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When does it make sense to write a book chapter instead of a journal article?

I never claim to have done the right thing in academia because I think what I share on my blog and my Twitter account is what I have done wrong so that nobody else repeats my mistakes. One of the mistakes I think I’ve actually committed has been to publish so much in Spanish (both journal articles and book chapters), and to publish lots of English-language chapters, and few English-language journal articles. I did a PhD in a Canadian university, and despite the fact that I have worked in Canada and in Mexico as a professor, I know that I should have a mostly-English-language CV, and I know I don’t. I have a mixture of publications in both languages, but my strategies have yielded fewer citations than I would like to have.

Working and filing journal articles

Since I moved to Mexico from Canada, I have been working really hard to turn the tide. I have submitted primarily manuscripts for journal articles (although I admit I submitted five manuscripts in Spanish, and two in English). The conferences I’ve done (and conference papers I’ve written) have been primarily in English (two conference papers in Spanish were for international conferences anyways), and I’m working hard to convert those to journal articles. And my efforts have yielded results. I have two journal articles (in Spanish) coming out in the next two weeks, four journal articles in Spanish and one in English, in one of the top journals in public policy, in press for 2015. And I have two book chapters in English in press for 2015. I also have one book chapter in press for this fall (in Spanish) and one for 2015 (in Spanish as well).

Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega's office at CIDE Region CentroThere’s plenty of evidence on why we shouldn’t be publishing book chapters and we should focus on journal articles, including the fact that many, many collections are derailed. There’s also the issue that edited volumes take way longer than a journal issue to publish (even though journals are getting to the ridiculous point where it takes 3 years from submission to publication). Accessibility is also reduced because book chapters end up usually in collections that aren’t published online.

Springer has recently been changing their policies and providing access to specific chapters. UBC Press also has done something similar. So, it is likely that a book chapter may end up being accessible online. Repositories and changes in wording of contracts with publishers are also changing the online accessibility dynamics.

Still, I find myself frustrated with knowing that I published way too many book chapters and that I probably should have focused more on journal articles. I know, “water under the bridge”. But my strategy right now is precisely the reverse: I’m only doing book chapters in English (to increase worldwide readability). If they’re in Spanish, I do them because they’re for really good friends of mine and I have faith in the book as a finished product. And from September 2014 onward, I am NOT writing in Spanish until at least the summer of 2015. No conference papers in Spanish, no journal article manuscripts in Spanish. It’ll all be in English.

I still have a question for those who have written about how it is a better idea to publish journal articles instead of book chapters (Tom Pepinsky, Pat Thomson, Steve Saideman, Inger Weiburn, Nadine Muller, Brent Sasley, Chris Blattman, Karen Kelsky) – when is it a good idea to publish a book chapter in an edited collection? Not that I’m planning to do one any time soon 🙂 but still!

Comments, as always, welcome.

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