Publishing and communicating research
A journal article is a powerful tool for disseminating research. However, to get research published, read, and fully understood, it is essential to present all information in a clear and structured manner. Doing so will ensure that the reader can easily understand and appreciate your contributions.
It is important to clearly explain the research issue, the methods of analysis used, and the reasons for these choices. The reader should not be distracted by less relevant information. This first step is crucial to attracting the interest of the reader—including the editor and referees.
A clear writing style is essential to a well-presented paper, even when the issues are relevant and important, and the paper is structured well. Clear writing requires intensive effort and numerous revisions (by the authors and by colleagues, if possible) to improve the structure of presentation of the paper, each section and each sentence. See also: Proofreading.
In the introduction, you should clearly indicate what distinguishes your study from existing studies, and how this is important in terms of scientific contributions. Your aim is to convince the reader of the valuable scientific contribution of the paper. These contributions may be theoretical, methodological or empirical.
- PEP presentation - scientific writing workshop (Bangalore 2018)
- How to get published: structuring your article (free interactive course - Elsevier)
- Using proper scientific language (free interactive course - Elsevier)
- How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper (Coursera)
- How to Publish Academic Papers (by Marc Bellemare)
- Checklist for manuscripts (by Arne Henningsen)
- A few tips for scientific writing (by Keith Head)
Standard format for scientific articles
Structuring the information into clearly defined sections is important. For instance, a typical structure for empirical research is the following:
- Literature review (if short, could be included in the introduction)
- Conceptual framework (where some testable hypotheses are derived)
- Application and results (including data description, if applicable)
- Conclusions (including policy implications)
Keep in mind that poor structure may create confusion and obscure your messages.
Strategically selecting and targeting academic journals
and customizing for specific journals
- How to identify the right journal to publish in (video - Elsevier)
- How do editors look at your paper (free online lecture - Elsevier)
- The impact factor and other bibliometric indicators (video - Elsevier)
- Considerations when choosing a journal - Scholarly Communication
Conducting scientific literature reviews
Ethics and legal aspects
- Content ownership (video - Elsevier)
- Why you can’t afford to ignore research and publication ethics (video - Elsevier)
All researchers should be very careful to avoid any appearance of plagiarism. Any text that is borrowed from another source should be carefully contained between quotation marks with a reference to the source (including page number) immediately following the quotation. The reader must be able to easily distinguish what is written by the authors from what is borrowed from other sources.
PEP considers that copying large extracts (e.g. several paragraphs) from other texts is not a good practice and is usually unacceptable. For a fuller description of plagiarism, please refer to the following websites:
- Using Sources (Yale Center for Teaching and Learning)
- In-Text Citations: The Basics
- In-Text Citations: Author/Authors
- Plagiarism (video - Elsevier)
PEP requires that published proposals and reports contain no plagiarism. PEP uses plagiarism detection software for this purpose.
PEP researchers will recognize the support of PEP by including, in all publications (conference presentations, published articles, non-PEP working papers, etc.), the following acknowledgement:
"This work was carried out with financial and scientific support from the Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP), with funding from the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom (or UK Aid), and the Government of Canada through the International Development Research Centre (IDRC)."
Predatory journals are very common. You should be cautious when a journal requests that you submit an article directly. PEP strongly discourages submitting, citing, or engaging with predatory journals in any way.
- Beall's List of Predatory Journals and Publishers
- What is a predatory publisher? (Iowa State University)
- 8 Ways to Identify a Questionable Open Access Journal (American Journal Experts)
- Predatory open access publishing (Wikipedia)
- There Are Now 8,000 Fake Science ‘Journals’ Worldwide, Researchers Say (Motherboard)
Most researchers use citation software or Bibtex to manage theirs references and correctly cite other works in their research paper.
- Mendeley - free reference manager (Elsevier)
- Zotero quick start guide
- Using citation software - PEP workshop Nairobi 2017
External review and comments
All PEP working papers are externally reviewed before being published as part of the PEP working paper series. External reviews and comments (received at any stage of the project) are vitally important to improving the work and increasing the chances of it getting published. Comments by editors, referees, colleagues or resource persons must be seriously considered and, in most cases, addressed.
