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Extension > Youth Development Insight > Put it in writing: Why you should get published

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Put it in writing: Why you should get published

By Jennifer Skuza

There is something so rewarding about seeing your name in print as an author. You may think about youth continuously, do the work every day, hone your practice and even conduct applied research but even so, when you publish, you receive validation from peers that shows your work contributes to the field of youth development.

Why publish in a professional journal?


  • You will grow as a scholarly practitioner
The renowned social psychologist Kurt Lewin once wrote, “there is nothing so practical as a good theory.” Good theory and evidence-based research are vital for our field. At the same time, academic theory can be out of touch if not rigorously tested and refined by the realities of daily practice. If theory cannot hold up to the complexities of youth development practice, then it holds little value outside the pages of an academic journal. So it's important to our field for practitioners to publish for scholarly and practitioner audiences, present their original ideas at academic and professional conferences, participate in applied research studies and to be part of a community of scholars who are building the field of youth development.
  • You’ll be contributing to a body of knowledge
By publishing your work, others can use the knowledge that you have generated and add to it with their scholarly work. This scholarly cycle grows over time, serving as the bodies of literature that shape our field. You'll be sharing your expertise with others who care about youth development.
  • Your work will be critically reviewed by peers
A peer review is a process by which a scholarly work (such as a manuscript or curriculum) is checked by a group of experts in the same field to make sure it meets the necessary standards before it's accepted or published. The results of the review can provide helpful feedback to improve your work. Also, when accepted for publication, a peer review serves as one way to show your work is valued by the field.
  • You will advance your career
Youth are the ultimate beneficiaries of your scholarly work. However, you can benefit too. By attaining career goals like publishing and presenting your scholarship demonstrates your expertise. It shows that you possess creative intellectual work that is valued by the field and has been communicated to key audiences.

Where should I publish?


With the help of many colleagues, I'm compiling a list of journals, magazines and other venues that publish youth development related manuscripts or educational materials. Some are strictly focused on publishing rigorously peer-reviewed research studies. Others are open to publishing peer-reviewed applied or practice-oriented scholarship. This list is not exhaustive; it will grow.

How should I start?


My colleague Kate Walker posted on this blog a couple of years ago on this topic some tips to help you start writing. Check it out. Do you have resources to add to the list of places to publish your work? What are your thoughts on this topic? Some wonderful colleagues helped me build this list the journal and venues. I am grateful to Janet Fox, Dale Blyth, Hui-Hui Wang, Kate Walker, Catherine Jordan, Nancy Franz and Marilyn Rasmussen.

-- Jennifer Skuza, assistant dean

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.

25 comments:

  1. How ironic...my first post disappeared, so I'm having to rewrite! Often an important part of the process! I completely agree with your sentiments Jennifer. While in grad school, I re-discovered my love for writing, receiving feedback, and editing. More than once while writing I have come to a realization or conclusion that I was not previously conscious of...and in more than one instance was glad it happened in print rather than conversation! I also continued to work on my own writing style with a goal of weaving some narrative into academic writing.

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    1. Hey Joe, I too had to rewrite my post! GRRR!
      I love your goal of working on blending your persanal narrative into your academic writing. I struggle a ton with this. When writing I feel as if what I say should be perfect. When speaking face-to-faceI don't mind having a lively debate, taking a strong stance or being corrected. Many times in debate I've said something poorly and it was understood in a way that I didn't intend. That is a huge fear of mine when writing. What if my meaning doesn't come through!

      Does anyone else struggle with this when writing?

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  2. Thank you for writing about this topic. I have been involved with the field of youth work for over 15 years as a classroom teacher, coach, mentor, FFA Advisor and now as a 4-H Program Coordinator. It was not until I started graduate school when a professor approached me and asked me to consider publishing an article. As a youth worker and program manager I deal with the day to day tasks of running a classroom or program. Taking the time to write and solicit feedback from practitioners is not something that automatically makes its way onto my "to do" list. I believe that in order for the field of youth work to move forward, experienced youth workers, such as myself need to make a conscious effort to contribute. Publishing and sharing is a great opportunity in which we need to take part. Now I just need to figure out when I can find the time.

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  3. Hi Joe – That is ironic. Clicking the save button on a draft copy is also important :-)

    I love your point about writing as way to arrive at different conclusions or to see things differently than originally thought. Writing can really help sharpen our thinking and how we communicate about the topic at hand. I need to add that to the list of reasons why we should publish.

