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  • Friday, 30 December 2016

    Advice for #UCT Media Studies students on sharing draft #research papers online


    Written for UCT postgraduate Media Studies students interested in sharing their research projects online.

    Three of my 17 postgrad students shared their Mobile Media and Communication projects online. One student had a highly compelling reason not to; her draft paper's topic focused on a rival to her new employer's magazine title! As a result of this low ratio, it seems that several exemplary projects will at best be shared via UCT's intranet for just future FAM5038S students to access. The small ratio of students sharing drafts seems a missed opportunity for them to gain recognition. More importantly postgrad students' projects miss adding to Media Studies literature: several of my year's projects were pathfinders that successfully explored under-examined topics. Such foci also provided interesting insights regarding research participants' unusual Capetonian contexts.

    To help those Media Studies students keen to share their final research projects online, but who may be uncertain how, Nicola Pallitt and I recommend four options. For aspiring, emergent researchers, these are ideally considered after creating one's Academia researcher profile:

    Creating a research profile on Academia.edu

    Postgrads keen to progress to a PhD or working in research should create a UCT Academia.edu profile (ideally using their university work email address). Creating an Academia.edu profile and sharing their draft papers there first, enables one to basically say ‘this is mine’. While some journals won’t publish papers shared elsewhere {including Academia.edu!}, it is also helpful platform to link one's drafts from and join related communities. For example, a selfie researcher can search for the 'selfie' keyword and follow it. Ditto for the keywords, 'open access', 'special issue' – when you join such a network you might also connect with researchers who can advise on upcoming publications.

    Joining communities on Academia.edu can also give you insights into who is reading your paper. Plus readers of your article might describe what sparked their interest in it. Just remember to add your email address in your draft paper to ease communication – super-interested readers may want to email you. For background on the benefits and limitations of academics using Academia.edu (with its marginal relationship to open access), read Kristen Bell's reflections at  http://www.notkristenbell.com/academia-edu.

    You should also consider searching for and joining closed Facebook research groups. Their members can be asked for publication advice, such as where to publish. Here, you can easily introduce yourself in a post to the group, share your draft paper and pose your questions.

    P.S. There are other sites that you can create a research profile on (such as Google Scholar or ResearchGate), however these are most relevant for academics with a publication history. You should also consider sharing your draft paper via OpenUCT and reading its four-step guide for academics on taking control of their visibility.

    Recommended options to submit one's draft paper for publication include:

    1. To an Online Community or Conference.

    The easiest option is to share one's paper to a community related to its focus (such as 'Identity and media'). The drawback is that such a publication (and many under point 3 below) will be unrecognized for academic publication points, et al (see 
    http://www.researchoffice.uct.ac.za/publication_count/downloads/). You can also consider presenting at a local conference. Just be forewarned that you may have difficulty finding one focused on popular postgrad themes, such as 'identity and self presentation' or 'mobile gaming'.

    2. To an Open Access Journal.

    Use your research keywords to search in https://doaj.org/ and identify the most suitable journal(s). Open Access journals may not be as prestigious as the next two options, but you are more likely to have a positive response from them.

    3. To a Special Issue of a Journal.

    Student contributions may have a real advantage in Special Issues focusing on emergent media services (such as Snapchat and the 'ephemeral selfie' phenomenon), which few (if any) established academics could be doing research in. You can search for any upcoming special issues calling for contributions (for example, ephemeral selfies would suit special issues covering 'Gender' and 'Self-Presentation').

    4. To a Journal.

    It is preferable to start off in local publishing before attempting to publish in international journals. Local journals often offer a forum for debate in the field and are an entry point to it. A list of the IBSS (International Bibliography of Social Sciences) accredited local journals is on UCT Library’s website at http://www.lib.uct.ac.za/lib/journal-list.  An important consideration for journals in choosing to publish your article is whether it contributes to the dialogue taking place between a journal's authors. So, in choosing a journal to submit to, you should look through your references to check those journal(s) you mention the most. Alternately, you need to find several new references in the journal you want to publish in, then include these in your argument. It is also important to consider your purpose for publishing – choosing a journal can be about networking with a particular group of people. It’s like saying ‘I’m with these folks’... or want to be!

    Future Media Studies students may benefit form you sharing research online; publishing it moves it from being just a 'textbook exercise' (that "fridge magnet" which only your educator gets to view) towards being a contribution to the Media Studies community. The latter may help ensure that your project is not redone by other students, but they might build on it. For example, by following the future directions for research your paper suggests.

    N.B. Consider the RISKS before sharing.

    While there can be personal benefits to sharing your research online; such as recognition, receiving constructive feedback and protecting your authorial rights, be prepared for negative outcomes, too. In particular, you must be sure that the privacy of your research participants remains protected, especially for controversial projects (such as Tindr and sexual relationships). You may receive negative feedback, experience rejection of your submission or have it plagiarized. Worse, you may be trolled by undesirable audiences, such as chauvinists and/or racist trolls! If such risks deeply concern you, rather pursue an offline approach, asking your lecturer or supervisor for guidance.

    Share and comment

    Nicci and I hope that the benefits described above will outweigh any such risks and that reading our post has given you a sound appreciation for the 'how and why' to share draft papers online. Add a comment below to let us know if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions that could improve this post, ta.

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