Archive: publications

Blog: How Your Editor Is a Lot Like an Evaluator

Posted on January 22, 2020 by  in Blog

Editor and Project Manager, Dragonfly Editorial

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I’m Cynthia Williams, editor and project manager at Dragonfly Editorial and owner of Style Sheets Editorial Services. Having worked with lots of program evaluation and research consultant clients, I’ve seen how they help programs evaluate the quality of their offerings. In this blog, I’d like to show you how a good editor can act like an evaluator — for your publications.

We conduct needs assessments. Context is everything, and we want to make sure we’re sufficiently supporting your team. So if you tell us to focus on something specific in your reports — or not to mind, say, the capitalization of “Program Officer,” because that’s how the client likes it — we pay attention. Similarly, if the client wants a more muted tone to avoid too much bluster in the reporting of results, we’ll scan for that too. If your organization has a style guide, our editing is also informed by those requirements. By communicating with you about the right level of edit, we can avoid editing too lightly or too heavily.

We’re responsive to context. Further on context, we make sure to edit according to audience. If you’re reaching out to other experts in your field, we don’t query excessive jargon and terms of art — you’re talking to peers who know this stuff. But if you’re translating your research to lay readers (who may be educated but not versed in your area of expertise), we’ll add a comment if we come across phrasing or terms that make us, mostly editing generalists, do a double take. The thinking is, if we have to read that sentence more than once, so will the reader of your report.

Editors also bring industry standards to the table. Just as evaluators have the American Evaluation Association’s Guiding Principles For Evaluators, copy editors have an arsenal of guiding principles. We refer to style guides, such as The Chicago Manual of Style and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. We employ usage manuals, such as Garner’s Modern English Usage and Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage — and, of course, online dictionaries, encyclopedias, and grammar guides.

We use mixed methods. In addition to the above references, editors also use a more qualitative tool — that is, the editor’s ear. This practice is honed over years of reading enough similar materials to know industry norms and being versed in editing for readability and plain language.

Like evaluation, editing is a participatory process, a conversation between your organization and your eagle-eyed publication caretaker. The best results require open communication about each manuscript’s needs and audience, and flexibility from all parties to reach a high-quality final product.

Newsletter: How can PIs demonstrate that their projects have “advanced knowledge”?

Posted on January 1, 2016 by  in Newsletter - () ()

Executive Director, The Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University

NSF’s Intellectual Merit criterion is about advancing knowledge and understanding within a given field or across fields. Publication in peer-reviewed journals provides strong evidence of the Intellectual Merit of completed work. It is an indication that the information generated by a project is important and novel. The peer review process ensures that articles meet a journal’s standard of quality, as determined by a panel of reviewers who are subject matter experts.

In addition, publishing in an academic journal is the best way of ensuring that the new knowledge you have generated is available to others, becomes part of a shared scientific knowledge base, and is sustained over time. Websites and digital libraries tend to come and go with staff and funding changes. Journals are archived by libraries worldwide and, importantly, indexed to enable searches using standard search terms and logic. Even if a journal is discontinued, its articles remain available through libraries. Conference presentations are important dissemination vehicles, but don’t have the staying power of publishing. Some conferences publish presented papers in conference proceedings documents, which helps with long-term accessibility of information presented at these events.

The peer review process that journals employ to determine if they should publish a given manuscript is essentially an evaluative process. A small group of reviewers assesses the manuscript against criteria established for the journal. If the manuscript is accepted for publication, it met the specified quality threshold. Therefore, it is not necessary for the quality of published articles produced by ATE projects to be separately evaluated as part of the project’s external evaluation. However, it may be worthwhile to investigate the influence of published works, such as through citation analysis (i.e., determination of the impact of a published article based on the number of times it has been cited—to learn more, see http://bit.ly/cit-an).

Journals focused on two-year colleges and technical education are good outlets for ATE-related publications. Examples include Community College Enterprise, Community College Research Journal, Community College Review, Journal of Applied Research in the Community College, New Directions for Community Colleges, Career and Technical Education Research, Journal of Career and Technical Education, and Journal of Education and Work. (For more options, see the list of journals maintained by the Center of Education and Work (CEW) at the University of Wisconsin at http://bit.ly/cew-journals.)

NSF’s Intellectual Merit criterion is about contributing to collective knowledge. For example, if a project develops embedded math modules for inclusion in an electrical engineering e-book, students may improve their understanding of math concepts and how they relate to a technical task—and that is certainly important given the goals of the ATE program. However, if the project does not share what was learned about developing, implementing, and evaluating such modules and present evidence of their effectiveness so that others may learn from and build on those advances, the project hasn’t advanced disciplinary knowledge and understanding.

If you are interested in preparing a journal manuscript to disseminate knowledge generated by your project, first look at the type of articles that are being published in your field (check out CEW’s list of journals referenced above). You will get an idea of what is involved and how the articles are typically structured. Publishing can become an important part of a PI’s professional development, as well as a project’s overall effort to disseminate results and advance knowledge.