Thinking About Publishing?

Oct. 15, 2002

You have probably considered writing a technical article or making a technical presentation at a meeting outside your company. Right? Publishing is not all that difficult if you approach it in the right manner. Presentations are even easier.

What should you publish? First and foremost, you need to have something to say.

If you are employed in a technical position within your company, then you probably already have something to say. A significant amount of industry knowledge has not been published in general literature or in textbooks. Some of this information is knowledge your company will be willing to release. The restrictions a company puts on publications and presentation are not constant. A liberal environment presently exists with regard to publications inside many companies today.

Before attempting any writing, you should have a sense of purpose and a mission. You should write for the benefit of others. Newly hired employees need education. History is kept very poorly at many companies. Therefore, the same problems always return.

Repeating information is all right to some degree. You should be aware of previous works in the area you are writing about and acknowledge them.

Chances are you will have to write and rewrite some or all of the manuscript. English as a language is very complex. If you are not an adept writer, you can get help.

Works in progress age or mature with time. As they age, mistakes and poor organization become apparent. I might revisit an article or column five times before it is at the point where I begin to like it.

You also might notice that political correctness (PC) is alive and well. Often you cannot tell the full truth out of fear of violating PC.

Where to publish? Refereed vs. non-refereed?

A referee is someone who reviews the manuscript as to its importance, corrects technical and grammatical mistakes and generally helps the author improve his work. If you choose to write a refereed journal article, then the manuscript will require, at the very least, some changes.

This approach is healthy. You receive input from others. Do not become discouraged. If a manuscript contains something of value, it usually can be revised and resubmitted. After several revisions, the manuscript might be perfect. After all, someone has to publish. It might as well be you.

Will you be read? This is a difficult question. A few people will read your article at the time of publication. However, many articles are published every year, and many papers are not read extensively. Many technical people do not keep up with current literature and thus continue to reinvent the wheel.

Once you get started, consider writing more. You might like writing. The academic community is known for the phrase: "Publish or perish." Although this might appear to be a strict and severe statement, it is actually useful.

The more you publish, the more likely you are to write a masterpiece. This work code is similar to that of an artist. The artist paints and paints. Eventually, one of the paintings becomes a masterpiece.

The more you write, the better you become. Your masterpiece could be just around the corner.

Making presentations is even easier than writing articles. A presentation can be a one-time affair at your meeting of the local technical society section. Papers submitted for presentation at technical conferences might be reviewed. Often, you have to talk for only 20 to 30 minutes.

No pay or little pay ," and possible "fame" ," is what you can expect when you publish or present. However, the knowledge you impart could be of great value to someone.

Tatterson is a technical editor for Chemical Processing. He is a professor at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. Contact him at [email protected]. He also teaches short courses for the Center for Professional Advancement,

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