Publishing a Research Article in a Peer-Reviewed Journal: A Comprehensive Checklist for Authors
Researcher pay particular attention towards publishing a research paper article as a way of contributing knowledge to the scientific community. Despite this unending passion, submitting a journal article and getting accepted can be complex and demanding endeavor. It is critical for authors to comply with specific guidelines and meet the requirements set by publishers to increase the chances of being accepted. In this article, you will have access to a comprehensive checklist that covers the essential elements publishers typically expect from authors before accepting a research paper for publication.
Research Paper Structure and Formatting for Publication
Title and Abstract
- Craft a concise, informative, and engaging title that accurately represents the research. A good title captures the main idea of the research, your research variables, and the setting where you conducted the research, if relevant.
- Write a clear, well-structured abstract summarizing the study’s objectives, methods, results, and conclusions. Start with the research objectives, then discuss your strategies to accomplish them. Indicate what you found and end with what the study means for the discipline. Include at least four keywords in your abstract.
- Provide a well-written introduction that highlights the background, significance, and context of the research problem. The purpose of the experience is to explain what the topic entails. The importance of the research problems answers the ‘why’ question. Tell your readers why looking into the issue is critical at this time.
Most novice writers who are publishing a research article blur the line between introducing a topic and doing a comprehensive review. Refrain from getting into past research or heavy thinking about what other people have studied. Such an analysis is in the literature review section. However, remember to cite your sources and draft the introduction in a way that a person unfamiliar with the topic would understand it.
- Clearly state the research objectives and the hypothesis or research questions being addressed. The research objectives outline the purpose of conducting the study. They are specific statements with a particular problem they are addressing. Often, researchers choose three questions, but you may have more depending on the subject you are analyzing.
The research hypotheses stem from the objectives and consist of the facts you wish to confirm. For example, one research question could be, ‘Do health warnings on cigarette packaging reduce smoking?’ The corresponding research hypothesis would be that health warnings on cigarette packages reduce smoking.
Not all research can have a definite hypothesis. If a paper is not correlational, then an idea could be redundant. Descriptive and exploratory analyses usually start with a blank slate. Therefore, it is okay to skip this aspect.
- Conduct a thorough review of relevant literature to provide a solid foundation for the study. In this context, describe and analyze what previous studies have found and mention the theories pertinent to the field. Highlight contested claims or controversial areas. End with gaps in the literature that justify your analysis. You want to show critical thinking skills when publishing a research article.
- Cite and reference previous research appropriately, demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of the field. Ensure you cover all the basic ideas and scholarly works in recent years. Always back all your claims with properly-cited references.
- Describe the research design, data collection methods, and any statistical analyses used. Mention what your research design was and the reasons for choosing it. Include the data collection method or statistical calculations. Statistical methods belong to the methodological rather than results section as it is a procedure you follow. Remember to use the past tense when describing the methodology.
- Ensure the methodology is described sufficiently to allow other researchers to replicate the study. Therefore, mention the subjects and their demographic markers. They may have been white university students who are male, female, or non-binary. Describe the materials you used, including any self-reported tests for all your measures. When publishing a research article, you may have multiple experiments for the same study. Create separate sections for each of them and outline every step you took.
- Present the findings logically and coherently, using tables, figures, and graphs where appropriate. If you performed several experiments, have different sections for each experiment. Mention the results of the statistical tests you conducted if it was a correlational or quantitative analysis. On the other hand, if you performed a qualitative analysis, show the themes that emerged from the study. You should preface this section with the analysis procedure.
- Provide a clear and concise interpretation of the results without speculation or over-generalization. Mention what the research tools revealed. At this point, dwell only on the findings rather than what they mean or how they tie in with the research objectives or hypothesis.
- Interpret the results and discuss their implications concerning the research objectives. Determine whether you confirmed or nullified your research hypothesis. For instance, if your research objective was to establish whether comprehensive sex education reduced teen pregnancies, comment on what your findings revealed. You may state that the data found a strong correlation between states that practiced comprehensive sex education and decreased teenage pregnancies.
- Compare the findings with previous studies and address any limitations or potential biases. Place your study findings in the disciplinary context. Demonstrate if it diverges from the academic consensus or whether it is in line with it. Mention your study limitations since they could hamper its generalizability. Examples include doing a cross-sectional analysis when a longitudinal one would have been more insightful. Sometimes the sample size might be too small, response rates low, or the sampling method could have biased a particular side.
- The last part when publishing a research article is the conclusion. Summarize the essential findings and their significance. The decision is a more concise description of your results and their implications. The implications ought to focus on the most salient aspects.
- Highlight the contributions and potential future directions for research. Reiterate how the study findings solve the controversies or gaps in your literature review.
- Use a consistent and accurate referencing style (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago) throughout the paper. Each citation style has specifications on arranging the author names, titles, journal titles, page numbers, journal volume, and issue numbers, book titles and publishers, dates, websites, or other relevant aspects. Be sure to use the latest version of that referencing style, especially from well-known sites like Purdue OWL.
