Guidelines for Promotion and Tenure 

Standards for Interpreting Scholarship and Creative/Professional Work

Under the heading Standards for Interpreting Scholarship and Creative/Professional Work (8.2.2), the Emerson College Faculty Handbook states: “The tenured faculty and the Chair of each Department define expectations for accomplishments appropriate to the discipline or disciplines of the Department.” The Department of Communication Studies offers the following guidelines for evaluating the scholarly/creative/professional accomplishments of faculty seeking tenure and/or promotion. We are committed to providing support and guidance for our faculty. This document is one element of that support and guidance.

Tenure and Promotion-Seeking Faculty: Assistant to Associate Professor


The candidate’s work should address one or more coherent and definable areas of academic interest, such that the work, taken as a whole, suggests a predominant focus (or foci). We encourage the candidate to address the issue of coherence in the Personal Statement, discussing both the work accomplished to date, and how that work will lead to continued development, enrichment, and intellectual engagement.

The research trajectories of candidates are as unique as the candidates themselves. Wherever possible, assessments of the candidate’s work will take into account the objectives and priorities identified in the candidate’s Personal Statement. In academic disciplines with substantial sub-disciplinary variation, including disagreements about the very nature of the field, care will be taken to evaluate the candidate’s work within the appropriate interpretive framework.

Assessment of the coherence of the candidate’s research program should take into account the possibility that it cuts across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Coherence speaks to the relationship of the questions a scholar investigates, not to whether the answers to those questions are sought within the theoretical and methodological limits of a single discipline or sub-discipline. However, in cases where the research is cross-disciplinary, the candidate should specify in the Personal Statement the ways in which various disciplinary elements contribute to overall coherence.


The candidate’s work should advance knowledge, appreciation or understanding of the area(s) of focus. There are many ways of judging the significance of such work, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The candidate’s work is cited by scholars, journalists, or other academic or public figures in the candidate’s field. The context of citation provides evidence of the significance of the work.
  • The candidate’s work appears in venues that indicate excellence as judged by professional peers. For example, scholarly work is published in leading peer-reviewed journals; creative work is showcased at prestigious, juried festivals; professional work is commissioned by highly regarded institutions or organizations.
  • The publishing journal is reputable as evidenced by such factors as a relatively low acceptance rate or a wide national or international audience.
  • Impartial evaluators of the work, who are themselves respected in the candidate’s field, attest to its significance.
  • The work is produced in collaboration with other artists or scholars or featured in a group exhibition or anthology, where the collaborators are professional artists or scholars with distinguished reputations.
  • The work receives favorable critical review.
  • The work receives awards indicative of esteem by peers.
  • The candidate is invited to comment or lecture on the work in venues that suggest esteem by peers.
  • If a book is published, the press enjoys a reputation among peers within the work’s discipline or professional community for publishing high quality scholarship.
  • The work conforms to standards articulated by relevant professional organizations.

The external reviews solicited by the College for the tenure and promotion review are important in assessing the scholarly/creative/professional significance of the candidate’s work. However, these reviews are a part, not the whole of a broader evaluation of significance that comprises all of the evidence provided by the candidate in the dossier.

Some scholarly/creative work might be community-based, for example, work done with local high school students to build digital literacy skills, or performances of literature at local schools to build interest in reading. In such cases, significance might be indicated by impact at the local rather than regional or national level.


A dossier documenting an appropriate level of scholarly/creative/professional activity typically includes at least five journal articles judged as significant (in aggregate), using the criteria above, over the six pre-tenure years (assuming the typical schedule).

Though this describes the “typical” dossier, one with fewer pieces of work of greater significance may be judged as meeting an appropriate standard of productivity. What counts as significant work will vary depending on whether the candidate produces scholarship, creative work, professional work or some combination of the three. It is generally expected, however, that for the disciplines and sub-disciplines that Communication Studies comprises, scholarly publication will receive considerable emphasis.

We recognize that during this probationary period, for candidates preparing work for publication in peer-reviewed journals or by academic presses, final publication will occur at different rates. For example, the candidate may have three articles published in one year and none the next. A book project, counting for more than one significant piece of scholarly work, might not be completed until near the end of the six-year period. Therefore, it makes no sense to insist on a strict “one piece of work per year” standard. At the same time, the candidate should remember that the time required for submitting, revising, and resubmitting work for publication and then for final acceptance can be many months or even years.

The articles should appear in peer-reviewed journals appropriate to the disciplinary, sub-disciplinary or interdisciplinary focus of the candidate’s work. Articles accepted for publication, but not yet in print, may be included in this category if accompanied by an editor’s letter indicating acceptance and the anticipated date of publication.

