In June 2012 a small group of us hosted a workshop on how to publish qualitative research in top journals. We invited a roster of editors from top journals in our field, and invited them to come to HEC and demystify the publishing process for the rest of us. The workshop was broken down into two parts – in the first part, both author and editor discuss their respective experiences in getting a paper through the review process at AMJ (The Academy of Management Journal). In the second part, our roster of editors comment on two burning questions about publishing qualitative research (well, they seemed “burning” to us, given that we thought them up!):
- What is the literature review suppose to do in a qualitative paper?
- When and why does an R&R not make it?
First published in 2000.
Perhaps I should start by saying that I am not a Stephen King fan. But this isn’t the case because I don’t like Stephen King’s writing. Quite the contrary. The reason I’m not a fan is because I’m chicken. Let’s face it, Stephen King isn’t considered to be one of the best ever writers of horror, suspense and fantasy for nothing. And I’m simply too chicken to read most of it. As it happens, the only book of his that I’ve read is Pet Sematary. And despite being terrified throughout, I couldn’t bring myself to put the damn thing down. I stayed terrified for over six months after that – becoming instantly frantic anytime I was alone in our apartment and heard some strange noise. Never mind that I was living in Paris at the time, in a fifth floor apartment which couldn’t be further away from Steve’s Micmac burial ground in the backwoods of Maine. It was as if I’d find his creepy two-year-old zombie kid lurking in one of my closets, waiting to get me, scalpel in hand. You’ve got to be one hell of good writer to be able do that, in a book. This isn’t campfire story-telling, where you play on suspense with tone, and pace, and ambiance or a movie, where visuals and sound go such a long way in making everything seem real. It’s a book for Pete sakes. The only thing that’s holding you, mesmerized, onto the page, are Stephen King’s written words. We are light years from academic writing, where the only grip the stuff we write has on people is fear of not getting tenure. Where the hard part is picking the stuff up, not putting it down. (Ok, I may be exaggerating slightly, but let’s be honest, it’s only because we are truly passionate about our subjects that we can will ourselves to read a large chunk of the journal articles that are out there. The stuff we read and write can be pretty darn dry.)
So is there anything we academics can learn from Stephen King that might help us improve our writing? Given that his book pops up regularly on top-ten lists of “the best books on writing ever,” and several people in my immediate circle suggested it was a “must read”, I decided to dive in.
Associate Professor of Strategy, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
Sarah was the very first person I interviewed for this blog project. Viviane, Chahrazad and I had decided about a month before that we’d go forward with the project, and Sarah came to give a talk at HEC shortly after. We’d crossed paths a few times at conferences, and Sarah seemed quite supportive of any initiative that would be helpful to newish researchers trying to trace their little path within the academic world. I figured that if she turned me down, it would be in a nice way – remember these were early days, and we weren’t quite sure how people would respond to our request, particularly to the fact that we would be posting the interviews online. Sarah was very supportive and we talked for well over an hour. I might even add that if it hadn’t been for Sarah’s warm reception at our idea, I may not have had the motivation to ask other academics to engage in the process. No kidding! Once I completed the interview though, I became quite convinced that a lot of people would find it both interesting and informative. It is this belief that has kept me going since.
Robert and Judith Klein Professor of Management and Chair of the Department of Management and Organization in the Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State
Denny came to visit HEC as a guest of GEPS (our local strategy-as-practice research group) and of course, I jumped at the opportunity to interview him for our blog. Denny told me that when he started his career in academia, he too had undertook a similar process of interviewing established academics so as to learn from their experience, so he was quite willing to oblige me in this case. He was in such demand during his visit at HEC – everybody wanted to talk to him! – the only time slot I was able to get that was longer than half an hour was over breakfast one morning. So I took him to this hip place I knew downtown. Mistake! Not only did they only serve fancy breakfast paninis when Denny much preferred pancakes, the place was so loud we could hardly hear ourselves talk. (Lesson to you researchers out there: if you have to do a planned interview in a public space, you may want to check out the noise level first!) Anyways, thank God for Denny’s pleasant disposition and my Olympus LS-10 digital recorder (that captures great sound even in the noisiest of places), else the whole thing might have turned into a fiasco. We talked all through breakfast, and even continued chatting in the taxi on the way back to HEC. Trailing beside Denny recorder in hand, I felt like some CNN reporter trying to catch a few words from a presidential candidate rushing to his next appointment. Very cool. Read more
Research Professor, HEC Montreal and Chair in Family Business and Strategy, University of Alberta
It so happens that Danny’s office at HEC is two doors down from mine. Imagine that! “the” Danny Miller is now my colleague and hallway buddy. I mean, Danny is up there in the academic management pantheon alongside Henry Mintzberg, Bill Starbuck, Karl Weick, Dick Scott, Kathy Eisenhardt, and so on. These are the guys (and gals!) whose stuff you read as “classics” in graduate seminars, whose talks you go out of your way to attend at conferences. And what a super nice guy he is! He more than graciously acquiesced to being interviewed for this blog, although he initially seemed unconvinced that he would have anything interesting or terribly insightful to say. It turns out that he was quite wrong on that – we talked for two hours, and easily could have gone on. And what a fascinating conversation it was! My only reserve is that he makes writing and publishing sound so easy… if only it were so for the rest of us! I hope you enjoy it.
Interesting productivity tips from 99U, a web magazine destined to creative professionals. They’ve identified a series of laws based on routines and practices of people they call “serial idea executors”. Many of these tips can apply to writers – and some even come from writers such as Haruki Murakami. Here are the rules – read the full post on 99U.
- Break the seal of hesitation
- Start small
- Prototype, prototype, prototype
- Create simple objectives for projects, and revisit them regularly
- Work on your project a little bit each day
- Develop a routine
- Break big, long-term projects into smaller chinks or “phases”
- Prune away superfluous meetings (and their attendees)
- Practice saying “no”
- Remember that rules – even productivity rules – are made to be broken
10 Laws of Productivity :: Tips :: 99U.
Sculpture in Munich, Germany. A beautiful photo taken by Philipp Klinger (found on Flickr)