A recent Facebook article post and discussion may be of interest to those of you who are unsure about whether to use 'first person', such as "I", "me", and "we".
My own comment on that discussion was: "I have always supported first person usage where appropriate, both for TG papers and for my students. However, I find some authors, mostly anthropologists, who go way overboard, IMO, to the point where it seems like the paper is simply an overblown ego trip. To me, that is annoying. But I know that each discipline has its own view of reality, so I try to respect that."
Some of the other comments are more insightful for the full range of tourism articles and author experiences.
The article that prompted this is: https://theconversation.com/amp/we-should-use-i-more-in-academic-writing-there-is-benefit-to-first-person-perspective-131898
The vast majority of academic paper abstracts in social science journals are atrocious -- and you can quote me on that. To me, this also applies to those journals that have divided their abstracts into sections, such as the research problem, the methodology and the findings, as well as those that list paper "highlights". I personally find these as superficial and unengaging as most of 150 word abstracts that were put together as afterthoughts by the authors. Not that the abstracts in Tourism Geographies are perfect, especially going back in time, but I have been trying to make them more robust in recent year.
I think it is safe to say that the goal of both authors and journal editors is to publish papers that our peers will read and cite in their work. I believe that the abstract is the second most important part of the paper in achieving that, with the title being the most important (see my Tips on Titling Your Paper).
So here are my guidelines on how to write an acceptable abstract for Tourism Geographies, much of which I think would apply to any academic paper that you write that requires an abstract.
1. The abstract as a mini-version of the entire paper. Tourism Geographies gives you 300 words to do this (twice what many journals allow). Use those words to clearly cover:
- the objectives or purpose of the research;
- the theoretical context that the research is set within;
- the methodology (I consider this the least important part of the abstract -- people can read this in the paper); and
- the findings and global significance (these are the most important part of the abstract!).
You need to provide sufficient information in the abstract so that people who read it can determine whether if your paper warrants being fully read and cite it as a reference. Even if they do not read the entire paper, perhaps due to download issues, they can still cite it if the abstract is complete enough. This is your goal.
2. Again the abstract is a mini-version of the paper, it is not a description of the paper (which is the approach that many people use). Therefore, use declarative (not descriptive) sentences. Avoid using the words: "This paper..." or "The paper...".
3. The abstract should be written in present tense, not future tense -- so do not say "We will..." or "The policy implications will be discussed...". You need to say what you did and what the results were, not what you will do in the paper. (In other words, avoid using the world "will" in your paper.)
4. Limit the use of first person ("I" and "We") in your abstract. You can use it once (or twice?) in an abstract if it makes a lot of sense to do so. You should not be focusing on yourself, but rather on the research. This is true for scholarly papers in general. In Tourism Geographies, we allow first person usage to a degree in qualitative papers. However, it can be overdone, which can make the author(s) sound either egotistical or amateurish (IMO).
5. The abstract should be able to stand alone, separate from the full paper. As such, do not cite references in the abstract and do not use acronyms or other abbreviations without fully defining them.
6. For place-based articles, the places referred to in the article should be mentioned in the abstract (some people do not do this). They should also be listed among the keywords to make your paper more visible in online search results.
7. For Tourism Geographies, the abstract should be the same format (font type and size, line spacing and indentations) as the rest of the paper, and it should be in the form of a single paragraph.
Here are some examples of abstracts that follow the guidelines above:
If you have any questions about this, just let me know as I am happy to help any author who submits their paper to Tourism Geographies to improve their title, abstract and keywords.
Optional: You might also want to see my blog on "How to Title Your Journal Article".
UPDATE: 4 September 2019 - Related information on Abstracts is provided in the Taylor & Francis Author Guide to Discoverability. (Please note that the abstract word limit in this document is less than what is allowed for Tourism Geographies).
Previously, I wrote about the difference between case study papers and theory-based papers and how that influences your title. This blog entry is a more comprehensive complication of tips for you to follow when coming up with a title for an article.
The goal of the title is to capture the interests of potential readers so they will then read your abstract, and then read and cite your paper. As such, the title is possibly the most crucial part of your paper from a “visibility” and “citation” perspective. You really should choose your title with care.
Here are some tips based on what I have learned from various sources on this topic over my years as the TG journal editor-in-chief.
You want to create a Curiosity Gap. This is done through a careful balance of having too much information and too little in the title. If your title is too informative, then more people are likely to decide that they do not need to read it for their purposes. If you title is too vague, however, then potential readers are more likely to decide that it is not worth reading.
There are two types of curiosity that you can try to generate: (a) novelty or newness; and (b) epistemic knowledge building. While somewhat overlapping, we can think of novelty as tapping into the human curiosity to explore unknown places, ideas and concepts. It proposes new ways of seeing or uncovers hidden realities. Epistemic curiosity taps into human interest in how our known thoughts and concepts might evolve with new knowledge. It builds and connects concepts that we are already familiar with.
You know your research inside and out. However, most of the rest of the world has no clue as to what you are doing. A clear title is essential to capture the widest possible relevant audience for your paper. Here are some rules:
That is what I have so far. I will add to this blog as I come across additional ideas.
UPDATE: 4 September 2019 - Related information on Book Titles is provided in the Taylor & Francis Author Guide to Discoverability.
