“But You Are Also Ghanaian, You Should Know”: the iceberg illusion and the story of a research article

This paper has finally seen the light of day through sheer hard graft. It feels almost like a pyrrhic victory but that is the nature of the process sometimes. I am nonetheless happy to share the news of this published co-authored journal article . Thanks to my man Ellis for keeping us going through the valleys until this point. You can access it through this link…

“But You Are Also Ghanaian, You Should Know”: Negotiating the Insider–Outsider Research Positionality in the Fieldwork Encounter 

but you are also ghanaian

When I think of this particular research article, the metaphorical image that comes to my mind is that of an iceberg – you only see the tip on the surface while missing the bigger piece in the water. This has been characterised as ‘The Iceberg Illusion”. What people get to see as ‘success’ is that the paper is published but what they might not see is the sweaty details beneath. I thought it will be good to recount some of these sweaty details in order to open up this ‘black box’.

Image result for research success as iceberg

The seeds for this paper were sown much earlier in 2014/2015 when I was conducting fieldwork for my PhD in Ghana. I have also written a couple of blog posts around this idea – see this on reflexivity in planning research and this one on the joys and boredom of fieldwork. However, it has taken 2 years from conceiving the research article idea to getting this final product of a published paper. There have been many occasions over this period that I thought of giving up on it. During this period, the has been disappointment, sacrifice and failure. There was first a dramatised conference presentation based in June, 2017 at the Critical Tourism Studies conference in Mallorca, Spain – which won the best presentation award. I saw the potential of the idea and once my brother Ellis came on board with his fieldwork experience in Malawi, it took us another year to shape it into a research manuscript. We’ve had to be persistent and keep pushing through the repeating process of refine-redraft until we felt confident enough to submit it to a journal.

We all know that the journal publication process can take forever and as a co-editor of a journal, I can understand why it can often take a long time. Our experience therefore might not be peculiar but it has been insightful for us. So, we first submitted this paper to a journal on 13/06/2018. After 2 months, nothing heard…after 4 months nothing heard. We started sending email to the editorial assistant asking about the progress of the paper but no info was forthcoming. Then, in December (6 months after submission), we finally got a decision on the submission which read;

It is with regret that I have to inform you that your manuscript is not suitable for publication in ‘Journal X’. Given the increasing number of submissions to the journal, we are unable to take further any papers that will require major reworking before they meet our publication threshold. While acknowledging that the paper has potential, the peer review that we have received of the paper points out that major revisions  would be required in order to make its contributions clearer and unique to discussions of insider-outsider positionality. Accordingly, our editorial decision is to reject on this occasion.

There was only one reviewer (comments) who was overly positive but recommended major revisions. Yet, the editorial decision was to reject that paper and not allow us to make the revisions. As you can imagine, we felt dismayed and hard done by and decided to protest this editorial decision. We drafted and sent a letter to the editorial board stating our case to be allowed to do the revisions and resubmit. The editors did not bulge so we left the paper to rest.

When we decided to resubmit the paper to a new journal, we didn’t feel it was worth doing all the revisions suggested by the one reviewer from the first journal. We were confident that our paper was good enough and it was going to be read by a new person anyway. Then we submitted to this new journal in January, 2019. A few weeks later we had a decision on the manuscript which read;

I am happy to accept your manuscript entitled “But you are also Ghanaian, you should know”: negotiating the insider-outsider research positionality in the fieldwork encounter” for publication in Qualitative Inquiry.

Prior to going to press, your article will be indexed and available for citation from SAGE Online First.

Thank you for your fine contribution to Qualitative Inquiry. You will receive page proofs from our publisher later in the production process. I am very impressed by your piece.

Wow, how sweet these words sound in a researcher’s ear. It soothes his anguish and calms his troubled mind. The last bits – “your fine contribution” and “I am very impressed by your piece” were pure delight. It made the 2 years of grafting through the drafts and rewrite worth it. It was a nice feeling to have the top guru in Qualitative Research (every qualitative researcher would know the name) read your manuscript, give such feedback and accept for publication without revision. I felt I had peaked early and that it was better to stop publishing while I was on top before I came crushing down with a rejected manuscript in the future. But the thought of quitting didn’t last very long. The challenge now is to maintain the standard and keep grafting.

So, as you read this research article, please remember that this success you are seeing did not happen overnight. It is only the tip of the iceberg underneath which has been 2 years of sordid hard work, sacrifice, dedication, disappointment and persistence. Don’t give up on your manuscript, thesis, dissertation or whatever writing project you face. Keep pushing, keep grafting, and know that disappointments, heck even straight failure would come, but persist until you find a home for that manuscript. Just don’t give up……


4 thoughts on ““But You Are Also Ghanaian, You Should Know”: the iceberg illusion and the story of a research article

  1. Pingback: Blog | “But You Are Also Ghanaian, You Should Know”: the iceberg illusion and the story of a research article | by Dr. Emmanuel Akwasi Adu-Ampong | Centre for Space, Place and Society

  2. Pingback: Manscript rejected after reviews…boo! | Emmanuel Akwasi Adu-Ampong

  3. Pingback: Lift every voice and sing: sound, emotion and affect in the fieldwork encounter | Emmanuel Akwasi Adu-Ampong

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