In this installment of the blog series, we turn to the nuts and bolts of scholarly writing.
[Today we welcome Charlotte Cloutier of HEC Montreal and author of “How I Write: An Inquiry Into the Writing Practices of Academics“]
In 2010, I was a newly minted assistant professor, somewhat worried about the tenure process and a little shaken by the fact that my initial attempts at getting published had failed miserably. Clearly I wasn’t “getting it” and I needed to do something about it. Writing “more” wasn’t going to cut it. I needed to figure out how to write “better” and perhaps even more importantly, I needed to learn more about the “craft” of publishing research. There was much more to the writing and publishing process than simply writing up a bit of research and submitting it to a journal hoping that they might publish it.
Some months before this brooding began, I had a conversation with a friend, Charahzad Abdallah (who is also an academic), in which we discussed our various interests outside of academia. In that conversation we discovered that we shared a love of writing, and had both entertained dreams (delusions?) going way back (long before either of us had even entertained the idea of undertaking graduate studies) of someday becoming writers. We lamented the challenges of the academic writing, and wondered if we’d ever manage to succeed in such a competitive space. At that point, Chahrazad pulled out a book from her (very full) bookshelf, and said “You’ve got to read this!” It was “The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on their Craft” (Vintage) by Robert Boynton. This book is truly what set the stage for what came next – with Chahrazad, and a second friend and colleague who also shared a love of writing, Viviane Sergi, we decided to create a blog on academic writing, which we called “Project Scrib” (which in latin means “dare to write”). This blog would be dedicated to the academic writing process and one its key features would be interviews with academics on how they write. We figured that if we were going to be searching for ways to “up” our own game in the academic publishing field, we could share all that we found. Surely, we weren’t the only ones grappling with angst about writing and publishing our work. The blog was launched in January 2013.
Two and a half years later, there are 17 interviews (and counting) posted on the blog as well as a few book reviews, photos, and tidbits on how to improve your writing productivity. As far as the interviews were concerned, initially the goal was simply to post them online. The idea was that people would engage with them in their own idiosyncratic ways. What each took away from them would vary based on what they were looking for. When I explained this to friends and colleagues however, several commented: “You should write an article about that.” And I thought, “Really?” I let the thought stew for a while, unsure as to whether I could actually write something interesting based on the interviews (How could I reduce all that richness into an article? How to know whether what I found interesting would be interesting to others? How can I avoid turning it into a “how-to” article which clearly (at least to me) it could not and should not be?). In the end I figured the questions I was asking myself were no different than those that all qualitative researchers ask themselves about their own data. There wasn’t much for me to lose by trying to approach this “data” as I would any other set of qualitative data.
I sincerely hope you enjoy the results of my inquiry, but if you don’t, then you’re more than welcome to do your own analysis, as the “data” is publicly available to all!
You’re welcome to visit us anytime at www.projectscrib.org!
You can read “How I Write: An Inquiry Into the Writing Practices of Academics from Journal of Management Inquiry free through the end of June. Did you know that you can get notified of all the latest research from Journal of Management Inquiry?Just click here to sign up for e-alerts!
Charlotte Cloutier is Assistant Professor in the Department of Management, HEC Montreal. Her research interests include strategic management in pluralistic contexts, strategy communication and take up institutional theory, funding of nonprofits and qualitative research methods. She won the Best Reviewer award from the Strategizing Activities and Practice (SAP) Interest Group at the 2011 Academy of Management Conference.
Also in this series: