Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Peer Reviews and Preparing your Journal Article for Publication

* I do too many peer reviews per year. I have completed peer reviews for 9 different journals and three and a half of those are focused on Korea. I have been asked to review Korea-related submissions for the other journals. This experience is the background for this blog post *

I'm not being the kindest peer reviewer tonight. But seriously, when will people learn to send their articles to the right journal? Last summer I gave a presentation (in Korean) to a group of Korean scholars about publishing in English language journals. Reviewing this paper right now just brings back all the things I talked to them about last summer. Although I am too lazy to go find my presentation notes or something, this is what this review has reminded me of-- because these issues are all too common.

Before you submit an article, think about the things the readers of that journal want to know about. If it's not the primary thing you're writing about, send it somewhere else: Why is it so common to see scholars submitting to journals that publish on Korea who have somehow FAILED to think about their audience at all? Journals in Korean Studies (or whatever other topic) are for people who want to read about Korea-- if you say "wow, I'm researching a Korean thing, I should send it to that journal!" you may be on the right track, but you need to realize that as a Korean Studies journal:
a). Your readership has a certain common area of knowledge, and interests. So don't talk down to them about Korea as if they know nothing, and in fact, be aware that you're entering a 'Korean Studies' conversation, so if you only care about ideas related to something else, which you are applying to a Korean thing, you might be sending the article the wrong place. Although Korean Studies is not a discipline, in the same sense that Sociology has key knowledge and texts, there are things that are overarching within Korean Studies that tie together our conversations. Connect to those or submit elsewhere. 
b). don't bore readers with a bunch of your half-baked rehashing of theoretical jargon without tying it very closely back to Korea. No one is reading your article to see you advance the field of XYZ, they are reading it because it relates to an aspect of Korea they may research or teach about. Advance that other field somewhere that those people will see it. Maybe you had to always justify the 'greater importance' for your professor in graduate school, but I'm not him, and I know enough about Korea to find your awkward mashing of Korean X together with Compelling Theoretical Idea Y to be completely unconvincing, because UNLIKE your professor, I know about Korea. Maybe in grad school you had to prove that you had read and understood dead ancients like Aristotle, but seriously, you don't need to give me three paragraphs reviewing Aristotle, I just don't care that much (this is a real example from an article I reviewed). 

Sorry, but you have to read (or skim) the English language scholarship if you're publishing in English: Seriously, if you're writing in English for a Korean Studies audience, you're writing for the audience MOST LIKELY to have read the English language publications that are already out there. Don't ignore some important key publications (lots aren't important, but you just can't ignore certain scholars, even if you only cite them to disagree with them, because even if they're unknown in Korean, they're important in English language scholarship). If you ignore all the English language scholarship you not only will have a hard time passing the review, but you won't be earning yourself any scholarly friends. When I explain to my students about the importance of citations, one of the things I explain is that it's a form of etiquette. You're not ignoring the hard work of other people, or claiming to have done the hard work that actually started from a significant foundation someone else built. So, unless you're magically able to find an area of scholarship in which not a single worthy English-language publication exists, not even peripherally, you're being rude. You're playing in someone else's sandbox without acknowledging that someone else got there first.

*Remember the reviewers who were assigned your article should be very familiar with literature in the field you're writing in -- they may think you have to cite them, or they will be insulted on behalf of their long term colleague*

Just in case this isn't totally obvious-- I have also rejected scholars who I felt were only relying on English writings and hadn't engaged with the major Korean language publications. I've seen a few of those where it was pretty obvious the author couldn't use enough Korean to make it out of the 분식집 and into the 화장실 in the stairwell leading to the 당구장. But I have read FAR more scholars who are Koreans ignoring the English scholarship, than non-Koreans who ignored the Korean scholarship. (This is probably because of the huge pressure to publish only journal articles in Korea these days).

Try to match your language (translations/glosses/use of Korean terms) to other scholarship and your audience: Why do people make up their own translations and glosses of Korean terms? Seriously, how many translations and glosses do we need for pansori? Describe it in detail, then just use the Korean word, after all, this is a Korean Studies audience you're writing for. If you don't know what the gloss generally is for that term refer to the most quoted English language publications on the topic. If you don't know what those are, see the point above. And if you do that, and think their gloss is wrong, use your gloss and put a footnote in to connect your new gloss to previous glosses so that your readers don't get confused. If I have to review one more paper written by someone who seems unaware that entire books in English have been written on pansori, I'm going to scream. Earlier in 2016 I was reviewing one article on pansori sent to a Korean Studies journal written by someone in a theatre program who cited about two scholars of pansori. It was all theatre studies jargon this and that. And no real understanding of pansori, just trying to perhaps take advantage of a Korean background while attending a theatre program-- because if this author really had the massive misunderstandings about pansori that he or she did (needless to say I did not recommend publication and it hasn't appeared in that journal), then he or she really had no business writing on pansori to begin with. This brings me to the next point...

