Tips for Authors

The 2013 Editorial Board of the UWBPJ have been actively reading papers already submitted, but we can’t publish the 2013 edition without your submission! Priority submissions are due by February 1st, and the final deadline comes soon after on March 1st.

What happens, though, if your courses this quarter aren’t necessarily conducive to something worth publishing in the Journal? Any additional work, such as composing a separate paper for publication in the Journal, seems like a daunting task. Developing a topic can leave many students frustrated. Last year, I was approached by a student who asked me, “How do I even start writing a policy paper? What do I write about?” And then I was stumped. The potential for papers – the range of topics to the form they take on- is endless. So, what advice was I to give this student who struggled with the first step in writing a paper? I have now had over a year to think about this, and now realize that I should have given this student a cliché answer: write about what you know. Although we have all heard variations of this wisdom, we can use “what we know” as an excellent resource for brainstorming. In this case, what I know, and what you might know as well, is the Facebook News Feed. If yours is anything like mine, it is a policy goldmine and can help you overcome writer’s block. Just please, please don’t cite it as a source.

Because of the pages I like and the comments I post, Facebook uses some of their technological magic to choose which posts I see. So obviously our likes and our political leanings, if they are indeed public on Facebook, provide a whole host of policy related topics to choose from – gun control, postings on the 2nd amendment, abortion rights, marriage equality. These issues permeate our mainstream media, Facebook included, and thus the possibilities for topics for publication in the 2013 Policy Journal are rich.

But what about the other, less obvious policy related issues? Photos and the casual status updates might not be immediately apparent as policy related, but everything can be stripped down, built up, or analyzed further to reveal the policy inherent in otherwise casual posts:

  • My friend posted a photo of her newborn baby dressed in handmade moccasins, held by his adopted sister. What are the government policies and laws that affect Native families? What are the policies that might need to be changed to make adoption easier?
  • My cousin posted a photo of her three year old boy dressed in an apron serving tea. What are the policies of toy manufacturers? How does gender discrimination transcend borders and thus affect the way we raise our own children?
  • My friend (just kidding, he’s an acquaintance) checked into a medical marijuana dispensary. What are Facebook’s privacy policies and how might they change in the future? What are your thoughts on legalization of marijuana?

If I were faced with the dilemma of developing a topic to write about, I would simply procrastinate and login to Facebook, scroll through my newsfeed and find something I am passionate about, or realistically believe I could become passionate about. Papers published in the Policy Journal don’t have to be written as part of a course requirement. Start thinking, start reading, start writing, and start discussing. And now it’s time for you to get back to brainstorming.

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