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How to write and structure a journal article
Sharing your research data can be hugely beneficial to your career , as well as to the scholarly community and wider society. But before you do so, there are some important ethical considerations to remember.
What are the rules and guidance you should follow, when you begin to think about how to write and structure a journal article? Ruth First Prize winner Steven Rogers, PhD said the first thing is to be passionate about what you write.
Steven Nabieu Rogers, Ruth First Prize winner.
Let’s go through some of the best advice that will help you pinpoint the features of a journal article, and how to structure it into a compelling research paper.
Planning for your article
When planning to write your article, make sure it has a central message that you want to get across. This could be a novel aspect of methodology that you have in your PhD study, a new theory, or an interesting modification you have made to theory or a novel set of findings.
2018 NARST Award winner Marissa Rollnick advised that you should decide what this central focus is, then create a paper outline bearing in mind the need to:
Isolate a manageable size
Create a coherent story/argument
Make the argument self-standing
Target the journal readership
Change the writing conventions from that used in your thesis
Get familiar with the journal you want to submit to
It is a good idea to choose your target journal before you start to write your paper. Then you can tailor your writing to the journal’s requirements and readership, to increase your chances of acceptance.
When selecting your journal think about audience, purposes, what to write about and why. Decide the kind of article to write. Is it a report, position paper, critique or review? What makes your argument or research interesting? How might the paper add value to the field?
If you need more guidance on how to choose a journal, here is our guide to narrow your focus.
Once you’ve chosen your target journal, take the time to read a selection of articles already published – particularly focus on those that are relevant to your own research.
This can help you get an understanding of what the editors may be looking for, then you can guide your writing efforts.
The Think. Check. Submit. initiative provides tools to help you evaluate whether the journal you’re planning to send your work to is trustworthy.
The journal’s aims and scope is also an important resource to refer back to as you write your paper – use it to make sure your article aligns with what the journal is trying to accomplish.
Keep your message focused
The next thing you need to consider when writing your article is your target audience. Are you writing for a more general audience or is your audience experts in the same field as you? The journal you have chosen will give you more information on the type of audience that will read your work.
When you know your audience, focus on your main message to keep the attention of your readers. A lack of focus is a common problem and can get in the way of effective communication.
Stick to the point. The strongest journal articles usually have one point to make. They make that point powerfully, back it up with evidence, and position it within the field.
How to format and structure a journal article
The format and structure of a journal article is just as important as the content itself, it helps to clearly guide the reader through.
How do I format a journal article?
Individual journals will have their own specific formatting requirements, which you can find in the instructions for authors.
You can save time on formatting by downloading a template from our library of templates to apply to your article text. These templates are accepted by many of our journals. Also, a large number of our journals now offer format-free submission, which allows you to submit your paper without formatting your manuscript to meet that journal’s specific requirements.
General structure for writing an academic journal article
The title of your article is one of the first indicators readers will get of your research and concepts. It should be concise, accurate, and informative. You should include your most relevant keywords in your title, but avoid including abbreviations and formulae.
Keywords are an essential part of producing a journal article. When writing a journal article you must select keywords that you would like your article to rank for.
Keywords help potential readers to discover your article when conducting research using search engines.
The purpose of your abstract is to express the key points of your research, clearly and concisely. An abstract must always be well considered, as it is the primary element of your work that readers will come across.
An abstract should be a short paragraph (around 300 words) that summarizes the findings of your journal article. Ordinarily an abstract will be comprised of:
What your research is about
What methods have been used
What your main findings are
Acknowledgements can appear to be a small aspect of your journal article, however it is still important. This is where you acknowledge the individuals who do not qualify for co-authorship, but contributed to your article intellectually, financially, or in some other manner.
When you acknowledge someone in your academic texts, it gives you more integrity as a writer as it shows that you are not claiming other academic’s ideas as your own intellectual property. It can also aid your readers in their own research journeys.
An introduction is a pivotal part of the article writing process. An introduction not only introduces your topic and your stance on the topic, but it also (situates/contextualizes) your argument in the broader academic field.
The main body is where your main arguments and your evidence are located. Each paragraph will encapsulate a different notion and there will be clear linking between each paragraph.
Your conclusion should be an interpretation of your results, where you summarize all of the concepts that you introduced in the main body of the text in order of most to least important. No new concepts are to be introduced in this section.
References and citations
References and citations should be well balanced, current and relevant. Although every field is different, you should aim to cite references that are not more than 10 years old if possible. The studies you cite should be strongly related to your research question.
Clarity is key
Make your writing accessible by using clear language. Writing that is easy to read, is easier to understand too.
You may want to write for a global audience – to have your research reach the widest readership. Make sure you write in a way that will be understood by any reader regardless of their field or whether English is their first language.
Write your journal article with confidence, to give your reader certainty in your research. Make sure that you’ve described your methodology and approach; whilst it may seem obvious to you, it may not to your reader. And don’t forget to explain acronyms when they first appear.
Engage your audience. Go back to thinking about your audience; are they experts in your field who will easily follow technical language, or are they a lay audience who need the ideas presented in a simpler way?
Be aware of other literature in your field, and reference it
Make sure to tell your reader how your article relates to key work that’s already published. This doesn’t mean you have to review every piece of previous relevant literature, but show how you are building on previous work to avoid accidental plagiarism.
When you reference something, fully understand its relevance to your research so you can make it clear for your reader. Keep in mind that recent references highlight awareness of all the current developments in the literature that you are building on. This doesn’t mean you can’t include older references, just make sure it is clear why you’ve chosen to.
How old can my references be?
