Friday, March 6, 2009

Getting Published

Some useful advice from the most recent International Communications Association newsletter on getting published, particularly aimed at graduate students. With the growing competition for academic jobs, and university funding increasingly based on research outputs, this advice is timely indeed.

Simple Tips for Publishing: A Brief Overview

(Adapted from Bourne, P.E. (2005) Ten simple rules for getting published . PLoS Computational Biology, 1(5), 341-342.)

Most graduate students are aware that they will need to learn the process of publishing, in order to achieve long-term career stability. Generally, papers submitted to academic journals have a higher chance of acceptance if they are a) original, b) focused on a central idea that is interesting and concise, and c) written in a coherent and clear style. If possible, consult more experienced academic mentors for advice about revising a student paper, so that it is an acceptable manuscript for publication. Below are a few simple publishing rules presented by Bourne (2005) which we hope will serve as a guide when you are preparing a paper for submission.

Rule 1: Read and learn from others
Read as many papers as you can, mostly in your area of research, but also scan the broader field. Think about the quality of the papers you have read and strive to identify both successful and less than ideal efforts. Reviewing a plethora of research will also give you a more objective perspective of your own work.

Rule 2: Good editors and reviewers will be objective about your work
Strive to develop and present a quality manuscript. The review process can improve the quality of your work. However, reviews may be less beneficial if there are fundamental flaws to your work. Do your best to develop articles that are logical, organized, and rooted in sound methodology.

Rule 3: Strengthen your writing skills
The ability to express complex ideas clearly is essential for success in publishing. Manuscripts that are not well-written will require extensive copyediting, if they are even accepted. Also, ensure that you edit all documents extensively prior to submission.

Rule 4: Learn to live with rejection and revisions
The best response to a rejected paper or a paper with major revisions is to acknowledge the reviewers' comments and respond in an objective manner. If the reviews about the quality of your paper are not ideal, accept it and move on. If a major revision is requested, work on it and address every point given.

Rule 5: Ingredients of good science and reporting
Intriguing articles provide organized and sufficient coverage of the relevant literature, sound methodology and analysis, in addition to thought-provoking discussion. Be mindful of these ingredients when you are reviewing the first draft of your paper. Besides your mentor, get the opinions of other colleagues, including those who are not directly involved in your topic area.

Rule 6: Strive to be a reviewer early in your career
Reviewing other papers will help you learn to write better papers. One way to become a reviewer is to offer to do a preliminary review on papers that others may be currently reviewing. Request to review the final review that was completed by your mentor (or others) and objectively assess the quality of your initial review. Over time, you will have a better understanding of the review process and the necessary elements of successful publications. This will also help you in deciding where to send your paper for publication.

Rule 7: Decide early where to try and publish your paper
Many journals have a presubmission enquiry system. You should use it to get a sense of the novelty of your work and whether the selected journal will be interested in accepting your paper.

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