The Importance of Keeping a Journal: A Few Tips

Decades ago, while on the faculty of the Annenberg School for Communication at USC, the late Professor Richard Byrne convinced me to use a journal. In have never regretted that decision. It is an easy and powerful tool for managing information.

When I met Richard, he was the Associate Dean, who helped found the Annenberg School of Communication with his friend and colleague Frederick Williams, and later served as an Acting Dean. When he was not teaching, or directing the School, Richard taught time management and information management to executives through a firm he created, called Springboard! In university, Richard studied drama, and he used his skill set from acting in his teaching, and to present captivating keynote speeches for executives around the world. He was intense and engaging. He led an incredibly full life until he died from the complications of skin cancer at a young age, 53.

Richard did talks occasionally for students around various time management issues. I was sitting in on one of his tutorials when I learned his simple lessons on keeping a journal, which have stuck with me for decades. So easy.

First, get a journal you that is the size that is best for you to carry with you as often as possible. I like a small 5″ by 8 1/4″ Moleskin® journal. I always prefer plain, blank paper, but lined or graphic blank pages are fine, whatever you prefer. But use high quality paper so that you can write with different pens or markers without the ink bleeding through the pages.

Of course, it can have any color binding. I prefer black, but changing colors is helpful in keeping the journals identifiable. You’ll want to keep past journals accessible, so anything you can do to keep them in sequence is helpful, such as shifting colors. [Needless to say, you should have a pen or quality writing tools that you like. I always use a fountain pen with a medium nib.]  img_0867

You must wonder why you would want anything on paper. Is it not easier to do this on your computer or smart phone? I’ve tried to find digital media to substitute for my paper journal, but have never been satisfied that they are as flexible and user friendly. Just as the book remains difficult to beat electronically, I find the paper journal more creative, flexible, and private.

Secondly, start keeping notes immediately and start at the very first page of your journal. Date your entries, and take notes on anything. If you are listening to a lecture, keep the lecture notes in the journal. If you come up with an idea, sketch it in your journal. If you have thoughts on anything, reactions to a movie or play, an article, an observation, put it in the journal, dated, and in chronological sequence.

Chronological notes are key to being findable. Any other organization gets overtaken quickly with new topics or ideas that don’t fit a predetermined system, and you’ll find it very easy to quickly find the notes you are looking for if they are in a chronological order. No matter what the topic, enter everything chronologically, starting from the front and moving through, and you will be able to find everything by thumbing through the pages. Instead of having notes scattered everywhere, important as well as unimportant things are centralized in the journal. In fact, you don’t know what will be important or unimportant over time, so don’t worry about whether something makes the threshold for being in your journal, just add it. This is particularly critical in getting started. You’ll want to start with something significant, but it is more important to simply start.

There is an exception. I normally leave the first two pages of my journals for references, such as phone numbers, my address, or anything I don’t want to memorize that I often need. So your journal becomes an aide memoire in more ways that one.

Third, be as comprehensive as possible. For every meeting, phone call or conversation, take notes in your journal. Any thoughts that you believe to be worth taking notes on, or any information you want to remember, enter in your journal. That means you should carry it with you as often as possible. You want it to be a habit – both having and using the journal.

Fourth, I find it helpful to use a variety of note taking methods. I enjoy mind mapping, and I use mind maps often such as for taking notes on a lecture, or sketching notes for something I plan to write. But I don’t use only one form. I sometimes do simple lists, write out text, draw images or create typologies. By varying the form of your notes, they become easier to find, and the exercise avoids becoming too mechanical.

So get your first journal, starting filling the pages, and see for yourself how valuable it can be.

 

 

Joining the Board of ‘Global Media and Communication’

I am delighted to be joining the International Editorial Advisory Board of Global Media and Communication, an international, peer-reviewed journal that provides a platform for research and debate on the continuously changing global media and communication environment. Its scope includes global aspects of communication and media studies, anthropology, sociology, telecommunications, public policy, migration and diasporic studies and has a particular remit to encourage a truly global authorship and breadth of articles. The journal has been published by Sage in print and online since 2005 and has a global readership. It currently publishes three issues per year (in April, August and December). As a board member, you would be involved in assisting with occasional reviewing of articles. There are also opportunities to meet and discuss the work of the journal, e.g. at international conferences.  imgres

Personally, it fits well with my work on global aspects of the Internet, such as my work on the New Internet World, and is timely in relation to a new graduate course I am developing on Global Media and Information.

