IR Professionals as Publishers: Benefits and Opportunities

Ask eAIR invites questions from AIR members about the work of institutional research, careers in the field, and other broad topics that resonate with a large cross-section of readers. If you are interested in writing an eAIR article, or have an interesting topic, please contact eAIR@airweb.org.  

This month’s question is answered by Gloria Crisp, Associate Professor, Oregon State University; Forrest Lane, Assistant Professor Sam Houston State University; Kristina Powers, President, K. Powers Consulting, Inc.; and Leah Ewing Ross, Senior Director for Research & Initiatives, AIR.

The ideas, opinions, and perspectives expressed are those of the authors, and not necessarily of AIR. Subscribers are invited to join the discussion by commenting at the end of the article.

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Gloria Crisp
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Forrest Lane
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Kristina Powers
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​Leah Ewing Ross

Dear Gloria, Forrest, Kristina, and Leah: I’m an IR professional, not a faculty member. Why should I consider publishing?

Institutional researchers should absolutely consider publishing! There are several professional and personal benefits to finding spaces to share your work. For one, publishing is a great way to share knowledge with the broader IR and higher education community. There is tremendous value to sharing what you have learned about your institution/students. Publishing can also be a useful way to share the good work that your office and institution is doing and can provide an opportunity to develop your team and build the research capacity within your IR office. For some projects that institutional researchers work on, there are few publications to draw upon. Thus, publishing allows us to contribute to the field and help others on similar projects who can benefit from the previous experiences of other IR professionals.

On a personal level, publishing can be a meaningful and rewarding activity in that it can provide an opportunity for you to address and help respond to critical issues in support of student success. The writing process can be helpful in narrowing ideas and in considering how to communicate with various audiences. Publishing can develop writing and research skills to make you more marketable and even create opportunities such as consulting. We also find publishing to be a good excuse and fun way to work with colleagues from outside our office or outside our institution. Although you may be happy with your current position, publishing can open doors and provide opportunities that you may be interested in pursuing down the road.

Publishing also helps to support national dialogue on issues of student success. You may think your institution’s data area isn’t unique or that your work isn’t important or good enough to be published, but that could not be further from the truth. Institutional researchers are uniquely positioned to not only contribute institutional decision support but also to leverage data in ways that can help address critical issues facing higher education institutions across the country. Other researchers are often in need of partners with data management and analysis skills. However, publishing doesn’t happen overnight. You must be willing to leave your office – and for many of us our comfort zone – perhaps even reaching out to colleagues at other institutions and organizations. Publishing comes out of relationship building.

Tips and Suggestions to Help You Get Started   

  1. Attend sessions that are related to your interests at the AIR Forum and/or state and regional conferences. Connect with presenters at the end of sessions. As presenters, we always appreciate it when folks express interest in our work and want to speak with us. Share your ideas and your business card and make an effort to stay in touch.

  2. Presenting your work at state and/or regional conferences is a great way to begin sharing your work, develop ideas, and connect with others who are doing similar work.

  3. Not all published work is or needs to be “scholarly” or empirical. Research-focused journals are not the only outlet and often may not be the best spaces for institutional researchers to publish their work. There are many ways to contribute to scholarship – all of which have value. In many cases, publications that are most widely read are also those that can be the most accessible for new authors. This includes, but is not limited to, Ask eAIR features, AIR Professional File articles, and edited book chapters.

  4. Another great way to start is to reach out to and learn with higher education professionals you may already know who actively publish. Let them know that you are interested in collaborating. Be open and willing to say yes to opportunities.

  5. Find ways to connect with tenure-track faculty (in or outside your institution) who have published research related to higher education. You have a wealth of data that they desperately need. Many (assistant professors in particular) will be eager to collaborate on a research project.

  6. If you don’t already, begin reading publications to which you may want to contribute. Publications have varying foci, audiences, and expectations for content and writing style. Write and submit with “fit” in mind. Your work will not be accepted if it does not align with other work in that publication. 

  7. Don’t assume that journal editors are unapproachable or unwilling to help. Reach out to them and ask questions. They are often great sources for questions about "fit."

Interested in learning more about publishing opportunities? We invite you to attend our session “Scholarly Writing: Advice from Editors” at the AIR Forum on Thursday, May 31, from 9:45 AM-10:30 AM in Sebastian L3. We look forward to seeing you there and answering questions you might have!

 

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