Call for papers: Writing off the beaten track: On making and breaking genre conventions

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 1st February 2022

We hereby call for creative and critical contributions to the forthcoming special issue of Qualitative Studies. The special issue will focus on the epistemic and methodological promises, benefits and potential pitfalls of experimenting with or expanding genre conventions in qualitative research.  Recently, the need for multiplicity in writing has been voiced as “writing differently” (see Gilmore, Harding, Helin & Pullen 2019), and terms such as “post-academic writing” have been put into circulation to urge researchers to livelier and more personal writing (see Badley 2021; 2020; 2019). Responding to such calls for reflexivity and diversity in writing, the purpose of this special issue is to shed light on what various academic genre conventions do and how conscious choices and bold experiment in style, voice and format can expand the field of qualitative research. That is, how is writing linked to knowing and being, and how does the making or breaking of genre conventions influence the production of intellectually and emotionally stimulating texts?

There is no single best practice for successful academic writing or fixed set of indicators for a high-quality text (see Sword 2017; 2016). Academics write their research in many different ways, and many things can be (and have been) said about when and why writing is “good” and engaging – for writers and readers alike. Material circumstances and the social situation of the writer have been shown to play important roles, though rarely included in the final text (Taylor 2014; Speedy 2012). Embodied knowledge, often tacit and tied to experiences or memories, may require modalities that allow for writing the lived experience and not just writing about it (Meier & Wegener 2017). Mol (2020) has shown how single words come with layers of meaning and cultural resonances and call for careful choices and explicit reflexivity in writing.  

Textual conventions have become conventions for a reason: they work well to convey certain kinds of knowledge. However, some kinds of knowledge or ways of communicating may require the breaking of conventions – and some experiments may over time multiply and become conventions themselves. With this special issue, we encourage experiment for a reason, but above all we hope to nurture constructive dialogue between academics about their practices, choices and aspirations in writing, the relationship between form and content and the relationship between words and life. Relevant questions that potential contributors might consider and address are:

  • What constitutes good academic writing?
  • What makes certain kinds of writing interesting and engaging and other kinds not so much?
  • What are the reasons, challenges and pleasures – personally and professionally – of engaging in modes of writing that stray from the beaten track?
  • How can collaborative writing contribute to one’s writing?
  • How might literaturepoetry and other forms of art contribute to the writing of qualitative research?
  • When and under what circumstances do you find your own writing process to be interesting and engaging, and when not?
  • In what ways, and for what reasons (if any), may place and body impact and/or be meaningfully expressed in the finished text?
  • How and to what extent do the quality criteria of good academic prose differ across the disciplines?
  • In what ways can the literary manoeuvres of creative writing or post-academic writing be a substantive aspect of qualitative research and not just a decorative or aesthetic add-on? Are they a need to have or a nice to have?

Thus, the special issue has a twofold purpose: 1) to discuss how academic writing might benefit from researchers actively straying from the beaten track of generic or discipline-specific conventions and 2) to curiously investigate and exemplify such kinds of writing. It is our hope that such experiments and discussions will take the dialogue about why we write in the ways we do a step further.

For information on how to submit an abstract, see

Important dates

1st February 2022: Abstracts submitted to the editors

1st March 2022: Contributors invited to write a full paper

1st June 2022: Manuscripts submitted to the editors and subjected to peer review

1st September 2022: Peer reviews sent to the contributors

1st November 2022: Deadline for submission of revised and finalised manuscripts

1st December 2022: Special issue published


Badley, G. F. (2021). “We Must Write Dangerously”. In: Qualitative Inquiry (27:6), pp. 716-722

Badley, G. F. (2020). Why and How Academics Write. In: Qualitative Inquiry (26:3-4), pp. 247-256

Badley, G. F. (2019). Post-Academic Writing: Human Writing for Human Readers. In: Qualitative Inquiry (25:2), pp. 180-191

Gilmore S., Harding, N., Helin J. & Pullen, A. (2019). Writing differently. In: Management Learning (50:1), pp. 3-10

Meier N. & Wegener, C. (2017). Writing With Resonance. In: Journal of Management Inquiry (26:2), pp. 193-201

Speedy, J. (2012). Collaborative writing and ethical know-how: Movements within the space around scholarship, the academy and the social research imaginary. In: International Review of Qualitative Research (5:4), pp. 349-356

Taylor, C. A. (2014). Telling transitions: Space, materiality, and ethical practices in a collaborative writing workshop. In: Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies (14:4), pp. 396–406.

Sword, H. (2017). Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write. Harvard University Press

Sword, H. (2016) ‘Write Every Day!’: A Mantra Dismantled. In: International Journal for Academic Development (21:4), pp. 312-322

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