Your literature review should take into consideration the current state of the literature.
There is no specific timeline to consider. But note that your subject area may be a factor. Your colleagues may also be able to guide your decision.
Grasian Mkodzongi, Ruth First Prize Winner
Top tips to get you started
Communicate your unique point of view to stand out. You may be building on a concept already in existence, but you still need to have something new to say. Make sure you say it convincingly, and fully understand and reference what has gone before.
Professor Len Barton, Founding Editor of Disability and Society
Now you know the features of a journal article and how to construct it. This video is an extra resource to use with this guide to help you know what to think about before you write your journal article.
Expert help for your manuscript
Taylor & Francis Editing Services offers a full range of pre-submission manuscript preparation services to help you improve the quality of your manuscript and submit with confidence.
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Demystifying the Journal Article
Victoria Reyes breaks down the structure of a well-conceived scholarly piece and provides tips to help you get your research published.
Graduate school is professionalization into the academy . One of the most important parts of professionalization is being able to publish your research. I was lucky enough to be in a department that had a yearlong seminar dedicated to just that: conducting research and writing a publishable paper prior to starting the dissertation.
But that was just the first step. Much of what I’ve learned about publishing comes from submitting papers to journals, incorporating reviewer comments, workshopping papers and having conversations with colleagues and mentors.
In this essay, I’ll break down and demystify the format of an article for a general journal. Note that I’m a sociologist, so my insights are field-specific. So, too, must I acknowledge that journals, particularly specialty ones, may have their own style of writing, so the articles you read in them may not follow the format I’ll lay out below. One of the things you should always do before submitting a paper is read articles published by the journal to which you are submitting to get a sense of the conversations being had in its pages and to find a model for your own work.
Despite such idiosyncrasies, knowing a few things about the purposes and format of a journal article will help you get published. You should understand the function of each section and write accordingly.
Introduction. The purpose of this section is threefold. First, you want to trace previous work on the subject and set up the problem. Second, you need to identify how your paper addresses that problem. That is key: explaining what you do to address the gaps of literature or problem of the paper. Finally, you should note the broader contributions and implications of the piece. I like to think that the contributions of a paper can be theoretical, empirical and/or policy relevant, although often the papers published in top journals have all three.
Theoretical framework. This is commonly referred to as a literature review, but I don’t like the term because it implies that you are just doing a passive review of what others have said about your topic. Reviewing previous work is necessary but not sufficient. The purpose of this section goes beyond an accounting of what others have done.
One way to understand the purpose of the theoretical framework is to see it as leading your reader through gaps in the literature that your paper addresses. See the theme? It’s specific to what you are doing in the paper. It also includes information that your reader needs to know in order to understand your argument.
For example, you should incorporate any relevant foundational texts. One of the things you see in general journals is that the theoretical framework is often divided into two sections, precisely because general journals want papers that speak to multiple audiences. So one section of your theoretical framework can deal with one set of literature, while the next section deals with another. Part of your contribution can be uniting and filling in the gaps in both sets.
The theoretical framework often gets a bad reputation in the peer-review process, because reviewer comments often make suggestions regarding the theoretical framing of a manuscript. But I see the framework of a paper to be one of its most central parts. If we view research as a conversation, then the framework signals who you are in conversation with -- that is, the relevant audience and broader contributions of your work.
Sometimes a case-study section that gives background information on your specific case follows the theoretical framework. For example, for a 2015 City and Community article, I created a section dedicated just to explaining the history of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in the Philippines, because it was background that my readers needed to understand the data but not part of my results.
Data and methods. This section answers the question “How do you know what you know?” That can be further broken down into three parts:
- On what kind of information or material are you basing your findings (e.g., interviews, statistics, documents)?
- How did you find that information, or where did it come from (e.g., U.S. Census, National Archives, fieldwork)?
- How did you analyze that information? That is, what software or analytic strategies did you use to come up with your findings?
Results. This section contains the meat of the paper, where you present the findings from your work, and you should keep two points in mind. First, make sure that your results speak to the theoretical and empirical questions that your paper raises in the front half -- in other words, that your paper is cohesive throughout. Second, and particularly for qualitative papers, organize your results analytically or thematically -- not, for example, in chronological order or according to some other simple accounting. You should be thoughtful about how to present your results to get the most out of your findings. (For some reason, academics like the number three, so you will often see three main results in a given paper.)
Discussion or conclusion. You may also find a combined discussion and conclusion at the end of the paper. What are the differences between a discussion and a conclusion? That can vary by author or paper, and it depends on how you’ve written up your results section. One way you can think about it is that the discussion section allows you to step back from the results section and reflect on the broader story or themes of your results and how they tie together. If you see a discussion section this way, then you can think about a conclusion as addressing three things: 1) summarizing what you did in the paper, including its main findings, 2) acknowledging the limitations of your work and 3) proposing steps for future research that builds on what you’ve done in the paper.
These tips will not guarantee you publication in a given journal. Your paper’s research question, data and methods, findings, and broader significance need to be original, clear and well integrated in discussions in the field. In addition, you also still have to do your due diligence about where to send your paper, including which journal is a good fit, the specific format of its articles and the types of conversations that are within its pages. Nevertheless, the tips I’ve provided can serve as a foundation from which to start to understand and break down the sometimes-mystifying format of a published journal article.
Victoria Reyes is a sociologist whose work examines how culture shapes global inequality. She is a postdoctoral fellow at University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity and an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside.
