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The Craft of Research. Book Review

The Craft of Research. Book ReviewI wanted to read further about research methodology, data collection, and on hypotheses and interpreting the data, and I found this book (‘The Craft of Research’): the title was suggestive, the description of the book looked ok, as its price as e-book, it also seems that it was selling well and the reviews were not bad, so I decided to try.

The truth is that I was hoping to find information about the process of conducting academic research, more than tips on writing the research draft or paper, so in part I was a little disappointed, but ok, it happens sometimes.

  1. Although the objectives of the book were ‘doing and reporting research’, I’m afraid is more focused on reporting and writing the draft.
  2. But even for this, writing the draft, I found it somehow weak, or at least like any the other books on the subject, such as ‘The Literature Review: Six Steps to Success’ or ‘How to get research published in journals’.
  3. I’ve also seen it too focused on unexperienced researchers, who would appreciate anything more or less elaborated and well-written to reflect on the subject and start developing their writing skills.

But instead, there are parts of the book that indeed are interesting and noteworthy, which are what I look for sometimes: some specific ideas about writing a paper, abstract, literature review, or even to disseminate it.

  • For example, it’s well exposed for the search of the bibliography, in case anyone needs some methodological basis to help selecting the literature, which I have not seen in any other book so far. I have to admit that I appreciate it because my approach is more intuitive, based on Google Scholar, the library of my Faculty, and then pulling out of references and books on the topic I’m researching.

I also have a bitter aftertaste after reading it because, for a simple European professor I found some parts of the book too Anglo and certainly convoluted: those that relate reasons with evidences, arguments, claim evaluation and warrants, one with some of the others and then all together, I’m sorry.

Publishing research in non-indexed journals

Publishing research in non-indexed journalsI wonder if publishing research in non-indexed journals makes sense, for there are proliferating lately scientific journals not indexed in any database or directory, and I guess that what lies behind are the following reasons:

  1. The scholarly publishing system is in process of change and evolution to a new model based in Internet and open access.
  2. Because of the current ease to set up an academic journal on the Internet, given the available of platforms such as Open Journal Systems (Public Knowledge Project), which already come prepared with the submission and peer-review process, archive of volumes, pipeline publication management, guidelines, etc..
  3. Now it’s possible accessing to researchers in the social networks for content in the chosen field of expertise, and for responsive peer-reviewers.
  4. The obligation and desperately need to publish for professors worldwide are growing.
  5. There is an (hypothetical) opportunity to earn some money.

But mostly I wonder why scientists may be interested in publishing their papers in journals without indexation, and by extension in academic journals that don’t have a good reader base, renowned quality processes, or a website well designed on academic SEO as for papers to be found at search engines like Google.

I can just explain publishing there as a favor to the journal editor, or if the manuscripts that we want to publish are based on not publishable research in other journals, always on the condition that they will be published in open access and that the editing time is simple and fast. But for that matter, wouldn’t it be better to publish a PDF and upload them in repositories such SSRN? I guess that those articles wouldn’t look good in the curriculum without the tagline ‘International Journal’ following the article…

The positive thing is that sure some of these journals will do well and survive, and even go indexing in relevant directories such as Scopus (Elsevier), Ebsco, DOAJ, or even ISI Web of Knowledge / Web of Science (Thomson Reuters).

What do you think?? Would you publish your research in non- indexed journals?

I’m not stupid when publishing in journals

I’m not stupid when publishing in journalsLast week I gave a lecture (Professors and their publications. War techniques in the web 3.0 environment) in a private university on scientific publications within a seminar series on research. Though this is not the purpose of this post but one of the interesting topics discussed or that raised interest.

It was the attitude of the most senior or more experienced professors towards everything that had to do with the requirement of academic publications: they were quite critical of the current system of publications in indexed journals in assessing the quality of research, and by extension of academic accreditations and their impact on teaching skills.

