Purposive Rambling

the journey is the reward.

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Writing Reviews

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There’s a discussion going on over at scatterplot about the ethics of letting grad students help out with paper reviews. It seems that the general consensus is that you should ask the editor to be safe, and that it’s an incredibly important socialization experience for grad students. As a grad student, I wholeheartedly agree with this last point.

Last semester I took a course that was all about the writing process. All students in our program are required to take the course at least once, and many end up taking it multiple times. Everyone comes in with a work-in-progress, and one of the goals is to get the paper in publishable-shape by the end of the semester. My paper is not quite there, but it will be soon, and it has come a LONG way since the beginning of last semester. Along with working on our own papers and giving each other feedback, we also talked about the basics of writing academically, the difficulties of writing, and what the publishing process is like.

As part of our discussion on getting published, we did some reviewing. Our professor received permission from a colleague to share her journey to getting a paper published. This colleague allowed us to see all of the drafts, reviews of those drafts, and her/his comments back to reviewers. Before we saw others’ reviews, though, we wrote our own. I had no idea what a review was supposed to look like. And my first stab at it was pretty terrible. I found out that I was way too nit-picky. I wanted to point out every little thing that I wished the author would change. When I stepped back from it and thought about how I would react to a review like the one I had just written, I realized I was being pretty harsh. It wasn’t my paper, and there should be some room for your own style.

The reviewer’s job is more about determining whether the paper makes a contribution and whether it is free of big theoretical, methodological, and analytical gaps and flaws. Writing our own reviews and then being able to compare them to the actual reviews for that paper, and then seeing all the work that this author had to do to move forward from the reviews was incredible. Seeing the process from start to finish really demystifies it. It’s easy to feel inadequate when you just read the final published product, but no papers start off that way. They have a long journey from conception to publication.

After doing the fake review, I was asked to do a real review for a journal. I felt so much more prepared and confident in my ability to comment on this paper after having had this class last semester. I really enjoyed doing the review. It was really neat to feel like I was playing an instrumental role in making someone else’s scholarship better. I can’t wait to do the next one! But in the meantime, I should probably¬†focus on getting my own paper published.


Written by Lisa

May 29, 2009 at 6:27 pm

The Wild Rose

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“The Wild Rose” is a poem written by Wendell Berry for his wife in 1986.

Sometimes hidden from me
in daily custom and in trust,
so that I live by you unaware
as the beating of my heart,
Suddenly you flare in my sight,
a wild rose blooming at the edge
of thicket, grace and light
where yesterday was only shade,
and once again I am blessed, choosing
again what I chose before.



I came across it in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. She is reminded of the poem when thinking about her writing as a person who, “after all these years, still makes sense to me.”

The poem works for me too.

At a conference for aspiring academics on Friday, one of the speakers told us that we had chosen the greatest career. I wholeheartedly agree. But some days it’s easy to take that for granted. When I step back a bit I can see it, though. This is what I am passionate about, what I am good at, and the way that I can make a contribution to the world. I am blessed and I would not change my path if I had to do it over again.

Written by Lisa

February 21, 2009 at 8:25 pm