How to write an article for an academic journal?

Writing articles for academic journals is not a simple task. Even if you are a specialist and have a worth reading message for the audience, the challenge remains... You need to be prepared for writing academic style and applying proper structure.

The aim of this paper is to investigate the rules of writing academic articles. The guidelines differ with various languages and cultures.  As English is known to be the language of international academic writing, it serves the example for this article, based on Macmillan Scientific Communications’ presentation. In this respect there are four issues to be considered: in addition to structure and style analysis, work and publishing organisation are taken under survey. 

How to organise your work?

There are five stages of writing an article and you never say “I am writing an article” because you never do it. Instead, you do the research and preparation work, outline the plan, write parts of your work and, finally, revise it. When you are dealing with plan, you keep in mind the structure of the article. Writing process and revision require thorough work on style improvement. However, to begin with, you have to do the research and preparation in order to get ready for writing.

Research work, in its order, has a few levels as well. First of all, you need to formulate your idea in one or two sentences. When you have a clear idea, analysis of previous data is needed. This includes taking notes, deciding on methods of the future work, stating major questions and starting hypothesis. Developed approach means provided approval and supporting evidence. Only after exhaustive work on previous data you have the opportunity to start producing your own material.

If you succeed with your research and have enough data to share, then you proceed with the preparatory stage. Here the goal is to find the place of your work in context. This consists of finding the focus of your future article, choosing the right audience and deciding on the main message delivered. The result is a written good and appropriate scientific question. The re-evaluation of the original data is extremely useful to conclude this stage. The purpose is to select publishable ideas, data and avenues of research.

To avoid a flow of arguments you have to outline coherent parts of the future article. The most wide spread outline is the so-called AIMRAD (abstract, introduction, methods, results and discussion). A proper outline is based on the list of all ideas structured according with the stressed main points (such structure is called the backbone of the paper).

How to organise your paper?

Paper organisation is related to the paper outline or plan which is divided into abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion and conclusion. While organising the paper you deal with the working title. Afterwards you are to come with the final title that brings the key message and reflects its novelty. Such a title is descriptive and understandable. Preferably, it should consist of keywords for electronic search. And for sure it’s better to avoid general words here.

You write the abstract after having completed the paper and having chosen the final title. You should overload it with neither methods depicted, nor with references to literature. The abstract and the title are the most read parts of your article and to attract attention to your paper they should be eye-catching and informative at the same time.

Do not confuse the abstract with the introduction. The introduction differs from the abstract telling about various points in brief. In the introduction you touch upon the subject, your tasks and objectives. You overview the context of your work and state its actuality and novelty. You introduce basic literature, methods and up to 80% of the key findings. While one paragraph with just the main idea is enough for the abstract, the introduction contains a few paragraphs or at least a few items.

The introduction is followed by portrayed methods. You outfit this part with reasons for choosing methods and with details for replicating it. Non-essential but still necessary supplementary material should be put in appendix. Keep in mind the importance of the part since the reader may refer to it to check the results.

As for results, they might be combined with the discussion or separated from it. Regardless this or that structure here, the fundamental notes remain the same. Firstly, the narration order is pedagogical not chronological for the reader to catch the ideas. Secondly, with the same aim paragraphs are top-down embodying one concept each. Finally, the main message from the first sentence of each paragraph is further justified with proved data and provided with alternative explanations. The last, but not the least is to limit the range of mentioned results with those crucial for your argumentation.

You round off a successful argumentation with a short conclusion. Remember that for an article conclusion the less is the better. You never simply sum it up. Your goal is to demonstrate a deeper understanding and impact of your work.

Conclusion is not the final point of your paper. Bibliography (or webliography for electronic journals) succeeds it. To escape plagiarism you accomplish it properly. It means that you refer sources for both directly quoted and paraphrased opinions, theories, case studies, research proceedings and findings. The references must correspond to the format of the journal. Notice that critical references are suitable. However, in general do not overuse references and especially self-citation.

How to write academic style?

The chief guideline for writing proper style is the so-called ABC rule (be Accurate, Brief and Clear). Being accurate means being precise instead of applying vague language

Brevity implies the idea of explaining concepts with fewer words

To achieve brevity you need to avoid writing zeroes ;and redundancies. Sentences can be reduced by applying synonyms. Clarity includes the two previous points and enlarges them with the ban to over-explain.

The style has to simplify understanding that is why even within the academic style it is crucial to stick to the basic sentence structure: subject – verb – object. Moreover, sentences should consist of not more than 20-25 words. All in all, comprehensible sentences contain only one message each and are short.

Effective paragraph is also devoted to one theme. The fundamental structure of this unit is as following: topic – moreover, topic – example. In other words you place the material at the beginning and then it gets more attention. Ordering, relationship and transitions create coherent sentences and paragraphs.

How to get your paper published?

To get your paper published you need to choose a proper journal. The two crucial issues to be taken into consideration are the audience and the scope of the journal. Nevertheless, such points as publication frequency and form, journal owners and production services are of great importance as well. They just reflect the quality of the journal.

Having chosen the journal, it’s worth sending a cover letter with the text of your article. And then you face the procedure. Normally, it includes peer review and a flow of criticism from the editors. Just take it constructively to succeed! Suitability for journal, adherence to its style requirements and the length tend to be checked first. Extensive analysis of originality, relevance and effectiveness follows. If you deal with a high ranked journal be prepared that you come across professionals.

Don’t give up..!

Most papers are rejected... even if they seem to meet all the requirements. Be persistent but respectful, don’t give up and once you will get it published... however, only if in addition to hard work you follow the guidelines.

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