Tag: publishing (page 2 of 2)

Are IR Titles Getting Increasingly Boring? Evidence from a Data Set


Though scholars widely claim that they are capable of writing creative titles, there exist some notable skeptics. Resolving this debate requires empirical evidence. However, beyond a few anecdotes, no one has systematically tested trends in the mind-numbing dullness of IR article titles. I correct this lacuna through the use of an original data set containing eight independent measurements of the originality and wittiness of article titles. Using various statistical techniques, I find that, for article appearing in six leading journals between 1985 and 2005, titles are indeed becoming more boring over time. In addition to confirming a depressing decline in titular creativity, my study reveals two additional findings of significance. First, titles that take the form of “historical quotation: explanation of what the article is actually about” are only interesting for the years 1985-1995, after which they become extremely boring. Second, the most consistently insipid article titles consist of  a putative correlation expressed as a question followed by an independent clause alluding to a data set. My findings and research methods have important implications for the field, as I assert repeatedly in the body of this article despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.


‘Bleg’: How Long are your ‘Revise & Resubmit’ Letters to the Editor?


I have been asked to revise and resubmit an article submitted for an IR journal. But it’s a big r&r; the editor even said it would be “a great deal of work” (groan). While I must make the changes to the ms, I must also submit a letter to the editors and reviewers to explain my changes. That’s normal of course, but I wonder how the community would appraise the proper length of a letter to the editor for a major r&r? In my last r&r, thankfully a minor, I wrote 2-3 pages. But for a major r&r that “needs a great deal of work’’, I was thinking around 10 pages. Is that too much? Would that you bore you to tears ? (Actually, don’t answer that.)

More generally, I think this is an interesting, undiscussed question for the field, because I have no idea if there are any norms at all on this. I can’t recall discussing this issue ever in graduate school (probably because I couldn’t have gotten an r&r anyway and didn’t even know what r&r meant). Nor can I recall seeing anything on this in all those journals we get from APSA (so many…). So whadda ya think?

Cross-posted on Asian Security Blog.



 How are pieces of research like eggs?  Well, I was having a fun conversation with a grad student of mine while we were dining in the aftermath of a workshop on failed states, and I was suggesting a potential research strategy.  The point I was trying to make is that you don’t want to waste your research.  At first, I was using bullets–but given our topics, violence, and given that bullets do not degrade over time, eggs made more sense.

The basic idea is that when you do research, you don’t always use everything you learn for a particular piece.  Indeed, one of Saideman’s rules of dissertations is that just because you learned something does not mean it fits in the dissertation.  Focus is important.  But if you learn stuff along the way that does not go into article x, you should use it for another publication.  Each article or book idea is an egg.  You can do different things with any egg–poach, scramble, omelet, quiche, frittata, use for cookies, french toast, etc.  So, an idea can be prepared in a variety of ways, and you don’t want to waste an idea by just leaving it alone and undeveloped.  An egg that just sits around on a shelf is not doing you any good.  Same with a research idea.  You want to crack it open, beat it, mix it with something (butter is usually a good idea), and bake it/fry it.  And, eggs, unlike bullets, will eventually become useless (rotten, smelly, etc.).  So, you can let an idea sit around for a while, but it may eventually become unusable.

I did not intend to learn much about Canada and failed states when I started my current project.  But, as I was poking around, trying to understand NATO and Afghanistan, a variety of questions and even some answers arose, including some involving a country I previously believed to be boring (ok, Canada is not always thrilling, but it has had a relatively interesting decade or so).

So, you can do a lot of different things with any hunk of knowledge–write a book, write a policy-oriented article, write an academic piece for a journal, blog about it, use it for teaching, whatever.  Just as an egg can be used in a variety of ways.  It depends on what appeals to one’s audience.  Making breakfast for oneself is different than making a breakfast for a family and different from making lunch for some friends, and so on.

As I have mentioned before, I am a big believer in portfolio approaches--publishing in a variety of outlets to get ideas across to a variety of audiences, maximizing visibility, impact, ego and also chances for employment, tenure, raises and the rest.  So, it may take some creativity and planning to figure out how to use each idea for optimal impact but it also depends on preferences.  I prefer French Toast to pancakes and waffles, but all are perfectly good uses for eggs.  Just try not to waste any eggs… or ideas. 

And, yes, I have beaten this analogy more than the average scrambled egg.


The Promise and Perils of Book TitlesBecause I’m Way Too Busy With the Start of the Term to Blog About Anything Useful.

Thanks to Erik Voeten, I have just discovered a fabulous blog, Better Book Titles:

This blog is for people who do not have thousands of hours to read book reviews or blurbs or first sentences. I will cut through all the cryptic crap, and give you the meat of the story in one condensed image. Now you can read the greatest literary works of all time in mere seconds!

Some of my other favorites from the site:

the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime
the very hungry caterpillar, and
the elements of style.

And both Erik and Jeff Ely have a little more to say about the political economy of book titles, especially in academic publishing.

And Kieran Healy is collecting suggestions for a political science contribution to the Better Book Titles site, where Friday entries are submitted by readers. I’d love to come up with a snappy version of Dan Drezner‘s new Theory of International Politics and Zombies, which I’m supposed to roast at the International Studies Association Conference in March. [“I Am Too Funny For My Half-Eaten Shirt,” perhaps. Or “I Will Claim To Describe IR Theory While Completely Ignoring Feminism, Post-Colonialism and Critical Theory. Bwa Ha Ha!!”]

Add in your own suggestions for this or other books below.


The Political Economy of Journal Citations

I’m writing you from the ISSS/ISAC conference in Providence, RI, the yearly guns ‘n’ bombs gala thrown jointly by the Security Studies section of ISA and the International Security and Arms Control section of APSA.

Drawing a large crowd this morning was the roundtable on “How to Publish in International Security,” peopled by representatives from Stanford University Press, Georgetown University Press, the Journal of Strategic Studies and International Security.

Of course there were some standard nuggets of advice for aspiring scholars: 1) Make sure your paper is ready for publication first; 2) make sure you pick the right journal; 3) don’t submit to multiple journals 4) be persistent but polite in dealing with editors; and 5) beware of MIRVing:

“If you’ve put it out there on the Internet already we are less likely to see it as original work.”

But among these, the one that stuck with me was this point:

“Cite the journals you want to publish in.”

Now what caught my attention was not the suggestion but the rationale. It is not, Hoyt argues, because journal editors scan authors’ submissions or previous work for evidence of favorable citations but for a more mundane reason I wouldn’t have thought (and am still not sure whether I think) should enter into my citation practices:

“Journals depend on library subscriptions. Libraries are facing budget cuts and journals are a huge expense for libraries. As they decide which ones to cull, they consider factors like how often a journal is cited in the profession. Without library subscriptions these journals will simply disappear.”

The implication, aspiring writers, is that we should cite early, often and strategically in the hopes of maintaining diverse venues for our work. But whether or not this metric will make for the best scholarship who knows. Hoyt’s suggestion also implies that we should be using our libraries’ electronic journal resources rather than reading from our own subscriptions, so libraries can track our usage of specific journals.

But most of all, it’s also a healthy reminder that the political economy of our profession matters.

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