At this stage, you might decide to try to publish in an undergraduate journal, a major academic journal or respond to a call in an edited volume. This is an important decision; however, you now need to tailor your manuscript to fit the guidelines of the journal or edited volume. For journals, it is important to carefully read the Aims and Scope. This will tell you what topics and concerns the journal is interested in. It will also provide information such as whether the journal is peer-reviewed, frequency of publications, types of readers (academic versus practice), speed of publication, and types of articles that are considered (e.g. original research, review essays, reflection pieces, book reviews etc.). You should also search the website to try to find out acceptance rates. Many journals indicate the chances of acceptance. Journals also provide guidelines (style, word count, referencing style, presentation of tables and figures etc.) on how to organize your paper. You must follow the guidelines precisely. Editors are likely to give desk rejects for papers that do not follow guidelines. For book chapter calls, be sure to read the call very carefully. Note the overall goals of the book and tailor your paper accordingly. Like journals, calls also have important information on how to format the paper. It is also very important that you follow the guidelines exactly.
Improving your chances of getting published
We cannot overemphasize the importance of doing your research about the publication source before submitting your paper. In addition to reading information about the journal or call, it is important to know that in general, the kind of articles that get accepted demonstrate relevance to the journal’s aims and scope, have important findings and make significant contribution to the field (see ch. 1 &2), has strong analysis, interpretation and well-supported discussions and conclusions, and is well-written. We discuss these next:
- Alignment with aims and scope: You must read the aims and scope of the publication carefully. Even if you have the perfect manuscript, if it does not align with the aims and scope of the journal, it will be rejected. This means that you must also give attention to the audience. Again, even if you write an impressive paper but situate it within a local context, an editor might reject it if the journal is catering to an international audience. This means that you might be forced to consider a different journal (one whose aims and scope your paper aligns with). Remember, alignment with aims and scope can save you disappointment and your time. Also, do not ever submit a paper to a journal without getting advice and feedback from a more experienced individual.
- Important findings and significant contributions: In Chapters 2 and 6, we discussed finding gaps, occupying your niche and significance of your findings. It is extremely important that you highlight why your findings are important and the kind of contributions your manuscript is making to the field. Remember, your significance could be in the form of: (a) new and original findings or methods; (b) synthesis or reconciling disparate theories or ideas in the field; (c) reinterpreting previous works or theory; or (d) making new application of an existing finding, theory or method. In essence, consider whether your contribution will advance empirical knowledge, theory, methods or a combination.
- Well-supported analysis, interpretation, discussions and conclusions: In Chapters 9 to 11, we discussed writing your findings, and the importance of having strong analysis and interpretation of your results. Peer-reviewers will be scrutinizing your findings and your interpretation so it is important to spend time making sure that your claims are well-supported by evidence. Your discussion must also continue the conversation that you began in the literature review and your findings. You must demonstrate how your findings contribute to the wider puzzle. In essence, there must be cohesiveness between all sections of your paper.
- Effective Writing: Your writing is an important element of your manuscript. A poorly written manuscript will not get published even if the findings are significant. Before we discuss general writing tips, it is important to structure your paper according to the guidelines of the journal or book. You cannot submit your thesis in its existing form. Usually, you will need to rewrite the entire thesis to comply with the requirement of the journal that you wish to submit it to (unless of course, your thesis took the form of a journal article). Even if your thesis was written as a journal article, you need to carefully review the publishers’ requirements and make changes as needed. Most publishers provide templates and outline how the manuscript is to be organized. Box 13.5.1 below provides some general guidelines.
Box 13.3 – Typical Sections in a Peer-Reviewed Manuscript
- Cover Page: Pay attention to the information that the publisher wants on the cover page. Some publishers require only the title formatted in specific ways. Others may require institutional affiliation and other details. Be sure to read the guidelines carefully.
- Abstract: This is a summary (usually between 100 and 250 words) of the research question, methodology, findings and significance. It is important to invest time in writing an effective abstract because it offers the first real impression on what the paper is about (see Chapter 2). Lantsoght (2019) note that without a concluding sentence that highlights the implication/significance of the work, the abstract is incomplete.
- Keywords: Up to 5 words (under the abstract) that help your paper to get visibility. It is important to choose keywords that will draw people to your article. Do not be afraid to use the buzz words in the specific sub-discipline.
- Introduction: This is where you outline the research problem, what is known about it and your research question. It is important that you hint to the gaps in the field and the significance of your study in this section.
- Literature Review: In your thesis you might have presented a general overview of the literature in the area. For your journal article, you need to be more precise and synthesize materials that relate to your research question. Note that you are not only summarizing the literature to show that you are knowledgeable about the subject area, you also need to establish the gap, and position your paper as contributing to filling that gap. You must also reaffirm the significance of your paper.
- Methods/Procedures: This is an important part of your manuscript. You must identify your population and variables (if applicable), data sources, measurements, limitations, analytical strategies etc. The aim is to make your paper replicable (produce similar results) if someone were to repeat the study.
- Results/Findings: This is where you highlight your empirical observations and new discoveries. Again, you might have tons of findings but you must only report those that pertain to the research question.
- Discussion: This offers a summary of the key findings and offers explanations for them. The aim is to demonstrate how your study adds to existing knowledge. You can also highlight the limitations.
- Conclusions: This is where you reiterate the answer(s) to your research question, highlight the implications and make recommendations
- References: It is important to follow the reference style required by the publisher and organize your reference list accordingly.
- Tables and Figures: Most journals will require that you provide tables and figures at the end of the paper (each on a separate page) or in a separate document.