    In response to your other point, adding narrative can be a great way to engage the reader. I have dabbled with something like that myself in academic writing where I have referred to a story/narrative of a youth intermittently throughout a paper. That youth’s storyline helped to drive main points home for the reader because it provided real-life context. I also found that technique to be very motivating to me as the writer.

    Could you share an example of how you have inserted narrative into your writing style?

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    1. Similar to the way you indicate using a youth's story to drive home important points, I often weave stories and anecdotes from my own life that, at least for me, correlate with the information I am presenting. Hopefully, this helps the reader connect with the information and apply it to their own circumstances.

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    2. I can see how your technique can reinforce the teaching that flows from your scholarship as well. For me, new concepts usually stay with me when they are accompanied by good descriptive examples. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

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  4. HI Dawn –

    Some writers can write in a series of short time frames and others need more room for their creative juices to flow. Regardless of the approach, a dedication of time is necessary. I hope you can carve some out in the future.

    Did you check out the list of journals and other venues for publishing provided in the blog? It is a good early step to learn about publishing options and author guidelines for each. You may discover that you are closer to submitting your work than you thought.

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    1. Yes, Thank you for compiling the list of Journals. I found the list to be incredibly helpful and also a bit motivating. As I was driving home last night, I came to the realization that I am closer to publishing than what I originally thought. Thanks again for the great article and the positive encouragement.

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    2. The pleasure is all mine. I am glad you are close to having a submission ready.

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  5. Jennifer,
    Fantastic article with some great potential places to look into to be published!

    One that could be added is JOLE. http://www.leadershipeducators.org/www.leadershipeducators.org/JOLE

    What was your first published article? What made you begin academic writing? Did you have a mentor that worked with you on your first submission?




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    1. Hi Mark -

      Thanks for the journal suggestion. It was probably obvious to you that I was light on leadership journals. Thanks for adding one. Keep them coming. Much appreciated.

      My first published article was in 2002. It was a true confidence builder in terms of writing skills. I didn't have a mentor at the time. but I did work with a excellent editor. To this day, I still use the techniques she taught me about syntax. I look forward to reading and learning from your future scholarship Mark

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    2. Hi Mark -

      Thanks for the journal suggestion. It was probably obvious to you that I was light on leadership journals. Thanks for adding one. Keep them coming. Much appreciated.

      My first published article was in 2002. It was a true confidence builder in terms of writing skills. I didn't have a mentor at the time. but I did work with a excellent editor. To this day, I still use the techniques she taught me about syntax. I look forward to reading and learning from your future scholarship Mark

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  6. Jennifer,

    This was a great article. I place a great deal of value on scholarly journal articles. It is a way that we can share information about new and innovative programs with our peers worldwide. It also helps to establish a list of do’s and don'ts and while having the ability to spark creativity and critical thinking by the reader.

    In addition to scholarly journal articles, I think it is important as educators to make sure we are also publishing and sharing information with the audiences that we serve. As education and outreach professionals we visit journals on a regular basis to explore new concepts and ideas. The audiences that we serve and develop programming for may not visit those resources or know that they exist.

    A colleague of mine in Agriculture Education was publishing 5-6 refereed journal articles per year right after he became an assistant professor. His research focused on retention and burnout in secondary agriculture teachers. He was visiting his home state one month and went to visit some local agriculture teachers that he had worked with in the past. They all gave him a hard time that once he became a professor they never heard from him and that they never got a chance to read about any of his work. When he told them that he had been publishing a lot of articles for the last 3-4 years they told him that they read Agricultural Education Magazine and that when they try to read journal articles they don’t really understand everything that is being conveyed.

    This story has always resonated with me and it makes me remember that it is important to publish scholarly journal articles and it is also important to seek out avenues of publication (magazine, newspapers, blogs) that the audiences I serve will potentially see as well.

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    1. Josh I agree with your comments about writing for different publications. It reminded me of our shift in youth programming several years ago; we focused on going where the kids were gathering. Interesting to think about where the potential audiences for our products are gathering their information and seeking out those sources.

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  7. Hi Josh -

    Good point. It is important to develop materials for multiple audiences. I appreciate your story because it serves as a reminder about how disciplinary language could be a barrier and how easy it is for us to slip into the mode of "scholars writing for scholars". Our scholarship can be expressed in multiple ways and it is critical to tap creative venues that actually reach the audiences we are writing about.
    This brings up a related topic about being an engaged scholar which involves working with audiences throughout the program development - scholarship development cycles and making decisions together about the direction of the work (among other facets).

