A 7-Step Guide to Improving the Chances of Your Research Paper Getting Published

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Getting a research paper published in an academic journal is no easy feat. There’s so much competition and so many details to finalize that it’s common for authors to become impatient and submit their work before it’s ready, resulting in a rejection either before or after peer review. While it’s difficult to handle all pre-publication procedures, making sure your paper is ready before you submit it is critical.

Many desk rejections are easy to avoid as they’re usually due to technicalities, such as not following submission guidelines to the letter, going over or under the word count, using the wrong citation style, or submitting a paper with one too many spelling errors. In such cases, the rejection has nothing to do with the quality of the research—the errors are superficial and easy to correct, but authors will save themselves time and effort if they sort these issues out beforehand. 

Articles can also be rejected if the arguments are too vague, the conclusions too wobbly, or the analyses of findings insufficiently original. These are issues much harder to address because they require a substantial overhaul of the content.  

The best way to avoid rejections is to prepare carefully before submitting your work, and the best way to do that is to collaborate with professionals. If you want experts to edit and proofread your paper, review your submission requirements, enhance your visuals, and deliver a full plagiarism report, check out our deluxe academic package. It offers these and other exclusive services to ensure your manuscript is consistently formatted and totally error-free before you submit it for publication. 

So, how can you improve the chances of your research paper getting published by an academic journal? 

1. Familiarize yourself with your target publication

One of the main reasons papers get rejected is that they don’t fall within the scope of a journal. Even if your research is ground-breaking and your writing clear, concise, and engaging, you can expect a swift rejection if you submit it to the wrong journal. Just by looking at your title and abstract, the editorial board can determine whether your article is a good match for their journal and its target audience; if it’s not, they’ll move on to the next submission. 

Therefore, it’s extremely important for academics to have a clear idea of which publication(s) they want to submit their work to before they even start writing so that they can adapt their tone, style, and language to the journal’s guidelines and its readership’s expectations. It’s much easier to do this from the get-go rather than revise your entire paper to meet a given publication’s requirements. 

2. Follow strictly the submission guidelines 

A key part of familiarizing yourself with your chosen journal is having a clear understanding of its submission guidelines and requirements. Every publication has its own rules, so it’s important to carefully check the guidelines of any journal you submit to—failure to follow them indicates not only a lack of attention to detail but also a lack of respect for the journal’s quality standards. 

Therefore, make sure you read the instructions carefully and follow them to the letter to avoid a rejection based on some technicality. 

While technical issues are relatively easy to fix, you’ll save yourself time and effort by composing your paper with the journal’s expectations in mind right from the beginning. Pay special attention to its word count requirements, formatting conventions, preferred citation styles, and reporting guidelines before you finalize your submission. 

If you need to adjust your word count, do so very carefully. To decrease it, look for words you can delete without affecting the meaning or nuance of a sentence or find ways to shorten sentences without eroding their substance. To increase the word count, introduce more details, but make sure you don’t just add meaningless filler that degrades the quality of your writing.

3. Choose an accurate title

A title that doesn’t accurately represent the content of a research paper could also be grounds for rejection. A misleading title will work against you, so make sure you choose one that’s clear, interesting, and accurately reflects your subject matter. A winning strategy for creating a title for an academic work is to start with a phrase that piques the reader’s interest, followed by a colon that succinctly introduces the topic explored in the paper.

Your abstract also needs to impress—a poor one could easily lead to a rejection. The abstract is the key metric a prospective reader uses to judge whether your paper is worth investing their time in, so you should precisely state elements such as your thesis, methodology, and results, crafting a robust summary of what your article delivers.

4. Triple-check your visuals

Visual aids such as tables, graphs, and images are a crucial element of many research papers, which is why they need the same level of attention as the rest of the text. Readers—including editors—usually jump straight to visuals before they start reading, so make sure yours are all accurate, complete, and properly referenced in the manuscript. Also, make certain that the resolution is high enough to properly display pictures, the information in the graphic is easy to follow, everything is properly labeled, and there are no typos in the images. You’ll also want to use a consistent style across your graphics—the same font and the same basic design for your charts.

5. Ask for feedback

It’s easy to lose objectivity after working too long on a paper, which is why it’s essential to have your work read by other people before you submit it for publication. Peers, colleagues, and friends can often provide feedback that uncovers issues you might have overlooked, making these beta readers an important part of the editing process. Of course, your fellow researchers can offer insightful suggestions for improvement, but soliciting feedback from non-experts can be just as valuable.

In fact, someone who doesn’t have the same background as you is more likely to spot lapses in logic or gaps in information, thus helping you make your writing clearer and easier to understand. If you’re targeting a more general audience, this step is crucial—as an expert, it’s difficult for you to judge how complex your writing is for a layperson.

6. Steer clear of unethical practices 

With the help of artificial intelligence (AI), it’s becoming increasingly quicker and easier to identify plagiarism and fabricated or falsified data. Getting caught using any of these unethical practices will not only lead to your paper being rejected but can even result in a ban. 

Plagiarism and other unethical practices can tarnish your reputation and make it harder to achieve anything in your academic career, so it’s definitely not worth it. Cite and reference any previous studies you have quoted or based your research on, and make sure you disclose any information regarding human or animal studies since withholding such information can also be considered grounds for rejection. 

7. Have your work professionally edited and proofread

Spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, typos, poor syntax, and a sloppy structure will get your paper rejected regardless of how innovative and exciting your research is. For this reason, we suggest having your work professionally edited and proofread before you submit it for publication. 

If you want your research to have a lasting impact in your field, your findings need to be clearly communicated—especially to your peers—and sloppy writing isn’t going to cut it. A poorly written text can obfuscate your message and confuse your readers, leading to misinterpretation or misunderstanding of your findings. At the very least, a paper filled with linguistic errors dramatically undermines your credibility, and people will take your work less seriously.

Also, keep in mind that any recurring nomenclature and abbreviations, the spelling of technical terms, the style for lists and subheadings, and the units of measurement must all be consistent throughout your article. Otherwise, it will be hard to accurately interpret the information.  

Since it’s extremely challenging to spot such mistakes on your own, we recommend having your work professionally edited and proofread to ensure you’re submitting the highest-quality paper possible. Click here to get an instant quote and start working with our experts right away! 

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