um, about that edited volume…

In the world of academia, the edited volume chapter doesn’t get a lot of love. For good reason, a blog post by Dorothy Bishop, a professor of neuropsychology at Oxford, shows that edited volume chapters almost never get cited. She scraped Google scholar and ranked all her dozens of pubs (she’s a full prof in a biomedical science). The result:


Yup, edited volumes might as well not exist. And, yes, there are caveats. In *some* humanities areas, they are cited. And yes, even in other areas, edited volumes occasionally have an impact. Organizational theory has been profoundly shaped by the 1991 Powell & DiMaggio anthology and the 1965 Handbook of Org Studies. But still, the lion’s share of scholarly reward goes to other publication formats. In addition to their reputation, they are not indexed, they are not accessible, and often prohibitively expensive.

When I advise graduate students and younger colleagues, I recommend against the edited volume but I never say never. I myself will do the occasional chapter – but only for a very specific reason. For example, if I think the volume has a serious chance of being high impact, I’ll give it a shot. I will also do it as an outlet for an idea that simply doesn’t fit in a journal or part of a book. But, the presumption, the default view, is that effort is best spent on other forms of publication. As Professor Bishop wrote, publishing in an edited volume is like taking your best work and burying it in the garden.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power 


Written by fabiorojas

September 17, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, blogs, fabio

16 Responses

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  1. Not all edited volumes are created equal. Some edited volumes are a collection of papers that would not get published in top journals. So no wonder that they don’t get cited.

    Edited volumes with prominent contributors and an agenda-setting goal can be very highly cited. The 2008 Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism is an excellent example. My chapter with Pat Thornton on Institutional Logics has had huge impact and of today has had 687 citations in Google Scholar.



    September 17, 2014 at 12:13 am

  2. Fair point. You have to be honest about the chance that this will be a big one. Well supported handbooks are often worth the risk. Others, not so much.

    Liked by 1 person


    September 17, 2014 at 1:11 am

  3. I’m with Fabio — give advice, based on the average. Of my 16 mostly highly cited non-book pub’s, only 4 are in edited volumes However, like Willie, I’ve enjoyed a few big hits — my paper with Zimmer in an otherwise obscure book, has over 2000 citations.
    But, in advising my junior colleagues I tell them that unless they’re clairvoyant & able to figure out if the editors who’re inviting them to their edited volume really DO have “an agenda-setting goal,” stick with journals until you have tenure. (Lots of “prominent contributors” save their rejected journal articles for edited volumes…)


    Howard Aldrich

    September 17, 2014 at 2:12 am

  4. Methinks it like a cohort effect. Back when you had to go to the library stacks to read journal articles it made a lot of sense to buy the orange book to spare yourself having to go to the stacks to find the 1983 volume of ASR and the 1977 volume of AJS, and as long as you’ve got the book you’ll read the other chapters. Nowadays it’s much easier to read journal articles than books. I’d rather look for something on JSTOR than walk to the other side of my office to look through my own bookshelf.

    Liked by 3 people


    September 17, 2014 at 2:23 am

  5. Hey, our university library now takes orders for books online & delivers them to our mailbox in the department office. How much easier could reading books get?


    Howard Aldrich

    September 17, 2014 at 5:34 pm

  6. Professor Aldrich,

    You’re talking to one of the many people who now gets Netflix streaming but not the red envelopes. I mean waiting two days to see a movie? And then you have to walk across your living room and open the tv cabinet to put a disc in a DVD player? What is this, the dark ages?

    Point being, yes, books are now much more convenient than they were 20 years ago — but it’s the present alternatives that matter. The only way to get books that’s almost as convenient as journals is on Kindle, but for many academic books you can’t get the back catalog and/or they’re really expensive, neither of which are issues for journals (if your school has a site license).

    Liked by 2 people


    September 17, 2014 at 5:57 pm

  7. @Howard:

    Journals: online –> all 10,000 students can read any article at any time

    Edited volume: one paper copy in library –> 1 student can read, then it will be recalled an you have to wait three weeks while that person gets around to reading returning it and then you have to wait a day or two until the library brings it to you.

