When it comes to writing and getting published in peer-reviewed journals, there are 5 myths that often raise reluctance and uncertainty and hold back new researchers.
Myth 1: It needs tons of hours to develop a manuscript that is good enough to be accepted for a peer-reviewed journal.
It depends on multiple factors–how familiar you are with the topic of your manuscript and academic writing style, how much literature you’ve read and reviewed, how the data look like, etc. You will have to set a reasonable timeline and devote a chunk of time to writing.
If you are a first-time writer, you will probably need more time. My first manuscript took me a semester (4-5 months) to complete, including study plan, data collection and analysis, and writing/submission. But don’t get me wrong, I did not use every minute to work on this (with four other courses and TA work).
The key point is to set a goal and stay focused. It is the efficiency and planning, not the amount of time, that really matters.
Myth 2. If I don’t want to be a professor, there is no need to publish in peer-reviewed journals.
Publishing in peer-reviewed journals is a prestigious way of sharing important scientific findings. If you have some great research ideas and interesting findings, presenting those in a peer-reviewed journal is a great way to share the information with the scientific community. Otherwise, you will never know who might be interested in you topic, who may use your study as a framework for their interventions, or who will start from there to continue the exploration.
Besides, even if you are not pursuing a faculty position, publishing in a peer-reviewed journal allows you to build a reputation and make you and your organization part of the community of experts in certain areas.
Myth 3. Unless it is published in Nature or Science, few people will notice my work anyway.
Most peer-reviewed journals are indexed in online databases such as ScienceDirect, JSTOR, PubMed, etc. People usually search articles by keywords instead of journal titles. If you use appropriate keywords and your content is of interests to others, your article will attract readers.
Now everybody (well, almost) uses Google. Your articles are quite likely to be found from their general searching results or their Google Scholar results.
Do you know there is a social network site named ResearchGate that allows researchers to share papers, request collaboration, and ask and answer questions? Create an account and post your paper there. People will find it!
Of course, you can also post the manuscript link on your personal website, blog, LinkedIn, and other social media.
The bottom line–whether people will be able to find your article should be the last thing that concerns you when you plan a manuscript. Articles with good content will always have readers!
Myth 4. I have not published anything before, the editor and reviewers are more likely to reject my work.
The peer-review process treats everyone equally. It is the quality of the content and writing that helps you win the success, not your previous publication record.
Peer-reviewed journals usually use double-blind review, which means the reviewers do not know who the authors are and authors do not know who reviewed their submissions. Some journals do use single-blind review–reviewers know who the authors are, not vice versa. Reviewers need to review and provide scores for the paper based on standard criteria.
With that said, you probably do face more challenges in getting your first paper published, but that is mainly because of lack of experience and lack of familiarity with the peer-reviewed process. We’ve all been there before. Practice makes perfect.
Myth 5. I need to be a data guru first, then write the manuscript.
Not necessarily, although expertise in data work gives you advantages.
There is a type of articles in peer-reviewed journals called review articles, where you don’t need to report any new data; instead, you analyze and discuss published research on a certain topic. Most common review articles are a literature review and systematic review.
Even if you do want to write a research paper that needs results based on new data but you do not have the required data analysis skills, you can find a collaborate who can run data analysis and report results for this study. Invite that person to be your co-author for his/her contribution. A lot of scientific work is collaborative work.
Are you ready to share your knowledge with the world? Don’t let those myths stop you. What other concerns you have about writing for peer-reviewed journals? Leave your comments below. It will give me ideas about what to include in my future posts.