By Katie Maki (Ball State University) and Ethan Van Norman (Lehigh University)
You’ve returned home from NASP. You’re likely experiencing a range of emotions. In the back of your mind you have a creeping sense of anxiety as you take a look at your inbox for the first time in nearly a week. At this point it is great to take a step back and acknowledge a major accomplishment. You presented your research at a national conference! Although almost every university expects presentations at a national conference to demonstrate scholarly productivity as part of promotion and tenure decisions, the reality is that the priority for demonstrating scholarly productivity is the publication of your research in peer-refereed journals. As such, the purpose of this post is to offer advice to carry forward the momentum from NASP to transform those poster and paper presentations into peer reviewed journal articles.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
If you are like us, you left the NASP convention feeling professionally energized (although perhaps physically exhausted) and excited about new research projects and collaborations. Many of us spent the week networking, connecting with other scholars in the field, and attending thought-provoking sessions at the convention. These connections and experiences likely left you ready to jump into new project conceptualizations. There is a hardly a better feeling, perhaps especially as an early career scholar. Therefore, it may sound counterintuitive when we suggest that you consider pumping the brakes on diving fully into new projects at the expense of your existing projects. This is not to say that you should drop your new project ideas. On the contrary, record your new and exciting ideas by outlining your concept and any details you have already worked out. Consider setting up a meeting with colleagues in the next month or so. Then, switch your energy back to the projects on which you presented at NASP but have not yet written up. As we stated before, even if you are not at a research-intensive university, publications in peer- refereed journals are likely still part of how you will be evaluated for promotion and tenure. Thus, you want to be sure that you not only engage in research, but that your research projects come to completion through publication.
Work Smarter Not Harder
The good news is, you have already done much of the work for writing new manuscripts. Capitalize on the work and effort you already put into your projects by using the projects you presented at NASP as a foundation for manuscript preparation. If you presented studies at the NASP convention, you already outlined the method and results sections for your presentation that can then be translated into text for the study manuscript. Then, revisit the proposal you submitted for the convention back in June to begin writing the introduction of the manuscript. Your proposal should have included a rationale for, and purpose of, the study so take the arguments you already made in your proposal and expand upon them to develop the manuscript introduction. Finally, you likely already outlined implications and other sections of a discussion section for your presentation, which can be expounded for the manuscript discussion. Do not recreate your project for the manuscript; use the work you already put into the project to turn it into a publishable manuscript.
Using Feedback Meaningfully
Finally, your presentation likely included a Q&A portion. Use information gleaned from this experience to improve your paper. That is, capitalize on audience feedback and ideas that may have arisen while preparing for the presentation while the information is still fresh. Was there a recurring theme that audience members noted as a strength? Emphasize that aspect of your investigation in the paper. Were there multiple questions about the methodology you used? Revisit and clarify what you did in the manuscript. Were audience members all too eager to point limitations of your project? Get out in front of potential reviewer comments by strengthening your paper or identifying said issues in the limitations section of your manuscript. Given that NASP is largely a practitioner-oriented conference, if your presentation for lack of better terms “fell flat,” consider journal outlets that have a less applied focus (see previous blog post on how to identify appropriate journals for your research). If your presentation lends to a practitioner-orientated publication outlet, consider turning your presentation into a manuscript for the Communique or other similar outlet, particularly if such outlets are appropriate for your promotion and tenure requirements.
Although hindsight may be 20/20, in our experience the best strategy to ensure that conference paper presentations do not stay conference paper presentations is prevention. We have found that submitting the paper you will be presenting for publication prior to the conference circumvents the nasty problem of post-conference procrastination. You will likely be playing catch-up in the weeks following a conference (responding to emails, prepping for a class on a shortened schedule, etc.). Similarly, you may be experiencing conference fatigue where the last thing you want to think about is the paper presentation you have spent substantial time prepping last month. Submitting a project for publication prior to the conference may also alleviate anxiety in having an idea “scooped” while presenting your project to peers. Submitting your work before the conference will also help “prime” you so you are not scrambling to finish a project before the convention or put together your slide show a few days (or hours) before you are set to present.
You Can Do It!
We hope that you found these pointers useful. A major challenge in academia is that we receive few and infrequent external prompts to encourage us to engage in the behaviors necessary to achieve promotion and tenure. In turn, we must be able to prioritize those things that are most influential in achieving our goals, sometimes at the expense of immediate competing demands. Although carving out time to write immediately after a conference may seem counterintuitive, in many ways it makes sense to strike while the iron is hot. If an email is responded to four hours later than normal, your class lecture has a few less graphics, or the mission statement you were assigned to help refine is a little less eloquent than you would like, all for the sake of preparing your NASP presentation for publication, the world will not stop turning. We promise.
Do you have any thoughts about these points? Are there any other strategies you use that we did not mention? Please comment below!