Don't try to publish on a topic you're not really familiar with: NEWS FLASH: I don't have a free pass to write about American culture because I'm American. You don't have a free pass to write about Korean culture just because you're Korean. You actually have to do research and care about your subject. And just because you're writing in English doesn't mean you can make stuff up. A couple of years ago I was sent an article by a highly regarded dance journal, with two authors writing about salpuri (a Korean dance). The authors (or one of them) may have known something about dance, but certainly not about shamanism, which they decided to adjust and bend to fit their ideas. I recommended that it be rejected (but left pages and pages of detailed comments). Two months later a Korean Studies journal sent me the same abstract and asked me to review, I told them I already had, and though I'd be curious to see if they took my advice on rewriting it, the journal might not want me to review it (they didn't). It has yet to appear in their journal, too-- although perhaps it still will (they take a long time to publish).

*I think a lot of this comes from people who study under scholars who aren't Koreanists. They get in bad habits of applying theories that may or may not fit Korea to Korean things, because their grad school professors don't know any better. Your reviewer will know better than that grad school professor*

Romanization: Also, just because you're Korean or have fluent Korean doesn't mean you can use any Romanization system you want, or rather, no system except your own mind. The journal probably told you which system to use. Use it. If you don't know why consistency in Romanization is important, find out why it is.

Okay, I'll tell you briefly: basically, no one can guess if you're writing 순 or 선 when you write 'sun' if you change back and forth between using /u/ for 우 and for 어, and you also sometimes write /o/ for 어, yet at other times /u/. The key to Romanization is consistency. ANOTHER NEWS FLASH, neither 조son nor 조sun is the name of the last Korean kingdom. It's going to be either Chosŏn or Joseon. Your justifications such as "random bloggers wrote it this way" or "it sounds like this" do not change the reality of Romanization. When someone from Japanese Studies decides to read your article, and then tries to search out more articles that talk about some poorly Romanized term, they won't find anything (or find that much). Why? Because they don't know that poongmool (wacky Romanization), pungmul (or p'ungmul using M-R), and nongak and who knows what else are the same thing.

*Romanization is not supposed to match English pronunciation, it is a system to help people who don't read 한글 to find the same thing again in other print media.*

Match the format: Could you please stop using symbols like < > in your bibliographies? (Also stop using it around titles of songs or books or tables or whatever, and use - not ~ and there are others, but I don't even know where to find them on my computer, they are that unnecessary to English). To make a correct bibliography (and correct citations) is an important part of academic scholarship. You should have learned to perfectly match the format in the article you submit to articles in previous issues of the same journal (there is also probably a submission guidelines page, although those are often less detailed than they could be, so again, refer to the already published articles). Yes, it can be a pain in the rear. The ones I don't like using are British English spelling and the "Harvard" citation system, but I still do it because matching the format is part of the checklist that reviewers are going to go over as they decide if your article should be accepted. And when I review an article sometimes I'll even go directly to the bibliography, because if an author can't get that right, it's usually an indicator of multiple other problems.

*If you want to have a rejected article, get it rejected for the ideas, not because you think you're a special snowflake.*

Finally, EDIT: I'm a native English speaker and I send my publications before I submit them to journals to professional academic editors. If I am willing to pay for that when I was raised in a monolingual English-speaking household, why would any non-native speaker send something to a journal before it's been edited? Yes, there are a few of my friends that don't do this, but most of my friends do. An editor (for a native speaker or not) will introduce more polish, let you know your made-up term is awkward as heck, catch your leap of logic, and hopefully get rid of unnecessary passive voice.
Also, please recognize the difference between an academic editor and just some idjit who is a native speaker. Please, if you want me to appreciate your awesome ideas, exchange with a grad school friend or pay for an academic editor, you don't want your article rejected based on how hard it was to read, do you?

A few general closing points:
-In Korean Studies, Korean names are written in Korean order.
-Repeating over-simplifications of Korea doesn't help anyone.
-Please note that Korean terms should be in italics the first time or every time you use them (this depends on the publication), but not in 'single quotes'
-Please review where in-text citations, quotation marks, and footnote numbers go in the sentence-- this is so frequently wrong.
-Although this site goes down sometimes, this Romanization converter is quite good: http://roman.cs.pusan.ac.kr/input_eng.aspx

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