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Writing for an academic journal: 10 tips
1) Have a strategy, make a plan
Why do you want to write for journals? What is your purpose? Are you writing for research assessment? Or to make a difference? Are you writing to have an impact factor or to have an impact? Do you want to develop a profile in a specific area? Will this determine which journals you write for? Have you taken their impact factors into account?
Have you researched other researchers in your field – where have they published recently? Which group or conversation can you see yourself joining? Some people write the paper first and then look for a 'home' for it, but since everything in your article – content, focus, structure, style – will be shaped for a specific journal, save yourself time by deciding on your target journal and work out how to write in a way that suits that journal.
Having a writing strategy means making sure you have both external drivers – such as scoring points in research assessment or climbing the promotion ladder – and internal drivers – which means working out why writing for academic journals matters to you. This will help you maintain the motivation you'll need to write and publish over the long term. Since the time between submission and publication can be up to two years (though in some fields it's much less) you need to be clear about your motivation.
2) Analyse writing in journals in your field
Take a couple of journals in your field that you will target now or soon. Scan all the abstracts over the past few issues. Analyse them: look closely at all first and last sentences. The first sentence (usually) gives the rationale for the research, and the last asserts a 'contribution to knowledge'. But the word 'contribution' may not be there – it's associated with the doctorate. So which words are used? What constitutes new knowledge in this journal at this time? How can you construct a similar form of contribution from the work you did? What two sentences will you write to start and end your abstract for that journal?
Scan other sections of the articles: how are they structured? What are the components of the argument? Highlight all the topic sentences – the first sentences of every paragraph – to show the stages in the argument. Can you see an emerging taxonomy of writing genres in this journal? Can you define the different types of paper, different structures and decide which one will work best in your paper? Select two types of paper: one that's the type of paper you can use as a model for yours, and one that you can cite in your paper, thereby joining the research conversation that is ongoing in that journal.
3) Do an outline and just write
Which type of writer are you: do you always do an outline before you write, or do you just dive in and start writing? Or do you do a bit of both? Both outlining and just writing are useful, and it is therefore a good idea to use both. However, make your outline very detailed: outline the main sections and calibrate these with your target journal.
What types of headings are normally used there? How long are the sections usually? Set word limits for your sections, sub-sections and, if need be, for sub-sub-sections. This involves deciding about content that you want to include, so it may take time, and feedback would help at this stage.
When you sit down to write, what exactly are you doing:using writing to develop your ideas or writing to document your work? Are you using your outline as an agenda for writing sections of your article? Define your writing task by thinking about verbs – they define purpose: to summarise, overview, critique, define, introduce, conclude etc.
4) Get feedback from start to finish
Even at the earliest stages, discuss your idea for a paper with four or five people, get feedback on your draft abstract. It will only take them a couple of minutes to read it and respond. Do multiple revisions before you submit your article to the journal.
5) Set specific writing goals and sub-goals
Making your writing goals specific means defining the content, verb and word length for the section. This means not having a writing goal like, 'I plan to have this article written by the end of the year' but 'My next writing goal is to summarise and critique twelve articles for the literature review section in 800 words on Tuesday between 9am and 10.30'. Some people see this as too mechanical for academic writing, but it is a way of forcing yourself to make decisions about content, sequence and proportion for your article.
6) Write with others
While most people see writing as a solitary activity, communal writing – writing with others who are writing – can help to develop confidence, fluency and focus. It can help you develop the discipline of regular writing. Doing your academic writing in groups or at writing retreats are ways of working on your own writing, but – if you unplug from email, internet and all other devices – also developing the concentration needed for regular, high-level academic writing.
At some point – ideally at regular intervals – you can get a lot more done if you just focus on writing. If this seems like common sense, it isn't common practice. Most people do several things at once, but this won't always work for regular journal article writing. At some point, it pays to privilege writing over all other tasks, for a defined period, such as 90 minutes, which is long enough to get something done on your paper, but not so long that it's impossible to find the time.
7) Do a warm up before you write
While you are deciding what you want to write about, an initial warm up that works is to write for five minutes, in sentences, in answer to the question: 'What writing for publication have you done [or the closest thing to it], and what do you want to do in the long, medium and short term?'
Once you have started writing your article, use a variation on this question as a warm up – what writing for this project have you done, and what do you want to do in the long, medium and short term? Top tip: end each session of writing with a 'writing instruction' for yourself to use in your next session, for example, 'on Monday from 9 to 10am, I will draft the conclusion section in 500 words'.
As discussed, if there are no numbers, there are no goals. Goals that work need to be specific, and you need to monitor the extent to which you achieve them. This is how you learn to set realistic targets.
8) Analyse reviewers' feedback on your submission
What exactly are they asking you to do? Work out whether they want you to add or cut something. How much? Where? Write out a list of revision actions. When you resubmit your article include this in your report to the journal, specifying how you have responded to the reviewers' feedback. If your article was rejected, it is still useful to analyse feedback, work out why and revise it for somewhere else.
Most feedback will help you improve your paper and, perhaps, your journal article writing, but sometimes it may seem overheated, personalised or even vindictive. Some of it may even seem unprofessional. Discuss reviewers' feedback – see what others think of it. You may find that other people – even eminent researchers – still get rejections and negative reviews; any non-rejection is a cause for celebration. Revise and resubmit as soon as you can.
9) Be persistent, thick-skinned and resilient
These are qualities that you may develop over time – or you may already have them. It may be easier to develop them in discussion with others who are writing for journals.
10) Take care of yourself
Writing for academic journals is highly competitive. It can be extremely stressful. Even making time to write can be stressful. And there are health risks in sitting for long periods, so try not to sit writing for more than an hour at a time. Finally, be sure to celebrate thoroughly when your article is accepted. Remind yourself that writing for academic journals is what you want to do – that your writing will make a difference in some way.
