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Pressure—or the requirement—to publish during doctoral candidature is becoming increasingly common in many global contexts, to the extent that many doctoral candidates are aiming to put their work in the public domain in one form or another before finishing their degrees (Paré, 2010). Most high-ranking scholarly journals are English language publications, which poses very real challenges for those candidates and their supervisors who may not have English as a ‘first’ language.

This week’s blog by Mary Jane Curry (co-author with Theresa Lillis of A scholar’s guide to getting published in English: Critical choices and practical strategies and Academic Writing in a global context: the politics and practices of publishing in English) explores some of these issues.

By Mary Jane Curry

Getting published in academic journals isn’t easy—for anyone—but scholars who use English as an additional language may have a harder time with finding publishing success than “native” English speakers do. Contrary to common belief, though, these difficulties may have less to do with multilingual scholars’ language abilities and more to do with their ability to find resources and connect with people who can facilitate publishing success.

Which resources support publishing success?

As an academic working in the U.S. and earlier in the U.K., I can count on having the crucial material resources that support academic writing: First, a well-stocked university library that will get the books and journal articles I need, whether by purchasing them or through interlibrary loan (at no cost to me). Second, a department that provides administrative and research assistance (including graduate student assistants and a transcriptionist) and considerably supports my conference travel and other research expenses, including through internal research grants. The existence of funding agencies in both the U.K. and the U.S. has held out at least the hope of getting research grants, although they are highly competitive (and in the U.S., less interested in research on the geopolitics of publishing). Last but not least, having time to do research and write about it is essential—but challenging for scholars who work in institutions with heavy administrative and teaching loads.

From research Theresa Lillis and I have done on the publishing experiences of scholars in other parts of the world (Lillis & Curry, 2010), we know that these material resources are not available everywhere. But these resources matter, because success in publishing depends foremost on knowing the ‘conversations’ of your discipline and how your work can speak to these crucial debates. Scholars find out about these conversations through reading journals and books, going to conferences to hear what people are talking about, and by collaborating with others. So developing strategies to access this range of resources can be crucial to getting your work published (Curry & Lillis, 2013).

Which people can support publishing success?

The image of the solitary writer working alone in the attic is well out of date when it comes to writing for academic publication. Our research shows that beside colleagues, different types of people may support scholars in getting published: supervisors/advisors, peers/colleagues, and people we call ‘literacy brokers’ (Lillis & Curry, 2006). Academic literacy brokers are scholars who might work in your department, institution, or local area, or in another city or country. They know your discipline and they can tell you about upcoming conferences, help you write or revise a paper, and identify suitable target journals for a paper you want to publish. Language brokers are people who can help with producing the text—whether or not they know about your specific discipline, they typically focus on language use in paragraph- and sentence-level writing. But as helpful as language brokers might seem, our research shows that academic literacy brokers are the best bet for supporting publishing—their knowledge of the discipline trumps language brokers’ specialist knowledge of academic English.

How can you get access to these people and resources?

International collaboration and co-authoring are increasing every year. Scholars make connections with collaborators—one type of academic literacy brokers—by joining or creating academic research networks (Curry & Lillis, 2010): connecting with people in your institution; going to local, regional, national and international conferences; contacting scholars in your discipline through their webpages/emails/Facebook page/Twitter account. Joining organizations and groups specifically for postgraduates, which may seem counterintuitive, can also be a way to meet others in your discipline, who may remain peers as your career develops. In some areas of the world, formal networks have also been set up to support research collaboration, but the jury is out on whether these networks are more productive than informal networks. But they are worth knowing about. Network participation has helped scholars in our research to learn about and receive funding for research and conference travel, to access journals they can’t get in their contexts, and to co-author with colleagues across borders.

So is it harder for multilingual scholars to get published in English?

Getting published is not easy and current global politics of publishing increasingly push multilingual scholars to write in English—whether or not they are interested in doing so. So far, I haven’t said much about English per se. Clearly, to write for publication in English, it’s helpful to have some proficiency in English. While many people think translation is the answer, it’s often not an option, not only because it’s expensive but also because finding a translator who has the kind of insider knowledge that an academic literacy broker has is challenging. In fact, what we know, from our research and other researchers’ work, is that publishing success depends on knowing the ‘rules of the game’, having access to a range of resources, working in collaboration rather alone, and not giving up when faced with rejection or confusing and conflicting reports from journal referees (Belcher, 2007). While scholars working outside of well-resourced locations are often disadvantaged, activating networks may be a way to connect to both the social and material resources needed for publishing success.

Mary Jane Curry is associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Curriculum at the Warner Graduate School of Education, University of Rochester, U.S., where she is also director of the Writing Support Services.


Belcher, D. (2007). Seeking acceptance in an English-only research world. Journal of Second Language Writing, 16, 1-22.

Curry, M.J. & Lillis, T. (2010). Academic research networks: Accessing resources for English-medium publishing. English for Specific Purposes, 29(4), 281-295. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S088949061000030X

Curry, M.J. & Lillis, T. (2013). A scholar’s guide to getting published in English: Critical choices and practical strategies. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. http://www.multilingual-matters.com/display.asp?K=9781783090594

Lillis, T. & Curry, M.J. (2006). Professional academic writing by multilingual scholars: Interactions with literacy brokers in the production of English-medium texts. Written Communication, 23(1), 3-35. http://wcx.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/23/1/3

Lillis, T. & Curry, M.J. (2010). Academic writing in a global context: The politics and practices of publishing in English. London: Routledge. http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415468831/

Pare, A. (2010). Slow the presses: concerns about premature publication. In C. Aitchison, B. Kamler, and A. Lee, (Eds.) Publishing Pedagogies for the Doctorate and Beyond (pp. 30-46), Abingdon, UK: Routledge.