wait a moment

Think and Prosper as a Researcher

My recent article “Positioning the research on skills for entrepreneurship through a bibliometric analysis” is accepted in the “Entrepreneurship Education” journal and finally is published online yesterday on November 26, 2021. With this post, I desire to share some personal reflections on the experience.

This paper was first written for the AOM2020 conference but it did not get accepted. This autumn I spent some time revising it and submitted it to the journal: Entrepreneurship Education.

The manuscript got a “major revision” request that was due in less than one month. I somehow managed to squeeze the effort to collect more data, run analyses, and significantly re-write the manuscript. After my re-submission, the request became a “minor revision”. I spent two days responding to the reviewer’s comments and again re-submitted my revision. After another day the manuscript was accepted. Overall, I had a very pleasant experience submitting my writing to this journal. The whole process only took two months from initial submission to its acceptance. More importantly the comments that I received from two reviewers really helped to improve the quality of the manuscript. Thus I highly recommend it as a publication outlet to researchers.

But more importantly, I would like to take one step further and add some personal notes. This past year’s struggle in publishing manuscripts with top journals taught me a lesson. For young research students and early-stage scientists, aiming for high-ranking journals only sounds ambitious and ego-satisfying, but when still inexperienced it is important to use some lower-ranking journals to experience the full academic writing and publishing process for the first-hand experience. A complete cycle of research activities from idea to publication is already a daunting long process. From time to time, we all need a break to pick the fruits from the tree and have a sweet bite of our sweat and tears.

It is absolutely important to learn to balance your writing in such a matrix: top-tier journal VS lower-rank journal, long-waiting journal VS fast-publishing journal. It may first appear vacant and unnecessary with such a differentiation, but if you look closer, it actually tells you to balance your mental state in a healthier way. After all, as an academician, the task is to think, and academic publishing is really only one tip of such a task. But unfortunately, the purpose of academic publishing is often twisted by academician performance indicators and gives the wrong impression to the young researchers as the final stage of research.

Quite the opposite, there can be temporary rest or break from research activities but there is no really an end to the thinking (the true research per se). The role of academic publishing has been glorified in a way and often branded as to “show off” the ultimate result of research. But the essence of academic publishing is really to start a scientific debate. It is to present part of your thinking to the public and invite feedback, criticism, and advice so that your thinking can be challenged and improved. The appraisal, instead, is of course good to have but should definitely not be the most of this experience. We should very honestly inform our research students of such a fact, and train them to reason, debate, argue, fence, and defense in a scientific way regarding academic publishing. In simpler words, to get ready for swords and flowers, but mainly for swords. If we all agree on it, we will not be bitter or frustrated over reviewers’ criticism at all. We will also not bash ourselves uselessly over receiving such criticism. It is a scientific debate that you anticipate and by the time it comes, you should be ready for the “war”.

Now hopefully I have made myself clear that thinking is the ultimate goal as well as the main task of a researcher, rather than academic publishing. Thus as young research students and early-stage scientists, it becomes more than ever essential to building up a routine practice of thinking. We need to look to the world with keen observations, converse with historical and contemporary thinkers proactively, write down our learning systematically by ink or by typing, constantly review these notes to reflect, and by all means, dare to imagine and think independently. Write down any independent thought enthusiastically no matter how small it may seem. Because these thoughts are yours after all. No matter how much you know about what others are doing or have done if you do not form your own independent opinions and thoughts, you will be repeating not innovating, mimicking not creating, following not leading. After persisting in such a thinking practice for a (long) while, a researcher will one day start feeling the urge to share, to voice out. Because they are so convinced by the value of their thought, and out of their genuine interest in the public benefits, they will not be able to hold back in the silence anymore. They will want to utilize what they have found to leave a footprint in the history of mankind to share the joy of exploration and knowledge. And, as an academician, it is our responsibility to mentor young research students through the long “accumulation” stage.

For those research students who are struggling in their research process, I would like to remind them of another important fact. You are an adult responsible for your own life-long learning habits. It is now totally in your own hands to pave a seeable path towards desirable results. You have earned yourself some free time now, no matter as a master’s student or a Ph.D. student, and it is the right timing to establish such a path. If you do not have a supportive supervisor, fine, read books! I do not see many educators nowadays more knowledgeable of education than their ancestor educators such as Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and John Dewey. Read their books to turn these masters who stood the test of time into your personal mentors.

When Isaac Newton wrote in a 1675 letter to fellow scientist Robert Hooke, he said:

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

He did not say,

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of my thesis supervisor”.

Did he?

Well, long paragraph in a short sentence now: take full responsibility for your own learning and growth. Because your own effort is controllable but your contextual factors are not. Luckily the most significant works can happen with your own effort in a lot of cases.

Forgive my babbling so far. It is a not that formal letter that I wrote to you after waking up from a night’s sleep. Now I must leave you to have breakfast. Greeting from Toyohashi, Japan. I wish you a good day and a meaningful life on earth.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Jingjing Lin

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