I'm not a professor, either, but my experience as the new editor of the Journal of Extension (JOE) has taught me some things I can share.
Nothing here should be a revelation. It's mostly a matter of common sense and doing your homework (sigh).
One of the best pieces of advice I have is to become familiar with the journal to which you think you'd like to submit an article by reading a few issues. More and more journals are being posted on the Web or are, like JOE <www.joe.org>, Web-only journals, and that's a big help.
Maybe what you want to write about isn't appropriate for your first journal "target" and you should consider another one. If it is appropriate, becoming familiar with the journal will help you with how to write your article.
When it comes to "how to write," nothing is more important than reading--and following--the journal's submission guidelines. They differ from journal to journal, but every journal has them.
You'll find JOE's submission guidelines at <http://www.joe.org/sub1.html>. Other journals put this information at the beginning or end of each issue. Because submission guidelines can change, read them before you start writing, and check them before you submit.
The time from submission through review to publication can be long. If you don't do a little homework beforehand, you might find yourself back at square one at the end of it.
Another thing to remember is that you aren't alone. Collaborate with a colleague at Purdue or elsewhere. Collaborating can help "spread the burden" of writing and reduce anxiety, too.
And, by all means, ask some of your colleagues to review your article. You want your article to be as strong as possible before it goes through the journal's review process. Your colleagues can help you. (Of course, it goes without saying that you'll reciprocate that help.)
The stronger your article is before review, the more likely it is that the journal's reviewers will either recommend publication or be able to give you the kind of help you need to get your article to a publishable state.
Two JOE articles that offer good advice on publishing in a refereed journal for the less professorial among us are "Publishing Research in Extension" <http://www.joe.org/joe/1998june/tt2.html> and "How to Get Published in a Professional Journal" <http://www.joe.org/joe/1990fall/tt2.html>.
In a nutshell, here's what I think you should keep in mind when you write a PR-type impact statement.
Why write impact statements?
People on Capitol Hill and in the statehouse in Indianapolis control a large part of our budget. They need to know what we're doing and what value they're getting for their investment. If we don't tell them, no one else will.
Who am I writing these for?
Busy people. Legislative aids, often our main audience, are 20-something, plan to move to a new job in two years, and don't know or care much about agriculture or Extension. These are the folks we need to reach.
What do I write?
Figure you only have two minutes to tell them about your work. Use simple words and short sentences. Focus on how your efforts have benefited consumers. Generally, they want to know how you've improved the environment, saved money for a constituent group, or improved people's health or quality of life. Put numbers behind your claims, if you can.
Example 1: After following Purdue recommendations to calibrate corn planters properly, Indiana farmers increased yields and increased income by $XXXX in 1996.
Example 2: In Indiana, Martin County's low tax base makes it hard for the county to meet community needs. The Purdue Extension educator there helped set up a community foundation that applied for and received grants totaling $1 million that will be used to support human services, youth, education, arts, culture, citizenship and the environment.
If you don't have numbers, write up the impact statement, anyway. You might describe in a narrative how your work helped one or two people, or quote someone describing how your work helped them.
For more examples of effective impact statements and for more information, visit the Impact Primer <http://www.agcom.purdue.edu/AgCom/news/impact/Impactprimer.html>.
And don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions.
Recently, when I spoke at a Federal Emergency Management Agency meeting, I came across an idea that I think would help all of us who plan meetings and must inform the speakers we've contacted to appear. It's called a "Speaker's Kit."
Essentially, preparing a Speaker's Kit prompts meeting planners to provide speakers with all the information they need to do a good job.
Speaker's Kits should be specific to the meetings they concern, but they should all contain: 1) a briefing on the meeting and role of the speaker, 2) flyers on the meeting, 3) directions, 4) information on how to get in touch with you, and 5) an invitation to contact you with any questions or special requests. (You will probably find that if you go through this effort, you and your speaker will discover some important issues you need to cover before the meeting.)
The briefing on the meeting and role of the speaker is the most important and valuable of the items in a Speaker's Kit. Your briefing can be one page or more and should include the following information.
* What you want the speaker to talk about. Keep it short, but make it communicate.
* What you expect from your speaker. To help your speaker help you, answer questions such as: How much time will the speaker have? What type of audience will be attending the meeting? Do you expect visual aids? Do you want the speaker to prepare handouts?
* Details about the session. Will you be recording the meeting? Will there be media or other special guests? How many people do you expect? How will you time the speakers? Do you want to leave time for questions? Will this be after each speaker or at the end of the meeting?
* Details on the meeting structure. How will the meeting flow from one speaker to the next? Will there be a break between speakers? Will any changes in configuration have to be made?
* Details on the room layout. What are the size and layout of the room? What about available light for things such as television or overheads? And electrical hookups for multimedia equipment?
The time you spend preparing a Speaker's Kit will be worth it. Your meetings will be more effective. And your credibility will be enhanced with both your speakers and your meeting's audience.
If you'd like to see an example of a Speaker's Kit, let me know.
Here's yet another "trap" where our ears can deceive us and we find ourselves going for the more familiar word when two words sound similar.
We all kind of know what "mute" means: to be struck dumb, incapable of speech, or at least absolutely silent.
Example: She was mute at the meeting because she was so surprised by the praise that was heaped upon her.
"Moot," on the other hand, is not as common a word. As an adjective it means something that is questionable or open to debate.
Example: Whether or not she deserved that praise is a moot point. (Hey, maybe that's what made her mute!)
Thanks to Judy Myers-Walls, CDFS, for this suggestion.
If there's a grammar (or usage) trap you'd like me to discuss, or if you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one, please let me know.