You’ve put in countless hours on your latest research project and finally it is finished. Now, you are working on drafting a manuscript to submit to journals for publication. This is an exciting and nerve wracking time because you want to do everything possible to ensure that your paper will be accepted. No need to worry, follow these tips to increase your chances of publication.
Share your work.
Getting feedback on your draft is really important. Find people who will not be afraid to give constructive criticism and if possible, ask people from various disciplines to read your work. Since some journals target broader areas of study, you want to be sure that your piece can be understood by those who are not from within your focus area. When receiving feedback, be careful not to become defensive, carefully consider the suggestions and how you can make your piece more successful.
Align your work with your target journal.
You can write an amazing paper, but if it does not fall within the scope of the journal you submit it to, it will still be rejected. Before you start writing, it might be helpful to research a few target journals and tailor your piece to their goals. Jane, the Journal Author Name Estimator, is a great online resource that can help you find journals that are well targeted based on your piece. Simply copy and paste your abstract and receive a list of results. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask peers who give you feedback if they also have recommendations about which journals you should go for. Finally, read...a lot. Reading relevant journals will not only help you stay up to date on your field of study, but it can also help you notice trends and find publications that will be a good fit for your work.
Focus on flow.
Papers are often rejected because even though their content is fantastic, the writing quality is poor. When multiple authors are contributing to a paper, sections can often feel patched together and the paper does not read as if written by one coherent voice. When working with multiple authors, plan time to sit down and edit the entire paper together so you can help all of the sections flow. This is a relatively easy way to improve your paper’s chances of publication.
Don’t rush it.
Working on a paper can be very exciting and you’re probably feeling eager to get your work out into the world for everyone to see. However, a rushed paper is also probably an unpublished paper. So slow down, take time to craft an a clear argument, get feedback from peers, and make edits until you are confident the paper is the absolute best that it can be.
Read guidelines carefully.
Some publishers report that one in five papers do not follow the style and format requirements of the target journal, which might specify requirements for figures, tables and references. This is a really minor reason to have your paper rejected, avoid this disappointment by being very careful to follow all guidelines. Maybe have an intern or lab assistant double check this again just before you submit.
Grab their attention with your title and abstract.
First impressions are important and your title and abstract make a big one. The title should summarize the main theme of the article and your unique contribution. Then, the abstract should encompass the aim and scope of the study; the key problem to be addressed and theory; the method used; the data set; key findings; limitations; and implications for theory and practice.
This may seem obvious, but copy mistakes make your paper feel much less professional and reliable. Take the time to go through your work with a fine toothed comb looking for any spelling or grammar errors. Don’t have the time? Grammar skills a little rusty? You can also hire a copy editor to do this for you for a reasonable rate. It may be worth the extra cost to ensure your paper is not rejected due to copy errors.
Tell a story.
A well-written paper clearly shares a central message. This should tell to the reader a “story” with a beginning (introduction), middle (materials and methods), end (results) and the moral of the “story” (discussion and conclusion). As you are writing stop and ask yourself, “Is this information relevant to tell my story?"
Make sure your key arguments stand out.
You likely have a lot of important information to share, which is really great! However, you want to make sure you don’t bury or lose your key arguments in all of your prose. Ask your peers to give you feedback on what they believe you are arguing to ensure that it is clear.
Often, papers are rejected because the do not speak to the larger discipline and it is not clear how the findings impact the “big picture.” Make sure you make it very clear what gaps in knowledge you are addressing and why your research is important.
Bonus: Don’t be afraid to follow-up.
If you submitted your paper to a journal but still have not received a decision, you may want to consider checking with the editor about the status of your submission. The standard amount of time from submission to decision making can vary between journals and fields, so you may want ask colleagues or check website to determine whether you have been waiting longer than usual.
With these tips, you will be will on your way to getting your paper published in the journal of your dreams! Have another great tip? Share it with us on Twitter, @Conserisapp.
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