“If you are in grad school and want to succeed as an academic, the single most important thing you can do is learn to write well.”—Michael Munger
Munger begins by sharing his three simple rules of writing well:
- Write every day
- Write on important topics that truly interest you
- Submit your work for feedback
According to Munger, success comes down to pacing yourself, testing your work, and submitting your original research to academic journals.
Munger continues by sharing what you should expect from journal and book reviews. The reviews are blind, so don’t take criticism personally. The reviewer’s job is to find every issue with your work, which will help you prepare for publication. To strengthen your writing, clearly demonstrate what is at stake and why readers should care.
Next, Munger discusses the writing, editing, and proposing processes. He advises choosing a specific journal before writing your paper, since journal styles and formats differ. After sending your paper off to the journal, you will wait for one of three responses: rejection, revise and resubmit, or conditional acceptance.
Conditional acceptance is less common, but it means you need to incorporate some edits before the paper can be published. When you revise and resubmit, make sure you note your corrections in your cover letter as you go.
Munger also covers the various stages of book proposals: drafting, copyediting, indexing, proofing, and producing. He encourages the use of outlines to shape your work. Once your work is on paper, you can prune your writing into bite-sized chunks. Before submitting your writing, ask others to review it. You can assume that your readers are never wrong, so take feedback from reviewers seriously.
How can you overcome writer’s block? Munger says story-telling formulas can help. Present a problem, ask a question, and then offer a solution through your research.
In the remaining videos, Munger covers the paper-writing process from start to finish. His “three papers rule” states that you should have at least three papers under review at journals at the same time when possible. While waiting for one to be reviewed, write another paper or work on revising a previously submitted paper.
Instead of using conferences as motivation for starting a new paper, focus on finishing your current work. If you have more than three conference papers per published paper, Munger says, you are not finishing your work. You should publish your current work before going to another conference.
But how do you turn a class paper into a publication? Munger says you should ask faculty members and advanced students to provide an honest assessment of your work before you prepare it for publication. If you receive the green light from them, start your paper from scratch to tailor your writing to the outlet you have in mind. Once you have established your expertise, stick to it, and expand your research on the topic.
Finally, Munger leaves you with these tongue-in-cheek words of encouragement: “if you are feeling inadequate, stupid, or tired, that probably means you are on the right track.” Take heed in knowing you will succeed if you commit to finishing well!
View the full series on our YouTube channel.