The 4-Step Guide That Will Get Your Research Published
Research Writing

The 4-Step Guide That Will Get Your Research Published

Monali Ghosh
Monali Ghosh

You’ve spent months and years working on your research project, sometimes sacrificing a good night’s sleep and, often, backing out of events you really wanted to go to. Finally it’s time…to get your research published!


The scholarly publishing industry is huge and there are thousands of journals for researchers to choose from. However, given the scary high rejection rates of submission in peer-reviewed journals and the 6–12 months time taken to get published, how do you know which journal is your best bet?

Here are a few steps that you can take to significantly improve your chances of getting published:

1. Browse legit journals

As of 2015, the academic publishing market had an annual revenue of $20.5 Billion. This revenue has grown tremendously over the last two years. Consequently, this growth has given rise to a large number of predatory publishers who try to scam early-career researchers in return for getting their research published. Unfamiliar with the process of research publishing and attracted by the prospect of getting published sooner than thought, early- career researchers often fall prey to these publishers.

You can take a few measures to avoid getting scammed by these predatory journals:

  • Stay wary of unsolicited calls /emails — Reputable publishers don’t make cold calls or send unsolicited emails seeking submissions. It is mainly scammers who get access researchers’ details via Google Scholar, etc. and then do cold reach-outs.
  • Use Jeffrey Beall’s list : Jeffrey Beall built this list of predatory journals and publishers. If you find a publisher suspicious, check if their name appears on this list. If it does, be sure that you’re being mugged. Hence, stay away.
  • Non-indexed journals: PubMed, JSTOR, SCOPUS, SHERPA, and DOJA ( Directory of Open Journal Access ) are some of the popular databases of authentic journals. If you are unsure about a publisher’s authenticity, check if their journal is listed on these databases.
  • Non-clarity on APC ( Article Processing Charge)– Most Open Access journals charge APC. This is a definite fee about which you can find information on the journal’s website. However, predatory journals often falter while quoting APC or their websites or do not have a proper APC break-down.

Read more about identifying legitimate journals.

2. Choose the best-fit journal

Allaying your fears of being scammed by a predatory publisher is just step one towards getting your research published. The real test of your efforts starts at submission, when your paper is reviewed. This is the stage where most papers are rejected for not complying to a journals’ formatting guidelines. Each journal has its own formatting, styling and referencing guidelines. Failing to comply with these leads to rejection.

One common mistake that early-career researchers make is that they write a paper first and then decide the journal to get published in. Another mistake they make is to aim for the highest-ranked journal in their field for publication. This naturally increases the chances of rejection for first-timers.

Quality and reputation of journals matter. However, credibility of journals and getting accepted faster is of prime importance.

So a much better approach is to:

  1. Write a list of journals in the area of your research. You can use your university’s library search or the internet to find the journals.
  2. Once the list is ready, re-organize it according to the journals’ relevance and quality.
  3. Check if the journals on your list have published on your specific topic in the past.
  4. Look through your references and bibliography to see if your sources come from one or more of the journals on your list.

Together, points 3 and 4, should give you a good idea of the journals you should approach to maximize your chances of getting published.

3. Understand the submission process

As mentioned earlier, not complying with the guidelines of a journal is one of the most common reasons why research papers get rejected. Once you have decided the journal you want to publish in, visit the journal’s website and read through their guidelines. Almost all journals have a different submission process.

The guidelines of each journal tend to vary across the following details:

  • Minimum and maximum length of the article
  • Referencing
  • Formatting (includes space, font, margin, headings etc)
  • British (or Australian)/American English
  • Choice of medium –electronic, hard copy, or both

Use SciSpace (Formerly Typeset) to ensure that your paper is 100% compliant to journal guidelines.

Some submission advice

While submitting your article for publication make sure that you are submitting it to only one journal at a time, as most journals would refuse to consider an article for publication if it’s considered for publication in other journals. Most publications require researchers to declare that their work is not being considered for publishing in other journals.

Some journals only accept hard copy submissions through the post, while some only accept electronic submissions (in .doc, .docx), while others may require you to submit in both formats. It is, therefore, critical to read the submission guidelines carefully on the journal’s website.

4. Write a convincing journal cover letter

The role of a cover letter is to convince an editor that your research work is worth publishing in their journal. Hence, it is highly important that you write the letter with as much sincerity as you would write your manuscript text.

Here are some tips that you can use while writing the cover letter for your journal submission:

  1. If possible, find out the name of the editor and address her by name. You can find out the name of the editor through the journal’s online submission system. This information is generally public.
  2. In the first and the second paragraph of the cover letter state the name of your manuscript, include the names of the author/s, describe the reason behind your interest in the research work you have done, and the major findings from your research. Additionally, you can refer to prior work or the previous articles that you have published.
  3. In the next paragraph, address the aim and scope of the journal. Write how your work contributes to the aim of the journal and falls within the scope of their scientific coverage. Also mention why your work would be valuable for their readers.
  4. Finally, conclude the letter with statements that tell the editor that your manuscript is original and that no part of it is under consideration for publication elsewhere. A few journals also seek researchers to submit a list of the reviewers to whom your article can be sent for review. If the journal requests so, you should include the list in the concluding part the letter.

Once submitted, peer-review can take as long as six months. This primarily depends on how a publication has set up its peer-review process. A few publications have a two-stage review process wherein an editor first reviews articles to decide if they are worthy of peer-review. If your article passes this test, it’s then sent to a reviewer or a group of reviewers (these are academics from the field that you have written your article in). This process can take several months and you would, finally, get an email or a letter from the journal stating their decision.

If the journal decides to not publish your article, you would get the reviewer’s report and comments on your work. If you don’t, you can request to get them. This will help you improve your article before you send it to another journal for consideration.

It’s rare that a researcher’s work is accepted in the first attempt. However, most of the time it is not their research work, but the neglect researchers show while approaching publishers and presenting their research that fails them. If you perfect the approach you use to reach editors, you may get your research published in your first attempt!

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