METM15 presentation

How I stopped worrying and learned to love social science discourse conventions

Karen Shashok, Granada, Spain
Authors’ editors, translators, and other communication service providers with extensive experience in a particular discipline may become biased in favor of the discourse conventions they are most accustomed to. This bias may compromise our ability to work effectively in disciplines outside our main areas of work.
In this case-based report I will identify issues that limited my ability to edit effectively in the social sciences, and explain how I learned to accept social science discourse conventions. My hypothesis is that my new approach to editing is more helpful to and acceptable to target readers than the biased editing I would have done based on practices in the area I work in most often, i.e. biomedicine and health sciences. My text examples are from a manuscript I edited before submission and after peer review, and that was accepted by the target journal. To illustrate how I adapted my approach to editing, I will contrast edits in the manuscript with edits I would have made before I learned to work with some of the conventions that characterize well-written social science research articles. Although data on the reactions of readers of the published article are lacking, acceptance of the manuscript by the target journal suggests that the peer reviewers and journal editor found the editing acceptable and appropriate.
My learning how to shift to a different discipline was facilitated by i) a close working relationship with the authors, ii) belonging to professional development organizations such as MET, and iii) a personal interest in the specific research topic. It’s never too late to learn that the conventions of research articles in disciplines outside our comfort zone are not a bug but a feature.
Karen Shashok, a freelance translator and editorial consultant since the mid-1980s, has written about translation, author editing, peer review and editorial ethics, and has provided training in Spanish and English for researchers and editors on several continents. As a member of professional development organizations for journal editors, she has tried to bring the perspective of researchers and editors from emerging and resource-limited research communities to the attention of western, English-speaking gatekeepers and experts in research ethics. In the late 2000s she began AuthorAID in the Eastern Mediterranean as a volunteer project.