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Getting published in an academic journal: 7 tips for success

Tuesday, December 13, 2016
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Getting published in an academic journal: 7 tips for success
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If you're studying for an advanced degree or have recently graduated from such a program, you may be looking to build your career by submitting a paper to an academic journal. As the American Institute of CPAs pointed out, having work published in a journal is a crucial accomplishment for anyone looking to enter the academy, as potential employers are likely to look more favorably on candidates who have done so.

The difficulty, however, is that many academic journals are highly selective when it comes to papers submitted for publication. Thankfully, however, there are a number of steps you can take to increase your chances of receiving an acceptance letter. Review the list of seven tips for success below:

1. Develop a clear thesis
As a graduate student, this should go without saying, but it bears repeating: Ensure that you develop a clear and concise thesis and make it apparent early on - in the introduction and abstract - so that the reviewer is able to quickly discern what the paper is about. As Fiona Macaulay from the Journal of Latin American Studies explained, writing in The Guardian, if committee members are unsure of your argument after a few minutes of reading, there is an increased chance that they will become bored and frustrated. Keep the introduction engaging and make your argument clear. Macaulay advised that one way to figure out if your thesis is clear is to explain it, in layman's terms, to someone outside of your academic field. If you are unable to do so, it could mean that your thesis needs revision. 

2. Offer something different
Academic journals serve as a conversational forum - as a place where academics can add new ideas and voices to discussions surrounding a particular topic. Consequently, it's imperative that your paper offers something different in terms of argument and perspective, Inquiries Journal detailed. Put another way, you'll be less likely to succeed if the ideas in your paper have been introduced before. Balance, however, is of course key. All academic papers should include current research on the topic and explore available ideas. Success is derived from using current scholarship to support your own contribution to an issue.  

3. Choose the correct journal
Each journal will have its own set of interests and research areas, so it's incredibly important that the paper you submit complements the themes and scope of the journal in question. This may seem like obvious advice, but it is common for graduate students and young academics to send their papers out to multiple journals in the hopes of getting published, without a comprehensive understanding of what the journal does, thereby lowering their chances of success. Oxford University Press editorial director for science, Ian Russell, writing in The Guardian, advised conducting extensive research on each and every journal before submitting work. This means looking up members of the editorial staff and reading articles that have recently been published in that Journal before submitting your paper.

"It is crucial that your paper undergoes at least several rounds of editing."

4. Have faculty review your paper before submitting it
This should be obvious, but if your paper is of a poor quality in terms of grammar and structure, it won't be accepted. That's why it is so crucial that your paper undergoes at least several rounds of editing prior to submission. The AICPA recommended reaching out to colleagues or mentors in your department to help with the editing process and offer feedback. This can be particularly valuable if the colleagues that review your paper have successfully submitted to journals in the past.

Ensure that your thesis is concise and original.Ensure that your thesis is concise and original.

5. Be open to criticism
It is important that you listen to criticism with an open mind, both before and after you submit your paper. It's likely that the professor you work with will have comments and suggestions for improvement, as will the journal committee, and taking offense is unprofessional and counterproductive. Literary scholar Faye Halpern, writing for Inside Higher Ed, explained that it is important to review all comments that you receive, even if your paper is ultimately rejected, as committee members will likely have helpful insights into how to strengthen the work. While you may not agree with all the criticism, it is important to keep an open mind. After all, with extensive editing comes a higher chance of success down the road. Halpern also stressed, however, that it is acceptable to dispute revisions if you feel that they are unjust. However, it is important to do so in an extremely polite and professional way. If you come across as curt or rude, it will only work against you.

6. Keep abreast of deadlines
The Times Higher Education asserted that it is important to keep all deadlines in mind, both prior to submission and when you receive feedback. It is likely, after all, that the committee will request edits after submission before they move forward with the application. This is a normal and important step. Complete the edits as soon as you possibly can and meet any deadlines set. If you are unable to do this, it again paints you in a negative light with the journal committee. 

7. Keep going
It's important not to give up at the first hurdle. It's likely that your first paper will receive multiple rejections. That's not uncommon. Don't let it get you down and take heed of the advice you receive and work to make the paper as strong as it possibly can be. As Kirsten Bell, writing in Vitae, explained, if you are confident that your paper has potential, it is important to be persistent - work hard and apply to as many as journals as possible. 

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