In many cases, academics engaged in research will craft an articulate, tantalizing article expounding upon the results and implications of a study. Once the article is crafted, revised, and honed, the researcher or team of researchers will (occasionally with prayers on bended knee) send off the article to a top tier academic/scholarly journal. Some of these articles even get published. However, there is another category of publications which many authors may be missing, and which may be more in alignment with one’s profession or have more impact on one’s professional career. This category is dubbed, practitioner periodicals.
Let us take the case of Anthony, who holds a doctorate in education and primarily works within the administration of a large secondary education school district. While Anthony may conduct research on education models which could be published in an academic/scholarly journal, he may also write material that is meant to inform other educators in his field who are engaged in the daily practice of working with schools or students. Maria, on the other hand, holds a doctorate in business management. She, too, may conduct research on the use of business, leadership, or finance models within the private sector which may in turn be published within an academic/scholarly journal. However, she may also write articles for other local, national, or international leaders within businesses. In both cases, Anthony and Maria may find it important to reach out to others in their fields, sharing important studies, reporting on the practical use of various models, or raising important issues which arise within their respective fields. In these cases, it would behoove these authors to seek out practitioner focused publications. However, what are practitioner publications?
Within the publishing field periodicals may be categorized as scholarly/academic or practitioner and trade publications. Practitioner sources are defined as journals and publications outlets where the material focuses on reaching other practitioners, or those engaged in the field, such as educators, businesspeople, nurses, doctors, therapists, and lawyers. The goal of these sources is to convey information–including research, theory, and models–to those who will use them on a daily basis. The authors of this material tend to be specialists who are often engaged themselves in the daily practice. The publication might have citations, may have a few references at the end, but is generally written in an easy-to-read format and language. The articles tend to be shorter, and may have minimal or less complex peer-review.
Academic, or scholarly, sources on the other hand focus on reaching out to other researchers and academics, or those engaged in studying the topic, such as professors, researchers, or those in research and development. The goal of these sources is to convey new information–research results, revised models, and new thought or theory on a topic–to those who conduct research on a daily basis. The authors of the material are researchers, specialists in application of research methods to a particular topic. The academic publication, in contrast to practitioner publications, will have many citations, many references at the end of the article, often have a very structured format (usually introduction, methods, results, and discussion), and the language will be geared toward those in the field. The articles will, from an academic/scholarly publication, have a peer-review which includes review from multiple reviewers and which may take authors 6-12 months (or more) to navigate.
Clearly, as stated above there are differences between academic/scholarly and practitioner outlets. These differences appear in who is the target audience, the goals of the publication, the type of information included, the format of the publication, and how the publication is treated before it is published. However, there are a number of fields and publications in which these two areas overlap. For example, within psychology (my discipline), many academic publications are also practitioner based in that they may discuss the study of the application of a therapeutic model. Additionally, in some journals you may find a section which focuses on scholarly articles, and a second section on practitioner articles, all housed within the same journal. Thus, it should be noted that while in this article ‘academic/scholarly’ has been posed as distinct from practitioner journals, practitioner publications are often scholarly, involve research, and may be important to the larger academic literature.
So, what’s the point you may ask? There are two important issues. First, it is important to understand the differences between practitioner and academic outlets. Understanding this difference will also help you understand how to hone your article for the appropriate audience, its voice, momentum, and appropriate publication source. Second, it is important to acknowledge the value and purpose of practitioner outlets. All too often academic sources are given precedence, especially by those in academia. Practitioner journals and outlets provide a valuable service, translating research, theory, and method so that it can be absorbed and used by those practitioners who are active in the field. They also often reach a larger population, which in turn may further place the author(s) of the practitioner article as experts within the field. In cascading style, this in turn may impact the author’s standing within her or his field, and impact employment opportunities. Thus, it is important not to underestimate the influence and importance of publishing in appropriate, reputable practitioner outlets. In the next post, we will discuss how to determine what is ‘appropriate and reputable.’
Note #1: Thank you to Dr. Erik Bean, fellow co-Chair of the Center for Leadership Studies and Educational Research (CLSER) and Dr. Fiona Sussan, Chair of the Center for Global Business and Information Technology Research (CGBITR) for editorial feedback on this post.
Note #2: The case examples above are common examples, but are not based on any given individual.