Please consider submitting to this journal if you have forthcoming research in this area.

Writing a Refereed Journal Article: A Personal Perspective on Strategies for Doctoral Students

Develop a Set of Realistic Expectations

  •  X (4?) articles accepted, in press, or published before completion of DPhil
  • 2 or more in peer reviewed journals or equivalent outlets
  • book chapter(s) are good, more valued with other professional journal articles

(Co-)Authorship issues vary across disciplines, but in Internet Studies:

  •  One or more single authored publications idea
  • Co-authored publications fine, but not only co-authored publication
  • Agree a strategy to manage co-authorship over two or more works (don’t agree to be the last co-author on all publications, unless that is fair
  • Co-authorship is growing more common with team-based research

Present Your Work

  • Present any piece being developed for publication
  • Discover flaws and missing links, ordering problems in the argument and its presentation, in addition to getting feedback
  • Often the source of suggestions of appropriate journals, even invitations to submit to a particular journal
  • Don’t present too many conference papers relative to your publications – suggesting a lack of focus on getting your work published

Be Your Own Toughest Critic on whether Your Idea or Analysis is Publishable

  • Is it an original contribution (empirically (new data set, new operational definitions, original observations or case studies), theoretically, otherwise)?
  • Is it sufficiently important? A relatively simple contribution might merit a blog, or a research note, but not justify the time required for a full journal article.

Prioritize your Time, but be Flexible

  • Focus your attention on the most important original contribution you can make, rather than saving it for future publications
  • Create files, stacks or folders for other ideas, papers, which might rise or diminish in significance over time.
  • Keep your priority, but if you can’t make progress, don’t stop writing. Move to another paper, where you feel able to make progress.

Follow a Simple, Clear Structure Reflecting Basic Research Processes

  • Problem, research question, literature, approach, methods, findings, limitations, discussion of implications and further research
  • Explain what you are going to do. Do it. Tell the reader what you’ve done.
  • Do not write a mystery novel.

Literature Review

  • Essential Element, but don’t Over Kill
  • Are you aware of relevant research?
  • Has related research been published in the journal you are considering?

Carefully Consider the Journal(s) in Which to Choose to Publish

  • Centrality to your work based on Track Record of Published Articles
  • Links to the Academic Community of the Editor, and Editorial Board (Have you read or heard of these scholars?)
  • Do you publish in refereed journals in your field of specialization?
  • Among the fitting journals, it is best to have your article accepted in one with a higher impact factor, and indexed by the right sources.

Write for the Chosen Journal

  • Follow the journal’s style guidelines
  • Keep to guidelines on length, word count
  • Do not submit to another journal while being considered by your chosen journal. This may cause you to think twice about submitting to some journals, such a one noted for slow turnaround of reviews.

Respond to Reviewers

  • Good luck on first review and chosen set of reviewers
  • Most journals will return your manuscript to the initial reviewers, so it is practical to focus on understanding and being responsive to review
  • Explain how you’ve responded to reviews, particularly when reviewers offer contradictory suggestions.
  • Don’t be discouraged by critical reviews, and don’t blame the reviewers, if your writing has not convinced them of the merits.
  • Be attentive to positive reviews: Why did the reviewer like your piece?
  • If unsuccessful, consider an alternative journal, in light of the reviews.

The Importance of Focused Time

  • Not Alcohol, Drugs, or Sleep Deprivation
  • Time on Task in Revision after Revision[1]
  • Consistent Discipline in Reading and Organizing Notes and Research
  • Record your ideas, notes, readings, systematically. Read: C. Wright Mills, ‘On Intellectual Craftsmanship’[2]
  • Focus on the Article, get feedback from colleagues who read or discuss your ideas, and revise, and revise again.

 

 


[1] Take a look at Galbraith’s wonderful essay on Writing Typing and Economics: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1978/03/writing-typing-and-economics/305165/