But by now you know my position about the demands of publications for professors and scientists, which can be summarized in the Media Markt slogan “I’m not stupid”, but referring to publish in academic journals and to improve the research part of the curriculum:

  • What is important is the research activity, so to improve as a professor; but of course you can be a good teacher without having a PhD or publishing your research in journals, although it’s more difficult.
  • The quality of scientific research is currently assessed almost exclusively by the publication record in academic journals.
  • This system of publications in indexed journals (mainly in ISI Web of Knowledge and Scopus) is the one we have, which is pretty good by the way, you just have to know it a little, without obsessing.
  • You also have to know how editors and journals work, their needs and objectives.
  • Finally, social networks used wisely can also help to improve the chances of publishing in journals and that our papers are known, and then obtain citations.

The other related topic was h-index, which I don’t even remember most of it because nobody seems to demand it at my university or in the academic job posts that I see on the web, and that I will write about soon, not so much on how it’s calculated which is well-known, but on who calculates it or how I can get it, and about its advantages and disadvantages for professors as an alternative for assessing the quality of our research and prestige.

And what about your academic career? Do you care about your research activity?

Cops’ and Profs’ professional careers: more alike than you think

With this post I risk that you tend to believe that I’ve gone completely mad, if you don’t already think so, but I see an interesting parallelism between the careers of university professors and that of police inspectors, that can enrich us all. I’ve managed to unite it conceptually because I wanted to be a police inspector during my college years, and my teenage son is considering it now.

Cops' and Profs' professional careers: more alike than you think

1. We are talking here about vocational public service professions.

2. You can make a career in the private sector, but these higher education and security services are mainly provided by the government.

3. The academic career has four general professional phases (there could be some differences in some countries), as the high level career ranks in the police:

  • Assistant Professor Vs Police Inspector: newly qualified, with no professional experience.
  • Lecturer Vs Chief Inspector: with at least 6 years of professional career.
  • Senior Lecturer Vs Commissioner/Superintendent: around 15 year career.
  • Full Professor Vs Chief Commissioner/Superintendent: If you’re show endurance and excellence during 10 more years.

4. To access these professions a particular training and studies are required:

  • Professors have to obtain a doctorate in their specialty, with a college degree.
  • Policemen have to pass a training course of one/two years, with the requirement of a university degree (or a minimum of credits), at least in Europe.

5. In both professions are required to perform a research activity to achieve results and progress in your profession.

Obviously, the amusing issue is the similarities between these two professions, but they also have many differences of course, which can help us to approach our educational careers in another perspective.

However, I am not so sure whether the police profession is so demanding and multidisciplinary as in higher education as we have to teach, research, and / or publish in academic journals, although the police one is supplemented, as far as I know, with the daily risks they face. So maybe being a cop, PhD and a part-time lecturer of law and criminology is a good choice of life, which is what I recommend to my son without any hope of being heard, of course.

POLL: Scientists, web tools and social networks

Scientists,  web tools and social networksInternet is assumed to help university professors and scientists, but there are so many web tools and social networks that often turn against researchers and academics, overwhelming them and eventually making them to use partially only a couple of them.

If we dig a little deeper, we see that for each stage of the research process there are specific tools. It is true that many of them try to cover all the processes, but in the end have only an advantage in just one activity in particular, which makes us perceive that these tools are duplicated for the same functions, or solve the same problem for scientists; and because the research process is complex and varied in itself, as you can see in the high-level scheme that I usually use:

  1. Research project definition, funding and collaboration
  2. Research activity
  3. Write the paper and publish in journals
  4. Share your publications

So I’m interested in what Internet academic tools and social networks you are using in the production process of your research and when publishing them in academic journals; it’ll be worth to learn and continue update our management and organizational research skills.

And get ready because they are quite a few, and I’ve only listed the most important ones…

* It can be chosen several answers

**Comments are highly encouraged

Fishing citations for your papers. An introduction

Fishing citations for your papers. An introductionActively seeking your papers to be cited is not well considered in our academic community, it’s compared with snake-oil selling. So, since it’s not a perverse activity in itself but we are forced to do so by the circumstances and the current publishing system, I’m wondering about how to approach it so that it could be accepted better.

