Best Tips for Publishing Research: Advice from Global Researchers

Here are tips from other researchers on how to overcome different challenges when publishing your research.

Updated on October 30, 2017

researchers prepare proposal content for article submission

Previously, we hosted a competition, The Publishing Method, and we asked researchers across the globe what they found to be challenging when publishing their work, as well as advice for overcoming these challenges.

We received hundreds of responses, and they were great.

Instead of keeping this helpful advice to ourselves, we wanted to share it with other researchers who may be able to use and benefit from it when going through the process of publishing their research. We have included the top suggestions we received in this article, and we would like to thank everyone who submitted their advice.

In addition, we want to congratulate Dr. Pedro Morouço from Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Portugal as the winner of The Publishing Method competition! His research, previously in sports performance and now in biomechanics and engineering, centers around the development of biofabrication of optimized structures for osteoarthritis. To learn more about his research, you may visit his website.

Top 5 Tips from Researchers for Publishing Your Manuscript

1. Share your work with some of your colleagues (preferably from various disciplines), who are not afraid of truly criticizing you. Submitted by Pedro Morouço, Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Portugal, winner of The Publishing Method.

What is the challenge or barrier you observed in the publishing process?

The major challenge is that Science should be made to reach a wide audience. Thus, most of the scientific journals are asking for take-away messages that can be understood by a wider audience than only by experts on the field. While it may seem difficult it is a very important step that all researchers should keep in mind, opening new possibilities for multidisciplinary approaches.

How did you solve this problem to achieve a positive outcome?

When preparing the first draft, I try to elaborate some infographics that will help me to keep the manuscript clear and concise. Then, when the manuscript is in a final draft I ask for 3 evaluations using a Likert scale (1 – not easy to understand the scope and impact of the manuscript; to 5 – very clear to understand the scope and impact of the manuscript).

These evaluations are requested to colleagues from different disciplines. For example, a last manuscript focusing on Sport Biomechanics was assessed by a colleague of Psychology, one from Nutrition and one from Engineering. If the result is that the scope and impact are not as clear as I intended (values 1 to 3) I asked them more details to improve the quality of the manuscript.

2. A well-written manuscript is based on a clear understand of the key message of the manuscript. This key message should tell to the reader a "story" with a beginning (Introduction), middle (Materials and Methods), end (Results) and the moral of the “story” (Discussion and conclusion), focused on this message. Submitted by Marcus Vincius Nascimento Ferreira, School of Medicine, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

What is the challenge or barrier you observed in the publishing process?

Several scientific articles are published every day, however most readers have no time to read everything that is published. Consequently, the scientific journals work to improve the reach and acceptability of their articles in the scientific community, promoting a competition among manuscripts. Only 5 to 10% of the manuscripts received by the journals with good impact factor are published (or accepted for publication).

But what about us, the scientific writers? How can we improve the probability of our “story” to be read or published? It is simple! We need a good “story”, based on a concise and clear message. Although this idea sounds logical, a common problem that we (scientific writers) face is to summarize our complex work into a manuscript, since we usually handle with several major findings.

How did you solve this problem to achieve a positive outcome?

I have some advice that may help scientists improve their scientific writing and the probability of having their work published.

First step. Before you start your paper: 1st Describe your work to a friend, relative, or a neighbor, for no longer than one minute. You should keep the focus in the key points of your work. 2nd Write down three to five key points of your work. 3rd Summarize your work in no more than one sentence.

Second step. Now that you have the “story” and the key message of your work clear in your mind, you can start your manuscript. After that, you should read the text at least twice, asking yourself the following questions: 1st “Is this information relevant to tell my story”? 2nd Is this information relevant to transmit the key message of my work?” You should pay close attention to these questions in each topic of your manuscript (e.g., introduction, material and methods, discussion). If your answer is positive, keep the information in the text; if not, simply delete it. After this work, your “story” will be clearer and your text more concise.

3. Aligning your well-written manuscript to the scope of your target journal will reduce chances of manuscript rejection. Submitted by Barbara Kabai Burmen, Kenya Medical Research Institute Center for Global Health Research, Kenya.

What is the challenge or barrier you observed in the publishing process?

One of the challenges I have faced in the publishing process is journal selection. Identifying a journal to submit when you publish in implementation science is usually difficult since it this is a cross-cutting field that may fall somewhere between the biological sciences and social sciences.

I would wish to illustrate this using an experience we had trying to get one of our papers published. We worked on the analysis of routine programmatic laboratory data to illustrate the successes of different quality assurance process on improving the quality of results, for over six months which then took three months undergoing institutional clearance processes for approval for publication.

Once we were ready to submit the paper, we had challenges finding this paper a home. We submitted this paper to five different journals in succession to conform to publication regulations. The first journal took over 6 months to get back to us with a rejection after external peer review; the paper was not a proper fit for the journal.

