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May SPSPotlight: Grad Hack

Publishing Like a Pro

By Benjamin N. Johnson, GSC Member-at-Large

For many of us, publications might feel like everything.  Here are 5 tips for getting pubs and making the most out of your writing.

  1. Don’t let anything go to waste.  Remember that midterm you wrote for that research methods class last semester?  Why let it languish in your dusty file cabinet?  Pick it up, refurbish it, and find a journal or another venue that might be interested in it.  Even if you submit it and get rejected, you’ve already written the paper so the cost of submitting is minimal.

  2. Don’t let rejection get you down.  We’ve all felt it: you get that “Decision on your manuscript” email and your heart sinks when you start to read “We regret to inform you...”.  But publishing is like applying to grad school: it’s all about fit.  That manuscript that gets rejected from one journal might be the best manuscript another journal has ever seen; you just have to get it to them.  If you get a rejection and it’s not worth trying to pursue with Journal A (see #3 below), fix it up based on the reviewers’ comments and submit it Journal B, then C, then D till it finds its academic home.

  3. Know when to say “No.”  Often a journal editor will send you back feedback from reviewers that he or she considers to be a death knell for your manuscript, although you realize perhaps you just didn’t explain your points well enough and the reviewers misunderstood.  If you think a paper is fixable, don’t necessarily take a rejection letter at face value.  Write the editor back with a considerate response, explaining how you feel your manuscript is still quite valuable to be considered for publication.  As long as you’re respectful in the process, you’ve got nothing to lose and a potential chance to resubmit to gain.

  4. Don’t forget quality for quantity.  Sure, having 10 publications as you’re leaving grad school is better than 5.  But impact factors have an impact.  If you’re applying to an academic job, not only are faculty on job search committees going to count the number of publications you have, but they’re also going to take into account the reputations of the journals you’ve submitted them to.  Always start by submitting your manuscripts to the journals with the highest impact factor/best reputation first.  If you get rejected, you can always move a step down.

  5. Take advantage of special issues. You can always submit an article to a journal through the normal peer-review process, but keep your eyes open for calls for special issue submissions.  Sometimes you have a paper that fits perfectly with the goals of the call and submitting to a special issue 1) gives you a concrete deadline for submission that can be quite motivating, and 2) usually results in more people reading and citing your published article than if you were submitting through the normal process.
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