The most difficult part of getting published is finding an idea about which you and your colleagues are concerned, and presenting it in a way that makes your thoughts on the subject clear, cogent, and persuasive. If you have already written something up for presentation, you may be well on your way to publication in a professional or scholarly journal. That said, there are some points to remember to help make your journey to publication a smooth one.
I know of numerous cases in which faculty members only gained institutional recognition for works that appeared in peer-reviewed journals. Note that within peer-reviewed journals, an institute or department may recognize a hierarchy of journals. I am fortunate to have always been associated with the higher tier of those journals. Clearly, prestige is associated with editorial peer review and the quality of those reviewers and their judgments.
First, remember that conferences, like peer-reviewed journals, have an acceptance rate. At a national conference such as the biennial meeting of the Association of College & Research Libraries, the acceptance rate for papers may be as low as 30%. If you have had a paper or poster session accepted for presentation at a professional conference, you have already:
- effectively articulated a topic of interest to your colleagues;
- demonstrated that you can organize your thoughts on this topic in a meaningful way; and,
- conducted some measure of research that informs your conclusions on the topic.
In other words, you have just outlined your future article.
Second, remember that journal editors are always surveying conference programs and poster session descriptions for ideas. My first LIS article (Walter, 2000) started out as a three-slide poster session that caught the eye of a journal editor. Choose your presentation topic carefully and treat its completion seriously, and you will almost certainly find a potential patron who can help you bring your idea to press. If not, remember that it is appropriate to make contact with an editor in order to gauge her interest in your study. Knowing that most editors are always keen to locate solid work, you should feel free to alert selected colleagues to the fact that you have recently made a successful presentation and ask if an article on your topic would be of interest to readers of their journals. Just remember not to promise the same article to more than one journal!
Finally, remember that not all presentations are appropriate for all publications.
Ask yourself the following questions as you move from presentation to publication.
- Is there is enough substance to your project to turn it into an article?
- Will you have to engage in further research to flesh it out (e.g., if your presentation was in the form of a panel discussion, are you ready to do the extra work necessary for the write-up)?
- Have you prepared a literature review that places your work in the context of past research and practice (and, if so, does your piece still stand as a valuable contribution to the literature)?
- Have you prepared a conclusion that summarizes what was learned in your research project, and points the way toward further research on this topic?
- Can your PowerPoint presentation (or poster slides) serve as an effective outline, or do you need more?
- If your presentation was a simple report of a successful initiative in your library, are there journals that are more likely to publish a purely descriptive piece, as opposed to a research-based piece?
The answer to that final question is “Yes!” But, even so, there are few conference presentations – posters, panel discussions, or even papers – that are immediately ready for publication. What almost all presentations will do is provide you with an opportunity to lay the groundwork for publication: articulating a significant question for research or practice; proposing an answer to that question; finding an audience interested in hearing your answer; and effectively outlining your argument. From there, the trip to the printer is relatively short.