four tips for your ASA submission
You still have sixteen hours left (and counting) to submit a paper for ASA 2016 — barring the common-but-not-enough-to-count-on deadline extension. Choosing what sessions to submit to, though, is more a matter of lore than of evidence (though olderwoman once posted some limited but very welcome data). If you’re planning to submit but haven’t yet decided what session to target, here are four tips I give graduate students.
- Go with the organizer over the topic. As a grad student, the gut instinct is often to look for the session whose name sounds like it best fits your topic. But if the person organizing that session does work very different from yours, you might think twice. Instead, look for organizers who seem simpatico. This doesn’t mean you have to know them, or that you should submit to a session that’s not a reasonable subject fit. But if you look at the organizer’s work, and think, “Yeah, that’s my kind of sociology!,” chances are better they’ll think the same of yours.
- Section sessions on current events often get few submissions. When sections choose topics, they sometimes go for “timely.” So there are three section sessions this year, for example, that reference Black Lives Matter. The year after the financial crisis, there were a bunch of Great Recession panels. The problem is that academia is slow, and not that many people have a paper ready to go about something that happened last year. So if you do, or even if you can frame a related paper in a way that speaks to the topic (“What the Civil Rights Movement Can Tell Us About #blacklivesmatter”), your odds get better. Variation: Sections also frequently pick weirdly specific topics, mostly because somebody in a business meeting said “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we did a panel about the intersection between X, Y, and Z,” and nobody said no. If you can make the case that your paper fits in such a panel, your odds may go up. Caveat: sometimes organizers recruit submissions for such panels, so some of the slots may be semi-promised already. Still, I think these are good bets, if they fit your paper.
- While section sessions produce only one panel, regular session topics can produce several. Without knowing this about regular sessions, you might think that you should submit to the narrower regular session on “Inequality at the Intersection of Race, Class and Gender in the Global South” (okay I made that up) rather than the related, but much broader, “Inequality.” But the narrow topic will probably just result in one session. If “Inequality” gets 50 submissions, on the other hand, the organizer can make the case to ASA that they should really have five or six panels, and may well get them. Section sessions are limited; regular sessions can expand.
- Be aware that your backup choice is probably irrelevant. Unless things have changed fairly recently, because of the way the submission system works, almost all panels are filled with papers who listed the session as their first choice. Chances are slim that there will be any space in your second choice panel by the time the organizer sees your paper. So unless you pick a really unpopular session for your second choice, your paper will probably go from your first choice to a roundtable with only the briefest of stops in between.
Finally, an advanced tip: The down side of successfully picking a session that’s going to get few submissions is that you increase your chances of ending up in one that also has a small audience. Sure, that astrosociology session may accept all four of the papers it receives. But that can also mean there just aren’t that many people interested in astrosociology. The current events panel can be an exception to this, as the lack of submissions reflects the newness of the topic, not its unpopularity.
All this is useful to know. But in the end, if you’ve got a paper you’ve put a lot of work into, and you’re pretty confident in, just go for the session you want. Even the most competitive session won’t be top-journal selective.