    What are your thoughts on being an engaged scholar? I am interested in your perspective.

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  8. Hi Josh -

    Good point. It is important to develop materials for multiple audiences. I appreciate your story because it serves as a reminder about how disciplinary language could be a barrier and how easy it is for us to slip into the mode of "scholars writing for scholars". Our scholarship can be expressed in multiple ways and it is critical to tap creative venues that actually reach the audiences we are writing about.
    This brings up a related topic about being an engaged scholar which involves working with audiences throughout the program development - scholarship development cycles and making decisions together about the direction of the work (among other facets).

    What are your thoughts on being an engaged scholar? I am interested in your perspective.

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  9. Jennifer - your article reminded me how our organization has advanced in this area but we (including myself) still have much work to do. I appreciate when others have published learning that improve my program and practice, we have an opportunity - and even more so as a responsibility - to give back to the field. One of the ways I've tried to challenge myself and our teams is to think about publishing during the program development process. Not that our work should be driven by publishing, but that our work should be worthy of sharing with others. Admittedly, this conversation sometimes comes later than it should, but I'm working on it! What strategies have you, or others, embedded in the program development process that tends to this important part of scholarship? Thanks for moving me to put some writing dates on my calendar. (I also suffered from the "first post disappeared" syndrome and chuckled at the reminder to save our work.)

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    1. Hi Becky –

      Good question. Often I start my program development process with an issue that has been informed by community stakeholders, literature, needs/assets assessments and other ways of knowing. For me, that issue serves as a springboard for the scholarship that ensues. So I like to embed a scholarship plan into the beginning of a project guided by research and/or evaluation questions that will drive the scholarship. For example, I may have questions related to how to best engage early adolescents in planning for their educational future. I also like to start thinking early about the type of scholarly product that I want to develop – for instance, white paper, curriculum, manuscript etc. In addition, I like to stay open to what emerges as the program unfolds and what is worth writing about – such as interesting small group process that was honed through the delivery of an afterschool program with middle school aged youth.

      It is important to remember that studies involving human subjects need to go through the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Completing the IRB process will definitely help structure those early scholarship plans and of course, the IRB application can be updated/revised while the study is in progress.

      I look forward to talking to you more about this.

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  10. I am late to the discussion, but, I really appreciate the contents of this article. As a teacher and a youth worker I know I have an important vantage point to write from. Encouragement and guidance to publish is important because this task feels huge! Guidance as to how and where to publish really helps me to take the leap to actually try to publish something, although, I don't know when this could be. This blog post is very helpful and has sparked some ideas :).

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    1. HI Emily - Thanks for jumping into the conversation - it is never too late to offer comments. I am glad you found the blog to be helpful. I look forward to learning more about your ideas.

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  11. Jennifer, these are great reasons to write especially as I (and other youth workers) continue in our youth work and gain practice wisdom through our experiences. I think what has been most important for me when it comes to the idea of getting published is my own transformation of how I view myself as a youth worker and what "rights" I have to be writing about youth work. I put "rights" in quotes because sometimes it is challenging to think that I have something to share that is on par with the scholarly articles I read about the field of youth development. What do I know and why should I even share it? But that's exactly it--through my experiences in the YDL program and afterwards as I've continued my youth work, I see the importance in capturing different voices to offer diverse perspectives that are missing (but so critical) in the conversation. If we are to change the landscape for our young people to succeed and thrive in their development, we do need to hear from others about the work they're doing and what ideas they have to empower young people to reach their potential. I know that the more I talk about youth work and engage in discussion with others, the more articulate and clear I become in my reasons for why I do youth work and why it's important! -Choua

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    1. HI Choua - I just wanted you to know that I used points from your post in a conversation I had with a youth worker today. They were well-received!

      Thanks for your insights. - jennifer

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  12. I appreciate this last comment because so many professionals with varied expertise don’t typically write about what they offer the field. Understandably, many are so busy doing the work that they don’t have the time or inclination to capture what they do that works. When we don’t share these best practices with others, it’s difficult to strengthen the field of youth work.

    I’d like to encourage us to create more opportunities to help one another write, whether for peer-reviewed journals or for more informal publications. One of the ways I do this is through the Children’s Mental Health eReview (http://www.extension.umn.edu/family/cyfc/our-programs/ereview/), which brings researchers and community authors together to write about current topics relevant to children and their well-being. By focusing on both what the research says and ways in which practitioners use that research (or don’t) we can push forward our relevant and usable knowledge of the field.

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