Thursday, 25 October 2012

Getting Published in Journals: Notes #4

Today it's the fourth set of notes from last week's session on getting published in journals: Prof John Mingers from KBS.

How Articles Are Selected
John Mingers

The review process for prestigious journals is drawn out and difficult. However, if you engage with it fully, it can be productive and fruitful, leading to a better article at the end of it.

As an example of what is involved, the review process for MISQ is as follows:
·         60% of submissions are desk rejected;
·         The rest have the potential to be published. Each paper is assigned to an associate editor, who sends it to 2 or 3 referees. Their response will be slow, as they tend to be the top people with many calls on their time.
·         The referees will provide 2-3 page reports.
·         The associate editor will then provide a report and recommendation for the senior editor, who will respond to the author.
·         The author will then have to respond to the comments. His or her response should take the form of a table, showing what changes have been made.

Through this process the article should improve, but there’s a danger that it could get worse. If the referees were unclear about your research, but were willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, they may reject your article once your changes have clarified the true nature of your work.

Given the uncertainty of the process, you should consider whether it is worth submitting to a prestigious journal at all. The process is long, risky, and you may have to change the thrust of your argument. More positively, it should lead to a better paper, with more citations, be wider read, will open doors, and will act as a ‘mark of quality’ of you as an academic.

If you do decide to target a top journal, you need to work strategically:  
·         Think which journal you want to submit to first, and adapt your research or writing to fit it;
·         Keep in mind the REF criteria for research: innovative, rigorous, significant, and interesting;
·         Be aware what the journal actually publishes, not what it says it publishes;
·         Submitting to a special issue might be easier. Alternatively, journals are sometimes willing to take a chance on a ‘blue ocean paper’, i.e. one that opens up a new and interesting direction in the discipline;
·         Make sure your research is strongly grounded in the literature, that it links to ongoing debates, and that you justify your position and methods;
·         Spell out why your research and findings are important;
·         Include a strong concluding section;
·         Write for a general audience.

Practically, you should do your homework and make sure that you are writing in the ‘house style’ for the journal, that the structure of your article is the same as others in the journal, that the references are in the right format (Endnote can help with this), and that you use clear and direct English, avoiding the passive voice.

Ultimately, submitting to a top journal isn’t quick or easy, and you have to accept that you may get rejected. Everyone does at some point. However, if you really engage with the process, work hard at making the changes, it will be worth it.

Tomorrow will see the final set of notes: Prof Jon Williamson on responding to reviewers' comments.

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