Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

Free Academic Books Here!

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Informal file sharing practices amongst academics are not widely discussed. George Veletsianos blogged about how researchers use crowdsourcing on Twitter to access academic papers – an activity I also discussed a couple of years ago. The #ICanHazPDF hashtag has been created specifically to facilitate such exchanges. What I’m particularly interested in here is the role of file storage sites in the exchange of academic content, and specifically, academic e-books and their various digital formats (PDF, ePub .azw etc.)

Following the introduction of the SOPA and PIPA bills, the authorities began flexing their muscles early this year, most notably in the shutting down of the file storage service Megaupload for facilitating copyright infringement through open file sharing. Some of the most popular file storage services immediately responded by disabling their file sharing functionality, and thereby restricting downloading to the personal files of registered users. Some sites however continue to operate open sharing services, providing potential access to digital content (including academic books), most effectively sourced through third-party search engines. As with all content on these sites, specific books are routinely removed – presumably at the request of publishers or the authors themselves (see the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) – and then reposted. Cat and mouse.

For affiliated academics, there are legitimate avenues for obtaining books and other texts that are not readily available institutionally. In the UK, the Inter-Library Loan (ILL) service enables university students and staff to request any book from the British Library, though it may take several weeks or even months to receive the most sought-after books and loan periods can be very short. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see a PhD student stood for hours at a photocopier meticulously copying every page of a weighty volume of text.

I recently went to a university training session on academic copyright, in which it was specifically stated that we are expected to copy only a ‘reasonable amount’ of any text, without indicating what a reasonable amount might be, or on what ethical or legal grounds such an evaluation may be determined.

In addition, dedicated ‘e-library’ systems can provide institutional access to digital books and texts. Though typically restricted to online viewing only, some enable the printing of one or a limited number of pages at a time. Therefore, an entire book can feasibly be saved to PDF or other formats in this way, but it is a repetitive and time-consuming process.

It is perhaps assumed that the technological limitations ’embedded’ in these various methods of copying (Latour would have something clever to say at this point) are sufficient to deter wholesale copying. This might apply to busy and waged academics, who will probably just buy the book instead (or at least try and convince their department to). But what about the research student, who is (relatively speaking) time-rich and financially poor? Academic textbooks are notoriously expensive, especially niche or out-of-print titles.

Under these circumstances, we might not feel we are flouting the ‘rules’ (however ambiguous they are) by engaging in the practices described here, particularly in a climate increasingly dismissive of academic publishing hegemonies and supportive of open publishing / access agendas. But is it fair that a book that may have been written by a professor in your own department, a colleague or supervisor, or yourself for that matter, can be obtained in this way?

Writing Journal Articles – Tips from the Editors

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

During yesterday’s Doctoral Conference at the London Knowledge Lab, Martin Oliver, Neil Selwyn and Rebecca Eynon, editors of Learning, Media and Technology, presented a useful session on getting journal articles published. Here’s a summary of my notes.


Developing Journal Articles from a Thesis

  • Aim to write three journal articles from your thesis
  • Develop one key theme for each – not the same texts with a different spin
  • Avoid ‘salami slicing’ – replicating texts across different journals
  • Also look for options in developing shorter ‘positional’ papers – Neil Selwyn mentioned the recent viewpoint article by University of Nottingham’s very own Sarah Lewthwaite as a good example from their journal

Identifying Journals

  • Ask supervisors
  • Look at previous authors of journals (these may now be reviewers)
  • Send an abstract to editors before committing to writing a paper – they will try to get back to you
  • Look for reputable publishers
  • Make sure journals are peer reviewed and have an ISSN number
  • Know your audience – pay particular attention to the requirements of an international audience


  • Proof read!
  • Use critical friends
  • Obvious, but thoroughly read journal submission guidelines / instructions


  • Make sure each recommendation is addressed
  • Add a note when resubmitting to outline how you have addressed each recommendation



  • Present the key points from your conclusion in the abstract – don’t keep them as a surprise!

Literature Review

  • A good literature review should critique, build on and support existing literature
  • Ensure the literature review logically informs and justifies the research questions


  • Avoid ‘copy and paste’ methodologies from theses
  • It is not necessary to describe the methodology in depth – more important to justify why you chose a methodology
  • Sampling is often a weak area in journals – present sampling methods and the justifications for sampling


  • Doctoral students tend to discuss ethics too much in journal articles – reviewers assume appropriate ethical procedures have been taken
  • Only refer to special cases / requirements

Presenting Data

  • Journals are frequently let down by insufficient data
  • Use tables, diagrams or graphs if possible but keep these limited

Discussion / Conclusion

  • Always use the literature review to discuss your data – do not introduce new literature
  • Draw three or four key conclusions


  • Consider carefully who you cite – reviewers read titles, abstract and references first