This is the first installment in a proposed 5-part series outlining the process of submitting a paper to an academic journal. I’m writing it because I’m now doing it myself for the first time, but as a research Masters student, publication was one of the biggest question marks over my future in academia. I gained some insight though attending the Aspiring Academics workshop last year (hosted by the Higher Education Academy), by writing a chapter for an edited volume (as previously blogged), and now from my supervisor as I actually do it. My intention is that this will be of some use to other early-career academics who may not have been as fortunate as I in finding these opportunities.
The Journal Submission Process 1: Write the Bloody Thing
A simple enough charge, no? I thought that after my first publication eight or so years ago, I had writing nailed. Now, with multiple publications behind me, I find it harder now than ever. I am more conscious of my shortcomings, loftier in my ambitions and more aware of the business end of things and what the editor’s concerns are. As such, it takes me longer to finish anything; I have a first draft more quickly, but redrafting becomes the bulk of the job.
I want my first journal paper to have impact, so the redrafting process is particularly painstaking here. My supervisor seems to feel the same way, and we are up to draft three already. But the end is in sight. A couple of observations/considerations:
Length: Journals vary in the length of their material – some of the larger journals ask for between 8000 and 12000, whereas some of the smaller journals specify 8000 as an upper limit, presumably to increase the number of citations they receive in the early years. So 8000 is probably a good length to aim for, and falling either side of this might help the decision which journal you submit to (see next week). You might, of course, have a specific journal in mind, in which case it would be wise to check out their guidelines before finalising your text.
Content: A journal paper presents a single argument or idea, self-contained to a reader, although assuming some background knowledge of the field. This presents two major problems – first, the research will have taken place within some larger context which will need explaining (in my case, the whole idea of Metaphysical Conspiracism), and second, you have to navigate a course between defining every piece of terminology and assuming some prior understanding. And you have to balance both of these with your word-count. There will usually need to be some clarification of your methodological approach. After that, with luck, you may have a couple of thousand words to put forth your idea.
Once the paper is in order, it’s time to choose a journal to submit it to. Come back for part two.