At some point along the academic journey, you see, there comes the time for the First Article. For the benefit of m̶y̶ ̶M̶u̶m̶ any readers not involved in research, let me explain. A lot of academic research is released not in the form of books but in the form of 8-15000 word articles, published in journals that usually contain around ten to twenty such articles. There are hundreds it not thousands of journals touching upon the field of history, some very specific (eg "Magic Ritual and Witchcraft''), some very general (e.g. 'History'). They range from the obscure to the wildly prestigious, and can be published either online or in print, or both.
If you want an article published in a given journal, you must send it to the editors, who in turn pass it on to readers to undergo a process called 'peer review! These readers, after an indefinite amount of time (this can vary between three months and a year depending on the journal), tell the editors whether they would recommend the article for publication. Academics are not paid for the articles that they write (a fact which surprised me somewhat when I first learnt it, given that according to the Writers and Artists Yearbook even the Big Issue pays £160 per thousand words for copy), and if they want their article to be 'Open Access' then they must secure funding to cover the costs of this. Academics publish articles first and foremost to disseminate the results of their research, but there is also the significant motivating factor that having publications on your CV is an important, if not vital, factor in getting a job in the current, highly competitive market.
That said, there's no clear consensus regarding when it is necessary to start publishing - I have heard advise ranging from 'don't even bother until the end of the doctorate' to 'minimum of three articles before the PhD is out'. I've decided to err on the side of caution and right now in my first year, before the responsibilities of teaching kick in, seems the ideal time to make my first foray into the world of academic journals. So, I've decided to work up a piece of research that I've long been privately quite chuffed with: my undergraduate thesis. It obviously needs updating and polishing, but it's a nicely self-contained piece of work, I think it expresses some new ideas that ought to be disseminated, and reworking it seems more efficient than writing a new piece from scratch.
So, right now, I'm focusing on two main tasks to get the ball rolling on Operation First Article. One is to do some more secondary reading to supplement that which I did two years ago, which I'm really enjoying - there's a real freshness to revisiting an old topic after a bit of a gap, but I also find it to be pleasingly familiar territory that I feel very confident in inhabiting once again. The second task is to choose which journal to send it to in the first instance (it's generally considered to be bad manners to send an article to multiple journals at the same time). feel that it's important to make this decision early on as different journals have different requirements for length and style. I can be flexible on length but one way I have narrowed down my list is to check whether topically-appropriate journals allow sub-headings. No amount of redrafting will change the fact that my text draws out a number of distinct issues that are simply better communicated in an article divided into obvious sections. There are some house styles that would just detract from what I'm trying to do.
So, that's the deeply exciting activity going on at the Historian's Desk right now! This is all quite new to me so I'm pretty much feeling my way - so expect more stream-of-consciousness updates over the next month or so!