Thursday, December 19, 2019

Top Tips from "Insight" editors on getting published

Guest post by Lorraine Estelle

Lorainne Estelle  and Steve Sharp are editors of "Insights"  produced by UKSG

Journal editors want to support the mission of their society or organisation, In our case, that is to ‘connect the information community and encourage the exchange of ideas on scholarly communication.’ We also want to support new authors from the library and publishing communities. We want to hear and hopefully publish your opinions, case studies and research project outputs. So, we are always especially delighted when we receive a submission from a new author.
Though sadly, not every submission makes it to publication. Many articles are rejected simply because they do not fit the focus of our journal and would be better placed elsewhere. So, my first top-tip is that before submitting your article, you study the scope of the journal! Make sure that is the right journal for your work!
My second top tip is to study the categories of article published by your journal of choice. In Insights we publish research articles, case studies and opinion pieces. Each category has different requirements.
Research articles must describe the outcomes and application of unpublished original research. If you incorrectly submit an article under this category, we are likely to reject it. If you have not supported your findings with a strong methodology and relevant figures and data, we are also likely to reject it.
Case studies should describe innovative approaches or projects, discuss progress including problems or setbacks. As editors, we are interested in what the takeaway is for the reader. How could they apply your work in their organisation? What might they be able to adapt or reuse in their own projects?
Opinion pieces should be well argued and critically engage with the relevant body of literature. This perhaps is the trickiest type of article to write, because although we are asking for your ‘opinion’, we want you to provide some supporting evidence!! So many of these articles fail, because they are not clear about what is opinion and what is fact. For example, it is not OK to say, ‘75% librarians love cats’ without citing any reference. On the other hand, we would accept ‘in my opinion most librarians appear to love cats’.
My third top tip is to try not to be boring! It sounds harsh I know, particularly when you are striving to write in a sound academic way. However, so many articles begin with sentences of around 75 words, often written in the passive tense with a strong sprinkling of acronyms! Even the most dedicated editors will struggle to engage.
My Fourth top tip – remember English is not everyone’s first language! Like so many other journals we welcome articles from authors whose  first language is not English. Our wonderful editorial associate, and her team will gladly help them if required. However, it is the native English speakers that often cause the greatest problem! This is because they forget that journals publish for an international audience. Editors want the entire readership to be able to engage with your work. Local colloquialisms, country specific acronyms, passive sentences do not help any reader working to read an article that is not in their first language.
My fifth and final tip – embrace your peer reviewers’ comment! Peer reviewers are wonderful people, experts who are giving up their personal time to review your article. Respect their suggestions and comments. Work with them not against them. Here are some real-life examples of where this didn’t happen:
Peer reviewer: ‘I cannot understand this sentence’
Author’s response: ‘We’ll I think it’s obvious, I explained it above’.
What the editor is thinking: Well you did explain it above – but that was four paragraphs ago! Your peer reviewer is asking you to help the reader by providing greater clarity. If it is not obvious to the peer review, who is really focusing hard, how will the poor reader make sense of it all?
Peer reviewer: ‘Can you provide a citation to support this?’
Author’s response: ‘Yes, done.’
What the editor is thinking: Have you actually read the article you are now citing? Because it does not seem to support what you are saying.
Peer reviewer: ‘I disagree with this assertion because …….’
Author’s response: ‘We’ll have to agree to disagree’.
What the editor is thinking: You’re not having a chat in the pub! Your peer reviewer is trying to help you by pointing out you haven’t provided sufficient evidence/critical thinking to support your assertion.

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