Planning your assault on publication

Yesterday afternoon, I found myself advocating a publication strategy to a friend and PGR.  The conversation quickly moved away, but I now find myself thinking about the process of putting together a publication strategy, and how PGRs who have yet to publish can find the answers to many of the questions that creating their personal publication strategy will raise.

lego-toy-soldiersA publication strategy is a plan (or campaign!) which sets out the content, target outlets and timescales for research publications by an individual or research team.  A clear publication strategy is crucial to maximise research impact and support academic/research career development and can also be extremely helpful in clarifying questions around authorship and research strategy in group situations.  Since a publication strategy is highly specific to individual circumstances, there’s no one way to approach this, but this post sets out some key questions to get you started.

WHY do you want to publish?

This is an important question to ask as you start to put together your publication plan.  Firstly, it can help you define what you are trying to achieve.  For example, if your primary aim is to disseminate your research findings to practitioners in your area, this will help you define your audience.  Secondly, it can remind you of why you started this process in the first place.  If in doubt, or low on motivation, returning to your answer to this question may provide answers.

WHAT can be published?

Having established your overall aim, this is the point at which you start to look at your research projects (completed, in progress, or planned) to identify items for publication.  You’re looking for new/original results or methods, reviews of a subject, or anything else which advances knowledge or understanding in your field.  Avoid work which is of no particular interest, duplicating previous work, or out of date.  Beware of salami slicing – where you attempt to publish one meaningful study in multiple papers – which is unethical as it has the potential to distort the literature and waste research time.

WHO is involved?

Make sure you are communicating effectively with all contributors to the research you have identified for publication, to ensure appropriate authorship attribution and realistic planning.

WHERE to publish?

Having identified the content of the manuscripts you wish to prepare, consider carefully your target publication routes.  Do you have a long-form argument to which you can only do justice in a book?  Which journal titles are most appropriate for your topic?  Think about who you want to read your work.  Talk to your supervisor, colleagues and networks to find out where they think your work will fit.  Read the Aims & Scope of potential journal titles very carefully.

WHEN to publish?

An important part of any publication strategy is the timescales.  What are the most appropriate deadlines you can set for yourself to help you achieve your aims?  How much time do you have to dedicate to manuscript preparation, taking into account your other commitments?  Realistic timescales are critical to any successful writing project.

The answers to these questions will hopefully help you build a robust publication strategy, although they are best viewed as living documents under constant review.

Do you have a publication plan?  What are your reasons for wanting to publish your research?

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Helen Kara

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