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6 steps to getting published in an academic journal

  • Very few experiences are as daunting as your first attempt to get published in an academic journal. There is a high rate of manuscript rejection when it comes to reputable journals in any field, and the thought of rejection alone is enough to make new authors baulk at the idea of submitting a paper.

    Having your paper accepted for publication in a journal is more challenging than submitting an article to a newspaper magazine. But if you take time to follow these few steps, you will considerably improve your chances of seeing your name published in an academic journal.

    Write a quality manuscript

    It seems obvious, but many authors fail to write a piece that is worth publishing. You have an idea to write on, but that is only the first step. You have to put in a lot of work in researching existing and current discourse related to your idea. You also have to be able to express your idea in a way that shows that you have given it a lot of thought, and you are prepared to back the idea for the rest of your academic career. The clarity of your argument should be evident in the concrete proof you provide, which must have been based on standard research procedure.

    You also want to make sure that the idea is clearly stated at the beginning of your paper. The reviewer wants to know exactly what your writing is all about without having to wait for the ‘big reveal’ in chapter five. Your research goal and major finding should be clear right in your abstract and introduction.

    The idea that you have chosen to write on has to be central to your overall discussion. Some arguments may arise out of your topic, but do your best to stay on topic as you go through your paper.

    Write logically, contextually and in simple language. Reviewers usually receive a lot of submissions, and you do not want them to dismiss your paper as a waste of time quickly.

    Say something new

    A reviewer wants to see a fresh perspective to an existing discussion. And the only way that your paper can be considered to add value to the journal is by saying something new. The main aim of research is to fill an existing gap. Your reviewers would like to see not only the substance you are using to fill the gap but also how suitable the content is within the current trends in the field.

    You do not have to be radical and entirely deviate from all current discourses in your field. But whatever idea you want to push forward, make sure that it is something different but that ties in with what has already been said.

    Pick a relevant journal 

    It is not enough to submit your paper to a journal simply because your colleague’s paper was easily accepted there. Even if the journal is in your field of study, your article should be very relevant to avoid being rejected. A good rule of thumb is that you should at least be familiar with major contributors to the journal and try to read their work carefully.

    Relevance is highly essential when choosing a journal to submit your paper for publication because one of the things a reviewer or editor will consider is how your idea sits within the broader context of what the journal is all about. Your paper should add value to the existing discussions in the journal.

    Follow guidelines

    Many research papers have been rejected merely because the author failed to comply with submission guidelines. Has the journal requested for a cover letter to accompany your submission? Make sure you add it. How many words are required for the abstract? Stick to the average. Follow every submission rule to the maximum because it demonstrates professionalism and attention to details. Here's is an ideal format of a journal article. Note that it fits within the general requirement, but every journal, from humanities to sciences, varies in some unique ways.

    Editors do not have a lot of time on their hands to go the extra mile. So, if they have to send an email to you requesting that you submit something that it is in the guideline, they may pass your paper up for another.

    Respond to review

    If you have been successful in receiving feedback from the reviewer, take time to respond as appropriate. A response from the reviewer is one foot in the door, so grab the opportunity and make the changes that they requested for.

    One common problem with authors is that they receive a request to make changes to their manuscript and they refuse to respond to the reviewer. They kill their chances of getting published by giving in to the fear of polishing their work. Here are eight highest reasons, Prof. Peter Thrower, the Editor-in-Chief of Carbon, the international journal of the American Carbon Society, considers being why articles are rejected.

    If you do not agree with the changes requested for by the reviewer, politely respond and make a defence for your position. If you agree with the changes, get down with it and return the corrected manuscript as soon as you can.

    Edit your work

    Even though the journal will have their in-house editors, you want to edit your work aggressively before submitting it. Proofread to correct your grammar and punctuations, and edit to ensure that your ideas and arguments flow as they should. Check your graphs if available to ensure they contain the data you want them to as well as correspond with your analysis. Also, make sure that your sources are correctly cited, and your reference style fits into that of the journal.

    It is a good idea to leave your paper for some time before submission, then go back to it and read with fresh eyes. Alternatively, have a colleague go over your article and show you the errors, or places where your arguments are weak. There are hundreds of editing consultants online. Do your homework and search for the experienced ones to help you with editing. When you are sending them the work, remember to intimate them about the journal guidelines.

    Editing helps you appear as professional as possible and shows that you have put in a lot of work into your paper.

    Getting your paper published for the first time, or even at all times, may not be as daunting as you have imagined it to be. You increase your chances of receiving positive feedback when you have carefully followed all these steps before submitting your paper.

    Well, it's one thing to get published and it's another to get widely read. If you're successful (we're optimistic you will), go through this article to have insights on how best your published research can be widely read and cited.

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