1) Have a strategy, make a plan
Why do you want to write for magazines? What is your goal? Are you writing for research evaluation? Or to make a difference? Do you write to have an impact or to have an impact? Do you want to develop a profile in a specific field? Will this determine which journals you write for? Have you taken into account their impact factors?
Have you researched other researchers in your field – where have they published recently? What group or conversation can you see yourself joining? Some people write the article first, then look for a ‘home’, but since everything in your article – content, focus, structure, style – will be tailored for a specific journal, save time choosing your target journal and figure out how to write in a way that suits this journal.
Having a writing strategy means making sure you have both external drivers – such as scoring points in search evaluation or moving up the promotion ladder – and internal drivers – which means understanding why. writing for academic journals is important to you. This will help you maintain the motivation you need to write and publish for the long haul. Since the time between submission and publication can be up to two years (although in some areas it’s much less), you need to be clear about your motivation.
2) Analyze the writings in journals in your field
Pick up a few journals in your field that you will target now or soon. Browse all the summaries of the latest issues. Analyze them: look carefully at all the first and last sentences. The first sentence (usually) gives the rationale for the research, and the last asserts a “contribution to knowledge”. But the word âcontributionâ may not be there – it’s associated with the doctorate. So what words are used? What constitutes new knowledge in this review right now? How can you build a similar form of contribution from the work you have done? What sentences will you write to begin and end your summary for this journal?
Go through the other sections of the articles: how are they structured? What are the elements of the argument? Highlight all the sentences in the topic – the first sentences of each paragraph – to show the stages of the argument. Can you see an emerging taxonomy of writing genres in this review? Can you define the different types of paper, the different structures, and decide which one will work best in your paper? Select two types of paper: one which is the type of paper that you can use as a template for your own, and one that you can cite in your article, thus joining the ongoing research conversation in this journal.
3) Make a plan and just write
What type of writer are you: do you always make an outline before you write, or do you just dive in and start writing? Or are you doing a bit of both? Sketching and writing are both useful, so it’s a good idea to use both. However, make your plan very detailed: outline the main sections and calibrate them with your target journal.
What types of titles are normally used there? How long do the sections usually last? Set word limits for your sections, subsections and, if applicable, for subsections. This involves deciding what content you want to include, so it can take some time, and comments would be helpful at this point.
When you sit down to write, what exactly do you do: use writing to develop your ideas or writing to document your work? Do you use your outline as a diary to write sections of your article? Define your writing task with verbs in mind – they define the purpose: summarize, outline, critique, define, introduce, conclude, etc.
4) Get feedback from start to finish
Even at the very beginning, discuss your story idea with four or five people, get feedback on your draft summary. It will only take them a few minutes to read it and respond. Make several revisions before submitting your article to the journal.
5) set specific writing goals and sub-goals
Making your writing goals specific means defining the content, verb, and word length of the section. This means not having a writing goal like “I plan to write this article by the end of the year”, but “My next writing goal is to summarize and review twelve articles for the section. literature review in 800 words on Tuesday between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. ‘. Some people find this too mechanical for academic writing, but it’s a way of forcing you to make decisions about the content, sequence, and proportion of your article.
6) Write with others
While most people view writing as a lonely activity, collective writing – writing with others who are writing – can help develop confidence, fluency, and focus. It can help you develop the discipline of regular writing. Doing your academic writing in groups or at writing retreats is a way to work on your own writing, but – if you disconnect from email, the internet, and all other devices – also develop the concentration necessary for a regular and high-level academic writing.
At some point – ideally at regular intervals – you can do a lot more if you just focus on writing. While this sounds like common sense, it is not common practice. Most people multitask, but it won’t always work for writing regular newspaper articles. At some point, it is better to prioritize writing over all other tasks, for a set period, like 90 minutes, which is long enough to get something done on your paper, but not so long that it is impossible to find the time.
7) warm up before writing
While you are deciding what to write about, an initial warm-up that works is to write for five minutes, in sentences, in response to the question, “What did you write for the post?” [or the closest thing to it], and what do you want to do in the long, medium and short term? ‘
Once you’ve started writing your article, use a variation on this question as a warm-up: what writing did you do for this project and what do you want to do in the long, medium, and short term? Tip: End each writing session with a “writing instruction” that you will use in your next session, for example: “Monday 9:00 am to 10:00 am I will write the concluding section in 500 words “.
As we have seen, if there are no numbers, there are no targets. Goals that work need to be specific, and you need to monitor how well you’re achieving them. This is how you learn to set realistic goals.
8) Analyze reviewer comments on your submission
What exactly are they asking you? Determine if they want you to add or cut something. How much? Where? Write a list of review actions. When you resubmit your article, include it in your journal report, detailing how you responded to reviewer comments. If your post was rejected, it still helps to analyze the comments, determine why, and revise it for another location.
Most comments will help you improve your article and perhaps the writing of your journal article, but sometimes they can seem overheated, personalized, or even vindictive. Some of them may even seem unprofessional. Discuss reviewer comments – see what others think. You may find that other people – even prominent researchers – still receive rejections and negative reviews; any non-rejection is a cause for celebration. Review and resubmit as soon as you can.
9) be persistent, thick-skinned and resilient
These are qualities that you can develop over time – or you may already have them. It may be easier to develop them by chatting with others who write for journals.
10) take care of yourself
Writing for academic journals is very competitive. It can be extremely stressful. Even taking the time to write can be stressful. And there are health risks associated with sitting for long periods of time, so try not to sit and write for more than an hour at a time. Finally, be sure to celebrate thoroughly when your article is accepted. Remember that writing for academic journals is what you want to do – that your writing will make a difference in one way or another.
These points are taken from the 3rd edition of Writing for academic journals.
Rowena Murray is Professor of Education and Director of Research at the University of the West of Scotland – follow him on Twitter @UniWestScotland
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