The Path to Publication is Full of Potholes

2017 has been a good year for Thistle publications. But as we all know, the path to publication is paved with potholes. If you are thinking about publishing your work, here are some points to ponder, and suggestions for a splendid submission.

Synthesize the Literature

A concise introduction followed by a thorough literature review are non-negotiable. You’ll need the benefit of having a 360 degree overview of the research that’s already been done on your topic so that you can a) appropriately frame your research for the reader, and b) substantiate and compare your claims with existing insights. Your introduction also needs to clearly articulate how the manuscript addresses the topic at hand, provide a rationale for the study, and state what the reader can expect to glean from reading about it.

Make Your Methods Sticky

I’ve stopped counting the number of papers submitted for peer review that do not provide a suitably detailed and transparent description of study design and methods. This description is especially tricky for describing qualitative research design and methods. Standards for Reporting Qualitative Research provides a 21 item list of standards that can help you improve the transparency of reporting in qualitative research.

State your results succinctly

Use tables and figures to distill quantitative data and consider using visualizations to display and qualitative information. Effective Data Visualization by Stephanie D.H. Evergreen is a terrific resource to help you find the right chart for the right data.

End the Story

The conclusion should generally include an insightful summary of your results and the implications they have in your field of practice.

Some Final Thoughts

Publishing in peer-reviewed journals has increasingly important in most professional fields over the last 15 years or so. There are many good reasons for publishing, such as building credibility and reputation in your field and sharing productive insights that help colleagues improve their own practice.

Getting published can be challenging, but you can improve your chances.

1. Know your audience. This is key to the story you will tell and the way you will tell it.

2. Choose the right journal for your message—one that serves and reflects the characteristics of your intended audience. Once you have done chosen your intended journal or other vehicle, familiarize yourself with submission requirements and follow them to the letter.

3. Draft, draft, draft. Writing is mainly revising, or, as William Zinsser puts it in On Writing Well, ‘Rewriting is the essence of writing.”

4. Edit and proof read your work. I read out loud and circulate to colleagues before submission. If your colleagues don’t understand what you’ve written, journal readers won’t either. In fact, a common lament of editors and peer reviewers is that many papers on interesting and timely topics don’t get published simply because they are poorly written.

Good luck!