How to get published

September 11, 1998

We all aspire to climb the highest peaks of academic life. As the academics who have scaled the heights show, a good publication record is essential. We offer beginners useful directions towards that goal rather than a definitive map of the terrain

1. Why travel at all? There are plenty of places you can get published outside academic journals. Before you start this journey, make sure that this is the best place to go.

2. Survey the terrain. If academic journals are the way ahead, find one that meets your need and find out what it needs from you.

3. Starting out. The key to successful writing is to be prepared. Ensure you have sufficient time, enthusiasm and support to sustain you on your journey.

4. Choose the route. Plan your trip by having a look at back issues of the chosen journal. Pay careful attention to style and pitch.

5. Ask directions. Seek advice, get the locals to show you the short-cuts. Colleagues and supervisors can help you avoid a wrong turn.

6. Set your own pace. Recognise that people travel at different speeds; some like to stroll or hike, others sprint through the writing process. Stick with the pace that suits you.

7. Heavy weather. Watch for signs that warn of obstacles ahead.

8. Why not travel in company? One way to start is to work with others in your position. Share the burden and support each other.

9. Or why not hitch a ride? Another way is to seek a mentor and work with him or her. Look, listen and learn.

10. But no free riders. Even if you work with others, you still have to earn the right to have your name on the article. Contribute.

11. Don't be trampled underfoot: make sure your contributions are acknowledged.

12. Let someone know where you are going. Tell people where you expect to be so they can keep a search-and-rescue watch. Get friends and colleagues to look out for you on the way.

13. Follow well-marked signs. Read the journal's guidelines and follow them. Your first trip is not the time to invent new techniques.

14. Nothing but blue skies? Some people have no problems getting published. Ever. This piece is not for them.

15. Dark clouds and stormy weather. For the rest of us, the journey is unlikely to be plain sailing. When the journal replies, read the editor's comments carefully. They are a resource about how to get through inclement weather.

16. The cross-roads of rejection. Which way now? How about back to step one?

17. Every cloud has a silver lining. The comments that come with that rejection will provide an insight into things you probably needed to know.

18. It could rain for 40 days and 40 nights. Getting published takes a long time. Patience and persistence are essential.

19. Finally reaching the destination. Having been lost in the wilderness and fought your way through stormy weather, arriving at your destination requires a celebration. Take time to enjoy the view.

20. Planning the next journey. The higher you climb, the farther you can see.

Neil Lunt and Carl Davidson are lecturers within the college of humanities and social sciences, Massey University at Albany, New Zealand.

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