- It is too long.
Really, it’s far too long… you have slaved over your thesis for three years and you know and love every word in it, it has been carefully crafted and they all matter to you and that is perfectly understandable, however, it’s now far too long! Thesis could be anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 words and you are writing a journal paper (depending on discipline) normally between 6,000 and 12,000 words. So, you are, at best, only going to get to keep every 10th word (at most), so try and think of the paper as a new work in its own right, not just a cut down version of your thesis. Cut down theses tend to read exactly like you would expect a cut down thesis to read like… so you need to rewrite chunks, often in a much more pithy manner than the original thesis, this leads us nicely onto point 2!
- Don’t be offended.
In the ‘Top 10 Viva Hints’ we said the viva was not some “mediaeval hand-to-hand combat,” however, unless you are incredibly lucky the ‘double blind’ reviewing process will feel a lot more like hand-to-hand combat, often with you having one hand tied behind your back. Develop a thick skin for criticism and try and not take anything personally. Yes, I know that is a lot easier said than done, and criticism will be painful… but forewarned is forearmed.
- Other people know more than you.
You may have grown to either love or hate your supervisors during the PhD process, that is normal, however, ask them for help with publishing as they have been in the same boat. Depending how your viva went, examiners are also good people to approach for advice they certainly now know your work and they are normally experts in the field. Finally academics in your department / faculty/ school / college are often willing to help too… you do not have to do this alone.
- Agree order of authorship.
This can be an awkward conversation to have at the start of any collaborative paper, however, just imagine how difficult it would be if you left it to the end and you were all tired, fed up and at the point of submission to the journal. Normally, in Business and Management if it is your PhD you should go first, that might vary in the other disciplines, but be guided by norms and convention. There is a rather famous paper from 1973 where a footnote states that the author order was determined by a 25 game croquet tournament; this is shed load of croquet, I am just bemused that they had time to actually write the paper let alone conduct the research! If all else fails, rock, paper, scissors is as good a method as any.
- Clearly articulate your contribution.
If you want to hit a top ranked journal then you need a clearly articulated theoretical gap, whatever the subject of your research. It’s not your thing, it is your theory what matters! You should also be thinking about why these abstract academic chatterings should absolutely be of significant applied interest to the relevant industry professionals. Flippant as that may sound, research that ultimately offers practical suggestions for managers distinguishes itself from the rest by demonstrating the critical self-awareness that most claim but few enact. See ‘So, you want to get published’ for more details.
- Be disciplined and clear in your method.
Your method needs to be very clear. You should clearly articulate and justify your philosophical underpinnings, data collection and analysis techniques in a manner which allows your study to be replicated in the future. If you are doing a qualitative study, remember to your data analysis tools must be as robust as your data collection techniques.
- Know the journal and editor.
Journals are not just waiting for your paper, nor do they just publish whatever comes their way, regardless of quality. For example, the highly ranked and cited Business Management journals can have up to a 98% rejection rate, so you need to be on top of your game. The journal is normally seen as a conversation; you need to embed your work within it. Make sure that you have read any editorials on the nature and scope of the journal, often editors when taking over a journal wish to take it in a particular direction, make sure your paper fits within that plan. If in doubt, a short, courteous email to the editor never hurts.
- Consider the reviewers.
If you get a revise and resubmit, welcome it, and get on with it. The reviewers do not have some predestined malefactors here to frustrate you and your desire to publish. They are (normally) all unpaid volunteers who are there at the service of the academic community at large, and, if your paper is published you will be joining their ranks. They are all published in your area and in that journal; honestly, they want you to publish the best paper possible.
- Watch for the deadlines.
Everyone is under time pressure, the editor, the reviewer, not just you. If you undertake the ‘R&R’ reply to the editor and get on with it. Good things do not, normally, come to those who wait. Even if you think you have been given an impossible task, it will not get better with waiting, jump right in and get on with it. You are not a 1st year undergraduate, don’t leave it so late you need to ask for an extension.
- A reject is often the 1st step to accept.
I know that might sound silly, however, it is true… there are (many) other journals out there. Read, reflect and act about the feedback on your paper from the reviewers and editors, use it to write a better version of the paper and submit it to another journal and begin the process all over again.
Picture by Uwe Paulat under CC license.