When to Quote and When to Paraphrase

It’s a pity when surface problems scuttle otherwise strong scholarship. As an editor, I’ve noticed that poorly handled quotations are particularly damning. Inelegant use of prior scholarship can give the impression that a writer is unsophisticated, or even amateur. Naturally, research does involve mining books and articles to inform our own arguments, which are ideally novel and substantial but still reference that prior work. So of course there’s a temptation to repurpose existing literature that seems to say exactly what needs to be said in order to get to ideas that are original. It can certainly be difficult to think around the particular ways in which influential scholars have formulated cornerstone concepts. Because quoting prior scholarship is so integral to most academic disciplines, it pervades the research process. Material recorded verbatim in the information-gathering stage can find its way into manuscripts. Heck, drafting sometimes even starts with a skeleton of quotes germane to a topic; new writing is then added as connective tissue pulling it all together. Here’s what that method looks like: “quotation” + enough original material to get to the next point + “another quotation” And then there’s the quote-sandwich technique we all learned in college (or even high school): short introduction + “quotation” + brief explanation (quickly followed by another quote sandwich) I’ve noticed that these “quote quilt” approaches are favored by graduate students and scholars writing their first manuscripts, which tend to grow out of their dissertations. But despite its associations with student work, I wouldn’t say that stitching quotations together is a strictly verboten scholarly drafting method. I’ve used it myself. Using quotations to anchor...

Great Minds and All That—Harvard University Press, Tweed Editing, and Futura

I feel pretty good about Tweed’s graphic design when I see resonances between it and Harvard University Press books! If we compare the promotional banner for the new translation of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century and Tweed’s header design, it looks like they both use some form of the typeface Futura, outlined and in a very similar color palette (right down to the background hue, which I have not altered but blends almost seamlessly into my site’s default color scheme). I don’t know whether this means my taste is standard issue or whether it signifies a timeless aesthetic, but the coincidence is fun. I do know that I could take some tips from the press in terms of negative space and complementary type weights. And here’s another great-minds-think-alike situation involving Tweed and HUP. Like this most recent similarity, that previous graphic kinship involves the typeface Futura (or a close variant). Do check out Piketty’s book; I’m sure it’s...

One-Question Survey about Getting Your Manuscript Published

When your academic book is coming together, do you know how to get it in the hands of an interested publisher? It’s not as easy as sending out complete manuscripts to your favorite university presses without any forewarning (in fact, please don’t do that!), but it’s a manageable process if you know ahead of time what will work and what press editors expect to see from you (and in what order). I’d like to know what you want to know. What aspect of author-publisher relationships is most mystifying to you? Perhaps you don’t know how to make that initial contact, or maybe you’ve been offered a contract but don’t understand what it means. Did the publisher send your manuscript out for reviews, but you haven’t heard about it in months? Have you been asked to find your own indexer and don’t know where to start? Are you wondering about the etiquette of sending inquiries to multiple presses? Whatever your question, you can email, message, or tweet me anytime. And now I’ve made it easy to pose anonymous questions about soliciting publishers—just fill out this one-question survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TZCMNQW The more I know about your concerns related to placing your research with a press, the better the content I can release for you. I’ll tackle your most resonant concerns as soon as I can. In the meantime, you do know about Tweed’s dissertation-to-book guides, right? The fourth and fifth installments deal specifically with contacting press editors and proposing your book to publishers. Thanks for your...

Research Dreams Come True: A Personal Note

This spring, my main squeeze, Rich, completed a course of study in economics. He now has four degrees to my mere three. To celebrate, he had the idea that we should take a trip—something significant but eminently feasible. He suggested Iceland, somewhere that he had already visited briefly and that I had long dreamed of exploring. I can’t pinpoint the earliest spark of my Icelandic fascination (perhaps it began with Björk, whose Debut album became a favorite of mine in the early nineties). But I do know when I first took a disciplined look at the small island nation. In my freshman year of high school, my honors world-history class required an in-depth investigation of a country, any country. I picked Iceland. I remember being nervous that one of my classmates would choose it before I could, but when my number was drawn from the hat, the tiny Nordic nation was still available. The research required was deeper than I’d done before. My sources went beyond encyclopedias; I remember using LexisNexis and microfiche at the library. I ended up citing the Los Angeles Times, the Economist, OECD documents, and Ms. magazine. According to the original WordPerfect files my father miraculously dug up for me, the resulting paper was 30 pages in length, plus appendices that included images and, I recall, Icelandic currency. It must have been my first “multichapter” work, with each of eight chapters homing in on a different issue facing Iceland at the time. Bringing the paper along with me on the trip we took last month brought everything full circle. It was oddly moving to introduce my almost-twenty-year-old attempt at scholarship...