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    « The Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy | Main | What Do They See? »

    Do you Read These?

    Earlier this year I co-presented at the Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD) annual conference in Washington, DC.  The AHRD is professional, research-driven organization made up of Human Resources academics and a few 'reflective practitioners'.

    At that time I also became a member of the AHRD and almost immediately began Some light readingreceiving a regular series of journals and publications from the academy.  Titles like:  Human Resource Development Quarterly, HRD Review, and Advances in Developing Human Resources.

    These are pretty heavy titles, full of some excellent research pieces written (mostly) by Professors of Human Resources from the USA and many other countries. Articles like 'Meaningfulness, Commitment, and Engagement: The Intersection of a Deeper Level of Intrinsic Motivation' have some great information and can be very valuable for academics and practitioners alike. They are not 500-word blog posts, but if you can wrestle your way though them, you can usually pull out some great insights.

    But some other pieces incredibly arcane and narrow in focus and quite honestly seems to exist to support University tenure requirements for publishing. An article like 'The trend of blended learning in Taiwan' fits pretty squarely in this category. By their nature they have limited use and a small potential audience.

    Currently, I am in the (long) process of writing an article for one of the aforementioned journals, and since this is the first (and likely only) time I will ever write for an academic journal I have some observations on the process and on the academic journals themselves.

    1. It takes an incedibly long time to write one of these articles

    You generally submit an abstract or basic idea for a piece to the editors, wait months to hear if your idea is accepted, then submit a 'expanded' abstract, wait for another few months for feedback, submit a revised expanded abstract, wait, submit a first draft, wait, submit a final draft, wait, and eventually (for me this will be over a year later), see the article published. Oh yeah, actually writing the content takes a really long time too, more details on why that is to follow.

    2. Style is (almost) as important as substance

    There are often incredibly detailed and precise requirements for the format and structure of each different submission.  Length, section titles, headings, and of course strict adherence to the citation formats are so stressed and emphasized that it actually is a bit frustrating and annoying. Does anyone really notice if an article uses APA citation format 5 or format 6?  Does anyone even care? This part of the 'writing' process often involves grad student (free) labor.  The idea seems to be to recruit a grad student that is good with research to help find references and compile the bibliography in exchange for a credit on the article's eventual byline.

    3. What other people have written is more important as what you write

    In this kind of writing for academic journals there is a heavy emphasis on citations.  It is not unusual to see a 12 page article with over 100 citations.  In some of these pieces, nary a paragraph goes by without some external source cited (almost always another academic journal article). I get this to some extent, my (or anyone's) opinions on a topic do carry more weight if it can be shown that other author's have agreed, or drawn similar conclusions; and certainly any statistics or factual statements should show the real source of the data. But many times reading one of these pieces, with so many citations, you wonder why the article was even needed at all.  The academic journal citation is probably the earliest form of the blog link or the retweet.  Too many of those, and you wonder if the author actually has anything useful to add to the discourse.

    4. I am pretty sure hardly anyone will read the article

    I keep up with at least 100 other HR blogs, have attended plenty of events, watched dozens of webcasts, and hosted and listened to scores of talk showson HR and recruiting this year.  I have never heard anyone, in any context, mention the AHRD, talk about any of the journals they publish, or cite any of the journal articles in a blog post, presentation, or in any other forum.  My unscientific observation is that the only people that will ever read my article are the editors of the journal, and a very small percentage of the folks that actually get the journal.  And perhaps once in a great while someone doing an academic database keyword search will stumble upon my article for possible use as a (gasp) citation for an article or assignment. This citation (if it ever does happen) will also hardly be seen by anyone outside of this tiny circle of journal editors and academics.

    Frankly, I am at the end of the post and I am not really sure what my conclustion is.

    Could it be the process, form, and ultimate outcome of the academic publishing process is kind of ridiculous and largely unappealing?

    Maybe it is a call for more 'mainsteam' HR practitioners and industry bloggers to take note of the excellent work (if you look hard enough) that can be found in these academic journals?

