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How to get your published research papers read widely and cited

  • It is common to hear 'publish or perish' in the academia. While this is true, but it's also a fact that to publish is one thing and to get widely read and cited is another, and of course, without the latter, it's difficult to climb the ladder. With the advent of the digital revolution and an upward trend in the number of people pursuing higher education, it is becoming easier for people who want to build a career in the teaching and research industry to achieve their goal. 

    Some facts and figures

    There is no denying the fact that there are numerous research papers readily available in various reputable journals and elsewhere too, in both print and digital forms. According to estimates, roughly two million articles are published every year. We surpassed the 50 million mark in 2009 about the total number of journal publications since 1665.

    The problem

    The problem lies in the ideology that is being instilled in the minds of the researchers. Academics place more importance on the number of publications, rather than on the quality of each article. Not only does this result in an oversaturation of information, but may also ultimately be the reason why some of the better articles have such a low reader and citation base. The articles that are worth a read are buried deep under a mountain of substandard articles.

    This trend makes it even more difficult for beginners to get their work read after being published. So, as a thriving researcher how do you sail through this tsunami of information? Here is it.

    How to get published

    Let's start with getting published first. Often, a researcher has to jump through many hoops to get his research article published in a reputable journal. And it is understandably frustrating when after dedicating weeks, if not months, to an article, it is not accepted by a journal. Here are a few bullet tips to assist you in your effort to get your work published.

    • Have something new to say
    • Develop your skills by reading
    • Target an appropriate journal
    • Follow the rules of proper writing
    • Edit your work extensively

    The above points have been fully explained in an article titled: 6 steps to getting published in an academic journal. You will hear what reputable journal editors say about acceptance and rejection of articles.

    Getting read and cited

    Once the article is published, a researcher believes that the hard part is over, but it’s not always the case. Due, primarily, to the vast number of journal publications available, most of these aren’t even read or cited. According to a study conducted in 2007, half of the published academic papers have an audience of only two - the author and the journal editors. One might argue that these estimates are a gross overestimation, but the fact remains that a vast majority of research papers are never read or cited.

    These figures depend heavily on the field in question, with humanities positioned at the bottom of the citation chain. Nearly, 82% of journal articles related to humanities remain uncited, as compared to 12% of medical articles, 27% of natural sciences articles and 32% of social sciences articles. Suffice to say, how widely you get cited sometimes depends on the field you are writing. Nevertheless, it's possible to increase your chances significantly. Here are the tips.

    Some tips to increase the number of citations 

    Make your work impactful: Don't just review the literature on what other researchers have investigated. Make sure your work has something new to contribute to the current discussion. You don't have to be controversial (if it's not necessary), but what draw readers to your work is its uniqueness. It should be able to arise proper attention.

    Carefully choose keywords and use them frequently: When you write, make sure to use keywords that are commonly use in the discourse of the field you're writing. Keywords are collocation of words or phrases that are frequently used in an area or discipline. When you search for anything on the Internet, the results you get is as a result of the keywords you use. Keywords are so compelling that even if your work does not have enough substance but has the right keywords, it can rank higher in search engines. But you don't want people to get to your article and suddenly leave. So, write it substance.

    Ensure the correctness of your information: This is also related to the substance of your article. You don't want to misinform, do you? When it comes to research, it's almost easy to verify findings. So, be honest and generous in what you report to the public.

    Make your journal publication easily accessible: The best way to achieve this is to target reputable journal with high impact factor. We know this is difficult for young researchers, but you can always achieve by working hard on original and timely research. Journals don't just look at authors. They are concerned about the relevance of the study.

    Publish a review paper: You may wish to publish a summary of your work on some online educational magazines. Many readers are drawn to other people's work through reviews they've read elsewhere. If you don't want to write the review, you can request your colleague to do so. Note that when your work is engaging, people will definitely write reviews about it. Again, focus on the quality.

    Archive your data sets: You can upload your work on sites that provide a database for researchers. You can archive your articles and access thousands on Penprofile by clicking on this LINK, and that will definitely bring you more readers. You can do the same on ResearchGate, Academia, and a host of others online. 

    Keep your professional web pages updated: If you have a website or link to any web page that mentions you, make sure to list your publications. You can do that on your Penprofile account, LinkedIn, Academia, ResearchGate and so on.

    Cite other impactful and relevant journal publications: The more relevant articles you cite in your work, the higher you will rank in search. Sometimes readers get to your articles because of the mention of some articles in your references. If you're writing an article on a specific topic, make sure to read and cite the authorities that have been discussing the topic at the moment.

    Cite your past publications when it is relevant to new publications: Citing your previous articles within your work will have a multiplication effect when it comes to your appearance on the search engine.

    Use a consistent format for your name on all of your publications: Without saying, you know that maintaining one variation of your name across your publications will be the best thing to do. It means the same name will appear many times on search.

    Present your work at conferences and lectures: If you have the chance, it's always better to present your work at conferences before you publish them. Besides having the opportunity to be published in a conference proceeding, many colleagues that you made and shared your work with them are most likely to read your work and cite them or even share with other colleagues elsewhere - the multiplication effect is endless.

    Actively share your work on social media: Why not! You can share your work on professional websites as well as social media. There are numerous professional groups on social media where you can post your new publications to get feedback and citation.

    There are thousands of ways you can get your articles reached broad, global audience. The above are just a few among them. The key is to work hard to follow the steps discussed. It may not be easy, but surely you will reach the audience you want. Good luck!

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