Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Who’s Afraid of Joe Tennis?

All of us in this business know how bruising it can be to get referee reports on our research papers. Even when the referees are gentle and helpful it still is embarrassing to discover the errors we’ve made in our texts. On the other hand, it’s a good thing they were found before publication. Of course, in double-blind peer review we are relying on the system for gate-keeping to make certain publications are original and rigorous and also that the research is replicable. That’s really the role of the referee.

Unfortunately, often referees produce really unpleasant reports. I know many of us have experienced this because we talk about it all the time at conferences and in the hallways at school. I really don’t know why referees find it necessary to be so rude, but it happens for sure. When I can, as editor, I edit the referee reports making healthy use of ellipses to leave out vitriol and just give the authors the critical commentary needed to revise the paper.

All of this is prelude, of course, for the most outrageous peer review I’ve ever received. Of course, I do not know who the referee was, although I suspect when I get done here, whoever it was, will recognize the points I’m going to make. Oh well, that’s why this is a blog ….

Clearly, whoever it was either knew who I was to begin with or sussed it out from the methodology and context. Let’s face it, in a small field like knowledge organization we all know each other well enough to recognize each other’s writing. And often we have the situation of being one of only two or three authors in an area, which leads to a lot of self-citation in order to cite the most relevant prior research. Be that as it may, whoever it was reads my editorials in Knowledge Organization–the ones that are simple bibliometric analyses. I have limited space of course, and I try to focus the editorial as commentary on the evolution of the domain. But I also deliberately state that I am just giving a few simple metrics. I always post my data files here, and encourage others to download those files and take the research further. So far as I know, nobody has ever done that.

But, please–here is what this anonymous blind reviewer wrote: “Two or three observations and we move on … or maybe there is really nothing more that can be said? … Are we supposed to do the analysis ourselves?”

Umm, yes, that would be the idea!

Okay, I took the point and extended the analysis into excruciating detail in the final version of the manuscript. But, yes, the idea of science is that we all work on the same problem sets to try to advance understanding! Please!

But, the title of this post comes from the best, which I’ve saved for last. I had quoted a paper that I believe will be seen as seminal by Joe Tennis (you know, author on subject ontogeny, knowledge organization domain analysis, ethics, etc., and current president of ISKO?). Not wanting to copy wholesale (because, that’s not what we do in science, is it?) I made reference to the article and cited one or two points. Here is how this referee indicated more detail would be useful: “but most of us … will
not necessarily have time to read Tennis.”


Well, I want to reply, “you’d better find the time!” For goodness sakes, people, this is why we have text referencing. If you haven’t read the paper being referred to, you are supposed to go do that!


Posted January 6, 2015 by lazykoblog in peer review, writing

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Paragraphs? (originally posted 7-16-2009)

What has happened to the idea of a paragraph? That clever little invention that parses narrative into semantically related clusters, giving breathlessness to the expression of a part of an idea, and yet, by the pause it introduces at its end, allows the mind breathing room while reading a text–the paragraph is in dire peril my friends. I have grown weary of marking student papers “no 1-sentence paragraphs!!!” and yet now as editor of a so-called scientific journal I find myself deluged with these devices too. Okay, so many of them are in manuscripts that have evolved from doctoral dissertations. Still, someone’s dissertation advisor should have said “no 1-sentence paragraphs!!!” I wrack my brain trying to understand how this wonderful device, taught to most of us in third grade (or maybe even earlier) could so easily depart from academe. I suppose a lot of it has to do with word-processors, which make whatever drivel one manages to generate after staring at the monitor for hours look like elegant printed text. Rather than actually expressing an idea, we find ourselves instead filling justified space between paragraph marks. Oh my … Well, look here folks; a paragraph should be several sentences long. It should begin with a topic sentence, usually the first, which is a sort of exposition, or thesis statement. It should be followed by all of the evidence about that topic (properly supported with references, of course). And then, in good sonata form (see Music Appreciation 101) there should be development, in which you (the author, remember?) add value to the evidence by providing your own synthesis about what it means. And then a paragraph should conclude definitively.

Which reminds me, whatever happened to the literature review (stay tuned) that isn’t just a litany of  “he-said, she-wrote”?

Posted November 17, 2010 by lazykoblog in writing

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