Developing a Conceptual Article for Publication in

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Developing a Conceptual Article for. Publication in Counseling Journals. Richard E. Watts. • T h i s article seeks to help authors better understand the purpose, ...

Developing a Conceptual Article for Publication in Counseling Journals Richard E. Watts • T h i s article seeks to help authors better understand the purpose, process, and procedures for developing a conceptual manuscript for publication in counseling journals. The author explains the basis of a conceptual article, discusses how authors may generate ideas for writing such articles, and describes a process for developing a conceptual article.

According to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.; American Psychological Association [APA], 2010), "Journal articles are usually reports of empirical studies, literature reviews, theoretical articles, methodological articles, or case studies" (p. 9). Journals published by various divisions of the American Counseling Association (ACA), as well as theflagshipjournal, the Journal of Counseling & Development {JCD), include these article categories and often contain more diversity regarding what constitutes inclusion in each designation. Although there is a trend in the academy to privilege empirical publications over theoretical or conceptual ones (Yadav, 2010), the scholarly importance of conceptual articles—ones that facilitate theory building and elucidate professional issues—^has consistently been acknowledged in ACA journals, both by their inclusion in the "Guidelines for Authors" and, more importantly, by their consistent inclusion in the pages of the journals. Although conceptual and empirical articles both constitute scholarly contributions, an empirical article, because of its standard formatting, may be easier to write (Salomone, 1993). Therefore, the purpose this article is to help authors better understand the purpose, process, and procedures for developing a conceptual manuscript for publication. The article explains the basis of a conceptual article, discusses how authors may generate ideas for writing, and then describes a process for developing a conceptual article that I have found helpful.

• W h a t Is a Conceptual Article? Salomone (1993) noted that many writers, including academicians, do not appreciate the important differences between a literature review (even an integrated literature review) and a conceptual article. Many literature reviews are the clustering of ideas and authors, the recitation of information that could be found elsewhere. Although useful for establishing a context, these reviews typically do not provide a significant enough contribution to the literattire to warrant publication. Good, integrated literature reviews, however, do contribute to the literature because they provide information in one source for practitioners and researchers. Authors of integrated literature reviews attempt to go beyond merely reporting ideas and findings, by describ-

ing and synthesizing important results into a coherent review that highlights the main themes, strengths, and weaknesses of the work. According to the APA Publication Manual (APA, 2010), literature review articles are integrated reviews that critically evaluate "material that has already been published By organizing, integrating, and evaluating previous published material, authors of literature reviews consider the progress of research toward clarifying a problem" (p. 10). Thus, literature review authors should seek to "define and clarify the problem; summarize previous investigations and inform the reader of the state of research; identify relations, contradictions, gaps, and inconsistencies in the literattire; and suggest the next step or steps in solving the problem" (APA, 2010, p. 10). Literature reviews and theoretical articles are often similar in structure, and the sections of both can vary in the order of their content. Theoretical articles, however, present empirical information only as it is relevant to theory building or evaluation. "Authors of theoretical articles trace the development of theory to expand and refine theoretical constructs or present a new theory or analyze existing theory, pointing out flaws or demonstrating the advantage of one theory over another" (APA, 2010, p. 10). In theoretical articles, therefore, theory building and evaluation are the primary considerations. ACA division journals have consistently published quality conceptual articles that include, but are not limited to, theoretical ones. Conceptual articles may be described, therefore, as articles that provide new theoretical perspectives or integrate existing theoretical views, address innovative—new or adapted—^procedures or techniques, discuss current professional issues or professional development (position papers), or offer well-reasoned reactions or responses to previously published articles. Readers are directed to the "Guidelines for Authors" located inside each ACA division journal or online (e.g.. Association for Counselor Education and Supervision [ACES], 2010) to see which types of conceptual articles are accepted by the various jotimals.

•Generating Ideas for a Conceptual Article In his book tifled On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King (2000) provided excellent advice for authors, especially

Richard E. Watts, Center for Research and Doctoral Studies in Counselor Education, Sam Houston State University. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Richard E. Watts, Center for Research and Doctoral Studies in Counselor Education Sam Houston State University, PO Box 2119, Huntsville, TX 77341 -2119 (e-mail: [email protected]). © 2011 by the American Counseling Association. Ail rights reserved.


