Top Ten Tips to Getting your Precious Paper Published

Celebration 2

I was 26 years old and just started in academia; I was awaiting the results for my masters and was writing my first research article. Of course, I wanted to do a good job, but what a challenge! Even though I read how many papers while working on my own masters, I just did not get it. I still remember the introduction – it sounded like the opening paragraph of a novel. It was going forwards and backwards between myself and my supervisors with track changes everywhere. And when I look back now… my poor supervisors. I really felt despondent at a stage. I always saw myself as talented, but this publication thing was really daunting and getting the better of me. I spent many many many hours on this paper and it felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. And then, you know that very first acceptance email that you get from an editor… that feeling made all the effort worth its while!

Another thing happened inside me: I realised that if I use my experience to assist others to get their work published, then it will make all those hours that I spent on my first paper even more meaningful. It will mean that those hours did not just produce a single publication, but that they produced multiple publications from many who will walk this road after me. And that is why I decided to turn my experience into something concrete. To export the files in my head into formats that are accessible to you, so that you can spend your precious time wisely elsewhere. These files can be found on and on the Research Masterminds YouTube channel.

Now, let’s say your data are analysed and you are ready to share your results with the world. Let me give you a glimpse into my top ten tips to getting your precious paper published:

1. Model others

Download some published papers in your area of research or papers that have used a similar study design as yours, even better if you can download a few papers published in the journal you are aiming for. Model what works, and once you are done, (you and) your work will be a role model for others. Take note of the difference between modelling and copying – refer to tip number 4 for clarity on this one.

2. Be strategic

There is no need to start writing the research article from top to bottom i.e. first the title, then the abstract, then the introduction… and so on. On this Research Masterminds YouTube Playlist, you will find an ideal order, explained step-by-step, that works very well starting with deciding on the focus, then choosing a journal, building an outline, constructing the method section, and so on.

3. Read the guide for authors

Read the journal’s instructions to authors thoroughly and carefully comply with the requirements. It is a deflating feeling to get a paper back two hours after you submitted, in other words, two hours into your celebrations, with a request from the editor to “please add line numbers and resubmit”.

4. Never copy and paste

This is dangerous! Don’t ever copy and paste text into your article, not even if you are planning to remove it later on. I have heard so many horrible stories about accidental plagiarism. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

5. Stick to the focus

At times, we end up with a lot of data and not all of that data will fit into one single paper. Decide on the message that you want to convey to your reader and once you formulated an objective, make sure that you align all sections to your objective. Formulate the focus early on and remind yourself of that throughout the journey.

6. Make daily progress

Chances are that you won’t finish the process in one day and you’ll probably work on it over a few weeks or months, depending on the time you have available. Don’t leave the paper unattended to for more than one day. The longer you don’t work on it, the more difficult it is to get back into it and the easier it becomes to procrastinate to tomorrow or the day after or next week…

7. Note down the next steps at the end of today

When it's time to call it a day, write down the next steps in the form of micro-to-do items such as “download two articles on prevalence of injury” or “revise method section” or “format Table 3”. This way, you will know exactly where you will kick-off when you open your laptop tomorrow. When I don’t know where to start, I am much more likely to procrastinate. Having this list of next steps available will help you to get started immediately, especially if you suddenly gets given the gift of time - even if it is only 30min. That 30min that you work on your paper brings you 30min closer to your submission date (and thus 30min closer to the celebrations).

8. Face “writer’s block” head-on

When you get stuck, close your laptop and go and do something that you love – not for too long though – take a walk in the garden, drink a cup of tea, take a refreshing shower or have a chat with your housemates. When you get back, open a blank document and just start typing or writing. I often get stuck with the discussion and taking a short break helps clear my busy brain and gets my thoughts out on paper.

9. Create impact

Consider this for a moment: is it enough to publish your research in a peer-reviewed journal? Yes, publishing is a must so that others can find your work, but are there other ways that you can boost the level of impact? What about sharing your results through a series of presentations to stakeholders, or a handout or infographic, or…? You will know your research area and the potential areas of impact best. Go for it! Change the world!

10. Add value to the lives of others

Once you have been through this experience, find ways to guide others through this daunting process. Share what you have learnt and empower others to get their work out there.

The Research Masterminds website and YouTube channel are useful resources to get going. You can follow the Publishing your Research guide step-by-step. Download it and keep it by your side as you navigate through the publication journey. Complete one step before you move onto the next. And enjoy every step of the way.

These Top Ten Tips To Getting Your Precious Paper Published can also be found in a video recorded by Technology Networks.

If you are a (post)graduate student working on a masters or doctoral research project, and you are passionate about life, adamant about completing your studies successfully and ready to get a head-start on your academic career, this opportunity is for you! Join our awesome membership site - a safe haven offering you coaching, community and content to boost your research experience and productivity. Check it out!


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