How to get published

Information on research, statistics and publications - tips including how to recruit participants, gain funding, understand your results and get them published.
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Paul Wicks
Posts: 26
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2007 6:43 pm

How to get published

Post by Paul Wicks » Tue Mar 27, 2007 7:29 pm

To get a publication your research needs to be:

1) novel - that is, it shows something new

2) of sufficient quality and sample size for the findings to be meaningful and able to draw out conclusions that might generalise

3) ethical - it will almost certainly need ethical approval in retrospect unless it was a simple evaluation of existing practise (in which case it might not meet 1 & 2)

4) written up in a concise, professional way in the style of the journal you wish to publish it in. In terms of publication it makes no difference what profession you are, or your supervisor is, or whether you work in the NHS, but you would need to pick the right publication.

If the research is not impressive enough to make a peer reviewed academic journal (and bear in mind this would take a long time to get published and might need substantial revision according to the whims of the peer reviewers) then it might be that a less formal publication would be preferable - a magazine style one, a conference poster, or even an internal presentation or newsletter.

A lot of people consider trying to publish aspects of research they have done for a thesis as part of a degree or postgraduate course. Journal articles are much shorter and punchier than most dissertations, and depending on the journal, a certain amount of background knowledge can be assumed. Each journal has style guidelines, and these are often printed inside the back cover of the journal. Submitting a journal article that meets the guidelines is only the first step on a long path, as typically even if they are potentially interested they will have lots of points they wish you to address prior to publication. The reputable journals also have a "peer review" system whereby they send every paper to two or more experts in the field you have written about for their comments, and they have to deem the work to be new, relevant, of good quality and a significant step forward for them to recommend publication. So if it is just a review of existing knowledge or has very limited numbers of participants, don't expect it to be publishable in a good journal, aim for something more realistic like a newsletter, local publication, or less academic journal without peer review.

The steps to publication (not all steps apply at all times):

0.) Write the paper. Revise it lots. And lots. Give it to peers in other groups, make sure they can read it.

1.) Find a journal that you think is suitable (hint: Which journals are you already citing in your paper?). Go to the ISI web of science site to figure out impact factors if you're interested in such things.

2.) Read their author guidelines and edit your paper accordingly to fit in with their tone (clinicians? researchers? reviews? short? long? opinion?)

3.) Read how they do their references and go through with a fine-tooth comb. Then another. Then another. Then give the paper to someone more pedantic than you and have them spot all of your glaring errors (e.g. sometimes they want journal titles abbr. sometimes they don't....)

4.) Do all the presubmission stuff, mostly consists of ordering tables either into separate files, tweaking references so that the HTML system can read it, put in all the author details and affiliations. (Editor note; many journals have online submission portals nowadays, with authors required to submit separate documents)

5.) Collate it into a PDF.

6.) Proof it. Make sure the references work when you click on them.

7.) Confirm and submit.

8.) Wait 3 months.

9.) Get response. It'll get rejected the first 2/3 times unless you've i.) got interesting data ii.) targeted it perfectly iii.) it's a low impact journal

10.) If reviewers have asked for minor corrections then do EVERYTHING they say unless it's totally outlandish. Document the changes extensively, and thank the reviewers profusely. Do this ASAP. Hopefully it'll now be accepted.

10.) a.) Wait up to 2 years for it to appear in print. It might appear in prepublication earlier.

10.) b.) Check every day to see if it's been cited. It won't be for at least another 6 months unless it's red hot. (Editors note; websites such as Research Gate are a good way of keeping track of these sorts of things)

11.) If the paper is rejected, do as many of the reviewers comments as you can.

11.) a.) Resubmit it to the next journal down on the impact factor list.

Rinse and repeat.

* Make the title interesting. If you found something, make that the title e.g. "Dogs with no nose smell awful" as opposed to "An investigation of the somatosensory capabilities of canines following nasalectomy"

* Be prompt when responding to requests from the editor

* Submit stuff to journals you've reviewed for in the past

* If it's been a while since you originally wrote the paper go through the lit review again and make sure it's current, especially if something new's come out in that journal; one of the authors might be your reviewer

* If you're submitting something to journal x and in your lit review you have the option of citing similar papers from journals x, y, or z, choose x. It allows the editor to bootstrap their impact factor.

* Don't suck up in covering letters (e.g. "This is the largest sample size of left handed albino non-smokers in the literature to our knowledge"), it looks lame.

* You may have to submit all the authors' signatures before the thing will even get sent for review (e.g. Brain). Get the signatures before everyone goes on holiday.

* If you're criticising previous studies' methodologies be aware that they might review you.

* Find out who likes you and your boss. Or at least doesn't hate you. Submit them as reviewers. If you don't submit a reviewer (or even if you do sometimes) the editor may look at people you've cited to be reviewers. If you're in direct competition with a group you can exclude them from being reviewers but you'll have to say why. And remember one of the subeditors might be married to them so don't be too mean.

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