What I’ve written so far in this blog, and the limited literature found on the subject, it’s based on a process, where there are activities to be performed before and after the publication of our paper (a kind of workouts), in order to get better citations ratings, with a focus on results.

On the other hand, I’ve found that seeking citations has greater acceptance if presented as an additional writing task to do with your manuscript to improve their search engine rankings (academic SEO) in the future, but it looks like a bit limited and unattractive for a new conceptual model; so I came across with the idea of ​​looking for a sport activity that could have some parallelism with obtaining citations, and I think I’ve found it: citation fishing.

  • Fishing is an activity that it’s enjoyed, and benefits are obtained, just with the fact of doing it; it’s rewarding in itself.
  • So there is, in theory, no pressure for results, since it depends on many external factors as in the case of fishing it’s the cold waters (field or knowledge), their turbulence (research topic), the time of day (number of authors), the area of the river or the sea (affiliation, experience or academic relevance); which must be known and managed anyway.
  • When fishing, we wait patiently for the fish to bite with all the means and planning we have taken for them to do so: knowing the prey (the scientists of my field of knowledge), but patiently let others scientists to come, find our work, and finally bite the hook.

There are many types of fishing, such as trawling, angling, using fishing nets, from a boat, from the shore or into the river itself; but I think that trolling fishing from a boat (web 3.0) is the best suited to our academic type of fish: citations.

  • Trolling is a method of fishing where one or more fishing lines (discussions or posts), baited with lures (our papers and background), are drawn through the academic waters (social networks).
  • Trolling is used both for recreational and commercial fishing, it’ll depend on your dedication. Multiple lines are often used (academic web sites), and outriggers (the tools: journals platform, academic tools, social networks, etc.) can be used to spread the lines more widely and reduce their chances of tangling. Downriggers (what to do to get to the scientific community: networking, discussions or communications) can also be used to keep the lures or baits trailing at a desired depth.

Would you like to know all the secrets about fishing citations for your papers? I’ll develop further on this type of citation fishing in the future; I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

How to highlight your relevant publications in your Curriculum Vitae

Having research published in journals is not easy, especially if they are indexed in relevant data bases or with impact factor; so if we have a few, we’d better highlight them in the Curriculum Vitae.

How to highlight your relevant publications in your Curriculum VitaeI’ve often found that the ones who review our Curriculums at universities have a limited knowledge about citations, indexed journals or impact factor, but instead our published articles are usually an important part to be considered when applying to an academic job vacancy. So you have to make your relevant publications easy to read for them.

To do it you just need to add to the publications the most relevant indexes or databases in their field of specialty, or best known, where the journals are listed: the two or three of each publication, not to overwhelm with information. Often the education ministry itself gives the criterion of the most important journal indexes for each field of specialty, among which usually always is mentioned ‘Journal Citation Reports’ (Thomson Reuters).

If you also worked hard and published in a high impact factor journal, you should also indicate it. As well as if their impact factor is in quartile 1 and 2, indicating both quartile and its position in the ranking of their field of knowledge.

For example, I’d introduce my last publication in the Curriculum Vitae as follows:

  • Hernandez Barros, R. and López Domínguez, I. (2013): “Integration Strategies for the Success of Mergers and Acquisitions in Financial Services Companies”, Journal of Business Economics and Management, Vol. 14 (5,), pp. 979-992. Journal indexed in ‘Journal Citation Reports’ (Thomson Reuters), Impact Factor (2012): 1,881 (Position 55/333 in ‘Economics’, Q1).

But for other indexed publications without impact factor, it would be something like:

  • Martínez Torre-Enciso, M.I. and Hernandez Barros, R. (2013). Operational risk management for insurers. International Business Research, Vol. 6 (1), 1-11. Journal indexed in: EconLit (EBSCO), DOAJ.

