Bridging the Gap in Graduate School Writing: The Linda F. Dietz Graduate Essay Prize

December 9, 2019

Photo of Hannah Roth Cooley

Written by guest blogger Hannah Roth Cooley.

In graduate school, it is difficult to know exactly when one should take the risk of sending their work out to be considered for publication. It is a scary first step. After finishing my MA, and as I began my PhD, I often felt uncertain about my graduate school trajectory—how to balance my own interests with required course-work and projects, how to make my research count. As someone in the transition between master’s and PhD programs, preparing an article for the Linda F. Dietz prize offered a means of working out some of these uncertainties.

I am currently enrolled in a PhD programme in History, where my work focuses on Indigenous journalism in North America, and the ways that media production facilitated activist work in the second half of the twentieth century. The article I submitted to the Dietz Prize came out of my master’s project on New Breed magazine’s first decade of publication. It seeks to analyze the way that historical memory of the nineteenth century contributed to this magazine’s (and its creators’) activist thought. This topic had been following me since my undergraduate degree, when I first discovered New Breed. My MA research provided me the opportunity to explore this source in some depth, and complete my largest research project to date, culminating in my MA Memoir (major research project), submitted to the University of Ottawa.

Completing this project in the spring of 2018 with plans to continue on to a PhD the upcoming fall left me feeling that I should make something of all the work I had done, rather than leave it to gather dust. In the months before embarking on my doctoral study, working my existing project into an article-length piece to submit to the Dietz prize seemed the perfect solution.

For me, the decision to submit my work to the prize seemed simple—I had already done the majority of the work to research and write this piece. It also provided me an important opportunity to put my work out into the world. This project, I hope, offers something valuable to readers due to how compelling New Breed is as a piece of media and snapshot of Métis history. As a magazine that is incredibly rich in its social critique and historical awareness, but that has never received significant scholarly attention, I hoped to bring forward some of the amazing work done by New Breed ’s creators.

To accomplish this task through publication, however, I needed to significantly shorten my project (by about 50-60%) and edit it to conform to the standards of a journal article. Although graduate students get a lot of advice and training about how to edit their own work, often the time constraints of semester-long work cycles restrict one’s ability to take time to reflect deeply on their writing. Editing my own work for the Canadian Journal of History offered me precisely this experience both prior to submission and after having received comments from CJH ’s reviewers. Although my article, like any other, can never be perfect, the process of revising my work certainly strengthened not only the article itself, but my own writing and revising skills. As I continue on in graduate school, this experience will certainly serve me well.

Submitting my article to this prize also gave me a sense of purpose in the nebulous interim between two graduate school experiences. It offered me continuity, as I finished one significant moment of my burgeoning research career before moving onto another. Of course, I was proud to have won the prize and to have my article published in the CJH. But I also believe the experience would have been valuable regardless of the competition’s outcome. The welcoming atmosphere of the CJH ’s graduate student essay prize offers a great opportunity for graduate students in the early stages of their programs to take the first steps into the world of academic publishing.

Hannah Roth Cooley is a PhD student of settler descent from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, now studying in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on Indigenous journalism and media-based activism in twentieth-century North America. Her latest article in the Canadian Journal of History entitled “Historical Memory and Métis Political Resurgence in New Breed Magazine, 1969–1979” is free to read for a limited time here.

The UTP Journals blog features guest posts from our authors. The opinions expressed in these posts may not necessarily represent those of UTP Journals and their clients.

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