Today, I found a nice surprise in my email inbox – a notice that my journal article based on my MSc dissertation has finally been published. It’s now available here for anyone with an internet connection to read (no paywalls here!)
I also had some interesting notifications on my usually-dormant Twitter account as a result. Seeing a couple of “likes” from people who had attended my OER17 presentation was nice, especially as that was close to two years ago.
Completing my article is also helpful for me for another reason. I’ve wanted to talk about the process of research, and about academic publishing, on this site, but I didn’t want to do so until after I’d had at least some first-hand experience.
The story of my own research was longer than I expected yet also simpler than I expected. I handed my dissertation in during November 2016, and took the first steps towards turning it into an article soon after, as my supervisor had previously said that she considered the work good enough to be published as an article.
In April 2017, I got to present my findings at OER17 (a conference dedicated to talks and demonstrations about different kinds of Open ideas). I had a small audience, as my presentation was at the same time as at least two others, but the people watching my talk seemed to enjoy it, which was a vote of confidence in my work so far. At the time, the conference talks were many layers of depth and complexity above my exisiting knowledge of how these open ideas and practices were used in real life. Later, I realised that the knowledge and ideas had made their way in; one sub-theme of the conference had actually become the theme of my conclusion.
After that eventual conference, my article-writing progress tailed off. Graduating from my MSc meant I lost the academic milieu that had kept me focused and confident in my work before, so other life things jumped to the front of the queue. However, getting back in contact with my supervisor in early 2018 kickstarted my progress, and I had a full first version of my article ready in mid-2018.
Then, it was time to choose which journal I wanted to try first. Generally, you can only submit an article to one journal at a time: most journals won’t look at any article which is already being considered by another journal. Also, each journal has a house style with exacting guidelines about the format, layout and style of articles. If you spend days putting your article in the perfect style and format ready for one journal that later rejects the article, you have to do it all over again for the next journal you try. (That’s without even thinking about making multiple copies of the reference list to cover the variety of formats you might end up needing…)
I knew that I wanted my article to go into an open-access journal, especially as choosing anything else would be hypocritical given my dissertation topic. While I wasn’t concerned about it landing in a prestigious or highly-rated journal, I did want to ensure it went to a real peer-reviewed journal, rather than a predatory one.
However, my status as a graduate, rather than a current student, meant that I might not have been able to afford some of the more well-known open-access options. (Many open-access journals are funded by researchers, who pay to make their research openly-accessible. This is in contrast to closed/paywalled journals, which charge the people who want to read the articles instead).
My first choice was Open Praxis, which is a fully open-access journal that focuses on research about open education, distance education, and basically any interesting new ways to approach education. They hit all the criteria I wanted, as they are legitimate, fully open-access, and also completely free for authors.
Luckily for me, they also liked my article. I submitted my original article in September and then experienced my first ever round of peer review. Although articles can sometimes get stuck in a treadmill of revising, resubmitting and revising again, I managed to avoid this. I needed one round of revisions, plus a little bit of proofreading, and then the article was ready to go.
So now I finally have a first-author article. By now the article has spent so long either in development or in limbo that I struggle to see the article as fully “complete” … I’m still waiting for someone to tell me it needs more work! Despite that, I’m happy that’s out in the world and readable now.