Moreover, different article categories can be used when listing our publications; for example, as is usually listed in many websites departments and universities:

  1. Articles in indexed journals
  2. Articles in other journals (refereed)
  3. Other articles, working papers, chapters, technical notes, …

Obviously there are more ways to do it, but this works, though it cost me some time to have it clear, so I share it with you.

The lost war on journal’s papers and open access

the lost war on journal's papers and open accessElsevier, the publishing house, is requesting scientific social-networking sites, and directly to authors, to remove the papers posted online without their permission (The Economist, 2014).

  • When an article is published, some in principle logical copyright is transferred to the academic journals, as they have some editorial costs, and also often provide a powerful and quality platform (the electronic journal webpage), well positioned for SEO in search engines like Google. In other words, they usually provide an interesting service for the international scientific community, but of course at a cost.

The need for access to scientific literature or knowledge in an open and easy way is behind this problem, of course, as the good feeling to challenge the growing power of the powerful publishing corporations; but I feel that the unstoppable force that moves desperately researchers and authors to disclose their papers is the growing obsession with citations and the metrics associated:

  1. On the one hand, universities and accrediting agencies require professors to publish in journals indexed in specific databases, as ISI Web of Knowledge / Web of Science (Thomson Reuters), Scopus (Elsevier) or EBSCO.
  2. But there is an increasing pressure on citations from our articles as a measuring metric of the impact and quality of our research. This leads us to disclose our papers to be found in the Internet, either through working papers in repositories, or hanging the articles or abstracts directly in social and academic networks.

However, this ‘lost’ war (for publishing houses) on journal’s papers and open access shows a certain lack of knowledge by scientists of how SEO and search engines work, since a paper or article is much more easily found for example in Google if it is published in a platform / journal of these corporations than if it’s posted in a repository or in the social networks.

Then, of course, there are other related or derived connotations, such as academic networking: if a researcher or peer asks us a copy of our last article, do we refuse it when is probably a potential and valuable citation?

Finally, the solution to publish an earlier version of the article in open access, not the article itself, sounds a little sloppy. Anyway, I can’t think of disclosing an article that has been published and has publisher’s copyright, because I value my relationship with the editors of journals, it would be like betraying them, don’t you think?

Research papers, English language and fair play

Research papers, English language and fair playA few days ago I was criticized ironically on the social networks (by a non-academic consultant) by the grammar of one of my blog posts, although I take much care of the English writing, of course, and I usually dedicate to it around 25% of the time. It made me feel pretty bad, but it helped me to reflect on the theme of research papers, English language and fair play.

Something similar can happen to non-native English speakers with our academic articles, with which I’ve never had trouble publishing in premier journals in English, the last one in a fist quartile Journal Citation Reports (ISI Web of Knowledge / Web of Science) indexed journal. It’s true that there was a peer-reviewer (I don’t know whether He/She was native or non-native English speaker) in one of them who told me something about the writing, but as I explained that I had sent it to edit the English (I had the bill), they didn’t say anything back again.

Papers should be written in English for two main reasons:

Those of us who are non-native English have a handicap here, but it need not be a barrier to disseminate knowledge. The world would lost much of the innovation and development if journals were not open to international scientists, and journals understand it this way, there could be no complains about it. Another thing is that the English required for the manuscripts is of first class, which is fair and reasonable but slows and lengthens the process of publishing in journals for non-native speakers.

In case you find it helpful, the process I use to write an article in English is as follows, because I understand that not writing well could in itself spoil the work and effort invested in a research:

  1. Once I have a revised and contrasted research draft in Spanglish (parts in English and parts in Spanish), I translate it fully into English, paragraph by paragraph, carefully reviewing the meaning of each sentence and making sure it is understood.
  2. Then I send it to edit the writing to a specialized academic editor on my field of knowledge.
  3. And, finally, with the reviewer’s comments, I correct and improve it.

Thereby I expect that my articles, and blog posts, are understood, are well written and transmit my research and ideas, not that they win a prize for literature or are compared with the works of Hemingway! On the other hand, I think that non-native English academics should also be given a fair chance in this publishing world, providing we observe the writing rules and don’t hide behind our limitations.

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