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Write-up and publication

Completing the write-up

There is little point in doing research if you don’t let others know what you have discovered. The Scholarly Project requires a 3000 – 5000 word write-up, which is similar in length to a moderately long journal article.

If you have put together a well-organised research proposal, a large percentage of your work is done already. You need to be able to revise the introduction and methods as necessary, present your results in a clear fashion, and discuss the results in light of the existing literature, placing your own research in the context of the work of others.

When beginning your write-up (even at the research proposal stage), it is strongly recommended that you consider using a reference manager such as Endnote or Refman. These programs will help you index and manage your bibliography and save you time.

A few notes on publication

The process of publishing your work in a peer-reviewed journal is a long and arduous one, and often fraught with frustration. Depending on the journal, as many as 75% of unsolicited manuscripts will be returned without review, so rejection is the norm rather than the exception.

The following tips will help to maximise your paper’s impact at the editorial office:

  • Pick the journal you submit to very carefully. Read a selection of their articles to determine whether they are interested in the area you are working in.
  • Always read the Instructions for Authors for the journal you are submitting to, and follow the guidelines closely.
  • A short, pithy, positive title for the paper is important. Some journals hate two-part titles: separated by a colon. Others dislike questions in the title. Skim the titles of articles in the journal you intend to submit to.
  • Make sure the conclusion in the abstract is interesting and relevant; this is the first thing people read after the title.
  • Similarly, the first paragraph of the discussion section should contain a summary of the findings and an indication of their importance. This is also an early stop when people read your paper.
  • Put as much detail into the results section of your abstract as you can fit.
  • The keywords you pick for your paper will help your paper’s searchability on Medline, so don’t neglect these.
  • The literature list is important for a number of reasons. Editors will sometimes look for reviewers from your references. Also, it is a sad fact that citing a number of papers from the journal in question will help your chances of getting published, as this increases the journal’s impact factor.

Other tips

  • Reviewing papers for a journal is a good, if time-consuming, process which will help you improve your own scientific writing. See if you can review a paper under your supervisor’s direction. It never hurts your chances of acceptance in a journal if you are a known reviewer by that journal.
  • Always be polite and respectful in your dealings with a journal’s editorial office. Do not ask for special treatment.
  • If your paper gets as far as peer review, you will almost certainly be inundated by criticisms of your article and requests for changes. If the chance arises to revise your paper, accept! You have done better than 75% of manuscripts so far, and are still in with an opportunity to publish. Respond to any reviewer’s concerns with polite, detailed, point-by-point discussion and follow their recommendations as much as possible. Thank your reviewers for the time they have taken to read through your paper thoroughly.
  • If your paper is rejected, make sure that you go through the process of reading the Instructions for Authors at the next journal you submit to. Rewrite your cover letter, reword the abstract if need be, reorganise structure according to the journal’s requirements and revise the referencing style to that of the new journal (your reference management software will make this job a lot easier). Resubmitting a paper without bothering to change these elements will harm your chances at acceptance.

Useful research links