Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On Journal Rankings in a Nonsleazy Sense - Part 1

At various times throughout my graduate student and now junior faculty career, I have run into the phenomenon of journal rankings. My field is English studies, so I know that for many of  you out there in the social sciences and especially any readers in the hard sciences may be laughing at my naivete on this issue. But in my experience, most folks in the humanities fields aren't as conscious of journal rankings in a technical sense. Oh sure, most of us know that PMLA or Critical Inquiry have much higher visibility than other, more specialized journals, but I've recently decided to familiarize myself with the finer points of journal rankings in an attempt to better understand my field.

My exploration has turned up a number of practical and a number of more philosophical findings. In the next couple posts what I'd like to do is explain journal rankings (to the extent that I understand them), discuss how they affect publishing efforts, and provide a brief albeit thoughtful meditation on ways to use this understanding to improve yourself as a scholar and participant in a scholarly community.

The danger in this and virtually any conversation about professionalization is that important ideas and concepts often get relegated to some perceived sleazy sense of keeping up with the Joneses, or getting ahead without truly earning it. I want to put your worries to rest by acknowledging that, yes, things like networking and journal rankings are often abused and approached in selfish ways, but they can also simply be professional euphemisms for more genuine pursuits, such as intellectual curiosity and the desire to work alongside others with similar interests who are seriously affecting the way we think about stuff. I'm more interested in the latter.

So look out, here's comes an English scholar's description of the h-index!

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