These points are taken from the 3rd edition of Writing for Academic Journals .
Rowena Murray is professor in education and director of research at the University of the West of Scotland – follow it on Twitter @UniWestScotland
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How To Write an Academic Article
By: Tasha Kolesnikova
Citations and References
What does an academic article look like, how to start an academic article, how long does it take to write academic articles, what are the components of academic articles, what are the sections of an academic article, what should the length of journal articles be, what factors contribute to the reliability of a journal article, are journal articles credible.
Writing an academic article is a great way to start publishing. A solid publishing record is required for academic life, work and research grants. Online journals have widened the academic landscape, highlighting the importance of publications in building and maintaining an academic reputation.
Most postgraduate students dread writing a good academic article from a year's worth of study. You don't need to be a published author to get a good outcome.Writing a successful academic article requires systematic, precise, concise, and clear writing.
This guide to writing academic articles will help you structure your work. While this type of writing still takes time and work, our instructions will make the process go more smoothly.
How Do You Structure an Academic Article?
The structure of an academic journal article contains a title page, an abstract page with keywords and acknowledgments, an introduction, the main body, conclusion, and references.
The title is the initial hook that will entice a potential reader to notice your academic article writing. A title should capture the interest of the audience. It should concisely convey the article's principal idea, issue, or perspective. Because the title establishes expectations about the article's content, it should appropriately reflect the study's nature and focus and avoid creating false expectations.
When learning how to write an academic journal article, don’t ignore the importance of keywords! They are a critical component of the writing process; when writing, you must select keywords to help the reader understand what the important terms will be. These important terms will be located on your abstract page. Keywords should primarily reflect the discipline, subfield, theme, research design, and study setting.
The abstract is a brief description of an article that should not exceed 200–250 words in length. Most readers skim the abstract to determine whether continuing to read the article is worth the time. Thus, the abstract serves as a critical display window for your work, allowing you to “wow” the readers.
The abstract must begin with a concise theme sentence that informs the reader about the article's general topic. It should then state the study's primary objective or purpose. Additionally, the study's methodology and major conclusions should be briefly stated. A conclusion statement should show the study's contribution to filling gaps in the literature. Finally, where applicable, the practical or managerial significance of the study's findings should be emphasized.
This is the section in which you thank individuals who did not qualify for co-authorship but made significant contributions to your paper academically, financially, or in some other way. While acknowledgments may appear to be a minor component of writing an academic article, they are critical. When you acknowledge someone in your academic writing, you demonstrate greater honesty as a writer because you are not claiming the ideas of other academics as your intellectual property. Additionally, it can assist your readers in their research efforts.
The introduction could be viewed as an executive summary, providing the reader with an intriguing preview of what is to come. As such, the introduction must inspire the reader's curiosity. It is often the most challenging section of an article to write.
In general, an introduction should:
- Establish the study's overall narrative or subject.
- Demonstrate the article’s academic and practical significance.
- Summarize the existing literature and list the most significant earlier research pertinent to the ongoing study.
- Highlight the most significant gaps, inconsistencies, and disputes in the literature addressed in the current study.
- Provide an outline for the remaining of the article's structure.
The main body of your journal article academic writing contains your primary arguments and evidence. Each paragraph will encompass a distinct concept, and there will be clear connections between them. Frequently, paragraphs are divided into three sections:
- A topic statement - The topic sentence establishes the topic of the paragraph. It informs the reader of the topic of the paragraph.
- A collection of explanatory sentences -The explanatory sentences elucidate, clarify, and assist readers in better comprehending the subject.
- A collection of evaluating sentences - The analysis sentences inform readers about the paragraph's significance. They establish the paragraphs' relevance to the paper's major thesis.
Your conclusion should be an analysis of your findings, in which you rank the topics introduced in the main body of the article. This section will not introduce any new concepts.
When writing academic articles, your citations and references should be well-balanced, recent, and relevant. While each field is unique, you should strive to mention references no more than ten years old. Your references should be closely related to your study subject.
A basic academic article begins with an introduction to the research topic , main body and conclusion. Here’s an example.
Now that you know the components, you need to learn how to start an academic article. Remember that the transition from idea to published manuscript can be difficult. We’ll break down the process into a series of manageable steps.
- Allow ample time for crafting your article. You should anticipate writing multiple revisions as your ideas are refined. When figuring out how to write an academic article, remember that you will be writing for an unidentified audience that will possess some skill but not necessarily specialized knowledge about your subject.
- Consider the content first. This involves deciding whether to use figures, graphs, or graphics. Limit the amount to keep your article focused. All visual elements must reflect the article's objective(s). They should all be sequentially numbered.
- Create an outline to assist with writing . This can take the form of bullet points, with further descriptive sentences added later to flesh out the content. Those writing in domains with a well-defined report structure can use the formal framework to aid data organization.
- Once you've gathered all relevant information under each subject, establish connections between the various concepts. Bear in mind that your argument should follow a logical sequence.
- Utilize the Word Outline function to create a structure for your writing. The "View" tab contains the "Word Outline" feature. It will display in the toolbar's left-hand box. It might aid in organizing your argument's many levels and supporting points. Additionally, it might be used to map out the structure of each paragraph.
- Whichever article type you choose, you will require an effective title, abstract, introduction, and discussion/conclusion. For additional information on article structure, read various journal papers to ascertain recognized structures within your discipline.
