Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Assault of Thoughts - Getting Published Edition - 12-14-2010

"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking" - JMK

I have a (mostly) silent obsession with getting published, as I'm sure a lot of amateur scholar types do. I, like a lot of you, always have ideas percolating. Many of them I share and develop and cultivate and revisit over time on here. Many others I don't share. Virtually all the ones I don't share are ideas I would like to get published in a peer-reviewed journal*. But of course, this is extremely challenging. There are a lot of trade-offs. First, I'm a relative amateur in economics. I think I have some truly sophisticated and worthwhile ideas, but I feel like if I let them stew for a while they could get cleaned up considerably. There are also time constraints. I mainly research and write early in the morning... and lots of mornings that doesn't even happen - I simply blog. But I don't jump head-first into my morning research because it seems unlikely I'll get a solid paper together given these constraints. It took me something like eight months to write my 1920-21 paper this way, and that wasn't a technical paper at all. I feel like the sooner I push these ideas through, the lower quality job I'll do. But then there's also that urge: publish.

It's an intimidating business, and I'm always interested in thoughts on publishing in peer-reviewed venues, particularly thoughts for young scholars. I've seen a few recently (not for young scholars, necessarily) that I'll share here.

- First, Greg Mankiw shares a short essay by Preston McAfee, an editor at the AER, on editing economics journals.

- Second, an article in The New Yorker shared by a colleague here at Urban on trends in significant results in random assignment studies over time. Initially, significant results are very high, but over time the significance actually erodes. Why? One reason is publishing biases. A subject of study first attracts the interest of journals by providing statistically significant results. That's what's exciting. And it's really less devious than that I'm sure - why would you publish an article saying "nobody ever suggested this would work before, and by the way we find it doesn't work"? So - whether you think of that decision making process as biased or sensible, a research agenda usually starts with lots of significant results. As it goes on, the insignificant results become more attractive because they challenge a status quo. Is this good? Is this bad? I'm not entirely sure its either... or to perhaps its more accurate to say I'm not sure its entirely either.

- And since I hate to have less than three links in these posts, here's Peter Boettke on "book cultures" vs. "journal cultures" in economics. I think I've linked to this before, but it doesn't hurt to do it again.

If anybody has thoughts on getting published I'm interested in hearing them.

* - I currently have four journal-length article ideas that I haven't shared on here, that I continue to outline and collect sources for in some detail, and that probably won't see the light of day (if at all) until well into my PhD (if that happens... which I hope isn't in question, but who knows). This is aside from hugely speculative ideas like "I'd love to write something about H.P. Lovecraft's thoughts on the Depression", of which I have several as well.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to get published (as in, really published - in the way you mean it), but the hard part is coming up with the original idea. It's still too early for me anyways. (maybe a degree from now ;)

    It's a consequence of fooling around when you're younger, I guess. You'll only get to the good stuff when you're older. (I'll be 25 when I finish my degree(s).)


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