Monday, April 11, 2016
How Do I Increase the Chance My Scholarship Will Be Read? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)
Last week we covered various FAQs concerning the type of legal publication (responses to articles, book reviews, and online law reviews). This week the questions will focus on interacting within one's field. The first question, which dovetails nicely with the questions from last week, is how to increase the chances that one's scholarship, especially pretenure (though not limited to that), will actually be read in the field. I'm very interested in leveraging the PrawfsBlawg community on this. To get us started, here are a few best practices that come to mind:
1. Post Papers Online: Make sure your paper is available on the various online repositories. SSRN is probably the most used in our field, but also consider Selected Works (bepress), Academia.edu, law school depositories, and others. I tend to post draft papers to SSRN once they've been accepted for publication, but practices seem to vary among legal scholars. Some post drafts before they submit to law reviews, whereas others wait until the final paper is published. There are advantages, I think, to getting the draft circulated once it's in decent shape so that you can actually incorporate comments you may receive. But definitely get a sense of the norms in your legal subfield as well as follow the cardinal Ask Your Colleagues rule. I don't post to the other online repositories until the paper is published, though there probably isn't a good reason for that.
2. Utilize Social Media: Once you have the paper posted somewhere, it makes sense to circulate to your social networks, via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. (I'll return to Twitter/social media in more depth later this month.)
3. Circulate to Readers: I send the final version to anyone who has provided comments on prior drafts, as well as any organizers of conferences or faculty workshops where I presented earlier drafts. I've also created an email list of junior scholars/regular readers in my field that I send it to, as well as a list of current and former research assistants (I do that more as an excuse to stay in touch with them).
4. Hard Copy and Electronic Offprints: When I transitioned from private practice to the law faculty here, I pledged to never send out paper offprints as it just seemed like a waste of trees (and money!). I've since changed my mind and send out offprints to a number of folks in the field. I'd be curious to hear what others think about hard-copy offprints. In all events, if not hard copies, at least a personalized email to those in your field who may find it interesting (construing that category broadly).
5. Guest-Blogging about Article: I plan on discussing blogging in greater detail later this month, but it's not a bad idea to blog about your new paper -- either once you have a draft online or once the final version is posted. If you don't blog regularly, you can always approach a blog in your subfield and ask if you can do a couple posts about your article. If your work is related to administrative law/regulation, we always welcome guest blog posts at the Yale Journal on Regulation blog (the student editors have the final say, but they love to get guest posts on current scholarship). RegBlog also encourages adlaw scholars to write up opinion pieces on their current scholarship, as does Osservatorio AIR (with a great readership in Europe).
Those are the best practices that come immediately to mind. I'd love to hear what others do to increase the chance their scholarship actually gets read. Definitely feel free to shoot down any of the ideas I've suggested above.
The hardest part is engaging in self-promotion (especially on social media). It often feels super yucky but in our new interconnected world, it is usually necessary if you want the piece read.
Posted by: Eric Segall | Apr 11, 2016 9:25:16 AM
What Eric said (though I've certainly never had trouble, which is ironic, because I did have trouble in practice). I think the "self-promotion online" is exacerbated when one moves away from paper copies. I've always sent out print copies, and that seems to be accepted as a norm - I've even received thank-you-for-sending notes from folks. The harder question is whether that norm/goodwill persists when its now an email that says, "I don't send out paper anymore, and I don't want to clog your email box quota with PDFs, so here are some links to my latest work." I guess I'll find out, because I plan to send one of those at some point.
Posted by: Michael Risch | Apr 11, 2016 9:34:09 AM
I should add that our FAQ last week about online responses (http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2016/04/should-i-write-a-response-to-a-law-review-article.html) is another important part of the toolkit for getting one's scholarship read, as are the next two FAQs on commenting on drafts of others' scholarship and participating in conferences/symposium events.
Posted by: Chris Walker | Apr 11, 2016 9:47:53 AM
6. Write Higher Quality, Useful, Relevant Articles
I mean, I know that Batman v Superman has shown that enough buzz and advertising can get eyeballs on the screen no matter how low quality your product is, but I still think the most important way to get an audience is to have something worth reading.
Posted by: Derek Tokaz | Apr 11, 2016 11:00:13 AM
I wish Derek's conclusion that "the most important way to get an audience is to have something worth reading" were sufficient. In "our interconnected world," as Eric says, and especially as a new scholar just starting out, it's just not sufficient, and definitely not efficient if not coupled with a bit of promotion.
Posted by: Chris Walker | Apr 11, 2016 1:55:41 PM
Cite people who you want to notice your work. Obviously shouldn't be disingenuous. But chances are that people in your field have written something relevant to your article. Given the number of citations that we include in law reviews, this shouldn't be that hard to do in most cases. Cited audiences are much more engaged audiences.
Posted by: Clark Asay | Apr 11, 2016 2:08:57 PM
Building on #5, you don't always need to blog about it yourself. I sent around my most recent article to some folks who have blogs and they posted it for me. Often just the excerpt, but sometimes they went beyond that.
For example, here's my article: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2738580
Here's a common post about it: http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/business_law/2016/02/bruckner-on-bankrupting-higher-education.html
And here's a full-on review about my piece: http://pryorthoughts.blogspot.com/2016/03/no-bankruptcy-for-you-indirect.html
Posted by: Matthew Bruckner | Apr 11, 2016 2:41:24 PM
One More Comment About SSRN: Make sure to spend some time to select the relevant SSRN eJournals, as many folks (myself included) use the SSRN eJournals to find new scholarship in our fields.
Posted by: Chris Walker | Apr 11, 2016 3:52:27 PM
Unfortunately, the things you would need to do to improve the chances of your scholarship being read are also the things that will result in a less-desirable placement. When it comes to placing well, the more uselessly theoretical, the better!
Posted by: Anonprof | Apr 11, 2016 4:21:46 PM
My own opinion is that the process starts earlier: Send drafts to senior scholars in your field! As someone once told me, they'll either comment, or they'll feel bad about not commenting and they'll be nicer to you in other ways. I'm not sure the latter part is true, but I don't think the various non-answers I've gotten have hurt me, either.
I don't mind being hit up to blurb forthcoming IP-related scholarship, although I may not always do so either.
I gave up on sending out reprints. It seemed wasteful to me, though IP may be particularly heavy on scholars who don't mind reading electronic versions/printing it out themselves if they prefer.
Posted by: Rebecca Tushnet | Apr 20, 2016 4:31:34 PM