- Before you learn how to write an academic article for publication, keep in mind that your article will be peer-reviewed by other academic professionals. To improve your chances of approval when writing an article for an academic journal, you must ensure that your work adheres to academic writing standards.
- The article should be written formally and have a concise argument that reflects or engages with contemporary academic discourse.
- Proofread your paper since it should be grammatically correct and free of spelling and typographic mistakes.
- Once you've prepared an article for submission and chosen a journal, the submission process is as simple as locating the journal's contact information and adhering to their submission requirements.
If you follow the steps and tips listed in this publication on how to write an academic article, you’ll have a much easier time when you start writing academic texts. For additional writing an academic article advice, keep an eye on the Studybay blog , since we frequently post guides for students.
How long to write an academic article will be determined by factors such as your level of commitment. However, it normally takes three weeks to write and two weeks to edit.
This kind of text contains the following components:
- Literature review
- Results, analysis, and discussion
Almost all journal articles are divided into the following sections:
The majority of academic journals publish articles between 20 and 25 A4 pages in length (1.5 line spacing) or between 4,000 and 7,000 words in length.
They must be peer-evaluated to be the most reliable. This means that other academics have read them before publication to ensure that the evidence supports the statements they make.
Those published in scholarly, peer-reviewed, academic, and refereed journals have a higher level of credibility than articles published in popular or trade journals (“magazines”), as they have undergone the most rigorous peer-review procedure. Additionally, they have the greatest number of references or citations.
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I'm a PhD student and in my first article of my research and as a starter I found this information very useful and trust to use it in my study. My final enemy is just in text citation always confuse the styles.
I enjoyed this informational piece and found that it really helped me to prepare for my next assignment. It outlined all of the specific things that I need to check and question before I start to write. After reading it, it wasn’t a problem to create something that will get me the highest marks possible.
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Writing a Research Paper for an Academic Journal: A Five-step Recipe for Perfection
The answer to writing the perfect research paper is as simple as following a step-by-step recipe. Here we bring to you a recipe for effortlessly planning, writing, and publishing your paper as a peer reviewed journal article.
Lubaina Koti, BS
BS, Biomedical Sciences Coventry University
Writing a Manuscript
Writing a manuscript
Choosing a journal
Peer review and publication
Sharing your research
As a young researcher, getting your paper published as a journal article is a huge milestone; but producing it may seem like climbing a mountain compared to, perhaps, the theses, essays, or conference papers you have produced in the past.
You may feel overwhelmed with the thought of carrying innumerable equipment and may feel incapable of completing the task. But, in reality, the answer to writing the perfect research paper is as simple as following a recipe with step-by-step instructions.
In this blog, I aim to bring to you the recipe for effortlessly planning, writing, and publishing your paper as a peer reviewed journal article. I will give you the essential information, key points, and resources to keep in mind before you begin the writing process for your research papers.
Secret ingredient 1: Make notes before you begin the writing process
Because I want you to benefit from this article on a personal level, I am going to give away my secret ingredient for producing a good research paper right at the beginning. The one thing that helps me write literally anything is — cue the drum rolls — making notes. Yes, making notes is the best way to remember and store all that information, which is definitely going to help you throughout the process of writing your paper. So, please pick up a pen and start making notes for writing your research paper.
Step 1. Choose the right research topic
Although it is important to be passionate and curious about your research article topic, it is not enough. Sometimes the sheer excitement of having an idea may take away your ability to focus on and question the novelty, credibility, and potential impact of your research topic. On the contrary, the first thing that you should do when you write a journal paper is question the novelty, credibility, and potential impact of your research question.
It is also important to remember that your research, along with the aforementioned points, must be original and relevant: It must benefit and interest the scientific community. All you have to do is perform a thorough literature search in your research field and have a look at what is currently going on in the field of your topic of interest. This step in academic writing is not as daunting as it may seem and, in fact, is quite beneficial for the following reasons:
- You can determine what is already known about the research topic and the gaps that exist.
- You can determine the credibility and novelty of your research question by comparing it with previously published papers.
- If your research question has already been studied or answered before your first draft, you first save a substantial amount of time by avoiding rejections from journals at a much later stage; and second, you can study and aim to bridge the gaps of previous studies, perhaps, by using a different methodology or a bigger sample size. So, carefully read as much as you can about what has already been published in your field of research; and when you are doing so, make sure that you make lots of relevant notes as you go along in the process. Remember, your study does not necessarily have to be groundbreaking, but it should definitely extend previous knowledge or refute existing statements on the topic.
Secret ingredient 2: Use a thematic approach while drafting your manuscript
For instance, if you are writing about the association between the level of breast cancer awareness and socioeconomic status, open a new Word or Notes file and create subheadings such as “breast cancer awareness in low- and middle-income countries,” “reasons for lack of awareness,” or “ways to increase awareness.” Under these subheadings, make notes of the information that you think may be suitable to be included in your paper as you carry out your literature review. Ensure that you make a draft reference list so that you don’t miss out on the references.
Step 2: Know your audience
Finding your research topic is not synonymous with communicating it, it is merely a step, albeit an important one; however, there are other crucial steps that follow. One of which is identifying your target audience.
Now that you know what your topic of interest is, you need to ask yourself “Who am I trying to benefit with my research?” A general mistake is assuming that your reader knows everything about your research topic. Drafting a peer reviewed journal article often means that your work may reach a wide and varied audience.
Therefore, it is a good idea to ponder over who you want to reach and why, rather than simply delivering chunks of information, facts, and statistics. Along with considering the above factors, evaluate your reader’s level of education, expertise, and scientific field as this may help you design and write your manuscript, tailoring it specifically for your target audience. Here are a few points that you must consider after you have identified your target audience:
Shortlist a few target journals: The aims and scope of the journal usually mention their audience. This may help you know your readers and visualize them as you write your manuscript. This will further help you include just the right amount of background and details.
