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Research Brief #1: The six characteristics of healthy professional military journals
The Harding Project aims to renew the United States Army's professional writing. Professional writing includes professional bulletins, Military Review, and Parameters.
But what makes a healthy and effective professional journal?
The Harding Project asserts that successful professional military publications have the seven characteristics based on experience publishing dozens of articles, a survey of military authors, and academic research.1
Characteristics of healthy and effective professional journals
Publish quality content. Audiences, authority, and authors flow from publishing quality content on a regular basis. Regular publication smooths debate and provides a mechanism to disseminate priorities of the Army or a specific command.
Balance of informative and argumentative. Journals are great places for messaging on command priorities, while also furthering our collective understanding of Army or branch issues through vigorous debate.2
Senior leader engagement. By writing for the journal, senior leaders can communicate their intent and share their perspective to the lower ranks, especially about emerging priorities, while also signaling the importance of professional engagement.
Reach audiences. Professional journals should reach audiences with web-first content enabled by social media, and also publish regularly.3
Diverse authorship. Welcoming a variety of voices from different ranks, branches, units, backgrounds, civilians, academics, and think-tanks helps crowdsource ideas and hone concepts. Furthermore, regular writers can drive dialogue, but should not crowd out other voices.
Institutional support. For journals to live past their founders, some permanent editorial staff provide continuity, while accessible archives enable understanding of our professional history.
Download the printable version of this research brief, and then vote on which characteristic you think is most important.
Which characteristic do think is the most important? Vote below.
See Ikujiro Nonaka, “A Dynamic Theory of Organizational Knowledge Creation,” Organization Science 5, no. 1 (1994): 14–37; Sheng Wang and Raymond A. Noe, “Knowledge Sharing: A Review and Directions for Future Research,” Human Resource Management Review 20, no. 2 (June 2010): 115–31, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hrmr.2009.10.001; Leslie Anders, “The Watershed: Forrest Harding’s Infantry Journal, 1934-1938,” Military Affairs 40, no. 1 (1976): 12–16, https://doi.org/10.2307/1986843.
Seventy-four percent of respondents rated “quality of content” as their most important factor and 38% stated professional journals should first improve content if making changes in Zachary Griffiths, “Lowcrawling towards Obscurity: The Army’s Professional Journals,” Military Review 103, no. 5 (September 2023), Forthcoming.
The survey in "Lowcrawling towards Obscurity" found that the most influential outlets were web-first and respondents engaged daily with online content and social media.