A Comprehensive Guide on How to Publish Your Research Paper for the Public
Publishing your research paper is not just a culmination of your hard work; it’s a critical step in advancing your academic career and sharing your findings with the world.
In this comprehensive guide, we will take you through the entire process, from ensuring your research is publication-ready to navigating peer review and post-acceptance steps.
- Check Whether Your Research is Publication-Ready
- Choosing the Right Journal and Article Type
- Constructing Your Research Paper
- Navigating the Peer Review and Revision Process
- Post-Acceptance and Publication
Getting Your Research Publication-Ready
Here are some factors to consider before before you embark on the journey of publishing your research paper:
Is your research valuable to your field? Does it contribute something new or solve an existing problem?
Relevance and Originality:
Ensure that your research is relevant to current discussions in your field and discipline, and that it brings fresh, original insights. Literature reviews, Google Scholar searches, and attending relevant academic conferences can help you learn more about the field and ensure the relevance and originality of your research idea.
Review the latest studies in your area to ensure that your research aligns with the most recent developments and findings. This can be done through conversations with collegagues, literature reviews, following the mainstream conversation surrounding the topic.
Start building relationships with the media:
Begin to build a list of relevant media members as you write your research paper. Create a database of journalists’ and editors’ name, email, publication, social media information, recent and relevant pieces, etc.
Your database should only include members of the media who covers your research or adjacent topics. PR services like Muck Rack, Cision, and Qwoted all maintain databases of media contacts and their beats so you can connect with the right people.
Follow those media members on social media and begin engaging with them and their work. Share their pieces, comment on their posts, repost their work, and add your own commentary. This should go without saying, but your added commentary should be tactful and constructive. Avoid pitching them on social media.
Exhibit thought leadership
Display your critical thoughts and considerations about the work you are doing. You can share this research and the process thoughts on social media or wherever you feel comfortable talking out loud on the internet. This can include various stats, relevant literature, research process, what you read and think. This should be in a jargon-free and in an accessible voice. Commentaries on the literature or questions that arise during the process are evidence of thought leadership.
At the bare minimum, your Google Scholar profile should be up to date. You should have your research listed on your LinkedIn profile as more journalists are planning on using LinkedIn. Begin building your professional brand online with strategic outlets that work for your personality type and workflow. Creating content online (not the influencer kind!) can also help you develop and brand and help you exhibit thought leadership.
This process should be executed concurrently as you are writing.This is part relationship building and part establishing your thought leadership! These things can take time, so start on early.
Verify that your research covers the topic thoroughly, leaving no critical gaps. Choosing the right journal and article type is the next step in the publication process.
Choosing the Right Journal and Article Type
Your visibility and acceptance of the research paper are proportional to selecting the appropriate journal and article type. Here’s what you need to know:
Types of Research Papers:
There are different types of research papers, such as original research, literature review papers (also known as meta analysis), case studies, opinion paper, and more. The type of research paper you develop will depend on your research question, your discipline, and the purpose of the article.
Choose a journal that aligns with your research, the topic, and goals. Some factors include the journal’s subject area, aims and scope, reputation, and accessibility. You’ll also want to review journal metrics in accordance with your tenure and promotion criteria.
Matching Your Paper to the Journal:
Tailor your paper to the journal’s specific requirements, ensuring it fits the publication’s submission guidelines. From word count to margins to the organization of your reference list, reviewing the journal’s submission guidelines is a crucial step to address before completing your article.
For a deeper understanding, let’s delve into the next stage – Constructing Your Research Paper.
Constructing Your Research Paper
Authorship and Submission
The order of authors in your paper and the submission process are pivotal in the publication journey.
Deciding the Order of Authors
Authorship order should reflect each contributor’s level of involvement. This should be negotiated before you start the project to establish roles and clear expectations. The first author is typically the primary contributor, while co-authors made significant contributions. It’s essential to maintain transparency in authorship to uphold academic integrity.
Structuring Your Paper
Depending on the type of research paper and the journal’s guidelines, your research paper will typically include the following sections:
- Literature Review
- Problem Statement & Research Question
These may shift depending on the discipline, article type, and journal. Ensuring that your research paper adheres to these structural guidelines is essential for journal submission.
Preparing Supporting Materials and References
Supporting materials are an integral part of your research paper. Having a well-structured paper with well-prepared supporting materials will streamline the peer review process. Here’s how to prepare them effectively:
Citations and References
Properly cite all sources used in your research. This is easier done during the process of writing. Bibliography tools like Endnote can help you keep track of your sources. I prefer to maintain my reference list individually, which can be ineffective in some instances. But automated tools also have their downsides.
Be sure to use the appropriate citation style required by your target journal. Check the journal’s submission guidelines early on to ensure you are citing your sources and maintaining your reference list in the appropriate style.
Preparing Supporting Materials, like data, figures, and citations, plays a vital role in enhancing your research paper’s quality and chances of acceptance.
Navigating the Submission, Peer Review, and Revision Process
The peer review process is a crucial step that can significantly impact the acceptance of your research paper. Here’s how to navigate it effectively:
Making Your Submission
Once your research paper is ready, you can submit it to your chosen journal. Here’s how:
Manuscripts are typically submitted via email or online submission systems provided by journals.
Crafting a Cover Letter:
If required, write a persuasive cover letter explaining why your paper is suitable for the journal and addressing any special considerations.
Prepare for the journal’s editorial team and peer reviewers to evaluate your submission. This process can take anywhere from 3 months to a year, depending on the journal’s backlog. You can always check in with the editor to assess the progress of the review. You may also be able to check the status of your review via the journal’s online submission system.