View your manuscript from the reader’s perspective: Try to think about what they might already know or what they would like more details on.
Include the appropriate amount of jargon: Ensure that your article text is familiar to your target audience and use the correct terminology to make your content more relatable for readers - and journal editors as your paper goes through the peer review process.
Keep your readers engaged: Write with an aim to fill a knowledge gap or add purpose and value to your reader’s intellect. Your manuscript does not necessarily have to be complex, write with a simple yet profound tone, layer (or sub-divide) simple points and build complexity as you go along, rather than stating dry facts.
Be specific: It is easy to get carried away and forget the essence of your study. Make sure that you stick to your topic and be as specific as you can to your research topic and audience.
Secret ingredient 3: Clearly define your key terms and key concepts
Do not assume that your audience will know your research topic as well as you do, provide compelling details where it is due. This can be tricky. Using the example from “Secret ingredient 2,” you may not need to define breast cancer while writing about breast cancer awareness. However, while talking about the benefits of awareness, such as early presentation of the disease, it is important to explain these benefits, for instance, in terms of superior survival rates.
Step 3: Structure your research paper with care
After determining the topic of your research and your target audience, your overflowing ideas and information need to be structured in a format generally accepted by journals. Most academic journals conventionally accept original research articles in the following format: Abstract, followed by the Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections, also known as the IMRaD, which is a brilliant way of structuring a research paper outline in a simplified and layered format. In brief, these sections comprise the following information:
In closed-access journals, readers have access to the abstract/summary for them to decide if they wish to purchase the research paper. It’s an extremely important representative of the entire manuscript.
All information provided in the abstract must be present in the manuscript, it should include a stand-alone summary of the research, the main findings, the abbreviations should be defined separately in this section, and this section should be clear, decluttered, and concise.
This section should begin with a background of the study topic, i.e., what is already known, moving on to the knowledge gaps that exist, and finally, end with how the present study aims to fill these gaps, or any hypotheses that the authors may have proposed.
This section describes, with compelling details, the procedures that were followed to answer the research question.
The ultimate factor to consider while producing the methods section is reproducibility; this section should be detailed enough for other researchers to reproduce your study and validate your results. It should include ethical information (ethical board approval, informed consent, etc.) and must be written in the past tense.
This section typically presents the findings of the study, with no explanations or interpretations. Here, the findings are simply stated alongside figures or tables mentioned in the text in the correct sequential order. Because you are describing what you found, this section is also written in the past tense.
Discussion and conclusion
This section begins with a summary of your findings and is meant for you to interpret your results, compare them with previously published papers, and elaborate on whether your findings are comparable or contradictory to previous literature.
This section also contains the strengths and limitations of your study, and the latter can be used to suggest future research. End this section with a conclusion paragraph, briefly summarizing and highlighting the main findings and novelty of your study.
Step 4: Cite credible research sources
Now that you know who and what you are writing for, it’s time to begin the writing process for your research paper. Another crucial factor that determines the quality of your manuscript is the detailed information within. The introduction and discussion sections, which make a massive portion of the manuscript, majorly rely on external sources of information that have already been published.
Therefore, it is absolutely indispensable to extract and cite these statements from appropriate, credible, recent, and relevant literature to support your claims. Here are a few pointers to consider while choosing the right sources:
Cite academic journals
These are the best sources to refer to while writing your research paper, because most articles submitted to top journals are rejected, resulting in high-quality articles being filtered-out. In particular, peer reviewed articles are of the highest quality because they undergo a rigorous process of editorial review, along with revisions until they are judged to be satisfactory.
But not just any book, ideally, the credibility of a book can be judged by whether it is published by an academic publisher, is written by multiple authors who are experts in the field of interest, and is carefully reviewed by multiple editors. It can be beneficial to review the background of the author(s) and check their previous publications.
Cite an official online source
Although it may be difficult to judge the trustworthiness of web content, a few factors may help determine its accuracy. These include demographic data obtained from government websites (.gov), educational resources (.edu), websites that cite other pertinent and trustworthy sources, content meant for education and not product promotion, unbiased sources, or sources with backlinks that are up to date. It is best to avoid referring to online sources such as blogs and Wikipedia.
Do not cite the following sources
While citing sources, you should steer clear from encyclopedias, citing review articles instead of directly citing the original work, referring to sources that you have not read, citing research papers solely from one country (be extensively diverse), anything that is not backed up by evidence, and material with considerable grammatical errors. Although these sources are generally most appropriate and valid, it is your job to critically read and carefully evaluate all sources prior to citing them.
Step 5: Pick the correct journal
Selecting the correct journal is one of the most crucial steps toward getting published, as it not only determines the weightage of your research but also of your career as a researcher. The journals in which you choose to publish your research are part of your portfolio; it directly or indirectly determines many factors, such as funding, professional advancement, and future collaborations.
The best thing you can do for your work is to pick a peer-reviewed journal. Not only will your paper be polished to the highest quality for editors, but you will also be able to address certain gaps that you may have missed out.
Besides, it always helps to have another perspective, and what better than to have it from an experienced peer? A common mistake that researchers tend to make is leave the task of choosing the target journal after they have written their paper.
Now, I understand that due to certain factors, it can be challenging to decide what journal you want to publish in before you start drafting your paper, therefore, the best time to make this decision is while you are working on writing your manuscript. Having a target journal in mind while writing your paper has a great deal of benefits.
