Writing journal articles: Some thoughts 

Writing in academic journals is a mainstay of being an academic- producing articles based on research, theory or method is a central feature of the published outputs for academics. In the era of academia dominated by the REF, what you produce, the journals you are in and the accessibility of said articles are all increasingly in the spotlight. 

As an early career researcher one of my personal goals for development of my career is around publishing high quality outputs. My PhD become this book which was a great outcome to the hard work of my PhD journey, but often as ECR’s we don’t have book length data and journal articles are highly desirable outputs in the era of assessment and measurement described above. So, what have I learnt about writing journal articles?

1. Pick an appropriate journal for your work is crucial, and doing so often at the outset of writing so you have the word count and formatting details does help you frame and focus your work. Picking the ‘right’ journal is difficult, there are a lot but get to know the one appropriate to your discipline, also consider aspects such as impact factor, and if you have funds for open access and article processing charges does your journal of choice have facility for Gold open access. 

2. Structure of the article is vital. Most journal articles follow a fairly similar template of title, abstract (150-250 words long depending on the journal), keywords (4/5 words which encapsulate the topic of your article and help with searching/indexing), introduction or background to the topic, methodology (for papers based on empirical data), then analysis of the data or findings, followed by discussion or conclusions. Breaking your work down into these requisite sections helps with the task or writing, not dissimilar the adage that how do your eat an elephant? By cutting it into smaller pieces. By focusing on each section in turn its easier to remain clear and focused and feel less overwhelmed about the experience

3. Get feedback. Sharing your work is often a scary part of the writing process, however good feedback from someone your trust is invaluable in preparing your work for publication. Other people’s views of writing can be indicative of how it could be received during peer review and of the areas you can tighten up prior to submission. This is where having a mentor at early career is really useful as they can often guide and help you with the processes of preparing work. Similarly, if you are co-authoring with colleagues, their feedback will be ongoing, but a more external view can help gain a wider perspective. 

4.Keep reading, particularly in your direct area of interest as you will gain useful insights from other peoples work, not just in terms of content but style and approach, formatting and the journals that they are submitting to. As with PhD research, looking at other peoples articles is always useful for seeing where the benchmark should be. Often a concern for PhD students and new academics is the standard of writing and how to write in an academic why, and immersion through reading undoubtedly helps with writing too.

5. Enjoy it! Writing is often a favourite task of academics, but one which as they become more senior they have less time to dedicate to, so in the early phase of your career relish any opportunities you get to write, not just because of the outcomes in terms of published work but for the enjoyment of writing and the creative processes of producing outputs. 

Some useful links about publication and writing : 

Writing tips- Guardian Higher Education
PhD 2 Pubished
Academic writing on Twitter – @Acwri 


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