There may be a time where the review process is unnecessarily slow. You can make the decision to pull your paper and submit it to another journal. You should consult your co-authors and/or mentors when making this decision.
Your paper may require multiple revisions based on reviewers feedback. Revise your paper accordingly and resubmit.
Peer Review Process
Understand that the peer review process involves experts in your field evaluating your paper for quality, validity, and relevance. Reviewers are who maintain rigor and standards of the journal and the discipline.
Prepare your paper for the next level of peer review by thoroughly addressing any potential issues related to methodology, data analysis, and presentation.
Embrace reviewer comments, whether they are critiques or compliments. Use them as opportunities to improve your paper.
Provide the reviewers with a document outlining their questions and comments, each point addressed by you. When responding to reviewer feedback, follow these best practices:
- Acknowledge each comment or suggestion.
- Be polite and professional in your responses.
- Provide clear explanations and justifications for any changes or decisions.
- Revise your paper thoroughly based on the feedback.
In the instance you disagree with the feedback, consult with the journal’s editor on how to proceed. Some battles are worth fighting.
Keep in mind that the peer review process may require multiple rounds of revisions, but it is a vital part of ensuring the quality and validity of your work.
Post-Acceptance and Publication
Congratulations! The research paper you’ve been working tirelessly on for months and years is accepted, published, and in print.
Once your research paper is accepted for publication, you enter the post-acceptance and publication phase. Here’s what to expect:
You’ll typically need to go through a proofreading and copyright transfer process to ensure your paper meets the journal’s standards and legal requirements.
Your paper will then be prepared for final publication, which may include formatting adjustments and the inclusion of supplementary materials. This process can take 1 to 3 months or longer, depending on the journal’s backlog.
For metrics sake, you’ll want to make sure you receive the article electronically and with a digital object identifier (DOI) so you can track visits, downloads, and citations.
Promoting Your Published Research Paper to The Public
After publication, it’s essential to actively promote your research within your academic and professional networks.
Share your work on platforms like ResearchGate, LinkedIn, and academic conferences to increase its visibility.
Engage with your peers and the academic community to foster discussion and collaboration.
If it’s academics outside your discipline, then you may have to address discipline-specific jargon in your messaging. It’s a different approach if you are trying to reach the masses through media or through social media.
As you are sharing, take note of responses, interactions, and shares as you build your network. Also keep track of any quantitative measures you can use to support your annual performance review and tenure and promotion packet.
Establish your communication goal.
Before you move forward with promoting your research paper, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why is this research important enough to take to the public? Do you want to inform policy? Do you want to change people’s mind about a specific topic?
- What is your main message/takeaway?
- Who would be your audience?
- Why would they care to learn about this? How will this impact their lives?
- Is there a current conversation happening around this topic?
Answer this before you move on to…
Identify who’s your audience.
Who in the general public would benefit the most from learning about your research? What change (behavioral, knowledge, etc.) do you seek to influence?
Once you establish your communication goal and your audience, then you can work on how and where to reach them (e.g., social media, blog post, pitching an op-ed or news story, podcast interview, Tik Tok/IG video, hosting a community event/talk, etc.).
Consider how the knowledge deficit model may or may not impact your perspective of your audience. Reflect and adjust accordingly.
Hyper focus on 1-2 findings.
You’ll want to focus and concentrate on 1-2 findings at a time. Too much could convolute the message. Take this opportunity to test relevant preliminary findings with a graph or image.
If you are struggling with distilling your research findings down, think about it from the reader’s perspective. What would be the most relevant to them in their daily lives? Focus on that, and present it in a way that piques their interest.
Another way to work on your messaging is to talk with people removed from higher education or your research. This is a great exercise if you are trying to reach a wider audience. Getting real-time feedback can be vital.
Also, spend less time establishing the literature in your public messaging and more time simplifying the findings. This does not mean rigor is lost. The rigor is in the research and in the fact that you successfully passed the review process.
With reference to your communication goal, create a strategic plan for disseminating the findings to meet your audience.
This can include:
- Creating data visualization(s) to share on social media.
- Building a micro website if the data and findings are interactive or if there are resources to share, etc.
- Writing up to 1-2 paragraph summary to provide to your university public relations/affairs office.
- Creating a video abstract in layman’s and academic terms for different audiences.
- Contacting organizations and groups who would be interested in the findings.
- Building a list of podcasts to pitch. Check out Matchmaker.fm as a starting point.
As you are getting the messaging down, continue nurturing your media relationships. Consider reaching out to a few media contacts via email and state your expertise. Make yourself available for their beat if anything should come up. assuming your topic is one that may be controversial, timely, etc.
Present your research and topic as relevant, newsworthy, and having an impact on their audiences.
Pitch as an exclusive.
If you are having luck with media members interacting with you, reach out with an exclusive to your published research paper. This means one person, one publication. This act will do wonders for relationship building too.
Pitch it as a story
If you don’t land an exclusive, you should start pitching the idea to editors. Remember, the published research is not the story. The findings are the story.
What is the story behind the research? Can you create a narrative to contextualize the research? How does it affect/impact their readership base (the audience)? Why would someone read it? How do your findings impact the broader society?
Review our Academics Guide to Media Pitching for additional insight on pitching your research to the media.
Publishing a research paper is a significant achievement in your academic career. It involves numerous steps, from ensuring your research is publication-ready to navigating the peer review process and finally promoting your published work.
Once your research is published, you should promote it your academic communities to help develop a conversation. You should also promote your research to the general audience, people who can be impacted by the findings. This process should begin when you begin your research.