    ’nuff said.



    September 17, 2014 at 7:30 pm

  8. @gabrielrossman, you don’t fly fish, do you.

    Liked by 1 person

    Howard Aldrich

    September 17, 2014 at 7:31 pm

  9. Aldrich’s Theorem: As T–>00 , Pr(conversation=fly fishing)–>1.



    September 17, 2014 at 7:32 pm

  10. @fabiorojas But of course, the stuff I want to read is so highly specialized that I can’t imagine 10K students lining up to get it next…


    Howard Aldrich

    September 17, 2014 at 7:34 pm

  11. You say that now, but I’ve been in bitter recall battles with students in the Kelly school of business. I’d be grateful for a format that allows *two* people to read something at once.



    September 17, 2014 at 7:36 pm

  12. Research in the Sociology of Organizations is a really nice hybrid model. Technically, RSO counts as an edited volume, but the publishers have decided to distribute the chapters in online article format. You can download each one individually if you like (and if your library has a subscription). I think this format is one reason RSO chapters get cited more than most book chapters do.

    Liked by 4 people

    brayden king

    September 17, 2014 at 8:51 pm

  13. Another hybrid form is the all special issues, all the time, model of AAPSS



    September 17, 2014 at 9:27 pm

  14. There are at least three issues here: 1) visibility: Although it’s certainly easier to get hold of a journal article these days (from most journals) than an edited volume, authors can scan and copy their pieces and post them on line. I’m reasonably certain that my most visible piece is one from an edited volume (“Framing Political Opportunity,” with William Gamson). I think Fabio overstates the contemporary difficulty of finding articles.
    2. Peer review: the editorial process at many journals can flatten the boldness and originality out of many articles. Harsh length restrictions in many journals also make it hard to develop some kinds of argument. (The field of American Political Development, for example, has taken leaps and bounds in edited volumes, which often include LONG articles.) What’s more, the edited volume is often a place to develop new ideas, like the orange book cited above.
    3. Career maintenance. Many (most? all?) institutions seek easily quantifiable quality markers in assessing promotion decisions. This is a bureaucratic story that we learned from Weber a hundred years ago. It’s easier and less disputatious to count peer reviewed articles more than chapters from edited volumes, regardless of the revisions and reviews built into their editorial process. Reading and evaluating work is much tougher than scoring cvs–but this doesn’t generally serve to encourage the most far-reaching and ambitious work.
    I’m inclined to avoid rigid rules about avoiding edited volumes. I think that we should all try to publish virtually everywhere (except maybe Rand Paul’s newsletter), thinking about placing each piece where it will fit best and reach the right audience.


    David S. Meyer

    September 18, 2014 at 5:42 pm

  15. Book chapters, in my experience, don’t present new empirical findings. Reviewers seem to want writers to cite the main source of the empirical findings that they cite. I’ve had at least one reviewer complain that I cited book chapters in one of my manuscripts. So the lack of citations doesn’t mean that people don’t read the chapters, but rather that people are slightly wary of citing them. Maybe there’s some way to find out how many copies of a given book have been sold. Amazon’s subject rankings?

    As a graduate student, I also like the fact that it’s relatively easy to get co-authorship on a book chapter that my advisor is doing, which adds something to my CV. I feel like there’s more latitude on whom you list as a co-author on a book chapter. For a journal article, for instance, I don’t think you’d include someone as an author if they helped with the literature review, but didn’t actually write the literature review, but this would be acceptable in a book chapter.


    Chris M

    September 21, 2014 at 3:02 am

  16. thats a very american discussion. For example in germany edited books are quite widely read, the are often much faster than journals and you can find literature on a specific topic represented here.

    also “citations counting” is not as important for career steps, rather “what” you are doing…


    Juxtaposed One

    September 24, 2014 at 8:56 pm

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