On Thursday, November 10 at 6:30pm in Dealy 112, FURJ will host a Prospective Authors Meeting that will enlighten all prospective undergraduate researchers on the ins and outs of the research process. Attendees will be fortunate to learn from two special guest lecturers, Dr. Kimberly Casteline on “Reflections on Research” and Dr. Barbara Mundy on “How to Get Published.”
I was fortunate enough to sit down with Dr. Mundy and gain insight on the academic publishing process: its dividends, obstacles, and relevance to an undergraduate education.
Dr. Barbara Mundy is an accomplished and internationally lauded art historian whose own research focuses on pre-Columbian and Mexican art— in her words, “the art of the Aztecs after the conquest.” Dr. Mundy settled on this particular sub-discipline while working as a journalist for Vanity Fair.
“I just couldn’t get this 16th century Franciscan named Sahagún out of my mind,” she said. I had to pursue this for my own benefit, if nothing else—it felt like a religious calling.”
Her most recent publication, The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life Of Mexico City, has received numerous academic and commercial accolades, most recently the 2016 Book Prize in Colonial Latin American Studies from the Latin American Studies Association. She is proud of this award in particular because it acknowledges the contribution of her work to a broader social conversation.
“It means someone other than art historians actually read my book,” Munday said.
Her passion for her subject material buoyed her throughout a lengthy research and publication process. Indeed, she claims the slowness of the process—multiple years for an author of her caliber—is the main obstacle to successful academic publication.
“Good ideas can take a long time to develop.” Mundy said. “Writing is a solitary process, and getting feedback from the appropriate audience can be difficult.”
Such a protracted process is difficult to endure without genuine ardor for one’s subject. Dr. Mundy therefore urges urges potential researchers to focus on a topic about which they are passionate.
“Take what is meaningful to you and find a way to make it meaningful to others,” Mundy said. “Determine what aspects of your own intellectual journey will be relevant to others, and who will come along with you on that journey.”
Dr. Mundy will focus on how to write engaging abstracts and catchy titles are in her presentation on November 10. She has observed that students tend to assume that more time should be spent on writing longer assignments than shorter pieces.
“The opposite is true for these half-page abstracts,” Mundy said, “as they are the part that the most people are going to read and thus take the most time.”
Dr. Mundy asserts that original research is an important component of a holistic undergraduate education.
“It is very important to understand that whatever you do, you need to be a self-generator, capable of generating your own ideas and own projects.”
Her ultimate advice to undergraduates is to “choose an idea that you think is really, really interesting, no matter how wacky or non-academic it seems—those are often the best ideas. It needs to excite you.”