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those interested in writing scholarly conceptual articles: "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write" (p. 142). An addendum to King's comment could be: "If you want to learn to write conceptual articles well, take the time to read them extensively." Reading wellwritten conceptual articles will help authors learn to write them. In addition, authors should read recent conceptual articles contained in the journal in which they intend to send their manuscript, thereby gaining a better understanding of what ajournai editor may want by examining what he or she has accepted for publication in recent issues. Ideas for conceptual articles do not appear ex nihilo but rather require hard work and thoughtful reflection. Writing conceptual articles requires significant familiarity with a broad base of the literature to give an author fertile ground from which ideas may emerge and grow to fruition. As Solomone (1993) indicated, "The conceptual article uses research, theoretical, and speculative writing to advance construct formation. This type of article is the most difficult to write because a creative leap beyond the mere association of similar ideas is required" (p. 73). Salomone (1993) suggested three steps to facilitate discovery of unique ideas for a conceptual manuscript. The initial step to the aforementioned "creative leap" is for authors to acquire an intimate knowledge of the literature on a particular subject (or subjects) and then consistently review that knowledge. The second step, after one has obtained an in-depth knowledge of the literature, is to engage in dialogue with others. In the dialogical process of inquiry, explanation, and clarification, space often opens for new ideas to emerge, and for emerging ones to gain clarity and crystallization. The third step to promoting discovery suggested by Salomone is to solidify one's understanding of the new ideas by writing about them. In this reflective process, new ideas may be reformulated, reconnected, and recontextualized from older ones and occasionally new ideas may "stand in the light by themselves, only faintly connected to the old ideas" (Salomone, 1993, p. 74).

•Developing the Manuscript for a Conceptual Article According to Balkin (2009), authors of conceptual manuscripts need to present a new way of conceptualizing or utilizing a theory, idea, technique, or position that has not been previously addressed in the literature. Authors need to include a thorough, albeit succinct, review of related literature and integrate this prior literature into the discussion of new conceptualizations or applications. From a journal editor's perspective, Balkin noted, "merely describing a new model, technique, or concept without drawing on [prior literature] is groimds for rejection" (p. 1). Subsequent to presenting a sfrong theoretical foundation or rationale, authors of conceptual manuscripts should pro-

vide a discussion or implications section that helps readers understand or interpret (a) the new concepts or applications, (b) the implications for counseling practice or the counseling profession, and (c) possible avenues for ftiture research. In addition, presenting a case study prior to the discussion section often helps readers better understand the new conceptualization or application (Balkin, 2009). Although the scope and structure of conceptual articles may vary, Balkin's format is a solid one that resonates with the process I follow for constructing such articles. In developing a conceptual manuscript for publication, I recommend that authors begin with an annotated outline. An annotated outline, as I understand it, goes beyond a standard outline sketch and includes summary descriptions of contents and source citations. Developing the outline, and referring to it regularly, will help authors remain focused and on task. Authors should not feel bound to their outlines, however, and as the manuscript develops, there may be a need for outline revisions. Below, I discuss a model outline for the contents of a conceptual article and embedded in each section are salient parts of an example annotated outline created for a conceptual article. The article, titled "Adlerian Encouragement and the Therapeutic Process of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy" (Watts & ViQXrzzk, 2000), was published in JCD. Unlike a regular annotated outline, however, I will not cite sources because of space limitations. Please note that this model is only one of many ways to format a conceptual article. Model Qutline: Introduction The infroduction of a conceptual manuscript should inform readers of the author's purpose or goal. It is useful to state the purpose or position of the manuscript very early, preferably in the first or second paragraph. Authors need to engage readers' interest but, more importantly, they need to inform readers of the manuscript's contents. The introduction from the annotated outline example is as follows. I. Introduction A. General Introduction of the Influence of Alfred Adler's Work 1. Note Corey's acknowledgment of Adler's influence. 2. List approaches in which Adler's influence has been acknowledged or his vision noted and provide source citations. B. Constructivism and Adlerian Counseling 1. Discuss common ground between Adlerian theory and various constructivist approaches to counseling and mention the lack of recognition ofAdler in the constructivist literature, in general (cite sources). 2. Note that although there are a surprising number of common ground areas between Adlerian counseling and solution-focused brief

