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Kahan urges faculty to publish, not perish

Jeffrey Kahan, professor of English, spoke to a small group at his lecture in the West Dining Room on April 6 titled “Publish and Perish: The Rise of Publication and the Fall of the Tenure Track System,” Kahan focused on the process of authoring a book, a significant part of the professional criteria for employment as a university faculty member. / photo by Nicholas Mitzenmacher

Jeffrey Kahan, professor of English, spoke to a small group at his lecture in the West Dining Room on April 6 titled “Publish and Perish: The Rise of Publication and the Fall of the Tenure Track System,” Kahan focused on the process of authoring a book, a significant part of the professional criteria for employment as a university faculty member. / photo by Nicholas Mitzenmacher

Jose Hernandez
Staff Writer

Jeffrey Kahan, professor of English, spoke on the extremely stressful process of gaining promotion and tenure and the importance of publishing.

The Tuesday evening presentation in the West Dining Room titled “Publish and Perish: The Rise of Publication and the Fall of the Tenure Track System,” had a small but attentive audience who was provided with first-hand insight into the publishing process for faculty authors.

Kahan is in the process of writing his own book, to be out early next year, and has accumulated substantial research in a short amount of time.

“In less than half a year he was able to father his research, and get his book on track,” said Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Al Clark.

Kahan began by explaining the decline of tenure seekers or achievers, and the evolution of the tenure process since the 1960s when academics saw a significant “boom” as he referred to it.

He contrasted this notion by highlighting the doubling of Ph.D.s awarded since the 1970s.

“Today, without a Ph.D. or publication, you may not get a job at a top university,” Kahan said.

Kahan explained that fewer and fewer books are coming to the market and far fewer jobs for more candidates are creating fierce competition.

Kahan’s lecture then approached authors on how to accomplish publishing to cement their status in academia.

Writing habits were the first topic he tackled.

Kahan presented the daily word counts and writing patterns of famous writers. A pattern is key to becoming a successful writer.

Kahan emphasized the discipline required during this process and compared it to a regimented weightlifting program in which we struggle initially but after the sweat and the soreness subsides, we eventually adapt and it becomes an automatic routine.

“Your brain programs you,” Kahan said.

Another point that Kahan touched on was writing to specific markets, because publishers are niche-oriented and seek specialized materials.

“It’s likely that your book is not the first in its field, so you have to ask how does your book add to those before yours,” Kahan said.

It is not about writing revolutionary or groundbreaking knowledge, Kahan explained, but about continuing the dialogue that already exists on your topic in the academic marketplace.

Networking and forming connections with your publishers is something Kahan stressed because when you are successfully published once, future publishing will fall into place.

“One publication almost inevitably always leads to another. Your process is ongoing with these people,” Kahan said.

Kahan explained the simplicity in this process by wrapping up his lecture advising faculty to take the same approach they did when doing their own coursework, dissertations, or other essays.

Kahan has been published many times in his career and his expertise on this topic shows as he is in the process of publishing his book about getting into publishing.

“That’s how he is at what he was explaining in this lecture,” Clark said.

Jose Hernandez can be reached at jose.hernandez3@laverne.edu.

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