Standards for Evaluating Scholarship and Creative/Professional Work

Note: The standards below were used prior to December 2017. To see current standards, go to the "December 2017 to Current" page.

Emerson College and the Department of Communication Studies are committed to providing support and guidance that best allows faculty members to fulfill the criteria for tenure and promotion. This document should be understood as one aspect of such guidance.

The Emerson College Faculty Handbook directs each academic department to: "define expectations for (scholarly/creative accomplishments appropriate to the discipline or disciplines of the Department" (7.2.2). The Department of Communication Studies offers the following guidelines for evaluating the scholarly/creative/professional record of faculty seeking tenure and/or promotion.

Tenure-Seeking Faculty (Assistant to Associate Professor)


A candidate's research/scholarship/creative accomplishments should address one or more coherent and definable area(s) of academic interest such that the candidate's work, taken as whole, suggests a predominant scholarly focus. We encourage candidates to address the issue of coherence in the Personal Statement.

The research trajectories of candidates leading to tenure are as unique as the candidates themselves. Wherever possible, assessments of a candidate's scholarly/creative production will take into account the objectives, aims and priorities identified in a candidate's narrative. Every effort will be made to secure internal and external evaluators who are sensitive to and respectful of the candidate's scholarly work.

The academic perspective of the external evaluators should be congruent with the disciplinary orientation of the candidate. In areas with substantial sub-disciplinary differences, controversies and even fundamental differences about the very nature of the field, care will be taken to evaluate the candidate's scholarship/creative activity within the appropriate interpretive framework.

Assessment of the coherence of research for faculty members whose primary teaching responsibilities are in the Perspectives curriculum and in The Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies should take into account the necessarily interdisciplinary nature of pedagogy in these two areas. It is therefore expected (but not required) that this interdisciplinarity would be reflected in their research programs. Moreover, where a candidate's primary teaching responsibilities are distributed across scholarly and creative fields, it is expected (though not required) that the candidate's overall productivity would be distributed between scholarly and creative practices. The candidate must specify the nature of this interdisciplinarity, as well as the ways in which various elements contribute to overall coherence.


A candidate's work should advance knowledge, appreciation, or understanding of the area of specialization of her/his scholarship/creative work. There are many ways of judging the significance of scholarly/creative work, including, but not limited to, one or more the following:

  • The candidate's work cited by scholars, journalists, or other academic/public figures relevant to the candidate's field. The context of citation gives evidence of the impact of the work.
  • The candidate's work appears in venues that indicate excellence as judged by professional peers. For example, the scholarly work is published in leading peer-reviewed journals or creative work is showcased at juried festivals, and professional work is achieved on behalf of highly regarded institutions/organizations.
  • Impartial evaluators of the work, who are themselves, respected in the candidate's discipline, identify it as a significant contribution.
  • The work has received favorable critical review in relevant professional or academic venues.
  • The work has received awards indicative of esteem by peers.
  • The candidate has been invited to comment or lecture on his/her work in public or academic venues.
  • The publishing journal is a reputable one; it may have a national or international audience, or a relatively low acceptance rate, for example.
  • If a book is published, the press is considered credible by professionally accomplished members of the area of specialization.
  • The work, in aggregate, conforms to standards of excellence articulated by relevant professional organizations.

The external reviews solicited by the College for the promotion and tenure review are especially important in measuring the scholarly/creative significance of the candidate's work. However, the external reviews must be seen in the context of the evidence provided by the candidate and be viewed as additional arbiters of a successful scholarly/creative agenda.


A typical dossier exhibiting an appropriate level of productivity would include 5-6 journal articles judged as significant (in aggregate) using the criteria above over the six pre-tenure years (assuming the usual schedule).* Though this describes a "typical" dossier, one with fewer essays of greater significance might also exhibit an appropriate level 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. However, for the disciplines and sub-disciplines that CS comprises, it is appropriate that scholarship receive significant, if not exclusive, emphasis. It would be highly unusual for a candidate to qualify for tenure and promotion to Associate Professor on the strength of creative or professional work alone.


The (typical) 5-6 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 a letter from the editor indicating acceptance and anticipated publication date.).

In some academic disciplines, a multi-chapter book articulating a sustained and coherent 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. A similar book that is largely a revision of a dissertation would need to be accompanied by additional published work to show satisfactory commitment to continued scholarly productivity beyond the dissertation. Books published by academic presses or other presses with strong peer review protocols are more important than books published in less competitive venues. In most cases, textbooks are less impressive than books that constitute an original scholarly contribution to the field; however, a textbook that becomes the standard for a particular field might be judged differently. (Books accepted for publication, but not yet in print, may be included in this category, if accompanied by a letter from the editor indicating acceptance and anticipated publication date. By the time the manuscript reaches the VP AA, that book must be in galley form in order for it to be considered in the review process).