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Watts therapy (SFBT; a specific constructivist approach), no acknowledgment of Adler or Adlerian counseling was found in the SFBT literature (cite sources). C. Purpose Statement: Although there are many points of common ground between Adlerian counseling and SFBT, this article's sole focus is to discuss remarkable similarities between Adlerian encouragement and the therapeutic process of SFBT. Model Outline: Review of Literature As Balkin (2009) noted, conceptual articles should have a solid review of literattire to provide a "strong theoretical foundation or a synthesis of ideas" (p. 1). When authors discuss a new conceptual model, describe a new procedure or technique, or state a position regarding a professional issue without adequately attending to previous literature, they fail to provide readers with sufficient context for the development and understanding ofthe new ideas. Consequently, these authors fail to substantiate the case that their conceptualization or position is a new perspective or has merit. In some conceptual articles, the literature review precedes the presentation ofthe new model or position. For example, in many articles describing new procedures or techniques (e.g., Juhnke, Coll, Sunich, & Kent, 2008; Watts & Garza, 2008; Watts, Peluso, & Lewis, 2005), the detailed description ofthe procedure or technique follows a theoretical rationale. In fact, this format is often required by joumals that encourage submission of irmovative procedures or techniques (e.g., ACES, 2010; Balkin, 2009; Watts, 2004). Model Outline: Presentation of New Concepts, Procedures, or Positions In this section of a conceptual manuscript, authors provide a detailed description ofthe new conceptual model or procedure or present the position for which they are making a case. Authors presenting a new procedure or technique should provide specific instruction and discuss it with such specificity that readers can both understand and replicate it (Kline & Farrell, 2005; Watts, 2004). With regard to position papers, Kline and Farrell (2005) noted that the most important aspect is "the presentation of a balanced discussion contrasting points of view" (p. 172) and not merely presenting literature in support ofthe position the author espouses. Furthermore, authors who fail to provide adequate literature support and/or do not provide contrasting perspectives "give readers the impression that the contents are no more than authors' opinions. In these cases, the authors' positions lose credibility as academic arguments" (Kline & Farrell, 2005, p. 172). Although some conceptual articles clearly separate the literature and the presentation ofthe new concept, procedure, or position statement, other conceptual articles juxtapose discussion ofthe literature within the context ofthe presenta-


tion. In this case, the review and presentation of new ideas are presented together and may somewhat resemble an integrated, albeit abbreviated, literature review. This is the case with the example annotated outline. II. Adlerian Encouragement and SFBT A. Section Overview 1. Define encouragement (provide citations). 2. Note key characteristics of SFBT process (provide citations). 3. Note parallels between encouragement and SFBT process: Perspective on maladjustment, counselor-client relationship, and facilitating change. 4. Transition: These areas provide the structure for discussion ofthe similarities between Adlerian encouragement and the SFBT therapeutic process. B. Perspective on Maladjustment 1. Describe the SFBT position on maladjustment (provide citations). 2. Describe the Adlerian position on maladjustment and note parallels/similarities (provide citations). C. Counselor-Client Relationship 1. Describe the SFBT understanding of the counselor-client relationship (provide citations). 2. Describe the Adlerian understanding of the counselor-client relationship and note parallels/ similarities (provide citations). D. Facilitating Change 1. Describe the SFBT process and understanding of helping clients change (provide citations). 2. Describe the Adlerian process and tinderstanding of helping clients change and note parallels/ similarities (provide citations). Model Outline: Discussion and Implications For theory- or position-focused articles, authors should include a discussion section that helps readers understand or interpret the information presented, discusses implications for counseling professionals, offers reeommendations for the counseling profession, and provides suggestions for subsequent dialogue and research. Balkin (2009) noted that a case study that precedes the discussion section might be useful to help readers xmderstand the implementation of the concepts discussed. For procedure- or intervention-focused articles, authors should, at minimum, provide a case study demonstrating the utility and effectiveness ofthe procedure or intervention after the presentation section of the article (Watts, 2004). Kline and Farrell (2005) indicated that authors of irmovative methods articles should include the results of "systematic qualitative or quantitative evaluation procedures" (p. 171) in the discussion to demonstrate the merit ofthe new method.

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When I initially submitted the "Encouragement and SFBT" manuscript to JCD, the manuscript ended with a short conclusion following the three areas of similarity between Adlerian encouragement and the SFBT therapeutic process. The reviewers noted that my ideas were valid and well presented, but all stated that I did not offer any discussion of the importance or implications for counseling; in other words, "this is great, but so what?" Consequently, they asked that I revise and resubmit the manuscript with a section that included implications for readers. Therefore, regardless of the type of conceptual article an author submits, it should include a strong section addressing the implications for counseling and its constituents (e.g., counselors, counselor educators, policymakers). in. Considerations for Counseling: What Implications or Conclusions May Be Drawn? A. Multicultural Considerations 1. Note how postmodern approaches (e.g., SFBT) emphasize social justice and equality. 2. Discuss Adler's and Adlerians' emphasis on social embeddedness and social equality issues: a. Women'srights,rightsof minorities (provide citations). b. Adlerian theory and Brown v. Board of Education (provide citation). 3. Discuss Adlerian counseling's relevance for working with culturally diverse populations (provide citations). B. Managed Care Considerations: Discuss how Adlerian counseling strongly resonates with Prochaska and Norcross's research on current clinical practice in managed care environments (provide citations). C. Integrative Considerations: Discuss how Adlerian counseling is a very flexible, highly integrative, and technically eclectic approach (provide citations). Model Outline: Conclusion There is great variability in the length of conclusion sections of scholarly articles, including conceptual ones. Minimally, authors will want to briefly summarize the content of the manuscript. With theory- or position-focused manuscripts in particular, authors will want to reemphasize the foundational theoretical or position point they were attempting to demonstrate. This may be done by summarizing the article's contents with a focus on the key premise, or authors may embed a final point of implication within the summary (a "closing argument" if you will) that seeks to morefinelypoint the reader to the foundational premise and more strongly delineate the message the author wants to communicate. The example annotated outline follows the latter of the two ways to conclude a manuscript. IV Conclusion A. Summarize previously discussed similarities between encouragement and SFBT.

