The pressure to publish is high for early-career academics. But once your paper is written, getting a journal article published is easier said than done. Here, then, are five tips on how to get a journal article published.
1. Picking a Journal
To get a journal article published, you first need to work out where you will submit your work. You can do this by researching journals in your subject area. Look for the publications that feature articles similar to your own, especially in terms of your research approach.
It’s also a good idea to go for a journal with a narrow scope.
If you have a paper about mating behavior in lobsters, for example, you could submit it to the multidisciplinary science journal Nature. However, unless you have a strong history of publishing, you may be better off submitting your work to the Journal of Crustacean Biology, which focuses specifically on the subject you’ve written about.
Keep in mind that you can only submit to one journal at a time. This makes researching your options before submitting a paper vital.
2. Follow Journal Guidelines
All journals have publication guidelines. These will be on the journal’s website and called something like “Author Guidelines” or “Submission Procedures.”
In this document, you will find complete instructions for how a paper should be written, formatted, and referenced. It will also tell you how to submit a paper and any supplemental materials required (e.g., whether you need to write an abstract and come up with key words).
Follow these instructions as closely as possible. If you are unsure about anything, contact the journal.
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3. Editing Your Journal Article
Before you submit anything, you should get your work edited and proofread. If the article is accepted, you may need to make further edits. But getting it as perfect as possible before submitting is vital.
This will ensure that your arguments come across clearly, increasing your chances of impressing the reviewer. It will also show the reviewer that you are serious about your work.
4. Contextualize Your Journal Article
When you are ready to submit your work, you will need to write a cover letter. But while you should say what your paper is about (a snappy title helps), this shouldn’t be your main focus.
After all, the reviewer will read your paper, so including your argument in the cover letter is unnecessary. Instead, give some context about your work: e.g., what your interests and academic history are, what you’re responding to or building upon, and what it contributes to the field of study.
5. Revise and Resubmit
You need thick skin to be an academic since it is rare to get a journal article published on your first go. Even if you don’t get an outright rejection, you will probably receive a list of criticisms and suggested revisions. This can sting a bit if you’ve put a lot of work into your paper.
But you can’t let it get to you. Instead, remember that the criticisms are designed to help you. Read and absorb them, and once you’ve calmed down, get back to work! If you can address the criticisms in your next draft, you will stand a much better chance of getting published.