(See also a more recent blog post: How to Title Your Article: Rules and Tips)
In there early days of Tourism Geographies (which was first published in 1999), there were basically no restrictions on how authors titled their papers. Some of them approached the method that is common for some thesis and dissertations of including every possible keyword in the title, with the apparent belief that this would be (1) the most accurate approach, and (2) attract the most (or maybe the best?) readers. After TG became accepted in the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI, in 2008), however, I learned that there are some general guidelines on how to title a paper to attract the largest audience.
I was told by my publisher that, in general, papers that review the research literature on a certain topic attract the largest audiences. Thus, Progress in Human Geography, which mostly publishes review-type articles, has the highest SSCI rating of all geography journals. On the other hand, papers with the words "case study" in their title generally have the smallest readership because only people who have a specific interest in that case study location are likely to read the paper.
Based on this knowledge, I initially implemented a policy of limiting titles for Tourism Geographies to 10 words. (I had heard of other journals that have an 8 word limit!) The goal was to make every paper sound like a literature review paper to maximize their potential for citation. After a couple of years of complaints, I changed the word limit to 12 words, which people seem to be OK with. I will also suggest alternate titles that I think will work better for people who have a hard time with the 12 word limit.
In addition, I mostly ban the words "case study" from titles -- although occasionally they slip through because I am not always so vigilant. If there is a case study involved, it should be mentioned in the abstract and the place should be listed in the keywords (I have been even more lax on enforcing this). However, the place does not need to be in the title. (Occasionally, an author has a case study that is not mentioned it in the title, abstract or keywords, which I also think is a mistake-- although in the opposite direction.)
Most of the papers that are published in a journal like Tourism Geographies are in between the two extremes of pure literature review and pure case study. They are driven by theory, and therefore contain a well conceptualized literature review, and they are empirically based on case study field work that is trying to resolve a theoretical question. For those papers, the theoretical question is what should drive the title. The empirical place (usually) does not need to be in the title, but should be mentioned in the abstract and keywords.
On the other hand, if the paper is mostly a case study, in which theory is secondary or only used to support a critical analysis of the case, then the case study place should be in the title, along with the basic goals of the argument that is being made. This is especially true of 'Tourism Places' articles, which are a special type of article published in Tourism Geographies. These articles usually have a particular theoretical perspective or lens that is used to expand out understanding of the tourism experience, though they are usually not trying to necessarily develop new theoretical understandings.
Of course nothing is sacrosanct, and it is very possible for a case study to be very popular, and for a literature review paper to fall flat. In the end, the quality of the research and writing are more important that the title. But I think knowing these general rules can help place a paper in a proper perspective to build its readership.
This is the introduction to a special section of Tourism Geographies in Volume 20, #1 (February 2018). Not that it was actually published in mid-December 2017.
If anyone wants a copy of any or all of the Commentary papers in this issue, place send me an email request. Additional commentaries will appear in future issues on Volume 20.
Introduction: Tourism Geographies Today
By Alan A. Lew
The year 2018 marks two decades of publishing Tourism Geographies. To celebrate this occasion, we have asked members of the Tourism Geographies Editorial Board, including emeritus members, to write short commentaries on any aspect of the geographic study of tourism that they think might be of interest to our readers. I have organized these contributions into general themes that will be published through 2018 (Volume 20) of the journal. This first set of commentaries is set under the theme of ‘Tourism Geographies Today’. This is not about the state of the journal, which is very healthy, but rather the contemporary role of the geographic study of tourism in and around the world. The contributors include distinguished and emerging scholars, including Deborah Che (Australia), David Crouch (UK), Sanette Ferriera (South Africa), Carolin Funck (Japan), Alison Gill (Canada), Guosheng Han (China), Dieter Müller (Sweden), Piotr Niewiadomski (UK), Theano Terkenli (Greece) and Dallen Timothy (USA). Some of these scholars provide insights into the status of tourism geography study and research in their home countries or regions, while other look at the contemporary role of tourism geography in the broader context of the disciplines of geography and tourism studies.
These commentaries are not intended to be comprehensive reviews of the literature, but rather personal observations that provide insight into both the field of tourism geography and the personality and perspective of some of those who identify with that field of study. While some significant issues on the are raised by the contributors to this special anniversary project, all the authors have a positive opinion on the significant benefits of a geographic perspective on tourism phenomena. This bolds well for the future of a research subject that we have come to hold dearly in our professional lives. I trust that readers will gain some of this sense of enthusiasm, as well, through these commentaries. Tourism geographers (and like-minded scholars) who are not members of the journal’s editorial board should feel free to contact me if they would like to make similar contributions to future issues of the journal.
Maybe about a quarter of the papers that I receive have some degree of this problem, although in only about 10% is it significant enough that I need to send the paper back to the author(s) to fix it.
As long as I can remembers, the rule has been that the title or caption, along with the footnotes, to a table or figure should provide enough information so that a reader can determine what the table or figure is showing without having to look for additional information in the text of the article.
This means that all symbols and abbreviations need to be defined either in the table itself or in the notes under the table, and the title needs to be very clear. And this needs to be repeated separately for each table and figure in a paper.
I have often asked colleagues at my university about this when serving on graduate student committees. The vast majority have responded that yes, this is a rule that they know about. However, it is apparently not one that they always think about when advising students (until I mention it) or when writing their own papers.
To me, this should be right up there with the formal referencing of sources that have influenced and informed an academic paper. Well, OK, may be right after referencing sources...
This post is #1 is a possible future series of Journal Editor Pet Peeves! -- Alan
Thank You, Shaul Krakover (Tourism Geographies Emeritus Editor for Mediterranean, Middle East and Africa)