The second journal selected recommended a more laboratory-based journal, the third journal, more suited to health policies, said it does not fit the current needs of the journal and fourth journal, suited to quality in health care, gave a desk rejection since the paper did not meet sufficient priority to send for external peer review.

We also made numerous informal enquiries to different journals editors in order to avoid the tedious work of reformatting the manuscript to suite different journal requirements. Some of these emails to editors also went unanswered. In desperation, we submitted the paper to the next available journal which accepted it as is. We were then informed by that the journal we chose that finally published the paper was likely to be a predatory journal. It is unfortunate we may have to exclude the evidence of all the hard work we put in and the excellent performance of our programs from our resumes.

How did you solve this problem to achieve a positive outcome?

I have identified different methods of improving the journal selection process to ensure the topic in the manuscript is a close-fit to the journal's priorities. I have used a web-based journal selector to choose a journal for my manuscript. This selector ask.jane helped me to select Nursing Ethics journal where our paper was reviewed and accepted for review after the first revision.

I have also asked more senior scientists to recommend a paper to submit our manuscripts to; two different colleague suggested AIDS Care AIDS Care and International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases where both papers were both accepted after revision based on peer-review comments.

You cannot underrate the benefits of reading widely about your proposed topic. Having read publications about Human Resources for Health on Pubmed that includes millions of citations from biomedical literature which is my field, I thought it was a suitable journal for my publication.

Additionally, I also took this course on Ecole Polytechnique that gave tips on journal selection that included looking at the editorial board of the paper and what they have published, comparing the articles published in that journal to yours to see any similarities and whether it is possible to reference some of them.

The course also suggested looking through the reference lists of articles published in your target journal and see if you may have referenced some of them. I used these suggestions to improve the acceptability of my manuscript to Human Resources for Health. I have also taken various scientific research writing courses, and I make it a point to always attend workshops on scientific writing during conferences since there is always something new to learn.

4. All authors of a manuscript are responsible towards what is being reported, thus be committed and let's write and publish high quality articles! Submitted by LIM Seng Joe, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Malaysia.

What is the challenge or barrier you observed in the publishing process?

I have been reviewing quite a number of manuscripts assigned by reputable journals with high impact factors, and from my observation, the main reason of manuscripts being rejected is due to the manuscripts being poorly written, with inconsistency of writing, incoherent paragraphs and sequence of subtopics, and poor use of language. Inconsistencies are observed when different terminologies referring to the same thing are used throughout the manuscript, eg., a particular sample is being referred as “raw”, while the same sample is being labeled as “crude” in the subsequent paragraphs, which in some cases, confuse the readers.

Also, some paragraphs and subtopics are written in such a way that the previous paragraph/subtopic and the subsequent paragraph/subtopic do not have a logical sequence. A poorly written manuscript could also be due to the poor use of language, where the readers could not understand the message that the authors were trying to convey.

How did you solve this problem to achieve a positive outcome?

In order to have a manuscript being properly written, once the draft has been completed, all the authors need to sit down, go through and edit the draft together; rather than editing it individually and then compile. During the editing session, all authors can give opinion and discuss the best approach of writing the manuscript. This saves time and in some cases, resources, as it reduces waiting time (especially when there are too many co-authors) and eliminates the need to individually printing out the draft for editing (saving resources).

5. The complexities of publishing interprofessional/interdisciplinary research are best solved by a documented collaborative effort involving pre and post research group brainstorming followed by a definite action plan which perfectly delivers the essence of this research project in the proposed journal. Submitted by Geethanjali Bhas, International Medical School, MSU, Malaysia.

What is the challenge or barrier you observed in the publishing process?

The current challenge for me is in publishing research which is of a interdisciplinary or interprofessional nature. Interdisciplinary research articles span various disciplines such as medicine and engineering/technology or biology with a humanities component, etc. Such articles have a mix of methodological approaches in the research techniques and statistical techniques along with multiple authors of diverse disciplines and peer reviewers.

The complex challenges with such publications include finding the best journal with a broad scope and crafting the research projects as per the guidelines of the selected journal within the approved word limit without losing valuable insight gained by the different disciplines.

How did you solve this problem to achieve a positive outcome?

Solutions to the problem begin with a documented plan which begins by brainstorming with co-authors before the start of the project and after completion to identify which journals are best suited to publish the interdisciplinary/interprofessional research work. This requires researching about the previous publications and scope.

It should also address areas of concern as identified by the subject experts along with broader insight of the project by the entire project team. Further to this, a collaborative action plan is developed by the research group to identify key findings and methodology which must be included in the publications and areas which need pruning.

Peer review and publicationAuthor ResourcesPublishing processManuscript submissionWriting a manuscriptJournal submission
Table of contents
FacebookTwitterLinkedInCopy linkEmail
Join the newsletter
Sign up for early access to AJE Scholar articles, discounts on AJE services, and more

See our "Privacy Policy"