Tips on getting published in an academic journal: ‘Editor and Author Meet Up’ webinar

This blog post reviews the recent “ALT ELESIG Editor and Author Meet Up” webinar which invited editors from four academic journals to talk about their journal’s policies, procedures, feedback processes and their own experiences of submitting. The aim of the session was to help demystify and help humanise the process of submitting articles to journal. Editors know from their own experiences some of the issues facing authors and can offer advice and encouragement to potential authors help smooth what is inevitably a bumpy, long but rewarding journey. The session also connected to ALT ELESIG’s current pilot scholar scheme which is supporting those wishing to research and publish in the area of technology and learning.

The speakers were:

  • Andy Townsend, Associate Professor in Educational Leadership at the University of Nottingham. He is the Coordinating editor of the journal Educational Action Research  which publishes articles based often on small scale action research studies, practitioner research or examples of learning from reflective practice.
  • Brett Bligh, co-Director of the Centre for Technology Enhanced Learning at University of Lancaster is co-editor of Studies in Technology Enhanced Learning open access journal which aims to provide a lively forum for debate and reflection on a wide range of issues connected with technology enhanced learning in disparate settings and to provide a space for ongoing conversation and debate rather than tidy consensus.
  • Tunde Varga-Atkins and Dr Simon Thomson from University of Liverpool. Tünde is an editor of Research in Learning Technology and associate editor of Developing Academic Practice journals.
  • Michael Flavin, is an academic at King’s College London and the interim editor-in-chief of Research in Learning Technology.

Useful to see editors as ‘real people’

Writing up and seeking publication in a journal can be a long and dispiriting process. Many journals will provide feedback which is usually anonymized and will come across as critical of the work that you have invested many hours of your personal time. The session worked well in terms of demystifying and humanizing the process of submitting research to journals.  All the editors talked about their own research and the difficulties of getting published. They are busy people that take on these unpaid roles on top of their normal workload and recognise how crushed an author can feel from peer review comments they receive. They also discussed many of the mistakes that authors make that can lead to rejection.

Find the right journal

A key process is finding the right journal. This should be done as early in the process as possible. There were suggestions of:

  • Looking through the references in your paper to see if there were any reoccurring journal titles.
  • Using tools such as to identify the most likely journal.
  • Some journals publish special issues such as the way the Studies in Technology Enhanced Learning journal works. They allow authors to submit abstracts for consideration before fully developing their paper. This process can provide early feedback on an idea you are considering writing more about.

First impressions – Strong title and abstract

Editors have to look at many papers, and it is a human trait that they will begin to judge your paper on the very first elements, the title and abstract. They are thinking of whether the subject is appropriate for their audience and meets their quality standards. Suggestions included:

  • Never have any spelling mistakes in these areas (or in any other sections) it gives a very bad impression.
  • Make sure these elements fit with the acceptance criteria of the journal, busy editors find it dispiriting the number of articles submitted that clearly have not read about the journal they are submitting to.

It’s not a report it’s an argument

When writing up a research project it is easy to slip into a type of review of the project rather than concentrating on what it is that you really want to say about the project. Try to move away from recounting what happened during the project and its details to what the argument it is that you are making, that the project contributes to in terms of new knowledge or ideas. Taking the idea of an argument allows you to present what we previously thought about something and how this might support or contradict that.

Make a friend of failure – hopefully not a permanent friend 🙂

Try to accept that you will get rejections, and that rejections are an important part of the process. It is your colleagues trying to share their knowledge and help you shape your research practice. Try to think about the people that read your paper, the time they gave up to do that and write feedback. The process may help direct you to the area of research that you will be more successful in or change the way you think or carry out research. Remember there is a vast range of academic journals to submit to that will look at your work from very different perspectives. Don’t forget that all those at the journal that read your submission have been on a similar journey.

If you liked this you might be interested in our other blogs

There is also this Blog post on six ideas to improve your research skills

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