Once you have settled on a few potential journals and / or publishers, it's time to think about how you'll write your article.
Spread your research out for maximum effect
One consideration that's worthwhile thinking about early on is how you'll spread your research out across multiple publications. While you cannot publish the exact same research in multiple places, you can publish different aspects of your work in different places. So if, for instance, you've got research that examines a variety of case studies, methods, theories, themes, and so on, consider how to narrow in on just one or two of these aspects for a publication.
To copy and paste or rewrite?
While it's tempting to consider simply sending a chapter of your work to a publisher, it usually takes the same amount of time to edit that chapter to fit the journal as it does to write a new paper.
For chapters that are already written as standalone pieces for a thesis by publication, then it is often a relatively straightforward process to send in that chapter. However, for many people who are writing chapters in the context of a thesis, you will need to spend time considering how to reframe your work as a standalone piece. This is where you need to carefully plan the paper.
What reviewers want
When it comes to planning your paper, keep in mind what reviewers are looking for. Generally, reviewers are looking for the following.
- Is the title focused, relevant and informative?
- Does the abstract capture the essential elements of the paper--does it spark reader interest?
- Does the paper have a clear key message?
- Does the paper clearly contribute something relevant and new to the field?
- Is the paper firmly grounded in the relevant theory or methodology?
- Is the issue sufficiently well-explained for the target audience?
- Is there good use of evidence that demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the literature available on the topic (even if it contradicts you)?
- Is the paper well-structured and well-written?
- Is the paper referenced appropriately to the journal's style?
- Do all aspects of presentation conform to the journal's house-style?
Most importantly, reviewers are looking to publish research that contributes to the field. However, it's useful to keep in mind that contributions can come in a range of forms. Belcher's book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks (2009, pp. 48-53) busts some myths and explains some guidelines about the types of research that journals publish.
Principally, Belcher explains that contributions to the field can include research that:
- "Approaches new evidence in an old way" (p. 50) - in other words, using well-established theory to analyse a new case study or new data;
- "Approaches old evidence in a new way" (p. 51) - where you might re-examine extant data, case studies, methods or theories using a different perspective to what has been used before; and
- "Pairs old evidence with old approaches in a new way" (p. 52) - in which case you might present a new combination of well-established theories, data, case studies, methods, etc, to emphasise a key message that has not been made before.
What can be certain is that journals will usually not publish work that does not contribute something new and of value to the field. So your job as an author is to persuade reviewers that your work contributes something new and of interest to the field.
Planning a journal article >>
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).