I'm a career professional in the data science field and spent my career focused on information systems and data visualization.

I recently wound up with an adjunct professor role at a local institution. At first things were fine, but now there is a strong pressure for me to publish 'academic works' in scholarly publications and I'm not even really sure what that involves.

I don't necessarily do a lot of dedicated "new" research of anything novel, I just have a deep understanding of the industry and how to apply the practice to fields that others often over look. But, I don't think a really good tutorial on how to do something is a scholarly article.

So for someone who has never written or even read a scholarly publication in their life, and has no idea how to get involved in this, where do I start?

What types of articles merit publication?

Can I do critiques of industry practices? Or case studies? Or do I have to start running double-blind experiments with different businesses to keep my job?

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    Not a full answer, but you should definitely start by at least reading some scholarly publications to figure out what the heck they're even asking you to accomplish. Feb 22, 2017 at 20:06
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    I would also add that it might be helpful for you to find a collaborator who is an established academic who can provide some guidance.
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 22, 2017 at 20:20
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    At some level that seems an abuse of an adjunct professor - the whole reason to use an adjunct is to take advantage of their external industry experience to come in and teach a course or two in their specialty. To then try and make them look like assistant professors seems just weird. Likely they are under pressure from higher up to have a more 'academic' department overall and they feel they need to pressure you as well as those that should be delivering but aren't.
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 22, 2017 at 20:27
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    The main way that academics learn how to publish is by going to grad school for a PhD or similar doctoral degree. I don't mean to be discouraging, but in some sense it sounds like you're looking for the equivalent of 4-6 years of intensive, personally mentored study, condensed into a Stack Exchange post. Feb 22, 2017 at 20:30
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    @BryanKrause's suggestion of collaborating with a colleague with publication experience is the best way to go, IMO. The work could be research-based or education-related. There are a few journals that accept teaching/education-based manuscripts. Journal of Engineering Education is one example of such a journal. Another option is to attend conferences and publish in conference proceedings initially to get up to speed. Typically, it is easier to publish in conference proceedings than in peer-reviewed journals (with some exceptions, of course).
    – hpc
    Feb 23, 2017 at 1:26

2 Answers 2


This is either an abuse of an adjunct (I doubt they are paying you enough for this!) or they're grooming you to bring you properly on board.

If it's the latter, or if your interest is coincidentally piqued, I suggest you start with two things:

  1. Find a mentor. This person doesn't have to be in your department, and doesn't have to be an expert in the same area as you. If you don't find one quickly by yourself, have whoever is pressuring you suggest someone.

  2. Go to Google Scholar and type in some key words from your area. Just start reading. Don't read anything you don't find interesting. After some reading, find out a bit more about the features of Google Scholar (for example, once you find an article you're really excited about, click where it says "Cited by").

    It all starts with "I wonder...."

    Have fun!

  • +1 for "question the motives and only act if it will lead to going beyond adjunct". Feb 23, 2017 at 7:22
  • @BurakUlgut - Well, that's not quite what I said -- anyone can enjoy the challenge of writing up original research, even if they're not being pressured to. But yes, it would be good to question OP's department's motives. Adjuncts often end up with the short end of the stick. Feb 23, 2017 at 21:00
  • @aparente001 - Thanks for the great advice. I get paid on a per class basis and it is pennies, but it seems like the pressure is coming from a desire to make this department 'more academic' but not deal with unions by firing people so people publish or get phased out. I'll have to start digging and try and find a mentor! Feb 24, 2017 at 0:32
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    @LostandConfused That's pretty alarming to me. I think the standard advice here for that kind of situation is "Run. Don't walk." Granted if your personal situation is such that you feel you don't have much choice--you need this money and don't think you can find it anywhere else--then it just sucks to be you. But if you're actually interested in doing academic research, then you could funnel their bad behavior into a motivator. I'd say going along with this is otherwise just devaluing yourself--economically and morally--, as well as the general position of adjunct and the university. Feb 24, 2017 at 8:31

Read. Talk to people.

Publications don't appear out of nowhere. They are informed by what current research topics are, and you will only learn about these if you start reading the current literature and talking to others who know what is happening. Reading and talking is a big part of what active researchers do anyway, and it's that much more important for you if you're not yet familiar with where the research currently is.

I think that there is great value in practical experience and knowing what happens in industry. It will inform how you approach asking the right questions, and it gives you a perspective many others don't have. It will lead you to ask other questions than what career academics ask, because you know that some things are just very important in practice, and that's a perspective that is worth bringing into papers you write.

Also pair up with others who have experience in writing publications. They can teach and mentor you in the process, and working with others is more fun anyway than trying to do research by yourself.

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