How to Write an Academic Article

The Times Higher Education just published my (tongue in cheek) piece The publication game: how to write an academic article. They’ve kindly allowed me to reproduce it below, for those who do not want to register for access.

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Title

This must be in two parts, separated by a colon. The fragment before the colon uses a colloquial expression preferred by your research subjects, something grammatically dubious and profane. This is placed in quotation marks to demonstrate your personal distance from it. The short sentence after the colon establishes your knowledge of the chosen theoretical framework, and alludes to your method.

Introduction

Strike the necessary balance between showing how many people have already researched this topic and demonstrating the uniqueness of your study. Identify a “gap” in the literature, but head off objections that the “gap” is there for a good reason (such as that it is a worthless thing to study) by using terms such as “urgent” and “unprecedented”. Describe how and why your topic is socially relevant, and justify it with a link to a well-regarded news source. Avoid acknowledging the irony of publishing a socially relevant article in an academic journal.

Theoretical framework

Provide a multitude of references that show the complexity of your thought and its embeddedness in the literature. In this section, be especially careful to use the passive voice to confirm your neutrality. “Some scholars have been found to define the problem this way (eg, author from long ago, author from not so long ago), and others have been found to define it in this other way (ditto). There are studies to support earlier findings (eg, multiple authors) and there are studies to support later findings (ditto).” The “eg” is essential as it confirms your vast knowledge of the literature: you could have cited many more sources if space had permitted. Mention this in a footnote.

Resign yourself to excluding from your theoretical framework the manuscript you wrote with co-author X, who stopped responding to emails during editing, and the MA thesis you should have co-published last year if your student hadn’t decided that a marketing internship was more important to pursue than a published journal article.

Method

You have chosen a mixed methods design. This serves to unnerve both qualitative and quantitative readers. Offer an explanation of the quantitative survey research that is just complex enough to confuse readers with only an elementary knowledge of statistics. Pepper your description of the in-depth, qualitative interviews with an assortment of terms (eg, naturalisticreflexivityphenomenological) that emasculate the quantitative researchers. And sprinkle the whole method section with references justifying your approaches: authors who did similar surveys; authors who did similar interviews in an entirely different subject; and authors who combined surveys with follow-up interviews in different ways. These last references are totally irrelevant to your paper, but that’s OK. No one will check, and they sound impressive.

Results

This section allows a break from external reference validation. In other words, it’s in your own words. Present your findings numbers first, and illustrate the significance of some findings over others by adding asterisks. The qualitative findings are, in essence, an expansion of the colloquial quotation in your title. The longer quotes are indented to emphasise that this is not the sort of language you would use. But their syntactic inferiority and vulgarity serve to amuse the reader. Expletives really make Table 3 come alive.

Discussion

With an attempt at conversational academic language, summarise your findings. Use the present tense to emphasise the urgency of the work. Then present four thinking points. The first of these was suggested to you by reviewer#1. The second came to you under a very hot shower in the midst of lathering your hair. The third repeats a discussion point raised in a 20-year-old academic article that you’re confident no one has read. The fourth was suggested to you by reviewer#2. The reviewers will be satisfied now that their suggestions are incorporated. They will feel as if they are a part of your work; if not in name, at least in spirit.

As the discussion reaches its conclusion, turn up the grandeur and eloquence of your language. This illustrates your intellectual capacity for connecting your conclusions to the broader (academic) world. Choose an ordinary word or two, like “pattern” or “concrete”, and add “isation” to the end. You know it, and your readers know it: the creation of long neologisms is the essence of theoretical progress – especially if the neologism in question ends in “isation”.

References

Don’t be shy: self-citation is fine. Your detailed proof of your paper’s legitimacy includes five articles you wrote yourself, and three that you co-authored with others. This number would be higher if it weren’t for the incompetence of some of those mentioned in the theoretical framework. It isn’t important that the self-referenced articles are only sort of connected with the topic of the current piece: their presence further validates your qualifications anyway.

It isn’t necessary to read all the articles you cite: scanning their abstracts works just as well. And don’t feel guilty about including the six articles suggested by reviewer#3, who did not comment on your introduction, theoretical framework, method or discussion, but insisted that you include insights from his friends, collaborators and obscure academics he regards as brilliant. If such minor concessions are what it takes to publish such a brilliant article as yours, they are well worth it.

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How can we get people to change their minds about Zwarte Piet?

The Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis just published my article (written with Renata Rocha) called “‘No more blackface!’ How can we get people to change their minds about Zwarte Piet?” The full article freely available online, and the abstract is below.

