Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 35:
“I’m eager to write, but I don’t have access to the material or scholarly resources.”
In some circumstances, you may not have access to a computer or to research publications.
Maybe you are no longer at a university or your university does not have these resources. One Sri Lankan scholar tells the story of having to choose between writing his article submission by hand or on an ancient typewriter with a threadbare ribbon (Canagarajah 2002). He had paper to print on only because he had bribed someone for it.
Editors in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, and Germany are rarely aware of the deep challenges facing scholars from countries outside of Europe and North America. Faced with a handwritten submission, editors may automatically return it.
What can you do to improve your odds if you are working at a resource-poor institution outside of the United States?
My workbook is one attempt to level the playing field by giving you some solid knowledge of what U.S. journal editors expect. But I have some other recommendations.
First, are you sure you don’t have access to the scholarship? Many assume they do not, but have not checked Academic.edu or ResearchGate or PubMed and so on to find out if the article is posting their article there.
Second, if you find out about an article you do not have access to, you can send a polite email to the author asking them if they would mind sharing it with you. Mention that you live outside of the US, do not have an institutional library that provides you access, and do not have the funds to purchase it. Many scholars will be happy to share their articles with you under these circumstances. Most won’t share their books with you electronically, but will share their articles.
Third, plan now on sending your submission with an explanation of your circumstances. If material conditions limited your research, not your own thought, it is important that the editors know that. If they know, they can be more helpful. Many EuroAmerican journal editors wish that they received more submissions from outside their country, saying that they would be willing to work with foreign authors who ask for some assistance.
Fourth, the key to inspiring such help is your journal article’s data. Since you do not have easy access to the secondary literature (and so can’t relate your research to the field), you will have to depend heavily on possessing exceptional data. Fortunately, scholars from outside the United States often have unique data and texts to offer EuroAmerican journal editors; for example, a quantitative study never done in your nation or an epic poem undiscussed in a European language. You are more likely to get a EuroAmerican editor’s assistance for a data-rich article than a theoretical one, unfortunately.
Canagarajah, Suresh. 2002. A Geopolitics of Academic Writing. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 35, one of the resource obstacles listed on page 32 of Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (University of Chicago Press, 2019).