David Rapp is a Professor in the Department of Psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Science, and in the Learning Sciences program in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, Chicago. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of Discourse Processes, the official journal of the Society for Text & Discourse (ST&D). We spoke to David Rapp about his involvement with ST&D, the career opportunities it has opened up for him, and for his advice on promoting healthy communication between the Editorial Board, society and Taylor & Francis.
Q&A with Prof David Rapp, Editor-in-Chief, Discourse Processes
How did you become involved with the Society for Text & Discourse (ST&D)?
I became aware of the society as a post-doc, as my advisor Holly Taylor was familiar with it, and I also noticed that many people whose work I was reading seemed to regularly attend the annual conference. I put it on my radar and applied to present some recently published dissertation work at the 2002 meeting. My proposal was accepted and I received the Jason Albrecht Outstanding Young Scientist Award for the work.
At the conference, I was incredibly impressed with the presentations, but even more struck by the supportive interactions and collegiality of society members; new attendees were welcomed with open arms, and I’ve been attending every year since.
How has your involvement with the society impacted your career?
It has provided with the opportunity to network with others in related and complementary fields, helping me to identify critical debates and research questions that drive some of my projects. Conferences, presentations and poster sessions have provided useful feedback and support for asking interesting questions about discourse comprehension and productions.
Several valuable research collaborations have emerged out of talking with conference attendees. I routinely encourage my students to become members of the Society and attend the conference, and their participation in the broader ST&D community supports them as it continues to do for me.
What does Discourse Processes mean to the Society?
The journal is often members’ first exposure to the Society, through the special ST&D summer issue, mentions of the Society in the journal, or word-of-mouth. Discourse Processes is the Society’s official journal and publishes work of interest to the members, addressing critical questions, raising important debates, and offering cutting-edge findings to advance discourse study fields.
That said, the journal is also relevant to individuals beyond the society’s membership, as reflected in its authors’ diverse backgrounds and affiliations. So, while the association with ST&D is important, it would be incorrect to infer some notion of exclusivity. The journal publishes work from researchers around the world from many different research backgrounds and theoretical orientations.
What are the advantages of working with a society on a journal?
One critical advantage is that there’s a core audience who considers the journal a primary source for reading contemporary work, as well as for presenting their own research. Society members read the journal regularly and provide feedback and support through reviewing activity, while promoting the journal to their colleagues and to library resources at their institutions. Thankfully, the members’ research backgrounds are quite diverse, so their interest in the Society makes Discourse Processes less of a specialized, boutique journal interested only in a restricted range of topics. Rather, the diversity of methods, backgrounds, affiliations, and research interests of the Society offer a useful sample for the broader basic and applied research communities that regularly read and submit to Discourse Processes.
What opportunities does it open up?
The society acts as a promotional vehicle for raising awareness of the journal. It also offers an audience to whom feedback can be solicited, and ideas can be workshopped with respect to novel directions and innovative journal approaches. Some journals rely only on their Editorial Board for such feedback; being associated with the society means we have a variety of additional networks for considering the journal’s future directions.
What are the society’s expectations of Discourse Processes?
The society expects Discourse Processes to offer critically reviewed, contemporary research that pushes the boundaries of our understandings. As the society members come from a host of different academic backgrounds and fields, they expect that diversity to be reflected in the journal’s contents, and the same goes for expectations about methods.
One thing they certainly don’t expect is that the journal will only publish work by members, that critical debate will be ignored, or that business-as-usual papers that offer only modest extensions to models and accounts will be published. They are quite vocal about that, as I am too!
How do you use the ST&D as a source of content?
Society members routinely read the journal, so they often target it as a place to publish their work. There’s also an annual Special Issue (SI) of the journal devoted to work that’s been presented at ST&D’s annual conference. Submissions for that issue still go through the regular, rigorous review processes associated with Discourse Processes, but my journal colleagues and I often actively encourage authors to submit as we attend the conference sessions. Additionally, members often feel more comfortable e-mailing with suggestions for SIs; however, we also welcome suggestions and consider proposals for SIs from anyone reading the journal.
How do you ensure healthy communication between yourself, the Editorial Board, the society, and Taylor & Francis?
We regularly hold an Editorial Board luncheon at the society’s annual meeting, and the Editor provides a report to the membership on the vitality of the journal during the conference. Often I will solicit advice and brainstorm specifically with members of the Society Governing Board and President.
In all of these cases, Taylor & Francis is also involved, attending meetings, getting pulled into e-mail chains, and providing helpful advice about the more administrative parts of journal life. We all share the goal of ensuring the health and increasing the prominence and impact of the journal, so regular, productive communication is a must!