Learn from the experts


Dr. Roman Liera

Roman Liera is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at Montclair State University. He designed his research program to study how college and university practices and policies perpetuate racial inequity and how faculty and administrators can transform such practices and policies to advance racial equity. His current projects focus on understanding how race operates in doctoral education socialization, the academic job market, hiring, and tenure and promotion. His research appears in the Review of Higher Education, Journal of Higher Education, American Educational Research Journal, Teachers College Record, among others.

Describe your writing process/routine.

My writing process starts with understanding the topic that I want to write about including the theories, methodologies, and methods that I plan on using. I tend to scribble and write out my thoughts on Google docs, on the whiteboard, on my notebook, or on sticky notes. Just like my thinking, my brainstorming process is messy and I learned to embrace the messiness of my thinking. Once I feel confident about the contribution of what I want to write then I start outlining/mapping out my argument. After doing that, I identify a journal outlet where I plan on submitting the paper. For writing the manuscript itself, I tend to block off mornings because that is when I have the most energy to engage in deep intellectual thinking. I remind myself that writing is a process so I can minimize any mental blocks and eagerness to edit as I write. I also ask for feedback from trusted colleagues who are familiar with the area of what I am writing about. One thing that I want to emphasize is that writing is messy, writing is a process, and writing is intimate. So I learned to embrace the different feelings and stages of my writing process.

When did you develop your writing process/routine?

I developed my writing process/routine during my qualifying exam. I learned a lot about myself as a writer when I was working on my qualifying exam.

How did you improve your academic writing skills?

By writing and getting feedback. In more recent years, I have been serving on editorial boards and have served as an ad hoc reviewer. Reviewing articles has helped me reflect and learn about my own writing process. Also, knowing that editors will clean up the APA and other English writing rules helps me focus on the substance of the writing.

What time of day do you find you write best?

Morning (5-6am – 12pm)

What resources helped you become a better writer (books, mentors, writers, etc.)?

Grammarly, knowing how to write a simple, constructive feedback from colleagues on the structure of my argument, and reading writing from scholars who I admire.

How do you make time for writing with all the other commitments you have?

I block off mornings to write and I try my best to not schedule meetings in the mornings.

What are your strategies for staying productive and for maintaining momentum with your writing? (get specific and concrete)

I just do it. My parents are immigrants and are gardeners. What they do is intensive. And when I think writing is hard, I remember that my parents are in the sun pushing lawnmowers and I have the privilege to read, think, and write. So, in retrospect, writing is easy in comparison to what my parents are doing.

What is the best writing advice you have gotten?

“Racial equity is your M.O.” This reflects more about my identity and the type of researcher I have become. I try my best to be true to myself and let my voice guide how I structure the paper. I guess advice specifically for writing, my advisor always gave me constructive feedback and explained her comments to me. One area that she emphasized and that I see has become part of my writing repertoires, is writing “mid-level text.” Meaning, providing enough detail for the reader to understand the substance of my sentences/statements. I guess, not too specific but not too broad. That has really given me the rich details that I provide in my publish work that readers always compliment me on.

What writing tools do you suggest? (Apps, books, etc.)

I don’t have any specific tools that I would suggest. I don’t think those will make you a better writer. I do have to say that understanding your own writing process and whatever tools help you get there is the way to go. There is no silver bullet to writing.

What are some specific practices and rules for writing within your discipline that other researchers and graduate students might not be aware of?

I don’t know…. APA is what we follow so I guess follow them.

Who are some writers you particularly admire, and what about their writing seems most admirable to you?

The writers that I admire are academics so Dr. Leslie Gonzales she does an excellent job of connecting dense theory to every aspect of the paper. Dr. Estela Bensimon uses “plain language” to explain her ideas. These are two scholars who I studied to understand academic writing.

What advice would you give to fellow writers (Make this concrete. i.e.: Read widely – what does that look like in practice? How does that benefit the process? What should the writer be looking for when reading?)

Read. The more you read the more you will know how your writing speaks and contributes to existing scholarship. 

Don’t compare yourself to anyone. focus on yourself and learn your writing process.

Check out Dr. Liera’s writing.

He sharesThis paper that I published with my friend and colleague Theresa Hernandez is an example of what I shared throughout this interview. Liera, R., & Hernandez, T. E. (2021). Color-evasive racism in the final stage of faculty searches: Examining search committee hiring practices that jeopardize racial equity policy. The Review of Higher Education, 45(2), 181-209. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/rhe.2021.0020.”

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