B. Summarize previously discussed implications. C. Discuss the question of why, given the remarkable similarities, Adlerian counseling has not been acknowledged in the SFBT literature. Two possibilities: 1. Ellenberger's argument for "widespread plagiarism." 2. Zeitgeist effect: a. Discuss how Adler's ideas were ahead of his time and were ignored because they were considered unscientific or unworthy of note (provide citations). b. Note that there are many inaccurate secondary source presentations of Adler's work and offer an example (provide citations). D. Suggest it might be time to become better acquainted with a pioneering constructivist approach— Adlerian counseling.

•Conclusion This article attempted to help authors gain a better understanding of conceptual articles and a procedural structure for developing such manuscripts for publication. Articles addressing new theoretical perspectives or integration of existing ones, innovative—^new or adapted—^procedures or techniques, current professional issues or professional development, or well-reasoned reactions or responses to previously published articles are all considered conceptual articles. In generating ideas for and developing skill in writing conceptual articles, authors should develop a regular and extensive reading regime that includes both research and conceptual article literature. Creating ideas and learning to write well is hard work, and reading well-written literature is useful for both goals. To facilitate the discovery of unique ideas for conceptual manuscripts, authors need to (a) develop an intimate knowledge of the literature on selected topics of interest, (b) engage in dialogue with others to create space for the emergence and expansion of ideas, and (c) develop greater understanding of ideas by reflecting on them through the writing process. Authors often find it more difficult to develop conceptual articles than empirically based articles, which tend to have a more standard format. Although the scope and structure of conceptual articles vary, the process delineated in this article provides a useful framework for constructing such articles. Developing an annotated outline—including an Introduction, Review of Literature, Presentation of New Ideas, Discussion and Implications, and a Conclusion—and consistently referring to it may help authors with structure and focus. Conceptual articles, like empirical ones, are important scholarly contributions to the literature. They help to facilitate development of counseling theory, practice, and professional issues in ways that are unique to the conceptual fVamework.

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Watts JCD and the division journals of the ACA have consistently published strong conceptual articles, and authors will find ample publication opportunities for publishing such articles in the journals of the counseling profession.

•References American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. (2010). Counselor education and supervision: Guidelines for authors. Retrieved from Balkin, R. S. (2009). Publishing a conceptual manuscript: An editorial perspective. Journal of Professional Counseling: Practice, Theory, á Research, 37, 1-2. Juhnke, G. A., Coll, K. M., Sunich, M. F, & Kent, R. R. (2008). Using a modified neurolinguistic programming swish pattern with couple parasuicide and suicide survivors. The Family Journal, 16, 391-396. doi:10.1177/1066480708322807


King, S. (2000). On writing: A memoir of the craft. New York, NY: Pocket Books. Kline, W. B., & Farrell, C. A. (2005). Recurring manuscript problems: Recommendations for writing, training, and research. Counselor Education and Supervision, 44, 166-174. Salomone, P. R. (1993). Trade secrets for crafting a conceptual article. Journal of Counseling & Development, 72, 12>-16. Watts, R. E. (2004). Writing for the "techniques to share" column. The Family Journal, 12, 411. doi: 10.1177/1066480704267471 Watts, R. E., & Garza, Y. (2008). Using children's drawings to facilitate the "acting as if" procedure. Journal of Individual Psychology, 64, 113-118. Watts, R. E., Peluso, P R., & Lewis, T F (2005). Expanding the "acting as if" technique: An Adlerian/constructive integration. Journal of Individual Psychology, 61, 380-387. Watts, R. E., & Pietrzak, D. (2000). Adlerian "encouragement" and the therapeutic process of solution-focused brief therapy. Journal of Counseling & Development, 78, AAl-AAl. Yadav, M. S. (2010). The decline of conceptual articles and implications for knowledge development. Journal of Marketing, 74, 1-19. doi:10.1509/jmkg.74.1.1

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