a part of conference proceedings, then you cannot submit it for publication in a journal. Therefore, you will want to exercise judgment as to whether you think this is all of the work you want to do on a specific paper or whether you want to hold back, present the paper at other conferences to get feedback, and then work on it for journal submission.
Did you produce a seminar paper that got great feedback from your professor or that you would like to further develop? This might be an opportunity to turn it into a publication. If you did not get a lot of feedback from your professor, consider asking him or her for some detailed feedback and explaining that you plan on submitting the paper to a journal. Your professor is also likely to know journals in that area of study and in general will be a good resource for publishing on that topic. Presenting your paper at a conference is another way to become aware of contentious points in your work and areas that might need a little more work, as well as to meet more senior academics in your area of interest.
Generally, the goal of academics is a peer-reviewed journal publication; however, there are often instances in which a particular conference is more prestigious than many lower-ranked journals, so it is important to make an informed decision about the best publication venues for your work.
Beginning your publication record as a graduate student has become increasingly important. Book reviews, conference proceedings and seminar papers are great sources of publishable material. Bear in mind that your first few publications might need several rounds of feedback and revision based on conference presentations or journal referees. Note that rejections are often simply an invitation to undertake further improvement of your work: if we always got it right the first time, we wouldn’t call it REsearch!