I am often asked to say something about problems faced by scholars who are expected to publish in English, despite this not being their mother tongue. People refer to my book on getting published and ask for more. My book is good they say, but… I read this “but” to means “your book is good as far as it goes, but it doesn’t deal with my specific issues”. I always want to help, but up until very recently there wasn’t much I could refer people to. However, a recently published book addresses a lot of the specific issues that these scholars do find tricky – and in very helpful ways.
The book is A scholar’s guide to getting published in English. Critical choices and practical strategies (2013) and it’s by Mary Jane Curry and Theresa Lillis. This practical text is based on a large research project, published as Academic writing in a global context: The politics and practices of publishing in English (2010). I recommend their research book too if you want to read the basis for the strategies presented in their scholar’s guide.
Curry and Lillis begin the book asking readers to identify why they want to publish in English, to focus on what they hope to get out of it. This guides a discussion about making decisions about where to publish. They provide explicit information about the ways in which external evaluators judge publications and suggest that these understandings guide readers’ thinking not only about their practice but also decisions about what to publish, when and where. Curry and Lillis devote a chapter to a discussion of the institutional pressures that are placed on scholars to publish in English, the politics of doing this in relation to the politics of continuing to write for the local and national context. Taking up the notion of scholarship as a conversation, and publication as entering an ongoing conversation, they address conference proposals and choice of journals. They follow this up by looking at the issues surrounding citation indices and journal rankings before going on to discuss who to reference and citation practices in writing. Other topics covered in the sixteen chapters include: a detailed description of the processes of scholarly publishing; writing in multiple languages; participating in research networks; and writing collaboratively.
A key strategy that Curry and Lillis suggest is the use of a ‘literacy broker’. There are two types of literacy broker – the academic broker who provides support and feedback on research content, methodology and the conversations of the discipline, and the language broker, someone who provides support with translation, revision and editing or expression. Curry and Lillis argue that having the right kind of brokerage at the right stage of publication can be the key to publication success. They see such brokerage as necessary for both pre and post paper submission, noting that making sense of reviewer and editorial feedback can be very problematic. They suggest that scholars ask themselves the following questions:
(1) What kinds of support would help me in writing for publication?
(2) Who do, or who could, I ask to read my manuscripts in progress and give me feedback on them? Who do I help with their manuscripts?
(3) What are my experiences of receiving and responding to feedback?
(4) Where might I find different kinds of brokers to work with? How might I approach them and specify the kinds of support I would find useful? (p. 135)
Curry and Lillis note that it might be possible for brokers to help without having to read whole manuscripts, that there may be funds for language support within readers’ institutions or there may be ways to build funding for literacy brokerage into research bids.
I think this is a very useful book because it unpacks some of the hidden rules about publication as well as proposing some strategies that can be used to address them. It doesn’t address the niceties of English writing – nor is it an English for Academic Purposes book. Curry and Lillis set out to deconstruct the geopolitics of publication in highly practical ways. I think they succeed in doing this. I will certainly be taking their book with me when I head off to China in a month or two, as well as recommending that my university purchase multiple copies of it for staff and doctoral researchers alike. I suggest you recommend it to your library too.