Monday, July 30, 2012

Articles or books?

Often, new faculty wonder if they should try to publish a book or try to publish articles. What should one do? First, the most important consideration is the convention in your field. While norms in your department should also be strongly considered, sometimes faculty composition changes over time, so the norms in your field are key.

That said, all things being equal, go with the articles, especially early on. Why? Articles average 20 pages in length, while a book is usually 200-400 pages. Perhaps this is an overly simplistic way of thinking about it, but if you can write five articles and send them to journals in the same amount of time that you write a book, you odds of getting some of those articles published far out way the publication of your book. And, in most fields, five articles in solid peer-reviewed journals "count" more than a book in nearly all circumstances.

In some fields, one article in a good journal actually counts more than a whole book. This is not true for the humanities, where books are valued a great deal. Still, putting your eggs in one basket with a book can be a very risky proposition.


  1. Hey Rich,

    Tired of me yet? This is a great piece of advice I'm currently mulling over. I'm also curious about how to rank journals: how can I distinguish between 'lightweight' journals and those that will help me advance my publishing career? As a scholar in the humanities, there seems to be many journals looking for articles, but few that will get a nod of approval in the job market/T&P process. Thoughts?

  2. :), not sick of you Regina! How can I be- you ask good questions. Ok, Iwill explore in a post soon, or in several posts- there are several issues here (ranking, journal status, impact factors, perceptions of contribution, ect).

    For now, let me say it SOOOO depends on where you are applying, your career goals, your field, ect. A "lightweight" journal may be a very good bet if you have very little published, and are just about to hit the market. If a "top" journal takes 10 months to reject you and that is the only article you have in review, you are not in good shape. However, if you have a mix of things going out to "top" journals and those that are not as well recognized, there is usually not a problem with that.

    One colleague I know sent three papers she had out to the top journals in her field right before she sent out her resume. She had little hope of getting them accepted (and in fact, did not), but the perception generating having her work sent to these journals did help her in the search process. Once they were rejected, she went to journals that were actually better fits for her work.


  3. Oh that is sneaky, sending out to top journals during the job search--I may have to try that one out!

  4. Of course, she did so in good faith, and would have been thrilled to have had them accepted! :)