In some academic disciplines, a multi-chapter book articulating a coherent and sustained argument is a more typical expression of scholarly achievement. A book is generally a much more ambitious undertaking than a journal article; a book that makes an original scholarly contribution to its field may constitute a high proportion of the quantity of work expected from the probationary candidate. A book that is largely a revision of the candidate’s doctoral dissertation will be counted as part of scholarly productivity, but should be accompanied by at least two additional published works that demonstrate commitment to scholarly development and commitment beyond the dissertation. Books published by academic presses or other presses with rigorous peer review protocols are weighted more heavily than books published in less competitive venues. In most cases, textbooks are weighted less heavily than books constituting an original scholarly contribution to the candidate’s field. However, a textbook that breaks new ground may be weighted more heavily, but should be accompanied by at least two additional published works. Books accepted for publication, but not yet in print, may be included as part of the candidate’s record of productivity if accompanied by an editor’s letter indicating acceptance and date of publication.

Regardless of outlet, the candidate’s work should be published in venues employing a credible process of peer review. It is important that the candidate demonstrate the capacity to place work in venues well-respected within the candidate’s discipline or sub-discipline.

Solicited book chapters, although useful in demonstrating the candidate’s commitment to a coherent research program, are not weighted as heavily as peer-reviewed publications, unless they are blind peer-reviewed. An exception, however, occurs if the book in which a solicited chapter appears constitutes a particularly significant contribution to the field and brings together a particularly well-respected group of scholars.

An edited anthology or special issue of a journal may constitute an extension of the candidate’s research and be recognized accordingly as contributing to a coherent scholarly program. Should an essay of the candidate’s own be included in the collection the candidate edits, the essay is judged as a separate publication, to be assessed by the same standards as above, including credible peer review.

In some disciplines and sub-disciplines, jointly authored publication is common. In such cases, the candidate’s contribution to an essay or book should be significant rather than peripheral. This could mean work at the core of the project, or supplementary work that significantly enhances its potential scholarly impact. The issue of joint authorship should be addressed in the Personal Statement, citing evidence of the relative significance of the candidate’s contribution. The order in which authors are listed may be addressed or written statements from co-authors provided.

Beyond published essays and books, evidence of scholarly/creative productivity may include book reviews, entries in disciplinary encyclopedias, and the like, but these, while showing good standing in the profession, are weighted much less heavily.

Paper presentations at academic conferences are useful for demonstrating active participation in one’s discipline, but are not counted as part of the candidate’s record of scholarly productivity. In general, papers are considered preliminary to publication. Commissioned creative or professional work not subject to a juried or critical peer review process also provides evidence of active participation in the candidate’s field, but similar to paper presentations, cannot substitute for peer-reviewed scholarship. 

External funding, professional grants, contracts, and (non-profit) fellowships (“Sponsored Research”) are important resources for faculty in their scholarly pursuits.

In some disciplinary or sub-disciplinary areas of study, seeking and securing financial assistance is a necessary, if not essential, component of a scholarly record. While funding alone is insufficient to demonstrate an active record of scholarship, it provides an important springboard for research and publication. Grants awarded count as evidence of scholarly activity, as does the preparation of large-scale grant applications. Research grants, fellowships, and contracts from prestigious national outlets (e.g., NIH, Guggenheim, NEH, MacArthur, NSF, etc.) that have been awarded are considered similar in stature to a publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The preparation of large-scale non-awarded national grants is considered supplemental activity. However, candidates are cautioned that grants cannot substitute for the entirety of their obligation to produce published, peer-reviewed research.

The competitiveness of external and internal funds varies significantly, and the candidate should be attentive to the reputation of the granting body and its funding protocol. The metrics related to ascertaining competitiveness are an important consideration in the assessment of a candidate’s scholarship.

The reputation, competitiveness, and quality of grant activity are assessed in the context of the candidate’s Personal Statement. The candidate should describe grant activity using three categories: Funded, Non-funded, and Pending. The candidate’s role in the project (e.g., Principal Investigator, Consultant, etc.) should be discussed as well as the percentage of involvement in the work in a co-authored enterprise. All relevant information related to the funding should be included in the candidate’s dossier.

Serving as an officer or on governing boards of academic organizations, or as journal editor, editorial board member or manuscript reader for peer-reviewed journals, also demonstrates active participation in a candidate’s field and suggests high standing. Such service does not, however, substitute for scholarly/creative productivity.

