Special Content

Volume-50, 10-16 March, 2018



De-facto - Caveats to Publish in Journal

Madhvendra Shukla and Aakanksha Tyagi

"To write is human, to edit is divine." - Stephen King

The act of writing and getting published to prosper one's academic career is an indispensable act. Getting published is vital to gain academic proficiency. The reward of publishing overwhelms the author with not only inflated Curriculum-Vitae and recognition but also unleashes award and reputation in their field.

Penning and publishing are two sides of the coin and the coin begets 'academic' powers. In academics, the bulge in one's CV protracts persons' academic acumen - more the publications, better be thou temper.

The most authoritative and influential scheme of publishing in academia is via journals.

Journal publications are lifeline of academic communication. Journals are periodicals publishing academic research. They essentially comprise of original research articles and on occasion case studies and scientific commentary as well.

A journal publication is differentiated from a magazine article in terms of its scientific validity and originality of content. All the journals are assigned a unique ISSN (International standard serial number) for ease of identification in a growing pool of literature.

Indian academia is rich with highly reputed, widely read and also several multidisciplinary journals. Our researchers across the country contribute thousands of articles yearly, in not only Indian but high impact international journals as well.

Getting a research article published in a high standing journal is aspiration of every young scientist as well as a significant accomplishment for prestigious researchers in all fields of study.  Research papers are taken very seriously in academia as they get published after a lot of deliberations of reaching to real time data. Also these papers go through rigorous peer review by the experts and are thoroughly screened by the journal editors before seeing the light of the day. Hence research journals are vehicles of our scientific and technological progress, bringing research from backstage to the fore front.

Research articles are published for several reasons such as -

*To share research findings with the national and international community

*To put the novel ideas out in open for debate, discussion and further probing

*To identify self or team as a scientist by participating in scientific communication

*To earn a degree and higher grades

*To satisfy the appetite for research and scientific writing

*To highlight and grab attention of academia towards pressing issues

Since journal articles have great impact on the scientific community and is important for career progression for especially young scientists, the art and science of drafting and getting articles published is an essential skill. 

Where to begin and what journals and publishers want

The process of developing a research paper begins with selection of an appropriate theme. Most of the active researchers choose to publish their own primary data, while some have preference for a review article. Young researchers when beginning to prepare a manuscript should pay attention that their article -

*addresses an unexplained finding in their field

*resolves controversies or throws light on debatable issues

*highlights a new discovery/ invention

One should thoroughly read the existing literature and attend relevant conferences to network with right people. These efforts ensure that you will find the hot topic which the journals and publishers are highly interested in.

Publishers and journal editors are actively on a lookout for good quality science. They want papers which -

*Cover hot topics in the discipline

*Elaborates on an active research area

*Presents work that advances the field in some way

*Promises high downloads and citations

*Contain good sciences, have concise and clear presentation

Therefore choosing a publish-worthy theme sets the article on right path and increases the probability of acceptance.

Journal Selection

Selecting a suitable journal for your work is the most crucial step of getting published. It is important to note that 20% of the manuscripts are rejected due to poor journal selection.

While choosing a journal for your article closely analyse -

*What is the mail focus of your work and who will be interested in reading it? These answers will help you shortlist some of the fitting journals.

*Read the 'aims and scope' and 'target audience' of the journal cautiously. This will help in figuring out if the journal is appropriate for your message.

*Ensure that the shortlisted journal publishes the type of article you are planning to submit.

*Check the publication history to confirm that the shortlisted journal publishes related articles. This exercise will also be helpful in validating the newness in your work.

*On occasions there is a need for getting the article published at the earliest. In this situation, it advisable to choose a journal with high frequency and less 'time to publication'.

*Looking at the impact factor (IF) is also significant especially when publishing for career and academic progression. Selecting a journal with high impact factor will promise chances of high citations.

*Choice is also made on the basis of open access (OA) or subscription based journals. OA journals are freely accessible and attract wider readership. However publishers charge article processing cost (APC) for open access publication. 

*While selecting a journal also check with your institute and/or funding agency for any mandate for publishing in specific journals. Also for provision of open access publication as well as support for paying APC.

In the process of selecting the journals it is often observed that a bunch of similar journals are shortlisted. Since confining to publishing ethics, multiple submissions are not allowed, one should fine tune the selection in accordance with specific objectives and expectations.

Article Cascading

Many journal publishers nowadays offer journal selection and cascading services.

