Planning Your Academic Research Time for Maximum Success
Most academics and scientists employed by universities enjoy enough time free from teaching that those in other occupations might think such scholars have all the time in the world to complete their research and writing projects. As any scholar knows well, however, this is simply not the case, and whether the research time you have each year is a couple of weeks, a couple of months or more, it is likely that you have far more to accomplish in that time than can reasonably be done. In order to achieve as much as possible and make that research time a success, careful planning is therefore necessary.
With online access to so many documents and other resources a fact of modern life, many research projects will require less planning than they once did, but there is still a great deal to think about if your research time is to be put to the best use. The schedules and availability of any colleagues with whom you will be working must be considered, and so must the hours of research institutes, museums and the like if your research requires access to their facilities, equipment or artefacts. In many cases you will have to contact particular individuals to arrange the access you require, so this should be done well in advance of your break. If any letters of recommendation or other documentation is required for access, those, too, should be arranged beforehand.
If writing up your research and submitting it for publication are among the goals you have set for your research break, it can be helpful to put together a timetable that outlines when each stage of the process will be completed. Remember that many of the activities involved in writing and publishing tend to take a good deal more time than many scholars expect they will. Drafting a paper, for instance, will also involve preparing references, tables and figures, and the document will then require careful proofreading. If you have co-authors, extra time will be needed for reading each other’s material and discussing the paper as a whole. You may also require extra time if you want a colleague or mentor to read your work and offer feedback, and do not forget the time it will take you to consider and incorporate that feedback in your text. Finally, extra time should also be allowed if you intend to use the services of a professional proofreader or editor.
Submitting your writing to a journal or publisher as early as possible in a long research break offers the best chance of receiving a response while you are still available to give any necessary revisions your full attention. Later submissions often result in requests for revisions arriving when a scholar is busy teaching, which is less than ideal, but sometimes unavoidable. Remember that your best insurance against receiving such requests at any time is to take great care in preparing your manuscript exactly as the publisher indicates in the author instructions. There is therefore a delicate balance to be struck: on the one hand, submitting as quickly as possible is beneficial because waits for publisher responses can be lengthy; on the other hand, taking a little extra time to get everything perfect will increase your chances of a positive response that requires less work once you are back to your normal and quite possibly overloaded teaching schedule.
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If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.