- Ensure that all cited references are included in the bibliography and vice versa.
Compliance with Journal Guidelines in the Publishing Process
Target Journal Selection
- If you are publishing a research article, choose a journal that aligns with the scope and focus of your research. Your research may entail laboratory work with solid leanings toward specific equipment. Alternatively, your articles revolve around engineering advantages, processes, and manufacturing. In the above examples, choose journals that also concentrate on those engineering and laboratory techniques in your area.
- Review the journal’s aims, scope, publication policies, and author guidelines. Every journal specifies what its mission is and the areas of emphasis. For instance, Sage Journals has a “browse by discipline” category. You would consider which discipline is most relevant, and if none is suitable, then look for a different journal. Some guidelines may automatically render you unsuitable, so assume you can meet those obligations.
Manuscript Length and Format
- Follow the specified word limit and formatting guidelines provided by the journal. The paper you submit should be editable with figures, texts, tables, and other related files. Have legends on your figures and tables, high-resolution images, and ensure your tables and figures are legible. Some interpretative studies must fit the standard introduction, discussion, methods, findings, and literature review format. Other papers like policy and interpretive research must also check the regular format. Some publishers only accept Word documents, while others are fine with other editable formats.
- Pay attention to font type, size, line spacing, and margins.
- Publishing a research article starts with a proper title page successfully. Include a title page with the article title, author names, affiliations, and corresponding author’s contact information. After a peer review, the publishers must contact all the coauthors and inform them of the review’s outcome. Therefore, having contact information that works is essential.
- Disclose any conflicts of interest or funding sources. Journals need to uphold ethical research standards. Therefore, they must ensure that the people who submit work to them do not do it under some form of coercion or external influence. Have conflict of interest disclosures and statements for ethics approvals or permission for reproducing other material sources on your paper.
- Write a compelling cover letter addressing the editor and briefly summarizing the significance and novelty of the research. You must answer decisively at the end of your cover letter whether the study was worth doing and if you are contributing to your field.
- Declare that the manuscript is original, has not been published elsewhere, and is not under consideration elsewhere. All journals only publish original materials. If your other publishers are considering your paper, they may approve and post it. If this journal that you have chosen also agrees with your information, you could be guilty of self-plagiarism. It goes without saying that conventional plagiarism, which means passing another’s work as yours, is inexcusable in journal article publishing.
Abstract and Keywords
- Ensure that the abstract meets the journal’s word limit and includes relevant keywords for indexing purposes. The keywords help make your work discoverable. Consult the publication to find out what they consider for this process. Additionally, ascertain that your abstract mentions all the essential parts of your study influencing the research objectives, methods, and findings.
- Address any ethical issues, such as informed consent, protection of human subjects, or animal welfare. When dealing with experimental or laboratory work, you must outline all the ethical steps you took. Even in non-experimental work, you must mention the procedures you followed as an author to ensure your job is credible and legitimate.
- Provide appropriate statements or approvals related to ethical considerations. There should be a letter of informed consent and relevant permissions for research on animals or humans. If it is a clinical trial, you must register with the appropriate body before conducting that trial and publishing a journal article.
Figures and Tables
- Prepare high-quality figures and tables that enhance the understanding of the research. Every number, illustration, or line should be precise. Explain what it measures or relates to precisely. Avoid using words like “research results” as titles and instead indicate the variables you were measuring as names of tables or figures.
- Ensure all figures and tables are appropriately labeled, numbered, and referenced in the main text. Some readers may not have time to move back and forth between the results section and the appendix. Therefore, indicate as many tables and figures as you can.
- Check if the journal allows supplementary materials and, if applicable, include them as separate files or appendices. Examples of supplemental materials include materials and methods, transcripts of other resources, additional tables and figures, and audio, video, and photographic information. Depending on the materials and the publisher’s guidelines, you must reference your supplementary materials using a prefix like S and a number. Mention in your main manuscript that the information you provided is linked to other sections.
Language and Writing Style in Publishing a Research Article
- Grammar and Spelling: Publishing a research article requires correct and professional language use. Some journals provide English editing services. Therefore, consider visiting their language sections to find more information and ascertain that your grammar and spelling are acceptable. A top reason for returning papers for revision is poor English.
- Structure: Ensure the paper format adheres to journal guidelines. Include all the relevant sections of a research manuscript, like the conclusion, results, methods, and abstract. Some research papers may not fall neatly into these categories, but you need to clarify with the publisher whether they accept other structures.
Publishing a research article is a systematic process. It begins with the work you do individually in the research and then goes into the journal guidelines. Once you complete these preliminary steps, editing should get you a place in a reputable journal. The personal research work and publication guidelines focus on having a problem to solve and contributing to the field. Other structural and formatting policies depend on the publication you are considering.