Planning your paper

When planning your paper, take a look at the structure of other papers that your selected journals have published and take note of the following.

  • Where do the authors articulate their key message?
  • How do the authors communicate their work's contribution and value to the field?
  • How general or specific is the abstract?
  • How is the introduction structured?
  • How much of a literature review do the papers provide?
  • Where do the authors raise their research questions or aims?
  • How are evidence and data presented?
  • How do the authors write about the results and / or analysis?
  • How do the papers emphasise the key message in the analysis and conclusion sections?
  • Do the papers use subheadings and how are they used meaningfully?
  • What kinds of language do they use? Is it very discipline-specific, do they use a lot of signposting (e.g. firstly, secondly, thirdly), do they explain concepts in detail?

To plan your own work, keep in mind what you've noticed in the journals. Some journals use a template that you may be able to download. For others, depending on their consistency, you could create a template or rough outline to follow.

Once you have an idea of the structure that other articles follow, consider how to structure yours. The following questions can guide you.

  • What is the key contribution that your paper makes?
  • Which pieces of literature do you need to review in the introduction and / or literature review to demonstrate how your research contributes to the field?
  • What is your paper's take home message?
  • Where will you most clearly state your take home message? E.g. the abstract, introduction, conclusion, throughout the analysis?
  • If your paper has limitations, where will you address these? And how can you reiterate the value of your research in response to the limitations?
  • Which pieces of evidence and analysis do you need to support your key message?
  • Which structure would most logically persuade your reader of your key message?

The other advice and resources on this site about writing, such as writing paragraphs, using academic language, structuring introductions and structuring a thesis may also come in handy when structuring your article. If you come across any stumbling blocks when writing your article, try going back to have a look at how other writers communicate their arguments and structure those arguments. This can be a helpful way to consider the available possibilities.

Writing an abstract >>


References and further resources

  • Belcher, W. L. (2009). Writing your journal article in 12 weeks: A Guide to academic publishing success. Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Clark, T. & Wright, M. (2007). Reviewing journal rankings and revisiting peer reviews: Editorial perspectives. Journal of Management Studies, 44(4), 612-621.
  • Gump, S. E. (2004). Writing successful covering letters for unsolicited submissions to academic journals. Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 35(2), 92-102.
  • Knight, L. V. & Steinbach, T. A. (2008). Selecting an Appropriate publication outlet: a comprehensive model of journal selection criteria for researchers in a broad range of academic disciplines. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 3, 59-78.
  • Murray, R. (2009). Writing for academic journals (2nd ed). Berkshire: Open University Press (McGraw Hill).