Ianqui's post on blind reviewing reminds me of a related question: what do professors owe their graduate students when they venture out into the thorny fields of journal publication? If we're going to encourage graduate students to publish, then surely we need to provide feedback before the students release their papers into the wild. (Before I hear indignant objections--of course we do that!--can I just say that while you might, I've seen evidence that others don't?) I'd suggest the following, at a minimum:
- Presentation. We all screw up our MLA or Chicago style now and then, but faculty should make sure that students adequately grasp the basics of footnoting, works cited pages, and so forth. This goes double if the graduate program doesn't provide a formal opportunity for instructing students in the proper care and feeding of stylesheets.
- Revision. Like doctoral dissertations, even highly finished seminar papers are rough drafts. Think about it: how many high-quality articles have you turned out in the space of ten or fifteen weeks--while, in all likelihood, writing two other articles at the same time? I read and write fairly quickly, but even so, I usually expect that it takes a year to finish a 25-30 pp. article. Seminar papers often need pruning ("but I liked that factoid!") and massive reorganization before they can work effectively as journal articles. Moreover, a journal article requires a different sense of audience than a seminar paper. Faculty should be willing to assist in this procedure, whether by conducting large-scale workshops or one-on-one consultations.
- Additional research. Seminar papers often have at least one thing in common with undergraduate papers: they frequently make "discoveries" that aren't. Graduate students don't necessarily have enough background to distinguish between the odd and the commonplace in a given literary period. And the semester and quarter systems don't provide enough time for students to find the relevant scholarship (or, sometimes, properly evaluate what they do find). It may well be the case that a student needs to do several months' worth of reading before a brilliant seminar paper can be a brilliant article; it may also be the case that a brilliant seminar paper should not be an article. Faculty should offer their students pointers for further reading--or, failing that, pointers for how to find further reading.
- Placement. When it comes to choosing journals, it's appropriate, for once, to tell the student where to go. There's not much point in sending a Lacanian reading of a Wordsworth sonnet to Representations. Moreover, a smaller, more specialized journal might be a better home for an article than one of the behemoths would. Again, this is the sort of call that requires coaching, not student intuition.