FROM THE EDITOR: This "Comments" section contains an essay by Sarah Duncan who has served the Journal of Industrial Teacher Education as Style Editor for the past two years. Duncan relies on her considerable experience as an author, editor, and writing instructor to highlight some of the weaknesses she noticed in the manuscripts that were submitted to the Journal. Her comments should help experienced and inexperienced authors enhance the chances of having their work published. Responses to this or previous "Comments" essays are encouraged. Instructions for authors are provided in the "Bits & Pieces" section of each issue of the Journal.
Thoughts on Professional Publication
Sarah L. S. Duncan
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
In my two years as Style Editor, I have helped edit the more than 50 manuscripts that are contained in Volumes 32 and 33, and I have seen the reviews of these and other manuscripts submitted to JITE during that time. None of these manuscripts-whether refereed articles, reviews, "At Issue" or "Comments" essays-went to press without undergoing revision (this brief piece is no exception). Authors whose work appears in Volumes 32 and 33 have been willing to consider, respond to, and revise according to the reviewers' feedback and suggestions. As I read and processed the reviews, I have been impressed with our referees' diligence and dedication. JITE referees consistently provide insightful, comprehensive feedback for authors, sometimes including two or more pages of notes and occasionally suggesting additional sources for authors to consult. Under the direction of JITE editor, Scott Johnson, our modus operandi has been to advise and support authors in their efforts to develop manuscripts of publishable quality. Collectively, the manuscripts submitted to JITE have been thoughtful, organized, and competently written. However, "accidental" errors in spelling, grammar, and APA documentation are common, and while these may be minor issues, they detract from the content and can easily be avoided by careful proofreading.
Improper in-text citations and errors in "References" lists abound, and I believe they reveal an issue that must be addressed. Professional educators have adopted and employ documentation systems to protect the intellectual ownership of written work, to place our work in the context of the field, to acknowledge previous research upon which our work is built, and to avoid plagiarism and copyright violation. As professional educators, we are bound, ethically and legally, not only to comply with these requirements, but to teach them to our students and hold them accountable. Having students purchase a style manual does not mitigate our responsibility; explicit instruction, practice, feedback, and correction are required. We must learn and consistently use proper citation and reference methods; then we can teach them to our students and require our students to comply with them. If we fail to correct this state of affairs, let none of us complain when our own work is appropriated without proper acknowledgment.
As a college-level writing instructor with nearly a decade of experience, I respectfully offer the following suggestions to the readers of the Journal. While these suggestions may seem obvious to experienced published professionals, they are responses to the errors that are prevalent in submitted manuscripts:
In All Writing
- Begin with a clear purpose and a specific audience, state the purpose clearly and reveal the organization of the piece in the introduction. Present the material in the order indicated, limit the material to the specified topic, acknowledge opposing points of view, and conclude the paper in a manner that provides closure.
- Purchase and read an appropriate style manual, review your own writing to become aware of the errors you make frequently, and proofread for these errors before you submit a manuscript for publication. We sometimes work according to approximate rules-that is, rules that are approximately correct or correct in most instances. For example, some authors routinely use the vowel e when unsure of the correct spelling of a word rather than consult a dictionary. E is one of the most frequently occurring vowels in English, so the rule is correct often enough to reinforce its use.
- Proofread your work, and then secure the services of a competent second reader. No one can hope to catch all errors. When we write, we know what we intend to say, and when we reread our own material our brains seem to fill in the missing words and blissfully overlook our own recurring errors. We see what we meant to say rather than what is on the paper. A second reader may still miss some errors, but there should be fewer left on the page.
- Finally, read the manuscript (from beginning to end) and check the spelling again after proofreading and correcting. Revising can easily cause problems with subject-verb agreement or render a sentence unintelligible.
Before Submitting a Manuscript for Publication
- Select a publication whose audience has an interest in your topic, then obtain and read several issues to gain insight into the acceptable style, topic, and length of manuscripts.
- Revise your manuscript to conform to the publication's format and follow the ubmission instructions exactly. If you have specific questions about any of their requirements, telephone or write to the current editor.
After Receiving Feedback from the Reviewers
- Consider the feedback you receive from reviewers with an open mind: (a) Read the reviews; (b) reread the reviews while comparing them to your manuscript; (c) put the reviews and manuscript aside for at least a day and do other work (to get past the emotional response); (d) reread the reviews, compare them again to the manuscript, and begin to consider how you will respond to each point; finally (e) revise according to the recommendations and/or write a brief response/rationale for points you prefer not to change.
- Return revisions promptly, not only because editors cannot make a final decision about publishing work that you haven't finished, but because waiting makes the rewriting more difficult because you will have moved on to new challenges and topics.
Working as Style Editor for the Journal of Industrial Teacher Education has provided me with a unique opportunity for professional development. I have worked with many talented people and have appreciated their support, acceptance, and good humor. I thank Scott Johnson for setting such a fine example of professionalism and for providing me with the opportunity to serve. Scott has passed his torch to Rod Custer, and I extend my own torch to the new Style Editor.
Duncan is completing her term as Style Editor, Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, Department of Vocational and Technical Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois
Reference Citation: Duncan, S. L. S. (1996). Professional publication: Persistence and perseverance pay. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 33(4), 70-73.