Writing Practitioner Articles for Publication

By Melissa Johnson

I recently found out that an article I had written with two of my students on our Swamp Survival Blog had been accepted to the Honors in Practice journal. This was my second technology article accepted in the past few months – one on the use of wikis in my FYE course was just published in ACPA’s Developments back in December. Although I have been working on research articles throughout my doctoral program, I often use my work experiences to develop practitioner-based articles for publication. And recently, a lot of those work experience relate to technology!

There are so many opportunities to write for publication, too. I wish more colleagues would submit some of their great work to the various journals and other publications in our field. I often hear from colleagues who say they don’t have time to write. I think part of that time issue has more to do with the mystique of writing for publication. You don’t have to conduct a full-blown research study in order to get published! Most of our student affairs journals have a section for practitioner-based articles, and these types of articles are a great way to get started in publishing.

Examples of calls for practitioner-based articles in student affairs journals:

Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice (NASPA): Innovations in Practice Features. Describe high-quality illustrations of effective, creative, and collaborative practices, programs, or policies. These illustrations are to be grounded in theory, research, and/or pedagogy as well as convey relevance beyond the institution(s) of the author(s). Connections to and implications for student learning outcomes, campus missions, strategic plans, and government/governing board mandates or initiatives are especially helpful.

Journal of College Student Development (ACPA): On the Campus section. Describe new practices, programs, and techniques. Practices reviewed should be related to theory and research.

Journal of College Orientation and Transition (NODA): Campus Notes section. Briefs on campus programs, “how-to” articles, successful innovations and pragmatic issues relevant to the orientation, transition, and retention of students are encouraged. They should not exceed 1,500 words.

Oracle (AFA): Welcomes articles, letters, reviews, and other documents that help educators in colleges and universities make decisions or gain insight into ways to promote more effectively the education of college students. Research based, practical, and theoretical manuscripts are all encouraged.

Career Development Quarterly (NCDA): Effective Techniques section. Describe theoretically based techniques that advance career development for people of all ages. Qualitative or quantitative data providing evidence of the techniques’ effectiveness will be included in these articles. Should not exceed 3,000 words, or 12 pages.

Most of my practitioner-based articles have evolved from conference presentations. Your presentations had to go through some vetting to get accepted, so there must be interest in your topic from colleagues in the field already. Use your presentation outline to shape the bulk of your paper.

  • Introduction
  • Lit review – this can include how your particular topic fits in within the greater landscape of the field
  • Method – this can include the background of the program, project, population, etc., as well as any assessment procedures you used. Most journals are going to want to see some evidence of assessment.
  • Results – self-explanatory.
  • Implications for practice – I’ve found that this section can evolve from the discussion with participants during your presentation.
  • Conclusion

When I first started thinking about publishing, I kept a notebook of author guidelines from relevant journals and newsletters. More recently, I have been tagging journal websites on Delicious to keep track of them. I tag all of these websites as “journal,” and I’ve thought about using the notes area on Delicious to brainstorm potential article topics relevant to that journal. Keeping author guidelines organized in this way helps me as I prepare to write.

If submitting to a journal still sounds intimidating, consider writing for the variety of newsletters and magazines available through our associations as a start. I have written for two of the ACPA commission newsletters, as well as E-Source for College Transitions through the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

What holds you back from writing for publication? How could you finesse a conference presentation into a potential article? Where might you submit it? Want to brainstorm ideas? Let me know!

Writing Practitioner Articles for Publication

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