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Co-Writing with a Professor or Scholar


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Hello,

Not sure if this is the right place...but any advice on approaching a scholar to co-write a journal or publication article? I'm an aid worker in East Africa with previous foreign policy publications but nothing academic outside of undergraduate. During my time abroad I'd like to co-write a piece with a scholar to boost my resume. I can't approach anyone at my undergraduate institution because none of the professors write on topics in my field. So this will be a blind email to scholars I'm familiar w/ from think tanks or someone I've met on-site. Would I be better off trying to work with a recent post-doc or graduate student?

Edited by BMCGirl10
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I should mention that many of the journals I'm interested in have a 750 - 1,000 word limit per article, so it's not too strenuous a commitment for the scholar or myself.

Edited by BMCGirl10
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Hi there- I have not had experience doing this, but I am curious as to why you want to have a co-author and not just submit your own. Do you have a topic? data? is this why you're interested in bringing someone in?

If you have a topic and/or data, why not take the chance to get a single authored paper?! :)

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Hi there- I have not had experience doing this, but I am curious as to why you want to have a co-author and not just submit your own. Do you have a topic? data? is this why you're interested in bringing someone in?

If you have a topic and/or data, why not take the chance to get a single authored paper?! :)

Hi Dal PhDer,

The Journal that I'm interested in publishing in, the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa, requires submission from faculty or ABD students. I assume that many other academic journals have similar requirements for submission. I have a general topic in mind focusing on rule of law in South Sudan. I'll look around to see if I can find journals that I can publish in solo but I'd also like the guidance of a scholar to direct my research and writing style for an academic audience.

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Hi Dal PhDer,

The Journal that I'm interested in publishing in, the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa, requires submission from faculty or ABD students. I assume that many other academic journals have similar requirements for submission. I have a general topic in mind focusing on rule of law in South Sudan. I'll look around to see if I can find journals that I can publish in solo but I'd also like the guidance of a scholar to direct my research and writing style for an academic audience.

Ok! That makes more sense to me now! And is this an opinion / perspective piece, a literature review/meta-analysis, or a paper that will need data collection?

One way to do it is to approach people who you've worked with before and/or know you in your own department and sacrifice writing about something that's strictly of your own interest, and maybe something that's a bit more in their area but that you can spin into a topic you enjoy. A lot of profs have data that they let students take and publish from something, or they might have contacts that they could direct you too. You could also try and apply for an RAship- they often lead to publications.

Do you have an advisor or some academic contact? If you do, I would start there, and let them know that you're interested in publishing and the topic you would like to do. They could probably give you some advice.

Tbh, I don't know anyone that has cold called a person and ask them to co-write something, that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I might research people who write in that area, and contact them about the potential to collaborate and your ideas. I don't know about the politics/manners of this, but if it's done professionally and with the tone that you're an eager and motivated student looking to gain experience, I am sure it would be fine.

Do you have an academic point of contact like a supervisor?

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Dal PhDer already gave a lot of good advice. I would add that you might get a better response if you already have some of the work done before you approach another person. It might depend on field, but in the sciences, most of the time a prof (or sometimes grad students too) get "cold-called" (or emailed) to co-write a paper, it's someone with a pet theory that will revolutionize physics or someone desperate to get their name on something. So profs are sometimes wary of random people asking them to put their name onto a paper that they didn't really work on. I don't think you are just trying to get a faculty name on a paper (since you say you want to learn from their advice as well!) but I think it's worth making sure you don't sound that way when you approach someone!

Ideally, you could have a paper fleshed out with your ideas on the rule of law and shape the outline to include whatever the other person's area of expertise is, it would show that you know what you want help on, instead of just a general call for assistance. But I guess you don't want to push your own ideas too strongly that the other person feels railroaded into signing onto a paper.

Also, if it's someone you have talked to before (in person or email), it's probably better, especially if they know you a little bit. Cold-calling for coauthors is not conventional so who knows you might give you the initial benefit of the doubt you need to start a conversation. (Or like Dal PhDer says, if you know someone, e.g. an academic point of contact, who knows someone...)

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TakeruK- excellent advice! I might add that if you do contact someone that you don't know personally, I might outline what you expect them to contribute or what you think they can add to the paper. I think this might help them understand their place in this process, show that you've researched their background/expertise, and have also given thought to the idea/direction of the paper.

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What you're describing sounds similar to cold-calling in sales, and it has a very, very low success rate. You can drastically increase the chances of a successful cold call by having a referral from someone the person you're calling knows.

So, since you actually work in the field in this area, maybe you can find a co-worker or supervisor or other local contact, and see if they can recommend someone in academia who could co-author this with you? Or maybe since you work for an aid organization, the organization itself might be able to help. I would think "Hello professor, you don't know me but when I spoke with Bob-mutual-contact-of-ours he recommended I get in touch with you..." sounds way, way better than "Hello professor so-and-so, you don't know me but I thought we could co-author this paper..."

Or if you can't get any lead-ins to someone in academia who would do this with you, maybe you could look for other journals that would publish it, and accept a submission from someone actually working in the field? For that matter, you wouldn't have anything to loose contacting the journal in question and asking if it's a hard-and-fast rule, or if they would still consider your submission anyway.

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Ok! That makes more sense to me now! And is this an opinion / perspective piece, a literature review/meta-analysis, or a paper that will need data collection?

One way to do it is to approach people who you've worked with before and/or know you in your own department and sacrifice writing about something that's strictly of your own interest, and maybe something that's a bit more in their area but that you can spin into a topic you enjoy. A lot of profs have data that they let students take and publish from something, or they might have contacts that they could direct you too. You could also try and apply for an RAship- they often lead to publications.

Do you have an advisor or some academic contact? If you do, I would start there, and let them know that you're interested in publishing and the topic you would like to do. They could probably give you some advice.

Tbh, I don't know anyone that has cold called a person and ask them to co-write something, that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I might research people who write in that area, and contact them about the potential to collaborate and your ideas. I don't know about the politics/manners of this, but if it's done professionally and with the tone that you're an eager and motivated student looking to gain experience, I am sure it would be fine.

Do you have an academic point of contact like a supervisor?

Hi - I'm not in school currently. I've been out of undergrad for three years and work in the field. But I do have professors and scholars at former think tanks that I've worked with. I have an editor and a scholar in mind to help me review my piece once I draft it. No data in mind - just analysis and rule of law projection. I've found a new journal that accepts pieces on comparative democracy so I'll be reviewing their recent articles.

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What you're describing sounds similar to cold-calling in sales, and it has a very, very low success rate. You can drastically increase the chances of a successful cold call by having a referral from someone the person you're calling knows.

So, since you actually work in the field in this area, maybe you can find a co-worker or supervisor or other local contact, and see if they can recommend someone in academia who could co-author this with you? Or maybe since you work for an aid organization, the organization itself might be able to help. I would think "Hello professor, you don't know me but when I spoke with Bob-mutual-contact-of-ours he recommended I get in touch with you..." sounds way, way better than "Hello professor so-and-so, you don't know me but I thought we could co-author this paper..."

Or if you can't get any lead-ins to someone in academia who would do this with you, maybe you could look for other journals that would publish it, and accept a submission from someone actually working in the field? For that matter, you wouldn't have anything to loose contacting the journal in question and asking if it's a hard-and-fast rule, or if they would still consider your submission anyway.

Will definitely keep this in mind. Now planning to approach a scholar that I know personally and have worked with previously.

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