It is beneficial to decide on a target journal during the very early stages of writing an article, rather than first preparing an article and then considering where to send it. Analyse potential journals and choose one. Write your article with your target journal in mind. This is useful because different journals have different perceptions of science as well as differing opinions on how articles ought to be written. By writing directly for your target journal, you will ensure the right type of approach and speed up your writing process. If you wish to be even wiser, you may also choose a secondary target journal for the case that your primary option fails.
The number of scientific journals is vast and is growing steadily, which means that there are plenty of publishing opportunities. The fundamental reason behind the growing number of journals is the increasing number of researchers globally. Quite often you can hear researchers complaining that there are no scientific journals for their specific narrow research field. Most often this is not true. Journals exist for wide and varying topical fields. Should you find it difficult to find a suitable one, try considering potential applications for your results. Consequently, think who might benefit of your results and how. It may also be possible to publish your results in an applied journal instead of what you initially thought as your own field.
Noteworthy is that different publication mediums are valued differently within the scientific community. Also, universities are ranked based on the number and level of publications. Journal articles are commonly recognised above conference papers, even if many of the conference publications use peer review practices. It is recommended that a researcher, even at early stages, should start the learning process of writing for journals. Once experience is gained, one should raise his ambition level step-by-step and aim towards publishing in increasingly better journals. The impact factor is one way to measure the level of journals (see e.g., Seglen, 1997; Garfield, 2006; Althouse et al., 2008). Note that this is not an absolute measure and there are differences among different fields of science. A researcher should see conferences as an additional medium for networking and as an avenue to obtain more face-to-face feedback. However, the ultimate goal should be eventually publishing the work in a journal. A researcher should consider his ambition level and assess the level of his own research when choosing the publication medium.
When selecting your target journal it is beneficial to conduct an analysis of the purpose and mission of the journal, and examine what type of articles they typically publish. Pay special attention on the topics, the structure and the research methods. Conduct a deeper analysis on about five recent articles in the target journal. If the journal does not seem suitable, choose another one and conduct a similar analysis. Browse through the editorial board and previous authors and pay attention to their nationalities. For a European author, it may be beneficial if some of the authors and editorial board members are European. As an example, a pure US board may in some cases prefer American authors.
Especially a starting researcher, or a PhD student, ought to pay attention to the journal’s turnaround time. Turnaround time means the time from submission to receiving feedback from reviewers. The shorter the turnaround time, the quicker the learning process is for the author. Slow turnaround, in the worst case, may postpone obtaining one’s doctoral degree, which typically depends on the “accepted status” of the articles constituting a compilation dissertation.
One can find out the turnaround time by:
- checking articles published in the journal. Some journals print the essential dates of the articles, enabling interpreting the turnaround.
- checking the web pages of journals.
- sending a polite e-mail to the editor-in-chief.
RECOMMENDED ORDER OF WRITING
According to our experience the different elements of an article should not be written in the same order as the final layout of the article. The list below presents a recommended order of writing that is proven most efficient, avoiding unnecessary iterations. The two grey lines in the beginning signal the preparatory work, while the bullets in bold represent the recommended order for actual writing.
- Initial outlining of introduction (research questions)
- Initial outlining of theory
Writing experimental elements
The order of writing presented here highlights the importance of your results for defining the focus of your article. You should define the focus of your article based on the evidence you have. This way you can set the focus of your article relatively early and avoid unnecessary re-working when writing up the theory and other elements of the text.
It is sensible to start writing an article by outlining the subject matter and content by a few bullet points or key words. This phase will act later as an aid in writing the introduction.
After outlining the initial ideas, you can try to find a suitable target journal. Once selecting a potential target journal, outline the initial theory for your article. After this, you will need to concentrate on the core: the “heart and soul” of your article and write the results and analysis of your research. Once you have these elements, it may be worth reviewing your target journal selection. If there are any reasons to change, pay attention to the potentially different format and other requirements, such as the recommended article length that your new target journal may have. Once you have the core substance ready, you can concentrate on elements critical for acceptance; the introduction, the discussion and the abstract.
Writing one’s first journal article usually takes several months of intensive work, but later, through experience, the process will speed up significantly. Novice authors should especially bear in mind the importance of multiple iterations. Once you have written a paragraph, do not believe it is the final version. When you have written the other sections to your article, you will most likely have to return to this previously written paragraph, re- analyse its content, consider its place and even the justification for its very existence in the final article.