The Publishing Game
As I start to publish as part of my doctoral program, I wanted to take some time and reflect on the process. What I've learned so far. What I still need to work on. General tips and tricks. First, I want to say that this advice is coming from an individual who is not highly published, who hasn't been in the game long, who is just learning as she goes. I think it is really important just to reflect on what I've learned thus far.
Why publish? I think every graduate student thinks about this at some point in their career. What's the point? Why do we need to publish? Well, publishing to academic journals is the best way to disseminate and share your research on a wide scale. In addition, researching helps to build your reputation as an academic. By publishing early in your graduate career, you are establishing a baseline for future employers to know that you are capable of contributing to the research community, are willing to share your ideas, and are adding to field. Do not. I repeat, do not publish something for the sake of publishing something. You need to make your work count and be of value to the community.
Finding a Journal. Not going to lie. I first submitted to a journal after Googling "Best journals for graduate students to publish in instructional design." I basically just scrolled through looking for journals that published graduate students' work. I thought that would be my best bet. Little did I know, journals have their own styles, their own focus, and their own scopes. Just searching for a journal to submit to all willy-nilly is not a good practice. After submitted, I told my faculty advisor about the journal and she responded with, "That's one of the biggest journals in our field. It is highly competitive. Do not be surprised if they come back and reject you." After having a few more conversations, I quickly realized that there are a lot more considerations that need to be made. Picking the right journal is very important.
Note: Be aware of predatory publishers. A predatory publisher is one that is charging you money to publish with them. Does not engage in a peer review or editing process. Or just seems sketchy (especially during the submission process). I recommend doing a quick Google search of the journal - or asking around to see what others think of the journal. There are plenty of good sites out there that provide specific lists and guidelines on legit publishers vs. predatory ones. Always double check before submitting anything.
You found a journal - now what? Once you found a journal that publishes articles like the one you have wrote (or are going to write), read up on some articles that have already been published. This gives you a great baseline of what style and caliber of articles the journal wants. In addition, follow the correct submission guidelines and procedures. Each journal has their own style (as mentioned before). Follow it. Many journals will reject right off the bat if the authors do not take the time to read the instructions and follow the guidelines. Even if your article has groundbreaking content, it won't get out if you don't take the time to follow directions.
Add to the field. Say something new. Provide new insights. Bring something of quality to the table. This is sometimes really difficult to do. You may have a great idea, but it needs to be communicated in a way that will be accepted by journals. In addition, you may need to explain to the readers why your work is important. Why should they care? This might seem silly - but making a plan for who the article is for and the impact it has on the field and explicitly explaining this allows both the readers and the editors to know why they need to publish you.
Read. I've said it before in reference to the journals you are looking at - reading what they have published and featured in their own journal. But, you should also be reading everything as possible on your subject matter and what others are doing with the topic. For example, if you keep seeing people talk about the same area that needs to be researched further - consider researching what they suggest. In addition, reading in general will allow you to see what are good examples, bad examples, different types of methodologies, etc. Overtime, you may start to pick up on tips and tricks for your own writing.
Let it simmer. I've currently been working on a paper for a few years now. I have the journal in mind. I have all of my data and information ready to go. However, I've found that the style of writing is somewhat new to me. I'm struggling a bit to get use to what I want to say in the style that they want. Therefore, I work on the paper for a few months and then step away for a few. Also, I'm a doctoral student who works full time. Therefore, I have a lot of other items on my plate. I do not need to publish this article for any reason other than I want to. It is my side project. Therefore (in my opinion) it is okay to start a paper, write out your goal, main purpose, and idea of what you want to say and then step away if you need to - especially when you have other things to focus on. Don't bury yourself in trying to do too much.
Completing a doctoral program is much like writing an article, it is not a sprint - it is a marathon.
Finish. This is an important step for me. I often start papers and then put them away for a while (see previous paragraph). Keep on task and know that learning to write and publish in journals is a skill. You need to continue to work on your projects - even if there is a lot of time in between. Completing a doctoral program is much like writing an article, it is not a sprint - it is a marathon. Don't put additional pressure on yourself to meet unrealistic time frames. Work a little bit each day. Step away. Review. Have someone else look at your work. Come back. Make changes. Revise. Whatever process works for you, just continue to work so that you can finish and then submit your article for publication.