Writing your journal article in 12 weeks: Week 6 Crafting your claims for significance

Claims for significance feel pompous and uncomfortable. It’s audacity. It reminds me of the “carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man” tweet I’ve posted before. Academic journal articles are usually about such a narrow, niche topic, and read by so few people, that it feels ridiculous to make claims that our findings are world-changing and impactful.

Awkward as they may feel, claims for significance are an essential part of your journal article–it’s the marketing side, really, explaining why your article should interest the reader. Wendy Laura Belcher noted that they have grown bolder, with “aggressive wording in claims for significance” increasing in recent decades (Belcher, 2019, p. 192). She also acknowledges how difficult they are to write, and her “make writing social” motto is absolutely essential for this task. Talking about your work and going through the “So what?” exercise with an actual human being gives you an opportunity to thrash out just what your article contributes.

Last week, I finally had a chance to talk about my work with someone who had read my draft, my friend Carly who originally introduced me to Writing your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks. Our discussion was so helpful and boosted my confidence about my paper. We each played our roles in the feedback process well–she was enthusiastic and offered constructive suggestions, and I listened and took notes without getting defensive. The biggest change she suggested was a macrostructural swap around of my findings–in my excitement, I had introduced the “change” group before the “status quo” group, and Carly suggested switching these around, as a “starting with the familiar” approach. I’ve made the revision now and it does read better.

In terms of claims for significance, this article reveals a discursive turn towards action against gun violence. We’ve seen how “thoughts and prayers” are no longer accepted responses–in satire, in political cartoons, in social media comments sections. This study unpacks the backlash against “thoughts and prayers” and shows how politicians’ responses to gun violence are changing. Even though the recommended actions are very different between Democrats (gun control) and Republicans (school security), they both represent a turn away from “thoughts and prayers” and towards action. The “so what?” about that is that it suggests the US will take action on gun violence, that the gridlock and polarisation on gun policy might finally be overcome with some legislative action. Time will tell, but the next year and a half are an opportunity for change, with the Democrats controlling Congress and the White House, and given the Biden-Harris administration’s pro-gun-control rhetoric.

Does my paper end gun violence? No. Does it help us understand this divisive, paradoxical issue? Hopefully yes! I just need to be audacious enough to drop the “hopefully”…

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