Publishing your work in an academic journal – three do’s and a don’t

Publishing in an academic journal iamge

There are ever-increasing demands on authors/researchers from both local and national authorities not only to publish widely but to do so in “reputable” journals. Indeed, in many countries this is even a requirement before a PhD is awarded. This obligation is often glossed by the need for journals to be indexed in such internationally recognized lists as the ISI.

Editors of journals are only too aware of this “pressure to publish” and it is for this scenario that I offer some personal advice based on my experience of dealing with submissions. Today I want to concentrate on adequate targeting of your work for publication. Specifically, I focus on two aspects which increase your chances of getting published: selecting your topic and target journal, and writing your paper in line with that journal’s needs.

Do your journal research as assiduously as your academic research. It is not good practice to blanket submit your carefully prepared, executed, and written-up study to all the applied linguistics (AL)/second language acquisition (SLA) journals out there. Firstly, set aside some time to think about where your paper might achieve the greatest impact as regards readers, both academically (in terms of the typical reader profile of that journal)  and geographically (the countries and academic institutions where the journal has subscriptions). If this information is not readily available on the web site, contact the Editor and ask. Secondly, a journal usually expects you to be submitting the work to them alone and will assume they have the first option for rejection or acceptance. AL/SLA journal editors have a community forum where they regularly interact and are able to check on possible multiple submissions. Editors expect you to have targeted their journal for a reason. Therefore….

Do read typical content in that journal as well as the section in the submission guidelines indicating the kind of paper they are looking for. Failure to direct your research to a journal which might reasonably be interested in it will usually mean a rejection as a result. It will also involve you in needless delay during which time you could have found better outlets for your work.

Do learn about which topics are of interest to the readership. Reading a number of recent issues of the journal will soon reveal the hot topics as well as the questions being asked in the field. Ask yourself if your proposed research or completed study is likely to fit in with that agenda. Unlike many years ago, there are more and more “niche” or special interest journals in our field and if your interest or research corresponds to one of these, you would be better advised to submit to these first, rather than to those with a more general purview.

Finally, don’t expect to receive instant recognition and acceptance of your work in terms of an offer to publish. Unconditional acceptance of a paper is statistically rare, and most journals will require your paper to go through an arduous refereeing process of several months and revisions in which a number of experts will feed back a number of times on your work. Most referees do this in their own time and voluntarily. As a consequence, the process of submission through to revision and on to final acceptance of a paper can take many months, with a resultant accumulation of papers to be reviewed and published. Most journals in our field would then also need to assume a period of around a year to a year and a half from the date of submission to publication in print. If you are interested in getting your paper out there as fast as possible, you might want to consider whether the target journal provides an advanced publication online before the printed copy comes out.

Written by Dr Graeme Porte, Editor of Cambridge Journal Language Teaching and Cambridge book Replication Research in Applied Linguistics

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