Tips for getting your paper right in the first place

While we're not on this page offering complete guidance about how to write a paper, following these tips will mean that you will have gone some way towards having a paper that's accurate and focussed, and which you'll therefore need to spend less time revising.

Tip 1: Meet the journal's requirements!
Tip 2: Be focussed!
Tip 3: Be honest, and accurate!
Tip 4: Answer the question, 'What next'?
Tip 5: Be careful!
Tip 6: Get your paper read by others

Tip 1: Meet the journal's requirements!

Make sure that you've got the right journal! Compatibility of partners, in publishing as elsewhere, makes for an easier life, and you need to make very sure that the journal you are targetting is the best fit for your paper and for the community for which you are publishing.

However, having targetted the prospective journal, you also need to make sure that you understand its requirements:

  • Look at the names on the Editorial Board - does this give an indication of what the journal will be looking out for?
  • Read carefully the 'Notes for Contributors' which are published on the inside back cover of most Emerald journals, and note the criteria specified in the sections on Editorial Objectives and Criteria. This will give an indication not only of required subject matter, approach etc., but also of other issues such as the extent of empirical evidence required, the balance of theoretical vs. practitioner orientated etc.

See examples

Tip 2: Be focussed!

What are you really trying to say? Have a 'statement of purpose' which describes what your article is all about. You need to make a pretty clear statement of why the reader should read on - what will add to his or her knowledge as a researcher or practitioner? That statement should help the reviewer know what the article is all about. In the examples given below, the main part of the purpose statement has been highlighte in bold.

Example 1

This 'statement of purpose' provides some background in the first paragraph i.e. that the article will be on serial publications in international marketing; furthermore a retrospective is required to give an overview. The second paragraph gives the scope of the article and its implications.

Example 2

This is the third paragraph in the paper - the first two are background.

Example 3

As with the previous example, the authors provide quite a bit of background before the purpose statement which is clearly stated as 'the aim', and 'the associated objectives'

Tip 3: Be honest, and accurate!

Look at your empirical data - make sure that it's accurately recorded, and that any conclusions you draw from it are warrented.

Don't hide weaknesses - if your sample is small, say so.

Make sure that all your arguments are coherent, can easily be followed by the reader, and that you substantiate any claims.

Report on the implications of your research/case study/conceptual framework: what more research is required? What are the implications for practitioners?

Tip 4: Answer the question, 'What next'?

Having described your conclusions, you should then state the possibilities for further research - what research questions are formulated? - as well as the implications for your practitioner community.

Tip 5: Be careful!

Just as you are justifiably annoyed by colleagues, students etc. who ignore the rules of grammar and fail to run spell checks over their material, so too will the reviewer be annoyed by these things in your own work. So, run a spell check, print out your paper, and proof read carefully, preferably at a time when you have put some distance between yourself and the article, i.e. not when you have just finished it. According to Abby Day, the most common complaint from reviewers is poor proof-reading! Reviewers expect to have to pick up on research methodology but not on common spelling and grammar mistakes.

Tip 6: Get your paper read by others

'The peer review process' advocates having an 'action learning set' to review papers prior to sending them off to a journal. In any event, it is a good idea to give your paper to others in your network to read: these could be colleagues in your department, people you know through meetings and conferences etc., or a special interest group you find through the internet. It can be difficult, if you don't know someone very well, or not at all, to ask them to read a paper but you have to remember that most people are flattered to be asked.

Read about action learning sets.

How to revise your paper