In case you are not confident of your choice of journal, you may seek help from the publisher to shortlist the right journal for you. Additionally there are provisions of transferring the screened out or rejected articles to another related journal. Therefore do not get disheartened, rather check for a possibility of submission to an alternate journal.

Manuscript Preparation

There is more to acceptance of a paper than only a popular theme and suitable journal. A neatly drafted, organised, concise and complete manuscript increase your chances of acceptance manifold.

The golden rule to develop an effective manuscript is to meticulously read and follow 'manuscript submission guidelines' of the journal.

Since not only peer reviewers but also readers wish to quickly get the maximum information - always arrange the content into subheads. Largely, we have introduction, methodology, results and discussion (abbreviated as IMRD) sections which forms the backbone of the paper, however components such as title, keywords, abstract, references are equally crucial. 

These components should be written in the following order for maximum consistency:

*Methods and results - write during the research

*Introduction and discussion - write after selecting your target journal

*Title and Abstract - write at the last

Keep in mind below tips for each subheads of the manuscript:

1. Title: title is your first hello to the readers. It grabs the most attentions. Title should be specific and concise. Do not use jargons and abbreviations in the title. Keep it brief and convey the main theme of the article.

2. Abstract: most of the people will only read abstract. It should be brief. Avoid references in this section. Abstracts should be an accurate summary of your research objective, methods and findings.  Conclude with explaining the relevance of your findings.

3. Keywords: keywords are crucial for citations. Correctly chosen keywords increases visibility of your article. Choose well known and specific technical terms as keywords. Avoid generic terms.

4. Introduction: give ample background information to put your work into context. Present the research question and your approach towards it. Always cite references that readers can refer to. Do not write longish literature review.

5. Methods: write in the past tense. Use clear and succinct subheadings. Give reference to established methods and describe novel methods in more detail. Give manufacturer details of the tools and instruments. Describe all statistical tests.

6. Results: arrange your findings in a string of facts like a story. Use past tense and break the information in to subheads. Figures and tables in results section should be referred to in present tense. Present the facts, do not just state the results. Do not duplicate or repeat the information from text to table/figures as well. Include the results of statistical analysis. Refer to the figures and tables in the text whereever required.

7. Discussion: use subsections, write in past tense when referring to the results and in present tense when explaining the implications. Briefly summarise your results. Explain the significance of our findings. Elaborate a bit on limitations of your study. Explain possible reasons of unexpected findings.

8. Conclusion: restate the key information and its importance. Discuss future scope of the study. Give a take-home-message the reader.

9. References: references are your tools to navigate to past and future research. References gives legitimacy to your work. Most importantly they help others find your work and also crucial for citation indexes. Best is to follow the style guide of your target journal.Always give complete detail in references. Maintain consistency with in-text citations of references.

10. Display items: figures, tables and other illustrations are called display items. They are very effective tool for exhibiting complex data. Make sure the data of your figures and tables is not duplicated in the text. Keep them neat and well labelled.  Preferably have high quality figures and illustrations. Add captions and cite display items in the text where ever required.

Make sure there is no incorrect or redundant information. Avoid long sentences. Keep facts in simple and direct language.           

To write publishable papers and getting them published requires clarity, conciseness and correctness. Once you have these factors in your manuscript the probability of getting published increases. Journal editors receives traffic of manuscripts and they prefer not to waste time on poorly complied articles. Articles with good science but not written well often are not sent for peer review.

Ethics of Scientific Writing

Ethics and protocols are highly regarded in the academic and publishing world. While you are researching and writing the paper strictly adhere to the publishing ethics. Keep in mind -

1. An article can be submitted to only one journal at a time

2. Refrain from fabrication and falsification of data

3. Plagiarism is a serious offense. Ensure there is no hint of duplication or copying of published content in your manuscript. Minimise the overlap or similarity from already published content

4. Publishing your own previously published work is self-plagiarism. Avoid doing it

5. Comply with the publishing requirements and regulations of your target journal

Toni Morrison, professor emeritus at Princeton University had once said, "I think some aspects of writing can be taught. Obviously, you can't teach vision or talent. But you can help with comfort".

It is important to learn and relearn the art of writing and publishing because with time, the skills are required to be refurbished. The process of relearning these skills and publishing fosters an ecosystem for the mutual benefits of publishers, researchers, authors and readers in toto. 

(The author is Madhvendra Shukla, Environmentalist and a published author. Email: madhvendra.shukla@gmail.com

AakankshaTyagi, Publishing Editor with Springer India Pvt. Ltd. Email: aktyagi9@gmail. com)