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Publishing and communicating research

Scientific writing

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. 

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:

  • Introduction
  • Literature review (if short, could be included in the introduction)
  • Conceptual framework (where some testable hypotheses are derived)
  • Methodology
  • Application and results (including data description, if applicable)
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions (including policy implications)
  • References

Keep in mind that poor structure may create confusion and obscure your messages.

Strategically selecting and targeting academic journals
and customizing for specific journals

Conducting scientific literature reviews

Ethics and legal aspects


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:

PEP requires that published proposals and reports contain no plagiarism. PEP uses plagiarism detection software for this purpose.

PEP acknowledgments

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

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.

Citation software

Most researchers use citation software or Bibtex to manage theirs references and correctly cite other works in their research paper.

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.

Typesetting systems

LaTex is a powerful typesetting system widely use by academics. It is particularly efficient for mathematic writing and sorting references.

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.

Other resources

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. 

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.




Communication: challenge or opportunity ?

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