Publications are key to a successful academic career. Across the world, formal or informal criteria of academic promotion mostly take into account publishing achievements (have a look here for recent article on detailed studies on academic careers in the biomedical sciences, that I think, in this case, are not an exception). You have to publish to be promoted. In the humanities and social sciences there still exists a strong tendency to focus all professional efforts on writing and publishing monographs, although all academics publish papers and it is an important way for all of them to gain promotion, prestige and “points”.
Where to publish a paper?
You write and publish a paper not only for your satisfaction, but also to achieve your professional goals. Thus you should publish in the best and most prestigious journal available to you. This does not mean that there is only one journal that all scientists should send their papers too. There are at least few steps that you should consider when choosing a journal to publish a paper:
1) Consider the publication of your paper in one of the journals that you use frequently in your everyday work. This is a good step for at least these three factors:
– relevancy: your work will be rejected without peer-review if editors judge it not to be relevant to the topic of their journal. The journals you read and cite are probably the most relevant to your topic.
– audience: people who read the same journals as you have similar research interests, thus they will also be interested in your work. This means that you are more likely to be not only read, but also remembered and cited.
– quality: you do not read pseudo-science. Do you?
If you are not very familiar with publications in your field try to change it. You can learn about how to find interesting Open Access papers in this post. I think it is good idea to read a little before you decide to publish a paper.
2) Think about the criteria of promotion in your country or university. We live in a time of quantitative efficiency measures. In some countries the journal Impact Factor is a crucial criterion for judging scientists’ achievement. In Poland, for instance, there is a special list of journals that determine how many “points” an academic author receives for publication in a particular journal and it is based on the Impact Factor, but not exclusively. Thus, it is important to know your regional or institutional regulations. Choose a journal that will be the most appropriate to them.
3) Check whether the journal you are about to choose offers immediate Open Access publishing (is it an Open Access journal?). It is almost certain that Open Access increases your chances to gain citations (most recent article about this subject is here) and to make your work more accessible to all parties. If the journal you have chosen is not an Open Access one, check whether it offers the opportunity to pay some extra money to open-up your particular article, however do not be surprised if it is a very expensive option.
If you would like to publish a paper in a conventional journal it is clever to check (here) what is the green Open Access policy of this journal. Some journals offer the possibility to publish the peer-reviewed version of your article on your website or in an on-line repository. The problem is that very often self-archiving is only allowed after an embargo period, which is about one year.
For more about the advantages and disadvantages of so called green and gold Open Access read here. Anyway I think you should avoid leaving your work behind a paywall, available only for selected readers. Accessibility is a benefit to you.
ATTENTION: Sometimes Open Access might be required by your institution or by the funder of your research!
4) If you are about to choose an Open Access journal check whether you will be asked to pay an Article Processing Charge (APC) and how much it is. Some journals charge this, others not. Check whether your institution is likely to cover an APC. If you are currently searching for funding for your research, find a funder that will cover APCs (have a look at my posts in the ‘open access funding’ section). This will give you more freedom.
5) If you have decided to publish a paper in a journal that you do not know very well, make sure that it is worth submitting your work there. Read a few articles published in it, and have a look at the editorial board. Search for some opinions about it on-line and ask your friends. If it is an Open Access journal check if it is listed on Jeffrey Beall’s list of predatory publishers or standalone predatory journals (if it is, run away!).
Following these steps you should be able to make a good choice.
Write a manuscript
Write it after you choose a journal and familiarize yourself with the ‘guidelines for authors’ that are usually available on the journal website. It may consider the format of references and bibliography as more general advice. Sometimes it is good idea to read a few articles published in the journal you have chosen to get to know what are the habits of its authors and editors. To publish a paper you must fulfill the strict norms set by the editors and reviewers that the scientific content follows. These rules are slightly different in each subfield, thus reading a journal you would like to submit your work to, is the most clever way of familiarize yourself with them. You may also think a litle bit how to write a paper to make it more discoverable for search engines (have a look here)
Remember to avoid plagiarism! Cite all the sources you have used working on your text.
Submit a paper
Submit it to the journal you have chosen (only to one journal, submitting the same paper to multiple journals is not accepted!) and wait for the decision. What will be next? You can read what the editorial process looks like in a post by Kamil Mizera “How to publish a paper in Open Access – an editorial process?” (Considering publication in Open Access journals, which is in fact not very different from the editorial process for conventional journals). Some information on the publishing process after peer review is also available here.