My research paper finally got accepted by a Wiley journal! This calls for a celebration. I needed to publish my research for my PhD, and it was important to me – and my university – that the journal had a high impact factor. If I could get my research published in a high quality journal, I would have a higher chance of becoming known in my field (food science). I may also land up a lecturing post. It was a steep learning curve. I made a few crucial mistakes in my first few submissions. I felt disheartened when I received my rejection letters. However, as the saying goes “it is okay to make mistakes…as long as you learn from them.”
I thought I’d share my experience to save you time (and frustration) when you get ready to submit your paper to a journal. Academic publishing is challenging, but can be rewarding. Here is my story
Why Wiley journals?
I chose to submit my paper to a journal from the Wiley online journal collection because they have a reputation for being a top publisher. It ranked number 1 in 26 categories, and also got 320 top 10 category rankings by Clarivate Analytics. The number of titles, number of articles published and the number of citations received were used by Clarivate Analytics to rank publishers. I was particularly interested in having my paper published in one of their food science journals that achieved a high ranking.
My Seven Mistakes
1: Incorrect Use of Keywords
It turns out that more than 50 % of traffic comes from search engines. This means that your paper is mostly found because readers type certain keywords into search engines such as Google. Therefore, the Wiley author guidelines recommend short titles that include one or two keywords that will make your article discoverable by readers.
- Keep your title concise and remove any unnecessary words.
- Wiley recommends using 1–2 keywords in the title, 2–3 in the abstract and 5–7 in keyword fields.
- If your paper doesn’t have the relevant keywords in the right places, readers won’t find your paper.
- The same keywords should be repeated throughout the paper. Just be careful not to make your paper too keyword heavy which could disrupt the flow of your sentences.
2: Included Too Much Data in my Manuscript
After spending hours in the lab performing experiments, I collected huge amounts of data. I wanted to show it all to readers because I thought they would want to see it. I was wrong, and more importantly, there was not enough space in the paper to include it all.
Wiley’s solution for this is the “Supporting Information” section. You can:
- Limit your tables and figures to those relevant to the paper.
- Save additional or supporting data in files and label them as supporting.
- Include these files in your submission.
Wiley will make this data available online for readers who want to know about your work in more detail.
3: Used Tenses Incorrectly
I wrote everything in the past tense. It made sense to me that the experiments had been completed in the past and I was reporting on the work I had done. I was partly correct, but there are a few exceptions. Let me clear this up for you:
- Introduction – present tense for generally accepted facts
- Methods – past tense
- Results – past tense
- Discussion – present tense when interpreting your data
4: Did Not Explain My Statistical Methods in Enough Detail
I was lucky to have access to help for my statistics. I understood what the statistician had done, but did not have all the finer details. A reader of my article would not have been able to reproduce my analysis.
- Ask your statistician for a detailed description of the statistical methods used.
- Ensure your analysis is reproducible.
5: Too Much Literature in My Introduction
My extremely thorough review of the current status of my research field was far too long for an introduction.
- Keep your introduction short and concise.
- Keep it practical and general.
- Briefly outline the current status of the field and how your research contributes to it.
6: Did Not Check My References Thoroughly
Who likes checking references? At this stage of my paper, I was so tired of writing and checking, that I relied on my referencing software to format my references according to the journal’s style guide. Some of my references were incorrectly formatted. This was not good.
- Check that each reference is correct.
- Check that each reference has been formatted correctly.
- Since this is a tedious task, I suggest you break it down and check 10 references at a time, with breaks in between.
7: My Figure Legends Were Not Self-Explanatory
I was so familiar with my research, that I did not see the huge gaps in my figure legends.
- Make sure a reader can understand your figure by writing a stand-alone figure legend.
- It should describe the data in your figure clearly and concisely.
Create a checklist
I now have a checklist that I use before submitting journal articles. I read the author guidelines of the relevant journal and make sure I have complied with their style guide and any other requirements. Some journals require certain information in a covering letter with your submission.
Avoid the mistakes I made when I submitted my first paper to a Wiley journal for publication. Put your paper aside for a few days and read it with fresh eyes one final time before submission. If you are struggling with grammar, seek help. Several editing services exist that will help get your manuscript submission-ready.
I hope that by sharing my mistakes, you will be able to have a more rewarding publishing experience than I did. If you, too, have learnt from your mistakes, share them in the comments section below so we can help more researchers reach their publishing goals.