As the most basic benefit, you can know beforehand if your study meets the aims and scope of your desired journal. It will ensure you’re not wasting valuable time for editors or yourself.
While drafting your manuscript, you could keep in mind the requirements of your target journal, such as the word limit for the main article text and abstract, the maximum number of figures or tables that are allowed, or perhaps, the maximum number of references that you may include.
Also, if you choose to submit to an open-access journal, you have ample amount of time to figure out the funding.
Another major benefit is that, as mentioned in the previous section, the aims and scope of the journal will give you a fair idea on your target audience and will help you draft your manuscript appropriately. It is definitely easier to know that your target journal requires the text to be within 3,500 words than spending weeks writing a manuscript that is around, say, 5,000 words, and then spending a substantial amount of time decluttering. Now, while not all journals have very specific requirements, it always helps to short-list a few journals, if not concretely choose one to publish your paper in.
AJE also offers journal recommendation services if you need professional help with finding a target journal.
Secret ingredient 4: Follow the journal guidelines
Perfectly written manuscripts may get rejected by the journal on account of not adhering to their formatting requirements. You can find the author guidelines/instructions on the home page of every journal. Ensure that as you write your manuscript, you follow the journal guidelines such as the word limit, British or American English, formatting references, line spacing, line/page numbering, and so on.
Our ultimate aim is to instill confidence in young researchers like you and help you become independent as you write and communicate your research. With the help of these easy steps and secret ingredients, you are now ready to prepare your flavorful manuscript and serve your research to editors and ultimately the journal readers with a side of impact and a dash of success.
Share with your colleagues
Share your work as a preprint and help move science forward.
We invite you to share your research with the community by posting it online as a preprint. Our sister company, Research Square , is a trusted preprint platform that lets you get credit for your unpublished research early, increase your citations, and get feedback from the community.
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Writing an academic journal article
In many fields, career advancement depends on a record of publishing articles in reputable journals. however, some academics aren’t sure how to go about writing such an article for publication. here we’ll give you some useful tips for writing an article and getting published..
There are two approaches to writing an article for an academic journal. The first is to develop a research topic or question, write the article, and then find a journal to submit that paper to. The second is to choose a journal and check its guidelines to determine what kinds of articles the editors are looking for; once you know what kinds of articles the editors want, you can start writing your article. Which approach you choose depends on whether you have a specific topic that you want to write about or you have a specific journal in which you want to be published.
If you select a target journal, review some back issues to evaluate articles that were selected for publication. Think about what kinds of contributions those articles make to the field, the authors’ writing styles, what kinds of research questions are regularly covered, etc.
Once you have a research question, make sure it is one that other scholars and researchers will find interesting. Consider what new information you can provide on the topic to differentiate yourself from any other articles on that same topic. In addition, think about how the information you can provide will help others in your field. The best way to determine whether your research question is innovative and useful is to conduct an extensive literature review to see what other authors are saying about the topic.
As you write your paper, remember to follow basic guidelines for writing a research paper and use formal academic English. If you have a target journal, make sure you adhere to that journal’s organizational and formatting guidelines. If you do not have a target journal, be prepared to change the style, organization, formatting, etc. when your article is accepted to a journal.
Make sure you include support for all your arguments and ideas, and don’t forget to include any necessary background information. This information will make your paper easier to read for people who may not have an in-depth understanding of your topic. In addition, make sure your paper answers your research question and discuss how your findings will affect others in the field.
Don’t forget to provide citations and references for all information you get from other sources.
Before you submit your paper, edit and proofread your work. Make sure you don’t have any errors in the text. This includes grammar, spelling and punctuation errors as well as errors in your formulas, misattributed quotes, and missing information. Try having a colleague or an editor look over your work to check for mistakes or unclear information .
If your paper is rejected by your target journal, don’t fret. It may be that the editors just aren’t looking for papers on that topic at that time. If the editors or reviewers give you specific suggestions for reworking the paper, make the suggested changes and then try submitting it again. Alternatively, try submitting it to similar journals.
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How to Write a Successful Journal Article
- DESCRIPTION young man writing a journal article
- SOURCE seksan Mongkhonkhamsao / Moment / Getty Images
Are you wondering how to write a journal article? If your goal is to get your work published in an academic journal, you’ll need to start by posing an interesting research question and conducting a well-designed research study that is both reliable and valid. Next, you’ll need to present the results in a well-written article. Sharing unique information is what academic article writing is all about.
Creating Content for a Journal Article
Writing a successful academic journal article requires quite a bit of work before you actually start writing, as you’ll need to conduct original research to write about.
1. Define the Study
Academic journals publish the results of research studies, so you’ll need to select a topic of interest to academic professionals within your field of study. Start by posing an interesting research question and hypothesis, then design a research study to help you investigate the question. Be sure your study is unique, as journals are not likely to publish articles that don’t contribute new knowledge to the field.
2. Determine Authors
Before you dive into the study, it’s important to know whether you will be the sole researcher or author or if you will work as part of a team. If there will be multiple authors, each person should ideally be involved from the very beginning.
If you are a graduate student, consider asking a professor to be involved as a contributor. You may also want to ask a classmate (or a few classmates) who share common interests to co-author. If there are multiple authors, the entire process of conducting research and writing the article should be a collaborative effort.
3. Conduct the Study
Every study involves gathering data to analyze. You may need to submit an academic research proposal before you get started. The nature of your research question and/or hypothesis will determine how you go about analyzing data. Once you have the results, you can look for trends and interesting results to focus on as the content for your journal article.
