Publish your First Academic Paper

Updated: Dec 2, 2019

The world of publishing academic journal articles can seem somewhat smoke and mirrors. So what if you want to publish your first academic paper? Here I dispel some of the myths. It's not a secret to be shared among the few and for that reason and while I am forging out my own research career, my blog post is designed to provide you with practical guidance as to how you can publish your first academic paper.



What experience do I need ?

No here's the thing, let me debunk a few myths... You don't have to wait to have a masters or a PhD in order to publish, while that will be very helpful there is no hard and fast rule. The key focus is that you need to have a lens or a point of view on a particular subject. Your constellation of academic and professional experiences and skills will enable you to do just that. You could submit a paper from before you even start your PhD or perhaps you are working on an industry project and you could turn those findings into useable cases or papers by collaborating with an academic institution.


Aligning with your goals - publishing themes

Step away from the word document....before you start your research paper you need to be thinking about where this paper writing business is going to take you long term. I'm often talking about aligning your goals. So think about your career goals and decide how publishing papers might get you to where you need to be - perhaps you want to step up to a next level job role or you want to add some more credibility to your area of expertise. This gives you a clear reason as to why you should be doing them and will keep you focused. Once your goals clear the next thing you need to consider is what do you want to be known for as a researcher? What themes do you want to become an expert on? So for me it's consumer decision-making, fashion and omnichannel retail and anything within those domains forms the scope for my work, I'll want to know the journals in those areas and also the key thought leaders who are currently publishing work in that area. That also means that any projects outside of that scope will need a second look - most likely I will not commit to such projects, but in the cases that I do it will be very strategic.


How many papers should I be publishing

How long is a piece of string? This is self-driven by you. You want to focus on doing your first paper well so wait til you have one in print before committing to multiple projects. Tempting as it can be to say yes to everything that comes your way - you want to do a good job so focus on doing less but doing it better. Especially if you have other commitments in terms of teaching, day job, life or a PhD!


How long does it take to publish?

Again it depends on where you choose to publish and the amount of corrections you receive. I have heard of friends taking 2.5 years for a three star academic journal paper and then around 12 months for something lesser. But this really depends on the quality of your work, the impact of the journal paper and how hot the topic is at a given moment.


Where can I publish?

You can follow my post here which provides academic journal rankings for major journals this is the one that most universities follow - at least for business. As you will see on there journals rankings go from 4* down to 1. 4* journals are your Harvard Business Review's etc these are hard to get published in and take a long time if you are fortunate to have your work shown in one - they have a huge audience and are regarded as world-leading. The key thing is perseverance you need to keep trying until one publication accepts. Now, the further down on that scale doesn't mean a quick fix it will take time to publish in any of those ranked. As universities you are often expected to publish 2* or above and there may be requirements in your contract of what research you need to deliver each year.


If your subject speciality is not marketing or business then ask around to see which journals are important for your area of specialty. Also, there are many journals which do not receive enough attention because they are more niche but are still producing innovative thoughts and ideas so publish with the one that works best. Journals can move up and down the rankings every four years and I know colleagues who have seen some 2* journals move up to a 3*.


Working smart

Be strategic in your journal choices - write the paper for the journal, reference work from the journal that corrects to your own. Not sure if the paper is relevant? You can contact the journal editor for guidance or seek out the journal publisher at your next conference. Often the journals that are relevant to your specialty will feature at academic conferences you are attending. It's a great chance to meet the publishers and editors. Special issues are another great strategy - try submitting for a special issue on your topic. Editors may be more willing to consider your work for publication as opposed to a regular issue. Before you start something from scratch have a look at work you have already done - is there anything there you could publish e.g. Masters Thesis or disseminate work from a project that you did for an organisation (with their consent of course)? Use what you already have - don't just try and reinvent the wheel.


Lessons I have learned

Don't sit on your research too long - if your topic is of the moment there is a higher chance people will pick it up for their journals so make sure you publish as soon as you can. Rejection - get comfortable with it, don't dwell on it and persevere. You are going to have your work rejected no matter how good you are and sadly, this is going to happen a whole lot. So take it as par for the course. Make use of the feedback, refine your work and submit again or elsewhere. The corrections are super helpful, so make use of them.


Types of papers

Whatever you do, make sure you follow the journal paper's guidelines for authors so that you avoid desk rejection, whereby your work is rejected simply because it is not in the right format. Every journal should have some information on this - here is an example. Here are some common paper types that you might follow to submit work:


Research paper. This category covers papers which report on any type of research undertaken by the author(s). The research may involve the construction or testing of a model or framework, action research, testing of data, market research or surveys, empirical, scientific or clinical research.


Viewpoint. Any paper, where content is dependent on the author's opinion and interpretation, should be included in this category; this also includes journalistic pieces.

Technical paper. Describes and evaluates technical products, processes or services.


Conceptual paper. These papers will not be based on research but will develop hypotheses. The papers are likely to be discursive and will cover philosophical discussions and comparative studies of others' work and thinking.


Case study. Case studies describe actual interventions or experiences within organizations. They may well be subjective and will not generally report on research. A description of a legal case or a hypothetical case study used as a teaching exercise would also fit into this category.


Literature review. It is expected that all types of paper cite any relevant literature so this category should only be used if the main purpose of the paper is to annotate and/or critique the literature in a particular subject area. It may be a selective bibliography providing advice on information sources or it may be comprehensive in that the paper's aim is to cover the main contributors to the development of a topic and explore their different views.


General review. This category covers those papers which provide an overview or historical examination of some concept, technique or phenomenon. The papers are likely to be more descriptive or instructional ("how to" papers) than discursive.

Source: (JFMM, 2019)


So there you go, I wish I had this blog post when I was starting out. Hopefully it will help you make progress with your own publishing endeavours. Good luck and let me know if any of the tips are working for you.


Dr Sam Lynch - is a researcher in consumer decision-making and omnichannel fashion retail. You can find out more by visiting the drsamlynch.co.uk homepage or reach out via twitter @drsamlynch

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