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Graduate Writing: Understanding the Publication Cycle

Understanding the Publication Cycle

Depending on one’s ambitions, you may want to or even be expected to publish during your studies. Such expectations tend to be more prominent in PhD studies than within MA/MSc programs, especially if one wants to pursue a research or academic career post-graduation. If this career is a central goal, then it is important to learn about publishing norms in one’s field and have a clear plan for meeting publication targets (e.g., minimum of two journal articles) to be a competitive candidate for post-docs and other academic or research opportunities.

If publication is your aim, then you should begin by researching the journal in which you would like to publish. Do your due diligence to avoid predatory publishers and familiarize yourself with submission guidelines and standards before drafting your article. Such guidelines are clearly noted for authors, and some journals will even feature templates to use (e.g., Information Processing & Management).

Publication can take a long time, so do not be discouraged if you do not receive a quick response. Even if the article is accepted, between feedback and edits, it will usually take many months (or longer) for the work to finally be published.


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During the publication cycle, you’ll receive feedback in the form of comments from the editorial team and/or peer reviewers (should the paper be referred). Some of this feedback may take the form of boilerplate prose (e.g., a rejection note), but as more readers consider the work, feedback becomes more specific and will reflect the reviewer’s style. For instance, while some reviewers will take pains to identify the positives, others will be more direct and focus only on the elements that they want changed. Depending on the nature of the comments, the work will be accepted or rejected, or you will be asked to revise and resubmit (with minor or major edits).

As an author, you’ll need to make decisions about how to respond to such feedback. You can accept it or ignore it. If you accept it, then you’ll want to carefully consider how you can use the reader’s notes to improve your work before resubmitting, whereas if you decide to ignore or reject the feedback, you’ll need to consider how to respond to the reviewers and/or decide if the journal is the best fit.

If resubmitting, most journals require that you prepare a formal response reflecting on the feedback and how you have chosen to address it in the revision. Some journals and style guides have clear rules or even templates that authors can use, which can be especially valuable when crafting a response for the first time.

Receiving feedback can be emotional—even if the feedback is positive! Someone may praise the work, while at the same time identifying issues that should be addressed. If you have already submitted what you thought was your best work, it can feel like a step back. Harsher feedback can likewise make one wonder if the text is even worth revising. As difficult as it may be, it is important to maintain perspective. While feedback can feel like a personal criticism, the intent is to ensure that the highest quality work is being published.

Keep in mind too how you can provide effective and valuable feedback—whether positive or negative—during the peer review process if you agree to be a reviewer. Common characteristics of good feedback and reviewing practices include:

  • Timeliness
    • E.g., meet deadlines set by the editorial team
  • Specificity
    • E.g., identify and explain concerns clearly and concretely
  • Organization
    • E.g., structure comments as coherent prose


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Overcoming Rejection

What many graduate students do not realize is how common it is for (even good!) papers to be rejected for publication. While some rejections are due to legitimate concerns about the quality of the research, other rejections may result from factors that are beyond one’s control. For instance, it may be that the journal is highly competitive and only 5% of submitted articles are published annually—or less (acceptance rates are sometimes posted publicly and there are steps you can take if not). A rejection may also occur when a paper is simply not a good fit for the journal, despite initial impressions; that is why it is important to determine early on whether your paper would find a good home in its pages

While rejection is almost inevitable, failure in academia is not always discussed openly, which can contribute to feelings of stress and/or imposter syndrome. However, it is important to keep in mind that even tenured faculty members will still have papers and grants rejected.


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Promotion and Celebration

You have finished revisions and your work has been published (hurrah!) - now it is time to share your research with the world!

Not sure where to start?




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