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Keys to Publish Successfully in Academic Journals

Academic journals aim to disseminate latest scientific knowledge to as wide a target audience as possible. Today, with open access publishing and online publishing, an increasing number of scientific and technical articles are being published every year, with a corresponding surge in the number of academic journals. However, not all articles that an academic journal receive are published. Many articles are rejected at the editorial stage because of improper language quality or mismatch with the journal scope, and some get rejected to improper formatting. The ones that do pass this stage are scrutinized by reviewers, where some get rejected due to insufficient novelty, while a few others are rejected due to lack of significance or relevance to the current research in the field. Academic journals like Nature and Science have a very rate of rejection and publish only those research studies that merit the advancement of that field.

This leads us to the question – how a research paper can be published successfully in an academic journal. This article presents some simple tips and advice that a researcher can use to move his/her paper closer to getting published in an academic journal.

First, and foremost, is the writing of the paper. Before you even write a paper, think about it logically in terms of presentation. Pen down the facts and details that you want to include in the paper, and prepare an outline of how you want the paper to look like. Once this is done, discuss the outline with your colleagues and/or supervisor to ensure that you haven’t missed any details or any points that are required to establish the validity of your arguments. Next, start writing the paper, keeping in mind to remain as concise as possible, and to avoid technical jargon/flowery language. Remember, this is an academic article, not a fiction. The idea is to keep the paper simple and logically correct, by presenting your arguments logically instead of the chronological order in which your conducted the experiment. Once the article is finished, let your colleague/supervisor read it to ensure that all claims made in the paper are supported by logical statements and references. At this stage, it would also be helpful to get help from a professional scientific editor to polish the language of the article.

Second, choose an appropriate journal to publish your article. Here’s the catch: The journal should be chosen based on the realistic evaluation of the novelty and significance of your research, rather than the researcher’s wishful thinking. A good indicator to know whether the journal is appropriate is to check its aims and scope. This brief introduction of the journal will tell you about the material that it is interested in publishing. Presently, many journals give detailed guidelines on what they would like to see in an article. Use these guidelines to further improve your article to make it match closer with the journal’s scope. For example, if you have conducted both animal and human studies, but your target journal does not publish studies on animals, it would be wise to change the target journal. Likewise, sending case reports or case series to journals that are not interested in publishing them is a sure shot way of receiving rejection.

Third, follow the journal formatting guidelines strictly. And this really means adhering to the guidelines as closely as possible. Issues that author face regarding the journal guidelines are mainly related to word count and presentation of the article. Remember that journal space is limited. Hence, most journals put restrictions on the amount of words to be written in an article. Word count restrictions are specific for the abstract and main text. Some journals also limit the number of references carried by an article, word count of the title of the article, and the number of figures and tables in an article. Adhering to all these guidelines, specifically those pertaining to word count, might require you to rework on your article. Know that these efforts will save you time, as articles that meet all the formatting guidelines are immediately sent out for the review process.

Fourth, understand clearly the submission process of the target journal and follow it properly. Several times, the authors do not provide the details required by the journal, which lead to their articles being kept on hold or simply rejected. To avoid this, read through the submission guidelines, keep all the documents and forms ready, and then proceed with submission.

Fifth, understand the journal review process. The reviewers used by the journal are experts in their fields, and many of them have themselves published articles. They are also up to date with the latest trend in their fields, and so, they understand the value of your research more clearly. After the article undergoes the review, the journal editor will invite you to revise the article according to the reviewers’ recommendations and to respond to the reviewers’ comments. Know that this is a second chance being given to you to improve your article, and so, you have to ensure that you meet the expectations of the reviewers in terms of the revisions required and at the same time, provide adequate responses to the reviewers to make them understand your point. Avoid getting offensive or criticizing any reviewer for the feedback on the article. Your response to any controversial views from the reviewer should be put forward in an honest and forthright manner, by clearly telling the reviewer why you do not agree. You view should also be supported by specific examples/references that can guide the reviewer to understand your claim.

Sixth, always take the journal editor/journal editorial staff’s view into consideration. As mentioned earlier, the journal space is limited. Thus, the editorial staff might require you to make a certain portion of the article concise, place some text/tables/figures in supplementary information, delete some tables/figures, provide new artwork for better clarity and resolution, and provide missing author details. All these are necessary details to make your article fit the journal publication schedule.

Lastly, thoroughly check the galley proof of your publication-ready article sent by the journal production staff. At this stage, your may have to fulfill the requirements for obtaining copyright for any images/tables taken from other sources, provide valid copies of patient consent/institutional approval, and complete any other legal requirements pertaining to reprints/embargo/patents. Ensure that you have the right documents and clearances with you.

Following these small tips would definitely be helpful to avoid any delays in getting your article published successfully in an academic journal.