Publish or perish

Pressure to publish in academic circles is well-known and deeply felt. The difficulties to succeed in publishing in a reputable journal are not to be taken lightly, not even for seasoned academics, let alone people still at the beginning of an academic career, like myself.  To try to understand better how the sector works,  I attended a career development workshop on getting published delivered by Jim Coleman, my supervisor, Teresa Cremin and Jan Parker.

One of the most important lessons I got from their talk was what Jim said right at the beginning: in order to publish we have to change the focus. You have to shift the focus from you to what you have found. It means that:

  • there is no need to explain extensively your theoretical underpinning because your readers are familiar with the philosophical/ epistemological concepts that underpin most work in your field;
  • you don’t need to show that you have read extensively – it is implied. You have to discuss those works that really have an impact on your research;
  • there is no need to show your knowledge of methods and why you have rejected some – the focus should be on why you have chosen a particular one;
  • the most important part of your writing are the results and the discussions of the practical implications of your research.

Teresa and Jan also give us some precious tips drawn from their large experience as reviewers and editors:

  • know your journal: identify the relevant/top journals in your field;
  • once you got a list of relevant journals, spend some days in the library to get to know them: editorial line, changes in the editor, editorial board members, guidelines for publication, referencing system, the kind of articles published there, the issues that have been discussed lately;
  • make a list of potential journals for publication – keep it in your diary;
  • watch out for special issues: one of them can be on something related to your research and you cannot miss such opportunity;
  • identify writers with whom you have a synergy – contact them;
  • horses for courses: write articles for the journal and not the other way round.

I hope this can be useful to everyone reading this.