Academic writing is a process full of pain, struggling, frustration, and you name it… but academic writing is also satisfying, engaging, and meaningful to name a few of the many positive aspects. Especially the feeling of getting a paper accepted for publication is a very enjoying and satisfying moment. “Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success” by Wendy Laura Belcher is a basic and accessible introduction to academic writing aimed at newcomers to the art of writing.
Academic writing is a tough discipline requiring practice and practice means writing. The book advocates that practice does not necessarily equals doing as much writing as possible, but rather writing on a frequent basis. Frequent writing, as in writing on a daily basis, is an essential take-away.This hands-on book not only gives an introduction to what academic writing is but also specific advice and suggestions about how to structure and actually implement good writing habits. The foundation and part of the framing of the book are to guide the reader towards revising an unpublished paper into something publishable.
The book takes the reader through the entire process from getting started such as dealing with writing obstacles, to structure a paper, writing academically, and finally submitting and handling rejections and revisions (and rejections is a steadfast companion in academic writing). The book is full of different forms that can be used to make specific plans and notes to support the writing progress. If you like me do not like to make notes in books several of the forms can be downloaded from the author’s website. This book is not a silver bullet guarantying high-quality publications, but provides an interesting hands-on approach filled with anecdotes about systematical structure a writing process, things to consider, and steps to take. Research questions, choice of method and arguments are still up to the author. The “Twelve Weeks” part of the title should not be taken too literally. This is mainly how the general composition of the book is framed.
A topic that is explicit and implicit brought up several times is that tasks need to be finished. In all academic disciplines, authors are struggling with finishing different aspects of writing a paper such as finding the appropriate related literature, reading enough material, documenting the findings, etc. The books stresses that things need an end point and provides advice about how to end different tasks. Besides providing advice about the “perfect” writing process she also recognizes that it’s impossible to do everything perfect. The book contains several tips and tricks for speeding up some tasks, what to keep the focus on and what to skip or pay less attention to.
It’s clear that the main intended audience is newcomers that mainly have been writing college reports and authors just started in the publishing game. The book is also slightly aimed at US-based authors as several pieces of advice are specifically focusing on this group. However, this is only a detail and authors all around the globe will benefit. That being said the book is also highly relevant for more experienced authors as a reference book. The described processes are intended for the humanities and social sciences, but I also found it relevant to my field, Human-Computer Interaction, broadly speaking a cross-disciplinary field between natural science and social science.
For authors already established in the world of academic writing, this book might be somewhat disappointing at first sight as it does not touch much upon improving writing habits or effectiveness etc. of experienced writers. However, it both touches academic writing on a general basic level (e.g. how to structure a paper) and on a more detailed level (e.g. different approaches to to opening a paper) that might be useful for experienced writers. For authors like me, that can be categorized as being in an intermediate state several parts and steps are well known, but I surely did learn new things and repetition should never be underestimated. For example, the book includes a list of writing obstacles and how to fight or consider them. All authors have by guarantee been dealing with several of these obstacles, and chances are that most are at least still dealing with some. Also, the suggestions about good academic writing in English were useful to me. Especially since English is not my native language.
I wished I had been introduced to this book years ago. I can recommend this book to authors starting to write academic papers and students working on larger projects such as a master thesis etc. This is an excellent introduction going through all essentials of writing and publishing and will be an excellent read in your writing breaks. This lightness of the book also makes it a read that will not be seen as yet an obstacle towards the writing process. This book should be provided to all Ph.D. students day one along with receiving the office key, access card etc.