Publish or Perish? A Guide for Emergent Researchers

Dr. Written by Alex Wade, Research Assistant 

Being accepted onto a PhD programme can be as terrifying as it is enervating: an individual and their institution believe that you have the aptitude to make an original contribution to knowledge in your subject area. All you have to do to reciprocate that faith is complete your extended piece of research to a publishable standard. The reality is that you have three years (longer if part-time) to become an expert in your topic while avoiding sublimation to social media, sleeping under the desk and administrators chasing you for undergraduate essay marking.

Part of the process of becoming an expert is publishing your work in academic journals. Publishing is often challenging for emergent researchers. Knowledge of journals can be limited, even after PhD completion; journal lead times can range between 3-24 months, immediately putting your work beyond the standard three-year-scope of PhD completion; certain journals will never publish work, irrespective of quality as it doesn’t fit the ‘house style’; editorial boards/reviewers can provide incomplete feedback, to the point where it is blatant that your 8000 word tour de force has not been sent out for review, let alone read; your submission can be held in abeyance by a journal, where making contact with them is like communicating with Walt Disney, but with less hope of a response.

So, academic publishing is a nebulous world.   However, there are some ways to traverse the cryogenics of academic space-time. Try these and see if they help:

  1. As soon as possible contact the reviews editor of a journal and do book reviews for them: get your name known to the editorial board and readers of top journals.
  2. When writing a chapter, or any work for your PhD, imagine how – and if – it can turned into a paper.
  3. Use journal rankings http://www.scimagojr.com/journalrank.php to discern the best journal for your work. Look at a selection of papers and if they publish any of the researchers you use in your own research.
  4. Look into online journals. These are no longer the last refuge of the unwashed and unpublished. The benefits are legion: often they are run by people with a real passion for their topic; they execute rapid peer review and, due to quick turnarounds, have genuinely nuanced and up-to-date commentary. They also have the potential for wider readership, particularly in the social sciences, arts and humanities.
  5. Get a handle on journals to be released in your research areas. They often require submissions and are frantically searching for decent material, which, as an active researcher, you will have to hand.
  6. Look out for special issues and calls for papers. Journals regularly invite submissions of specialised work, and while the lead times can be long to publication, generally peer review is quicker, giving you the opportunity to respond and resubmit if required.
  7. Present at conferences and talk about your research with others: invitations for chapters and papers are as likely to come out of networks as they are from the quality of your writing.
  8. Use Academia.edu and Research Gate to link with researchers in your area. If you share a passion and interest in a topic, collaborations are more likely, leading to invitations to write, or even joint-editorship of a special issue.
  9. Offer to undertake peer reviews of submitted articles in your area. Again, knowledge of the editorial board will give you an insight into the whole process and provide you with an up-to-date appraisal of wok in your area.
  10. Talk to senior colleagues in your institution. Is there a possibility to co-author either with your supervisor or director?

Please comments if you feel these are helpful, or if have any other hints and tips which can be used to aid academic publishing.

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