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When Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands in December, he is accompanied by Zwarte Pieten made up in blackface, with afro wigs and bright red lips. Zwarte Piet, translated as “Black Pete,” has created growing controversy as a hurtful, racist caricature. Increasing voices demand change, but most of the population is opposed to altering the tradition. One way forward is to examine attitude change, and gain insight into how we can facilitate this process. This paper introduces the topic and reviews recent academic work on the controversy. Then, using autoethnographic vignettes (Humphreys, 2005), we explore our experiences with the tradition, weaving our stories together in relation to personal history, awareness, and attitude change. We provide an international perspective, as Renata is a Dutch/Cape Verdean woman born and raised in the Netherlands, and Janelle is a white woman, born and raised in Minnesota, who has lived in the Netherlands for 16 years. This approach allowed us to write together from an insider/outsider perspective (Zempi & Awan, 2017). Our stories depict attitude change from distinctive starting points, and by sharing them we hope to shed light on how attitude change can occur in relation to Zwarte Piet and broader social injustice issues.

What are you doing on Tinder? Impression management on a matchmaking mobile app

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Information, Communication & Society just published my article What are you doing on Tinder? Impression management on a matchmaking mobile app. A PDF version can be downloaded here. The abstract:

 

Mobile dating applications such as Tinder have exploded in popularity in recent years. On Tinder, impression management begins with a motivation to download the app, the choice of one’s profile photos and an assessment of the expectations of potential Tinder matches. These processes occur in a technologically mediated environment of reduced cues and increased control, local proximity and a reduced filtering process. My focus in this paper is this first stage of impression management, which consists of both impression motivation and impression construction. Specifically, what are the pre-match impression management practices of Tinder users? I present the results of interviews with Tinder users in the Netherlands. Participants were recruited via a Tinder profile that advertised the study using the University emblem and a brief description. Interview questions focused on user under

standings of self-presentation practices and profile construction. The interviews also examined how users evaluated their potential matches. Results show users’ motivations for using Tinder range from entertainment to ego-boost to relationship seeking, and these motivations sometimes change over time. Profile

photos are selected in an attempt to present an ideal yet authentic self, and chosen as an illustration of not only one’s desirability but also of other indicators such as education level. Tinder users ‘swipe’ not only in search of people they like, but also for clues as to how to present themselves in order to attract others like them. This research offers insight into user experiences and perceptions within the still under-researched area of inquiry.

Swiping, Matching, Chatting

Human IT just published my article Swiping, Matching, Chatting: Self-Presentation and Self-Disclosure on Mobile Dating Apps. The full article can be accessed as a PDF and the abstract is below:

People have long used rituals of self-presentation and self-disclosure when looking for a romantic connection, whether they seek a passionate love affair, a spouse or a casual encounter. Mobile dating applications like Tinder have exploded in popularity in recent years. On Tinder, impression management begins with choosing one’s profile photos and viewing and assessing the profiles of potential Tinder matches. Self-disclosing to matches begins in a technologically mediated environment. This article provides an overview of literature that has focused on self-presentation and self-disclosure on dating websites and raises questions about whether and how this literature can be applied to new digital matching mobile apps like Tinder. It highlights two current research projects on Tinder users recently conducted in the Netherlands.

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Are politicians authentic on Facebook?

homeHeaderLogoImageEver wonder how people perceive politicians’ Facebook pages? Gabrielle Grow (a former Master’s student) and I recently published an article in First Monday that examines the role authenticity plays in electoral social media campaigns.

The research focused on a number of candidate Facebook pages used during the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election Campaign. It examined authenticity based on four dimensions: authority, identity, transparency, and engagement.

The article is available online here.

Congratulations to Gabrielle – this research was based on her Master’s thesis. The thesis was excellent, and what a great accomplishment to also publish it in an (open access!) academic journal.

New book: Communicating Citizenship Online

My dissertation research was published in July 2012 by Hampton Press. The book is entitled “Communicating Citizenship Online,” and is available for purchase on Amazon. Here is a brief summary:

How do youth organizations use new media? How do they address Internet savvy youth who are also apathetic citizens? How has this evolved with new demands for interactivity in social media? These are contemporary challenges facing any organization active online. Spanning seven years of research, this book examines these issues and considers three separate political contexts with a variety of analytical tools.

In a broad sense, this is a study about contemporary citizenship and how it is reflected in organizational aims. The book also provides a comprehensive overview of web-based communication, starting in the heyday of official websites and moving into the realm of social media. It offers important insights into the relationship between context and content.