Classically Inclined

August 22, 2011

Dealing with referees’ comments on journal articles

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 8:26 am
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I meant to write this post a while ago, after I read this post by @evalantsoght on dealing with peer review comments on articles you have submitted. I’m currently in the process of putting an article together and I’m sure I’ll be blogging a bit more about the process of going through review when I’m in the thick of it again, but I thought it might be worth sharing how I worked through the comments I had on my last article.

In my field, you usually get reports back from two peer reviewers; each report starts off with a summary of what they think your article is about (always a good way of finding out if you’ve said what you thought you were saying), an outline of their general reaction to it and its arguments, and then page by page specifics on the article, which can range from picking out a typo or infelicitous phrase to pointing out the weakness of the argument in a particular section. I developed the following system for coping with my readers’ reports:

1. Don’t look at them. Whenever you first read a reader’s report, you get caught up in a wave of emotions – fear, despair, anger, distress, a sense of inadequacy and so on. The best thing to do is to read the reports as soon as you get them, assess what the next step is, and then put them away for at least a fortnight. The editor will have told you whether the article has been accepted, whether you’ve been asked to revise and resubmit, or whether you’ve been given an outright rejection, so you already know how urgent it is for you to do any further revisions. Get a sense of the work needed, let yourself have the emotional reaction, and then give yourself a couple of weeks to get over your sense of injustice before coming back to the comments with a clearer mind. They never feel so dreadful the second time around. (more…)

May 25, 2011

When a thesis chapter breeds – the Stoic Exile article

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 4:39 pm
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Seneca's Tower on Corscia - © Ethelwulf

Sometimes, when you are writing a thesis chapter, you find yourself going off on a tangent. It’s a pretty tangent, with highways and byways and beautifully flowered verges, and you wander through it on your way back to your main point, and you think nothing of it, because it’s been part of your mental process to get where you are in your thinking about your material. Then you hand your draft to your advisor, who looks at it, raises an eyebrow, and wants to know how on earth this relates to what you said you were going to give her. Although in my case, she did it very kindly, and she was right. Chapter two of my thesis was supposed to look at the subject of brothers and the Stoic cosmopolis in Seneca’s de Consolatione ad Polybium, a really interesting treatise that gets maltreated because – well, there’s no way of getting around it, it’s a bit sycophantic. Seneca claims he’s writing to Polybius to console him on the recent death of his brother, but he writes with the agenda of getting himself recalled to Rome from Corsica, where he’s currently being held in exile. Let’s just say that he gets the tiniest bit florid, and over the years many academics haven’t reacted well to his stylistic choices.

I wanted to look at the relationships between brothers in the consolation, because my thesis was about the family. However, I ended up getting distracted by the representation of the Emperor Claudius, and how he gets described using several images that the Stoics use to talk about God. It’s all a bit complicated, as the same images are used to describe Jupiter, head of the Roman pantheon, but that’s part of the point. Anyway, I wrote a great big lengthy draft of this chapter and proudly sent it off to my supervisor; she duly worked through it and her feedback essentialy said that it was all very interesting, but wasn’t this chapter supposed to be about brothers and the ad Polybium rather than Stoicism and the ad Polybium? At which point I re-read what I’d written, groaned, and chopped about four thousand words out of the manuscript. They were there because they were trying to take over my chapter, and turn it into something else. It wasn’t that what I wanted to say about Claudius and the Stoic god and all my other shiny ideas weren’t worth saying – it was just that they didn’t actually contribute towards my overall thesis about how families work in Seneca.

I knew, however, that hanging on to those four thousand words would come in handy. (more…)

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