Are you comparing where you are in your scholarly journey to where others are? Do you feel like your career isn’t progressing the way you thought it would? I’m sharing part of my story that I hope will inspire you.

If you’ve ever felt like you just can’t get the hang of this writing and publishing thing, this episode is for you. I’m sharing a little bit about my (very long) qualitative research publishing journey to show you that developing as a scholar and as a writer is an ongoing process. I encourage you to see your own journey as a process of growth, and to think twice before you compare where you are on that journey to someone else. 

 

My Journey Begins

I was a very lucky PhD candidate. I had a wonderful experience. I worked with talented and supportive advisors, I loved my research, and I was even awarded a grant to complete my dissertation. 

So as I got ready to submit for my first published work after receiving my Phd, I was feeling pretty confident. I pulled a chapter from my dissertation and got to work shaping it into an article.

Submission and Rejection

I assumed the article would be perfect for Anthropology and Education Quarterly (a top tier journal). As you can probably deduce at this point, the article was rejected. But, I consider myself incredibly lucky in this rejection, because the reviewers gave me some incredibly valuable feedback. They pointed out a lack of rigor in my qualitative research set up and my ability to articulate it. 

I hadn’t realized how different the aims and expression of scholarly articles are to those of a dissertation. I had excellent training in qualitative research methods, but the way I was implementing and articulating those methods needed development. 

Choices and Growth

I worked on revisions to the article for a year, then resubmitted. I got another rejection, with pretty much the same feedback! I still hadn’t solved the problem of clearly expressing the rigor of the study design. At this point, I was 8 months pregnant, and I made a choice to set the article aside and move on to other things. First on the list: maternity leave! After I returned from maternity leave, I suffered a near breakdown from burnout and overwhelm, as I’ve shared about before.

As the years passed, I followed new lines of research, secured large grants, and completed new studies; all informed by that feedback I had received from my first article submission. I published other articles, and grew as a scholar. 

When I did finally go back to that original article, I had a changed perspective. I revised it for a final time and decided that a mid-tier journal called Language Identity and Education was a better fit. It was accepted with very minor revisions, and finally published after it’s long and winding journey! 

To round out the “happy ending”, a colleague and I submitted a different article to Anthropology & Education Quarterly several years later which was accepted with minor revisions on the first go. That initial rejection and the invaluable feedback that came with it helped to shape me as a scholar. To give you a visual of my career narrative in terms of that first article, I’ll share a timeline below. Don’t give up, and try to view your rejections as places to learn and grow.

“You’re never done developing as a scholar.” -Cathy Mazak

Timeline:

  • 2005: Awarded Spencer Foundation Grant and completed my dissertation
  • 2006: Landed a tenure track job 
  • 2007: Submitted to Anthropology and Education Quarterly for the first time; received rejection and feedback
  • 2008: Worked on revisions
  • 2009: Resubmittal rejected; I chose to put the article in a drawer
  • 2010: Maternity leave for 6 months; after return to work I suffered a near breakdown
  • 2011: Revised again and submitted to a lower tier journal
  • 2012: Article accepted with minor revisions

In 2107, I submitted a co-authored article to Anthropology and Education Quarterly and it was accepted with minimal revisions.

Friends, that was a very long journey for my dissertation article! But I was growing as a scholar, researcher, and writer the whole time. And the feedback I received from my first rejection was instrumental in my growth. It was all part of the process that brought me to where I am today. 

If you’re feeling discouraged about some aspect of your career, I encourage you to step back, reflect on your journey without judgement, and look for places where setback could be contributing to your growth and development. 

“The process is the process.” -Cathy Mazak

Pulled in a thousand directions and can’t seem to carve out time to write? Download my 10 Ways to Make Time to Write cheat sheet for ideas to implement today!

 

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