June 2013 Site of the Month

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June 2013 Site of the Month

Writing for Scholarly Journals


Author: Laura Newton Miller

Interviewee: Laura Newton Miller

Institution: Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada)


Interviewer: Diana Symons

Tutorial Description: This is a series of online learning modules (video + PDF handout) on various aspects of writing for scholarly journals. Video formats are for computer or mobile device. Modules include:

  • What has been written on my topic?
  • Where should I publish my article?
  • Journal Ranking
  • Tips for Success
  • Collaboration
  • Know your Options: Traditional versus Open Access Publishing
  • Gold Open Access
  • Green Open Access

Q: What led you to develop this series of online learning modules? Who is the intended audience?

A: In January 2012, Carleton Library (in partnership with Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Affairs) offered a variety of professional skill workshops to graduate students. Since I was the “go-to” person for Scholarly Communications in the library, I developed a workshop called “Writing for Publication” which focused mostly on scholarly journals. Feedback from this and other workshops focused on the need for offering classes during different times of the year. I ended up running the workshop for various graduate groups, but felt that it was the kind of topic that I could develop some sort of significant online presence (besides just having links on our site) which graduate students (or anyone new to writing for journals) could access on their own time.

I also knew there was a chance I would be changing jobs within the library (which I have) and I felt this was a useful resource for others in the library- something to which they could direct graduate students during the transition time between me leaving and someone else filling in the scholarly communication role.

Q: How is this series being promoted and used at your institution? Is it integrated into workshops, classroom sessions, or assignments?

A: Subject liaisons are promoting it within their graduate seminars. It’s also been promoted on the library’s website. I post it on my Twitter account (@newtonmiller) every so often-this message gets to Carleton’s graduate student association who also re-tweet the message.

Q: How did you come up with the content, structure, and organization for this series?

A: The general structure was based on how I already presented the “live” workshop. But since this was being recorded I formalized it more and made handouts for each distinct section.

The live workshop was based on a variety of LibGuides, books and tutorials already in existence regarding scholarly publication. I read through many discipline-specific writings about scholarly publishing, but could see that there were a lot of themes that go across the board. I tried to keep the tutorial to those cross-discipline themes. Being heavily involved in the university’s Scholarly Communication Committee, I also really wanted to provide more information on open access publications and the choices grad students had as authors.

As for the modular structure, there are many great workshops offered for graduate students through the Professional Skills series. I wanted to use this structure in the hopes that at some point, other modules can easily be added by other Reference staff.

Q: You used Camtasia Relay to create the video, correct? I was impressed that each module is available in Flash, MP4 files (for mobile devices, specifically iPods and iPhones), and MP3 files (audio only), and that you also provide a PDF review document for each module. Can you tell us a bit more about these choices and the technical/accessibility/software side of this project?

A: For this I have to thank Maristela Petrovic Dzerdz from the Educational Development Centre (EDC) at Carleton. The EDC is a great resource for staff which provides a range of technological teaching tools. I knew I wanted a natural progression from my live workshops. Since I was very new to this kind of software, Camtasia Relay was a good fit for my needs. Basically I record my audio while the PowerPoint moves along. EDC provided a free version of this to Carleton staff. When you finish and save the recording, it automatically gives you links to Flash, MP4 and MP3 files. I knew that I wanted to give users access to all three for their various needs.

It made sense to make a review handout-something for people to “hold on to” after watching the video, or in case for whatever reason they weren’t able to access the video. Although Camtasia Relay was easy to use, it’s a lot easier/faster to update links/resources on a handout than it is to re-do a video if necessary.

Q: Were there any specific best practices you tried to follow in the creation of this series?

A: Although I had learning objectives in my mind for the live version of this workshop, I tried to make sure learning objectives were clearly stated and reviewed for each module. After talking with Maristela, I also put in more visuals to enrich each slide. I realized that students won’t be seeing me move around in front of them and this would help make each PowerPoint slide a little more dynamic. I also tried very hard to slow down my speaking voice!

Q: From planning to launch, how long did it take you to complete this project? Did you run into any unexpected difficulties or challenges during the creation of this series?

A: With the general concept of the modules laid out (because of doing the workshops live), it took me about 2 months to formalize the PowerPoint slides (add objectives and visuals), write a formal script to go with each slide, and record the modules. This was on top of regular duties but I chose the summer because it was a little quieter. Honestly, the recording of the modules took the shortest amount of time- maybe about a week. It was the lead up to the recording that took the most time. The only major challenge was finding a quiet space to do the work. Our library is currently under renovations and at the time the Reference Services department was moved to another building during construction. There were four of us temporarily sharing one room. There was constant construction noise in the library. I recorded the sessions after everyone left for the day in our temporary office away from the library.

Q: Were there any aspects of this project that required you to get outside assistance or draw on someone else’s expertise, or was this mostly a one-person project?

A: Maristela from the EDC was extremely helpful in providing me information on the kinds of technology I could use, and for helping me realize the need to enrich my slides with more visuals. The content and recording was a one-person project. I am thankful to the three other Reference Staff (with whom I shared an office during renovations) who provided feedback on the modules (Kristof Avramsson, Alana Skwarok, and Scott Turner).

Q: How have other librarians, students, and instructors responded to your “Writing for Scholarly Journals” series?

A: I’ve had positive feedback from colleagues and students.

Q: Have you done any assessment on the effectiveness of this tool? Are there plans for any changes or updates? Do you plan to create similar series for other topics?

A: Having now left Reference Services (although still in the Library), there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the tool. Through Google Analytics, I know that it’s been accessed over 500 times. The site was set up to naturally add modules, so I am hopeful that more modules will be added in the future based on the great workshops that are offered at the library.

Q: What recommendations or advice do you have for someone contemplating a similar project?

A: Give yourself time and a quiet space. Camtasia Relay was really easy to use. The Educational Development Centre was really helpful- See if your university has a similar resource and take advantage of their skills and know-how.


June 2013 PRIMO Site of the Month