Monday, March 10, 2008

The ASQ Gloss

The Administrative Science Quarterly is one of the top journals in organization theory. This week, I want to discuss how and why one might get one's work published there.

ASQ has a very useful "notice to contributors", which we can use to talk about what a good academic paper is more generally. ASQ is deliberately "vague" about its preferences for particular topics. It is also open to a wide variety of styles. But it insists that articles be "well argued and well written. By well argued we mean that the argument is clear and logical; by well written we mean that the argument is accessible and well phrased."

Also, ASQ prefers "compact presentations" because "very long manuscripts [often] contain an unclear line of argument, multiple arguments, or no argument at all. Each manuscript should contain one key point, which the author should be able to state in one sentence."

ASQ offers writers in organization theory an opportunity to produce (and publish) a particular kind of a paper. In my opinion, everyone should always be working on a paper for the ASQ, at least in the privacy of their own minds. There should always be an "ASQ gloss" in progress. (There should also be an "HBR gloss". I'll talk about that on Wednesday.)

The ASQ version of your research is relatively short, clearly written, and well argued. It is an occasion to focus both the point of your research and its referential frame:

Each manuscript should contain one key point, which the author should be able to state in one sentence. Digressions from one key point are common when authors cite more literature than is necessary to frame and justify an argument.

Before the Easter break, I am going to put together a first draft of my critique of Sensemaking in Organizations, giving it this "ASQ gloss". This is essentially an editing task, not a writing task, nor even a research task. All the scholarship is done. The paper will simply combine my most recent discovery with the previous examples of questionable scholarship that I have written about elsewhere.

ASQ notes that

the basic flaw common to rejected manuscripts is that authors are unable to evaluate critically their own work and seem to make insufficient use of colleagues before the work is submitted. All work has alternative explanations. All work contains flaws. The best way to recognize flaws is to discard the discussion section, ask what was learned and what is wrong with it, and frame the discussion in terms of these discoveries. To do this is to anticipate reviewers and improve the probability of acceptance.

I agree with this approach. In my study of Weick's scholarship I have sought criticism from peers for a long time. I have even left a trail. See, for example, the ephemeral "notes" that Henrik Graham and I published, my working paper "Textual Promiscuity" (PDF file), and my conference paper "Soft Constraints". The ASQ gloss I'm now going for will be achieved by reworking these earlier notes and drafts.

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