    Could it be that instead of working on my first draft that is due soon, I found it easier and more satisfying to bang out a 900+ word blog post on  the whole thing?

    I will end with this, does anyone reading this post actually read any Human Resources Academic journals?

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    Reader Comments (18)

    i think this post is interesting in light of HBR's recently announced changes to its magazine and website. they are moving away from the more scholarly format and starting to include voices from the crowd. i don't know what it says -- do we lack the appetite/stomach for academic rigor? or are we determining that academics don't have all of the answers and desiring more from the trenches?

    December 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfran melmed

    Nope, but thank you for shining a light, Steve. Merry Christmas!

    December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKevin W. Grossman

    @Fran - I bet it is a little bit of both. Blogs and social networks tend to force the writer to get to the point quickly, and to grab and hold the audience's attention. I also think practitioners have much less free time to wade through lengthy, dense, and citation heavy research pieces to find the nuggets of insight that might be helpful as well. Thanks very much for sharing your observations.

    @Kevin - I suspect you are in the majority of folks that will read this blog! Merry Christmas to you as well!

    December 22, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

    I'm a skimmer. I like pictures. I like humor. I like real-life examples. So no, I'm not reading these articles. I'm simple like that.

    But I'll read yours if you send it to me along with some chocolate. Even I can be bribed. :)

    December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer McClure

    Gosh, I totally hate to leave such a lame comment but Ditto to what Jennifer said.

    December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Krupa

    Steve, I heard a podcast by one of my favorite career/life coaches, and he told his story about going for his doctorate. He got all the way through his classes and only had the dissertation left. He went to his group of teachers and said, "Let me get this straight. I can spend 6 months writing something that 6 people will read and nobody will benefit from, or I can spend 6 months writing a book that thousands will read and everyone can benefit from? You can keep your degree."

    I love that attitude!

    December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBen Eubanks

    @Jennifer - I can send you chocolate and a copy of the journal when my piece gets published!

    @Mike - You too!

    @Ben - Great point, my thoughts exactly. I get that publishing is only partly about the content itself, and is a major part of long-term job security, but I just am not terribly excited about the entire process.

    December 22, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

    I used to get into the academics but now it's too cerebral for me and I much prefer real life examples, case studies, and lighter articles that can get the point across to me quickly. I am with Jennifer, keep it simple and send me chocolate!

    December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Rosendahl

    @Lisa - Thanks, I think you are right about the case studies and the chocolate! Thanks for chiming in.

    December 22, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

    Steve - I've been published once (well published in a journal/magazine I would be willing to put on my resume) and it was in the journal of sourthern management something or other based on research I did for my master's thesis. Got invited to present at a conference in South Carolina - really felt like I was a big deal.

    I'm fairly certain at this point in my life, I'm the only one who ever read the paper all the way through - and I'm not that strong of a reader, so you can just imagine. The world of academic publishing is a complete joke - but to that extent, probably publishing in general has become a joke. If you want you can read my new book I'm writing and will publish online - "Publishing has become a joke" - You can pre-order copies - it might be the only way it get's written!

    Oh yeah - liked your post!

    December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTim Sackett

    @Tim - Getting published is not easy, as I am learning, so full marks to you for seeing it through. I am getting really cynical on the deal, especially since so many schools emphasize this kind of publishing over actual ability in the classroom as a deciding factor in tenure and promotion,

    But what do I know, I am a part-time prof and an amateur blogger?

    Thanks for sharing your comments.

    December 22, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

    Being someone who is aspiring to become an academic, reading such lengthy-citation heavy-boring journal articles are my daily staple! I am in the middle of three different research projects and you can only imagine how much reading I have to do on a daily basis. And this is part of the reason why I maintain my blog - to have a place where I can take a break from rigid academic writing requirements and write stuffs in a more 'informal' fashion.

    Best of luck with your article Steve.

    December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSakib Khan

    @Sakib - Thanks for being the sole reader to admit to actually reading these journals. Best of luck to you as well in your academic pursuits.

    December 23, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

    this is really a nice post, n also useful

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