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Professional Writing After Your DSW: Start Here!
By Veronica Molina, DSW, LMSW, ACSW

The following manuscript provides a step-by-step writing guide for new Doctor of Social Work (DSW) graduates entering academic appointments. Scholarship is an integral part of an academic position at a university. It may be difficult to find a starting point; however, the following tips can help any new social work academic faculty working in academia.

After graduating with my DSW in 2020, I was fortunate to obtain a social work faculty position and start my new tenure-track journey as Dr. Molina. I had worked in academia for eight years prior to this position and had two publications, but always found it difficult to work on my writing for academic scholarship. Frankly, I dreaded it and always had it at the bottom of my to-do list. However, with my DSW in hand and my new academic position, I had to find a way to focus on developing my professional writing for publication. The truth is “publish or perish” is absolutely part of the three-tiered process to earn tenure. The teaching evaluation, which focuses on your work in the classroom and your engagement with students, often includes a review of your course evaluations.

The expectation for service includes working on collaborations that support the university, e.g., serving on a committee or building partnerships with the community that can be associated with the university. In my time in academia, that scholarship often bears substantial importance and may be the most perilous part of your tenure packet. No matter how your order these three responsibilities, if you are struggling to muster the focus or energy to write, the following are a couple of tips to get organized and prepared for professional writing.

First, create a list of potential publishing outlets. I began my list with social work journals, including magazines. There are many journals that support cross-disciplinary work that can be explored but starting with social work publishers is a good first step. My list included links to their submission requirements and a note about the minimum expectations for page length. Being aware of page length helps to evaluate whether the chosen topic can support the requirement.

Here’s an example of what a list may look like:

Advances in Social Work, OJS/PKP
Journal of Social Work Education, Council on Social Work Education
The Field Educator, Simmons School of Social Work
Journal of Social Work, Sage
Journal of Teaching in Social Work, Taylor & Francis
• NASW Press
Social Work Today magazine
The New Social Worker magazine

Next, list possible topics. I often found myself brainstorming about writing, but never wrote anything down, so this step provided me with a clear list of my interests. I evaluated which topics would be best for a journal or a magazine and noted which of those would inspire me to write. Creating an outline was also helpful; it notated themes I wanted to highlight within the topic.

One of the most common suggestions after you graduate with your PhD or DSW is to write from your dissertation. In some cases, several literary works can evolve from all that work. I chose to give myself some time away from my dissertation, but I have heard others feel inspired to write following graduation. I did place my dissertation on my topics list because I had identified two highlighted themes within my work that I felt I wanted to expand on.

You are not alone as a social worker in academia. When joining a program, find out what others within your department are working on and their research interest, as there may be an opportunity to collaborate. Depending on what you are writing about, there could be room for interdisciplinary work with faculty from other departments within your university. Social work conferences are a great way to meet others who may have similar interests. For example, volunteering on the NASW Texas conference planning committee allowed me to create connections with social work professors from local universities.

Finally, practice self-care during the writing process. Self-care should begin before you sit down to write. Ensure your workspace is ready for writing. Clearing your desk from other major distractions is important. Setting calendar appointments is important too. Also, pick a time where you feel you most inspired to write: morning, afternoon, or night. Sometimes you do not want to step away from your thought process, afraid to lose your train of thought, so find a comfy place where you can spend some time focusing for a period of time without interruptions. Most importantly, take breaks. It helps to step away before you begin the review or editing phase.

In my first academic position, I did not have a plan on how to tackle my scholarship. I felt it was a hurdle I could never overcome. However, with the steps I have outlined I feel empowered and motivated to begin my professional writing.

— Veronica Molina, DSW, LMSW, ACSW, is the assistant professor and MSW field director at Tarleton State University. Molina has more than nine years of academic experience and recently graduated with her Doctor of Social Work.