While browsing through Facebook or Google, you’ve probably seen titles with surprising findings and statistics based on studies published online that immediately grabbed your attention. If you’ve wondered whether you can actually contribute a study of international repute and interest, then you should know it’s possible. An undergraduate or graduate thesis is a great starting point.
Your paper, as is, already presents a good idea, but this alone isn’t enough. Writing for journals requires your findings to be presented in a specific way. As your thesis already has all the content you’d need, you can now start the journey of transforming it into a journal-ready publication. Regardless of your motivation—whether it’s to establish your reputation as an expert in a certain field and advance your career or just get people talking about your work—the process of getting your work published in a journal is not impossible.
Journals consider content and presentation, and the way you present your ideas must match the readership catered to by the journal. These considerations could be separated into your paper’s structure and language. While a thesis is usually treated as an academic requirement for your university degree, a research paper published in a journal is an article that aims to expand current knowledge. You should also know that professionals, not just Thought Catalog readers, will be critical of your work, so preparing it to a level that allows it to still stand despite scrutiny by subject matter experts is crucial. Furthermore, a thesis is a broad investigation into a subject where every aspect of it is explained in detail, though the final output would be kept within a university’s records and usually not cited by other studies. Being part of an academic requirement means a professor or instructor would oversee the author’s progress during the writing process, offering suggestions and insights into its content. In contrast, a research article aims to prove a hypothesis or research question through the author’s focused investigation, as presented within the article’s different parts, and the study’s findings aim to contribute to existing knowledge. Compared to theses, journal articles are more accessible to the wider scientific community and can be cited by other researchers.
Figure 1. Example of a submission guidelines page from Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences
One of the key considerations that should be examined by budding researchers and scholars when viewing a journal’s website is the “Authors’ Guidelines” or “Submission Guidelines” page (Figure 1), which outlines the structure and specifics the journal requires when submitting a manuscript. A paper should follow a general structure, though the journal’s preferred type could vary from journal to journal. Your paper’s sections should normally include the Abstract, Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion, all expected to be present in that order (unless otherwise specified). Imagine your paper is trying to tell a story; structuring your paper in a logical and orderly manner ensures that you and your readers can move from one part to the next while retaining a sense of coherent progression.
Note that while an abstract should give readers a brief overview of your study, methods, findings, and implications, a thesis would also give a short background to provide context and mention some research questions to determine the scope of their study. However, a manuscript published in a journal would be much shorter to account for the limited word count (approximately 150–250 words). As such, the abstract would need to go straight to the point and provide a concise summation of the study’s objectives, methods, results, and conclusions. Whether these are structured will depend on the journal, but the four sections should be present in any abstract (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. Comparison of (a) thesis abstract and (b) journal article abstract
Remember that a shorter, more direct study is better when writing a study meant to be published in a journal. You may be familiar with using a Review of Related Literature section in a thesis or a section dedicated to talking about some of the key aspects of your study to help contextualize it for readers. In a journal article, however, that section is usually omitted, and the pertinent information in that section would be in the Introduction. It’s understood that the Introduction would provide the context the readers need, including a brief mention of some key studies that state the types of research already conducted on your topic. As such, the problem statement, significance, and objectives, which are usually different sections in a thesis, should all be merged into the Introduction in a journal article. Just like abstracts written for journal articles, only mention the most important details needed to ensure your readers know where you are coming from and what your study intends to do.
Content-wise, it’s best to be aware of the references you use for citing key points in your study. A thesis could take the approach of gathering as much information as possible by citing numerous studies related to the paper’s topic, regardless of when they’re published. Although journal articles do also cite studies relevant to the main points being discussed, they only use studies that can provide context, depth, and clarity to your research and the discussion of your findings, while making sure these studies are up-to-date. Although it may seem tempting to gather all the related studies you can find to show your study’s relevance, a good journal article will only utilize the most appropriate, robust, and recent research to ensure its groundbreaking message. Choosing the right references further emphasizes the need to pick the most appropriate references, as this factors in the possibility that some journals will only allow a limited number of references.
Disclosures and documents
Once you’ve accounted for the basic structure of your manuscript, don’t forget to include the proper disclosure statements in the correct sections. These parts will usually mention whether your study adhered to the proper reporting guidelines or the Declaration of Helsinki, the authorship conditions were met, or if any individuals contributed to the study but not in the same capacity as yourself.