- How to respond to reviewers' comments (free online lecture - Elsevier)
LaTex is a powerful typesetting system widely use by academics. It is particularly efficient for mathematic writing and sorting references.
- Beginners guide to writing a manuscript in LaTex (free webinar - Elsevier)
- The not so short introduction to LaTex (PDF)
LyX is a free (open source) document processor that is LaTex-compatible. Its advanced mathematical modes make it popular among scientists.
It is very often advisable to have your paper proofread/edited by a professional. PEP systematically edits the working papers developed in the projects it supports. If the journal article version is substantially different or substantial revisions are requested and there is a good likelihood of acceptance, PEP can consider re-editing the paper.
Spell and grammar check software may also be useful for improving your writing, especially if English is not your first language. Most word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word, have a spell and grammar check tool that will help you catch major mistakes.
A range of more comprehensive proofreading tools are available online. One such tool is Grammarly; it offers free and paid options and can be used within Microsoft Word (on Windows systems).
Proofreading tools generally do not replace the need for professional editing.
- 7 steps to publishing in a scientific journal (Elsevier Connect)
- Data Citation: How can researchers benefit from citing data? (free online lecture - Elsevier)
- 10 tips for writing a truly terrible journal article (free online lecture - Elsevier)
- Enrich your article (PDF - Elsevier)
- How your research can make an impact on society (free online lecture - Elsevier)
- The importance of ensuring high visibility for your research (video - Elsevier, via YouTube)
- Understanding the publishing process (PDF - Elsevier)
- The jounal publishing cycle (free interactive course - Elsevier)
- English for Research Publication Purposes (Coursera)
- Scholarly Communication (Coursera)
- Academic Literacy (Coursera)
- Scholarly Communication (University of Cambridge)
The following links on Effective writing and publishing scientific papers from the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology provide useful general guidance on presenting and submitting an article to a journal.
- How to get started, Ktoz, Daneil et al., Volume 66, Issue 4, 397
- Title and abstract, Cals, Jochen W.L. et al., Volume 66, Issue 6, 585
- Introduction, Cals, Jochen W.L. et al., Volume 66, Issue 7, 702
- Methods, Kotz, Daniel et al., Volume 66, Issue 8, 817
- Results, Kotz, Daniel et al., Volume 66, Issue 9, 945
- Discussion, Cals, Jochen W.L. et al., Volume 66, Issue 10, 1064
- Tables and figures, Kotz, Daniel et al., Volume 66, Issue 11, 1197
- References, Cals, Jochen W.L. et al., Volume 66, Issue 11, 1198
- Authorship, Cals, Jochen W.L. et al., Volume 66, Issue 12, 1319
- Choice of journal, Cals, Jochen W.L. et al., Volume 67, Issue 1, 3
- Submitting a paper, Kotz, Daniel et al., Volume 67, Issue 2, 123
- Responding to reviewers, Kotz, Daniel et al., Volume 67, Issue 3, 243
Policy brief writing for policy engagement
While writing and publishing a PEP research working paper, PEP-supported researchers must also produce a policy brief: a two- or three-page non-technical, policy-oriented summary of their research outcomes. Policy briefs are intended for researchers, research users and policy actors, as well as for the media and thus the general public.
- How to plan, write and communicate an effective Policy Brief (Research to Action)
- How to Write a Policy Brief (IDRC)
- Writing Policy Briefs: A Guide to Translating Science and Engaging Stakeholders (The Women's and Children's Health Policy Center)
- Developing practical skills to influence decision-making (International Centre for Policy Advocacy)
- What Makes a Good Policy Brief (Classroom to Capitol)
- Policy brief as a communication to for development research (Overseas Development Institute)
- Policy Brief (The Writing Center)
- A guide to policy engagement and influence (Overseas Development Institute)
- Six useful guides on communication strategy
- Successful communication: A Toolkit for Researchers and Civil Society Organisations (Overseas Development Institute)
- The value of blogging and microblogging (Elsevier)
Communication: challenge or opportunity ?
- How to promote your article for maximum impact (free online lecture - Elsevier)
- Be Persuasive: Write a Convincing Position Paper or Policy Advice (Coursera)
- Guide: How to write a biography for your PEP profile
- Writing a bio (Springer Link)
- Writing the acadmemic bio (GradHacker)