- The Graduate Student as Writer: Encouragement for the Budding Scholar by Shuyi Chua
Shuyi Chua's The Graduate Student as Writer is an encouraging, thoughtful, short book that would be an asset to any graduate students who are nervous about writing or are having trouble thinking of themselves as a scholar. As someone who has written about peer review and graduate education (and someone deeply interested in the scholarly writing process), I was intrigued by this book's title because it seemed like a necessary antidote to much of the stress my colleagues in graduate school experienced over the writing process; it seemed like a book that would assist the graduate students I've worked with, formally and informally, in applying to graduate school, supervising theses, co-authoring, and co-presenting. Author Chua marshals her experience as a recent graduate student (having earned a Master's in 2015), a published scholar, and the leader of a workshop on graduate student writing. Chua brings her expertise as a writer and the ethos of someone with a good grasp on today's graduate school experience.
The 'publish or perish' mantra is increasingly prevalent in graduate school, where faculty, committees, and even one's graduate student colleagues seem to be convinced that publishing is necessary to avoid irrelevance and unemployment. Obviously, for many who are hoping to gain tenure-track employment, this rings true. But we can still encourage young scholars to publish without making it seem as though it is the only option to avoid peril. While it is common to lament the inadequacies of graduate writing education, the sometimes questionable ways that peer review works, and the tendency for publish-or-perish pressure to destroy [End Page 320] work-life balance and distract scholars from teaching, this book intercedes with practical advice that is, above all else, reassuring.
The book is divided into an introduction, twenty-two chapters, and a bibliography. The chapters are (in a book of only seventy-two pages in all) short. Because this is not a rigorous academic study of graduate writing education, the chapters are quick to read and filled with an optimism that never comes across as inauthentic or exaggerated. It seems, perhaps, dismissive of the book's content to write so much about its tone, but this positive tone is tremendously important for helping graduate students become scholarly writers. Rest assured: if graduate students take this book seriously, it is difficult to imagine them not becoming more confident, better writers.
The book's chapters address common negative thoughts about writing, the writing process, one's first journal article, fear of writing, reasons for publishing, when to publish, and publication outlets, along with many other topics. Rather than discuss each chapter, I focus in this review on those chapters I think are most important for graduate students, because this is a book about graduate students succeeding. One word of caution is necessary. Depending on one's discipline, committee members, and career aspirations, some of the book's advice will be more or less relevant. As much as we may like to think that all graduate faculty are advising their students with the most current information, we know that some faculty discourage certain types of publication and rush or delay their students in pursuing publication. For individual graduate students, it makes sense to balance the advice in this book with the realities of their own graduate faculty's views and their own professional objectives.
Chapter 6, 'Each Conference Presentation = One Journal Article,' is an important reminder that there is indeed a home for almost everything one writes. One might extend this advice further: 'each seminar paper = one journal article.' The idea is that if one has committed the energy and time to producing a paper, then one should push it up the chain of scholarly production from seminar to conference to journal. If, at each step along the way, the graduate...