The internet provides ever-expanding opportunities for placing scholarly/creative work. The stature of such venues is judged typically in a parallel fashion to that of traditional scholarly/creative venues. Reviewers should be aware of the growing number of resources available for evaluating digital scholarly/creative work and act to ensure that they employ appropriate evaluative tools. Since scholarly/creative work is designed always for presentation via a particular medium, reviewers should examine the work in the medium for which it is produced. As with traditional venues of scholarly/creative presentation, the candidate should address issues of selectivity, reputation, review process and the like in the Personal Statement.

Candidates specializing in some areas of the disciplines Communication Studies comprises produce work not easily comparable to essays and books. For example, a candidate specializing in performance studies might publish scholarly work, but also might create performances, or a candidate specializing in political communication, while writing essays or books, might act as a community organizer. In such cases, reviewers should be cognizant of the need for broader categories of comparability rather than strict equivalencies with “traditional” forms of productivity. The candidate should explain in the Personal Statement the nature of the sustained endeavor required for such nontraditional work and demonstrate a critical review process and impact in the field.

Promotion-Seeking Tenured Faculty: Associate to Full Professor

The tenured faculty member seeking promotion to the rank of Full Professor will demonstrate continued production since tenure of significant scholarly/creative/professional work as assessed by the guidelines for tenure-seeking faculty described above, work recognized and admired by peers. These guidelines are delineated above.

The faculty member seeking promotion to Full Professor rank will have become a leader in the faculty member’s profession, as evidenced by journal editorship, service on governing boards of academic or other professional organizations, service on grant review panels, authorship of widely used books or texts, prestigious funding applications
and awards, or other indices of professional standing. 

The College will solicit letters from Full Professors to serve as sources of evidence of wide recognition and professional leadership.

Tenure and Promotion and Civic Engagement

Community-Engaged Scholarship Defined

The New England Resource Center for Higher Education states that community-engaged scholarship as a “term redefines faculty scholarly work from application of academic expertise to community--engaged scholarship that involves the faculty member in a reciprocal partnership with the community, is interdisciplinary, and integrates faculty roles of teaching, research, and service” (NERCHE, 2017). Emerson College’s mission statement and strategic plan promotes civic engagement as a core principle. Imagining America, a national consortium of colleges and universities committed to strengthening public scholarship and art practices, provides guidance on developing civically engaged pedagogies to merge public work and academic work to join campus work with communities to advance civic goals. It is a mutually beneficial partnership.

Criteria for Evaluating Community-Engaged Scholarship

For civic engagement in the Department of Communication Studies, community engagement can be local, regional, national, and international. Goals and objectives of projects should be defined and grounded in expert knowledge, with a fundamental commitment to enhance community needs and engagement. Showing rigor, appropriate methods for designing research, curriculum, training, events, projects and other engaged activities are criteria applied by engaged scholars. Evidence of results and impact from engaged scholarship should be provided.

Community-Engaged Scholarship Documentation/Evidence

Imagining America suggests that engaged scholars can document projects “through a variety of relevant materials, e.g., public and scholarly presentations, multimedia and curricular materials, individual and co-authored publications, site plans, policy reports, participant interviews, workshops, and planning and assessment tools” (Ellison & Eatman, 2008). Public scholars in communication fields engage in developing storytelling, multimedia strategies, strategies communication plans and other relevant activities, which can benefit civic action and communities as well as add to applied and action-oriented scholarly knowledge.

With regard to scholarship or creative work that is civically engaged, equivalencies to the single-authored book or the 5 peer-reviewed journal articles need to be established in terms of the scope of the work and its impact (according to the criteria for significance of social impact indicated above). Candidates for promotion who wish to pursue this route should work closely with the Chair and Dean in his or her first or second year to formulate equivalencies to guide the third-year review. These will be noted in a memorandum that becomes a part of the candidate’s file and subsequent dossiers.

Broaden the Community of Peer Review

The engaged scholarship model allows the expansion of peer evaluation to collaborating community partners. “Solicit evaluative letters from community partners who collaborated with the faculty member, providing clear guidelines for the letter. Invite them to assess: significance of the project; contributions to theory and professional practice; nature and quality of the relationship; and impact” (Ellison & Eatman, 2008). An applicant may solicit a review letter for at least one collaborating community partner.


  • Ellison, J. & Eatman T. K. (2008). Scholarship in Public: Knowledge Creation and Tenure Policy in the Engaged University: A Resource on Promotion and Tenure in the Arts, Humanities, and Design. Syracuse, NY: Imagining America.
  • NERCHE (2017). Definition of “Engaged Scholarship.” Retrieved at: