The Rejection Letter and Start to a New School Year

I’ve waited awhile before publishing this post.  Waiting seems to be the standard advice on the Internet if one Google’s “rejected journal manuscript”…wait a few days and then consider the feedback and keep working on the document.  That I did (and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for goodness from the new submission location!), although I waited longer to write this post.  Mostly because I was still mulling around some of feedback I received.  Additionally, it is hard to receive a rejection (This site indicates that there are four steps for responding to it…none of which apply to the kind of rejection I received).  In this case, I am talking about the rejection of a journal submission, but I think rejection is painful to receive not matter the context (at least this is what I recall from school dances). This post, however, will focus on the feedback I received about a research paper I wrote.

As you know from another post (where I confessed that a part of my motivation to blog is to improve my writing), writing does not come easily to me. I have to work at it, and while I have improved due to my continued commitment, I know that I need to keep doing it. So, this blog will not be about the feedback I received related to my writing abilities. Although I do want to add that I received three positive comments about my writing (woo hoo! 🙂 ). Instead, this feedback will be about two similar comments I received regarding the results of the research I was reporting.  Now, before I share more about the comments, please know that after spending time with them, I can see how the reviewers came to understand what I wrote in the way that they did. I actually agreed with what they wrote, and I believed that the research I was reporting did too, however, that is not what they read. Instead, they read that my research was incongruent with other, previously published research and they indicated that it should be rejected because of that, which is what got me thinking.  Again, please keep in mind that this was not the case, but I still couldn’t help but wonder what if I had made a new discovery that was not congruent with the previously published research?

What if my research discovered something different?

It was clear to me that if that had indeed been the case, the two reviewers were not open to it.  They did not even seem to notice that my research results section started off with a sentence indicating congruency (not opposition) to current research. So this got me thinking about what that might mean for the field of student affairs.

Are we so focused on what we’ve been doing that we have closed ourselves off to what is different and new?

This, to me, is a Thomas Kuhn question,

This video of Thomas Kuhn is hilarious:

You should go here though to learn more about his contributions:

and a question that I look forward to exploring with the students in College Student Personnel (CSP) program as a I start by fourth year as a faculty member tomorrow at Western Illinois University.


On Being Certain and Normal Science

This morning I went for a run, which is a newer endeavor I started up at the end of April. I mentioned my recent interest in running in a previous blog, but as a recap…about 10 years ago I ran quite a bit, I moved away from it for a variety of reasons (PhD school being one of them), and this:


is what I imagine myself looking like when I go running. So, for about the past five weeks, I’ve run every other day. My goal is to get to a place where I can comfortably run a 5k.

During the time I’ve been running, I’ve increased my distance to the point where I am now running about 2 miles at a time. I use an app (Strava…it is free and is great! :)) to track my route, distance, and time. This morning, however, I ran much further than I have over the past several weeks. I ran 2.7 miles, and it felt good. In fact, if it wasn’t for a few service people coming to our house to fix/build some things, I probably would have continued running (me=turning into Forrest Gump).

I’m quite proud of myself for running 2.7 miles. Mostly because I woke up this morning and did not want to run. I even texted my running accountability partner about it. I just wasn’t “feeling” it, and was pretty much trying to just focus on having the whole experience over for the day.

(This is probably much closer to what I look like when I run.)

So, you might be able to imagine my surprise when Strava told me that I had run 2.7 miles. I’ve actually experienced such surprise two other times this week (that I’m consciously aware of), and both of those have caused me to pause as well. In each of those situations, I also found myself quite certain about what it was that I was talking about and how something was going to be, and in each of those situations I found myself to be wrong. Being wrong to me, however, really isn’t much of a surprise, which is why I’ve noticed myself pausing a bit more and considering how I can own my mistake in front of the other person so that they can see that I recognize my mistake. What it has all led me to consider, though, is Thomas Kuhn and his essays captured in the book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. I was finding myself caught up in “normal science”.

“Normal science, the activity in which most scientists inevitably spend most all their time, is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like. Normal science often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments. As a puzzle-solving activity, normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and, when successful, finds none.”

In each of the experiences I had, I was quite certain that I knew “what the world was like”, and I went into each experience with that in mind.

I was not going to like my run today. It was going to be painful, and frustrating.

And in each of these experiences I found myself curious as to why I thought I was so certain.

I really enjoyed my run, and could have kept going.

After all, I knew that there was information that I know that I don’t know, yet I found myself wanting so badly to know something, that I turned what I was aware of into the fully story. I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in this behavior, and I’m quite confident that it will occur many more times despite my efforts for it not to. I don’t say this in an effort to not try…more to acknowledge my own imperfect self. What I can do though is to continue to recognize that there is always going to be information missing and things I don’t see, and to continually strive to be open to hearing more of and about it. I can also continue to own when I have make a mistake, as well reflection on the process of how I got to such a place originally.