Regardless of outlet, the work should be reviewed and evaluated using a peer-reviewed process and the collection of work should show evidence of scholarly prominence. It is important that a candidate demonstrate the capacity to place work in venues recognized as well respected within her/his discipline or sub-discipline.

Additional evidence of scholarly/creative productivity, though not as strong as the above examples, includes book reviews, entries in disciplinary encyclopedias, and the like. While these show good standing in the profession, they should not be viewed as sole determinants of productivity.

Solicited book chapters, although useful in demonstrating a candidate's commitment to a coherent research program, generally are not considered as important as peer-reviewed publications. An exception to this generalization occurs if the book constitutes a significant contribution to the discipline. For example, if the book brings together a particularly well respected group of scholars or achieves recognition as a standard work in the area it addresses, the chapter is of comparable merit to a peer-reviewed publication.

A candidate may edit an anthology or special issue of a journal, which would be considered as an extension of her/his research and judged for its coherence within that project. These would be judged for significance on the basis of content and merit. Should the candidate include her own article, this article would be considered as a separate piece of work, additional to the editorial project itself.

In sum, books and articles will be judged by the degree of scholarly content and effort they reflect, and by the profile of the venue in which they appear.

Paper presentations at academic conferences are useful for demonstrating active participation in one's discipline but are not counted independently as "scholarship." Papers presented that are competitively ranked at professional associations are given more recognition than a "contributed" paper. In general, papers are considered preliminaries to publication. Professional or commissioned creative work that is not subject to a juried or critical peer review process also provides evidence of active participation in the candidate's field.

Serving as an officer in academic organizations, journal editor, member of an editorial board or as manuscript reader for a peer-reviewed publication also demonstrates active participation in the field and is testimony to the academic respect granted the candidate. It is a meritorious addition to the record but it is not a substitute for reasonable evidence of a productive scholarly/creative agenda.

In some disciplines and sub-disciplines, jointly-authored scholarship is common. It is important in such cases that a candidate's contribution to an article or book be significant rather than peripheral. A candidate wishing to use jointly-authored scholarship to qualify for tenure and promotion should address this issue in her/his Personal Statement, citing evidence of the significance of her/his contribution. The meaning of authorship order should be addressed (for example, a candidate might be listed as first author due to alphabetical order), and co-authors may provide written testaments to the significance of her/his contribution. It is important that in co authorship relationships that the individual candidate being evaluated be seen professionally as a substantive partner.

The Internet provides opportunities for placing scholarly work that did not exist just a few years ago. Many scholars now publish in electronic journals. The stature of such journals should be determined in a parallel fashion to traditional research outlets.

Creative Work

Some areas of the disciplines CS comprises embody a substantial creative element. For example, a candidate specializing in performance studies may publish scholarly work but also may create performances. It is expected that candidates doing creative work will also be doing some significant scholarly work as well. Creative work is equal in value to scholarly publications if the work is presented in a venue that can provide evidence of external validation through a juried or critical peer review process. Candidates that submit work to competitions or festivals are expected to outline the process for selection, the number of entries, their standing among entries, and other relevant evaluative information. As in the case of collaborative publications, candidates who engage in collaborative creative work should clearly delineate their contribution to the creative work.

Professional Work

Communication Studies faculty have the opportunity to extend disciplinary knowledge to professional situations. The professional work such faculty do may enhance their reputations ( and the reputations of the Department and College) as important contributors to their fields. This is especially true if such work receives national, public attention. While such work has merit, candidates doing professional work will also be doing some significant scholarly work as well.

Candidates are strongly encouraged to discuss the relevance of these and any additional types of scholarly/creative work in their Personal Statements.

Tenured Faculty (Associate to Full Professor)

The tenured faculty member seeking promotion from Associate to Full Professor should have demonstrated continued production of significant scholarly/creative work according to the guidelines above, work recognized and admired among peers. In addition, a senior academic is expected to have established and maintained a national and/or international reputation in her/his area of expertise. In addition, the Full Professor shows evidence that he/she is a his/her profession. Evidence of this may include, but is not limited to:

  • journal editorship;
  • service on boards of academic organizations,
  • grant review panels, 
  • author of recognized books or texts,
  • funding applications and awards; and so on. 

Additional evidence of a national presence will be provided in letters solicited by the College from full professor tenured external reviewers in the field.

* We recognize that during the probationary period, publication may occur at different rates. For example, a 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, may not be completed until near the end of the probationary period. Therefore, it makes no sense to insist on a strict "one piece of work per year" standard. At the same time, candidates should remember that the time required to submit, revise, and resubmit work for publication and then to have it finally accepted for publication, can be many months, even years long.