Writing Steps for an Academic Journal
Once you have interesting data appropriate for submission to an academic journal for publication in the form of an article, that is the appropriate time to begin writing a journal article.
1. Identify Your Target Journal
Since each journal has specific requirements for submissions, consider which publications are most likely to be interested in publishing an article on the topic of your study. Once you have a shortlist of journals, review their submission guidelines very closely so you can narrow down to the one you will submit to first.
It is not acceptable to submit the same article to more than one academic journal at the same time. Instead, you’ll need to submit to your first choice and wait to hear back from them before submitting elsewhere.
2. Consider the Audience
Once you have selected a journal for your initial submission, consider who the publication’s audience is. Review past copies of the journal to get an idea of what they publish.
If subscribers are members of a certain professional organization, research that organization to get a sense of members’ primary interests and the tone of what they publish. Anything you can do to improve your understanding of the audience will help you improve your chances of writing a piece that will be accepted by the publication.
3. Follow All Manuscript Requirements
Each journal has specific manuscript requirements, which you should be able to find on the publication’s website. Follow them precisely. The most well-written article that reveals fascinating results will be rejected if the author(s) fail to adhere to the publiciation’s manuscript requirements. Typical manuscript requirements include:
- word length (minimum and maximum)
- specific sections that must be included
- specific citation and formatting style required by the publication
- formatting guidelines, such as font size, acceptable fonts, margin requirements, heading designations, use of special formatting (such as bold, italics, underlining)
4. Make a Template With Required Sections
To be sure that you’re including all of the sections that the journal you’re targeting requires, consider creating a template to use before you start writing. The items included in your template should be specific to the publication you’re submitting to. It can serve as a fill-in outline as you start building out the document. Examples of common journal article section requirements include:
- research question
- theoretical framework
- literature review
- research methodology
- data collection procedures
- data analysis techniques
- implications for further research
- works cited
Chances are that you’ll only need to include some of the sections listed here. It is possible that you’ll need to add other sections. Check your template against the journal’s published requirements.
5. Write the Article
After completing the extensive preliminary work described above, you’ll have all of the information you need to begin writing a successful journal article. Follow best practices for writing a research paper , tailoring your approach to the journal’s audience.
- Use a formal tone appropriate for academic writing .
- Use precise language.
- Cite sources for all assertions.
- Clearly explain the research methodology.
- Specify any dependent or independent variables investigated in the study
- Present the results clearly and concisely.
- Use graphs, charts and tables to illustrate key results.
- Ensure that all information, citations and data are accurate.
- Specify what any acronyms stand for before using in the text.
- Verify that the research question is clearly answered in the body of the article.
- Specifically state whether evidence was found to support the hypothesis or not.
- Report only conclusions supported by data.
- Make sure that suggestions for further study logically follow from the results.
6. Seek Peer Review
Since academic journals are peer reviewed, consider better positioning yourself for success by asking knowledgeable colleagues to review your article before submitting it to the journal you have selected. If you are a graduate student, consider asking your classmates to review. If you are an industry or academic professional, seek input from colleagues. You may even want to contract with a company that offers peer review services to provide feedback.
7. Finalize the Manuscript
Assuming you request input from peers, incorporate any relevant feedback you received into your manuscript. Further proofread and edit the document, checking the content and writing style as well as correcting any typographical or grammatical errors. You may want to have one or two other people proofread your work as well. Also verify that the document is consistent with the publication’s manuscript requirements.
Submitting an Article to an Academic Journal
When it’s time to submit your paper, review the publication’s submission guidelines and make sure you are following them exactly.
- Academic journals typically specify things like where and how to submit an article and what should be included with it.
- If the journal’s guidelines specify a preferred approach to submission versus alternate acceptable methods, opt for what is preferred if at all possible.
- Note any restrictions, such as what you need to receive from the publication or how much time needs to go by without contact for you to be able to submit to another journal.
If your article is accepted, congratulations are in order. If your first choice journal doesn’t accept your manuscript, take any feedback you receive into account and submit to the next journal on your list of preferred publications. Be sure to adjust the article to meet the new publication’s manuscript requirements and submission guidelines.
Be Prepared to Become Published
A lot of work goes into academic article writing. It’s not a simple matter of sitting down and writing an essay or literature review. This type of writing requires original research conducted for the purpose of advancing the body of knowledge in a particular field of study.
By properly planning, conducting original research that reveals interesting results, and carefully writing up the results in article form, you’ll be on your way to becoming the author of a published journal article. Before you get started, review these tips on academic writing to make sure that the best practices are fresh in your mind. Further expand your skills by exploring helpful tips for writing an abstract .
Isolate a manageable size · Create a coherent story/argument · Make the argument self-standing · Target the journal readership · Change the writing conventions from
First, you want to trace previous work on the subject and set up the problem. Second, you need to identify how your paper addresses that problem
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The structure of an academic journal article contains a title page, an abstract page with keywords and acknowledgments, an introduction, the main body
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Learn the four steps to write and publish your scientific research papers in journals! Get the Scientific Research Paper Checklist:
Writing a Research Paper for an Academic Journal: A Five-step Recipe for Perfection · Step 1. Choose the right research topic · Step 2: Know your audience · Step 3
There are two approaches to writing an article for an academic journal. The first is to develop a research topic or question, write the article
The aim of this paper is to provide guidelines to assist with the preparation of a manuscript for a scientific journal. Before writing a first draft, it is
Writing Steps for an Academic Journal · 1. Identify Your Target Journal · 2. Consider the Audience · 3. Follow All Manuscript Requirements · 4. Make a Template With