You may be getting more intimidated the more you read through this article, but as Teddy Roosevelt would say, “Nothing worth having comes easy.” Statements that fall under these declarations are important because research must be performed ethically, and anything that could suggest a violation of ethical standards or the improper disclosure of any conflicts of interest that could have influenced the study won’t be considered by the journal. Some statements should be mentioned in any study, like conflicts of interest, while others usually depend on the type of study you are performing.
For instance, a new medical treatment plan study would always require a disclosure that mentions whether informed consent was obtained from the study’s participants. Comparatively, a study involving animal specimens may require you to adhere to a specific set of reporting guidelines. Note that some journals may require further proof than just a statement confirming adherence to certain requirements based on the type of study conducted. Studies involving human participants may require copies of the documents stating that the study participants gave their informed consent, while animal studies could require a copy of the corresponding reporting guideline checklist. Whatever your study may be, it’s best to keep copies of the documents ready in case they’re needed.
One thing you might notice in some journals’ Authors’ Guidelines is the cover letter or the letter of intent to submit. This document usually states the authors’ intentions to submit a manuscript to the journal of their choice and includes a summary of the manuscript’s topic and findings, disclosure of the manuscript’s adherence to authorship requirements, and a declaration that the manuscript isn’t being published elsewhere. It may sometimes include information on suggested referees, but this is normally provided when it is not given on the journal’s submission page. Whether or not a journal requires this letter, it’s always good to have one prepared, as it tells the journal that you’re serious about submitting your study for publication.
Figures and tables
You may have also noticed that published studies and theses include figures and tables where appropriate. If your table’s contents can be summarized using words, and if there’s not a lot of data being analyzed in a table, then opting not to use a table would be the better course of action. Once you’ve decided when to use and not use tables and figures, prepare them according to your target journal’s specifications. These consider font sizes, borders, image quality, and sizes, all of which can be found on the journal’s Author’s Guidelines page. In general, a table with only horizontal borders is usually accepted by journals, as do figures that meet a minimum of 300 or 600 dpi, depending on the type of image being used.
The second consideration is language. The way you present your paper is just as important as the information being presented. If you’re not able to convey your ideas correctly, you could lose your intended readership’s attention or cause confusion, and even not get published at all. Keeping a global audience in mind—beyond your Facebook friends—means adjusting your language or terminologies to ensure your readers can still follow your ideas and explanations. Though it isn’t readily apparent, slang words and appropriated loanwords are some examples of words that will likely cause language-related issues, especially if readers are unfamiliar with them. Unless these words are important within the context of the journal article, it would be best to use a more common and easily understood alternative. However, if the term is important, then a brief explanation in the article should be provided to help readers. In addition, journal articles are treated as formal academic texts, so the language used must reflect that.
Examples of slang include “ghosting,” “flex,” “mid,” etc., and even if finding a more formal alternative is recommended, it’s just as important to establish context to ensure your alternative word choice still makes sense. As for foreign loanwords, these are words borrowed from a different language that have been appropriated and used in a local context. For example, you can have instances of words in “Konglish” or English words that have been appropriated into Korean terms. English speakers usually don’t readily understand these and will have trouble following an explanation if such terms appear in the text. Some examples include “handphone” for “mobile phone” or “eye shopping” for “window shopping.” Other languages would have their country-specific loanwords, and identifying these words will help you revise or rewrite your thesis into a journal article for an international readership.
In addition, consider that when submitting your manuscript to a journal, you’re writing a study that should appeal to their readership. As such, it’s best to know who the journal’s readers are so you can identify how to go about writing your study. A good place to start is to ensure that your study caters to a global audience, even if your study will only apply to people from a specific country. Journals publish studies accessible through print or electronic sources; anyone who can access them could be a reader. It would be best to have a study written so that even a common person just browsing the web could understand it.
Likewise, it’s best to determine where a journal is published, as this would determine the type of English you should use when writing your article. A journal published in the UK would use British English, while a journal published in the USA would use American English. Differences in the type of English used should then reflect their readership. For example, the word “color” would be spelled as is in American English but would be spelled as “colour” in British English. It may seem insignificant, but journals will pay attention to this distinction, especially if it appears within their guidelines.
Now that you have a better understanding of the considerations that go into preparing a manuscript for publication in a journal, it’s now a matter of getting the job done. If things get too complex, you can read articles or watch videos that can help you. You can also consider availing of manuscript preparation services, and Journal Lab’s services can help you from content editing and formatting to choosing a journal and submission. Know more about Journal Lab today!