Tips for Publishing in Graduate School

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One skill that can be critical to the success of a graduate student is the ability to publish. We collected the following tips from experienced faculty who have guided students successfully into the publishing world. If getting published is one of your goals, these bits of advice will give you some insight on how to reach it.

Start early. It takes time to get a paper published. If you want to have an article accepted for publication by the time you complete your graduate program and begin interviewing for a job, plan to submit your work at least one year in advance. In some cases, it can take up to three years to get a paper accepted. The review process and the timing of the review process are things you can’t control.

Keep up with current literature and write down good ideas. Staying up to date with research and findings in your field is extremely important. While searching out your literature, skim abstracts (most are available for free), and, if they are truly relevant, think about paying to retrieve the entire article. You might find questions still unanswered in your subject matter worth investigating. When good ideas for papers come along for whatever reason, keep them in a lab book or computer file so you can return to your ideas when you have a chance.

Reserve time for research. Research and writing take a lot of time, and you may need to rearrange your calendar to get something done, If you schedule time for research, you’re more likely to get serious work completed. 

Get advice. Someone with knowledge and experience willing to critique your paper is invaluable. Your academic adviser is a great resource, but not the only one. Other faculty in your department or in your field of study at other institutions who are familiar with the current research can help you distinguish between good and bad ideas.

Think in terms of potential publications. Your master’s thesis or dissertation can be reworked and turned into one or more journal articles. Seminar papers can make good articles if you suggest new data based on original field research. Papers presented at conferences might lead directly to publication because people attending the same conference or in the audience listening to you may be funders, future employers, publishers or editors. Other benefits of presenting at a conference include learning about current research, trading ideas, and introductions to senior researchers and other students in your field –who also may become future collaborators.

Collaborate. Co-author an article with a professor who is working on an interesting project. Offer your services in return for a junior authorship. Co-author with another student who also needs to become an author; sharing the workload of the project benefits you both. You might even find co-authors who could become lifelong colleagues and collaborators.

Know your statistics and methodology. Sometimes research articles will hold up or fail on the basis of the methodology and statistical analyses. Get to know your institution’s statistical consultant or statistical department. At UNL, the Nebraska Evaluation and Research (NEAR) Center consults with faculty and graduate students to promote sound statistical, measurement and research methodology. See their web site at cehs.unl.edu/near/

Invest in writing skills. Read and keep these resources on hand for consultation: The Elements of Style by W. Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White and On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

Get the paper ready for review. Read for punctuation, spelling and grammar. If your first language is not English, have an English speaking person proofread for you to catch and correct errors. Grammar problems or typos may lead the reader to think that if you are careless or sloppy with the structure of the paper, your research and analysis are also careless and sloppy.

Get your work reviewed before submission. Get good criticism about your writing and the organization of the paper, and revise it repeatedly until you have addressed all comments.

Find a journal to publish in. New journals are good publishing prospects because they attract fewer submissions than established ones and accept a higher percentage of those they receive. Rank the journals in your area of study. Look for special opportunities to publish, such as calls for papers and special issues of journals that invite submissions. And be sure your topic is relevant to the journal’s focus.

Sources:

Preacher, K.J. 2003. Publishing in graduate school, tips for new graduate students, Association for Psychological Science Observer, www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/getArticle.cfm?id=1243.

Stearns, S.C. 2003. Some modest advice for graduate students, Yale University, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology,
www.eeb.yale.edu/stearns/advice.htm.

Tips on publishing in graduate school. August 2008. Brains. philosophyofbrains.com/2008/08/08/tips-on-publishing-ingraduate-school.aspx