Thursday, October 11, 2012

Should you publish your article now?

Is the article ready, or does it need further revision? After having been working for weeks/months on it, one is often no longer in the position to say whether it is "ripe" enough to be sent in the world. In the best cases, one has thoughtful readers one can send one's draft to. If it meets their approval, it is ready. But in some cases, the opinions of the test-readers might significantly diverge (from "it is innovative" to "I don't understand anything in it"). Furthermore, how does one know whether it is time to send the article to one's test-readers?

The following ones are my thumb-rules:

  1. 1. Time: If I have only worked on it one week and already think it is ready, I just refrain from reading it for a couple of days and then go back to it with a fresh mind. I know from experience that nothing is ready so soon and that if I think it is, I am mislead. By contrast, if I have been working on it for two years, it has to become a book and not an article. (My ideal timing for an article lies, thus, between four weeks and eigth months –but this is very subjective and depends on how well one knows the topic).
  2. 2a. Know yourself: Are you a perfectionist? Then remember that a slightly faulted contribution is better than no contribution at all. You have something to add to the discipline and the fact of withdrawing it for months or years because it could be even better, does not do any good to the field of South Asian studies.
  3. 2b. Know yourself: Do you tend to be too superficial? Hold on the article for a little bit longer. Read it again after one or two days, once you are no longer too much into it. Consider possible objections and, more importantly, proof read it. In the age of automatic correction and computer, there are not so many good excuses for a poorly written article.
  4. 3. Consider what has been written on the subject. Do you add something valuable? If yes, (proofread and) have your article published. If you have not taken into account what other scholars have written about the topic you are working on, you ought to do it, at least at this stage. It will, by the way, significantly improve your article.
  5. 4. Don't publish an article if it is merely descriptive. No one needs to know about the plot of a novel, or the outlook of a temple, or the number of lines in a manuscript, unless you have a point to make through it (e.g.: the number of lines increases of one after the tenth folio, just like in similar manuscript of the same area, thus hinting at a distinct scriptorium…).

I guess some readers will disagree with the last point. I would be grateful if we could start discussing it.

How do you know whether an article/… is ready? What works for you?

For my praise of reading more, see this post. On descriptive articles, see this post.

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