Is Your Research Paper Publishable? A Quick Checklist for Academic Writers

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Mastering the intricacies of academic publishing is crucial for those who want a long career in academia—a world where a researcher’s success is largely defined by the quality and popularity of their published articles. It’s not enough to simply design and conduct rigorous studies that lead to ground-breaking discoveries—you also have to present your research professionally and effectively so it doesn’t get lost in the sea of papers published every day. 

The Ph.D. period is arguably the best time for a researcher to start learning the principles of academic publishing and to understand what journal reviewers and editors look for in a paper. It offers a great opportunity to dive into the details and learn the ropes. However, even the most experienced researchers can sometimes come up with ideas that aren’t necessarily fit to publish. Indeed, the key to success is knowing which ideas are worthy of publication and which are not. While there’s no foolproof formula for generating brilliant ideas every time, there are steps you can take to improve your odds. 

Academia is a fast-moving world powered by technological advances, and being in the vanguard is critical for a successful publishing career. One way to keep your finger on the pulse is to review your colleagues’ submissions, which will make you knowledgeable about the latest trends and give you insight into the expectations of academic journals from an editorial perspective. You’ll thus avoid picking a topic someone else has already studied while also drawing inspiration from your peers. Be sure to check out what the latest papers in your field recommend for future study—maybe you’re the right researcher to tackle one of the topics they suggest.

If you’re certain you have a great research project going but are struggling with writing your paper, check out our deluxe academic package. We offer exclusive services such as extensive feedback from a professional editor, a requirements review to ensure you’re following all the submission guidelines, a full plagiarism report to make sure your paper is entirely original, and free revisions for 30 days to guarantee you submit an immaculate article. 

So, how do you know if your paper is publishable? Here are a few questions you should ask yourself. 

1. Is your research original and interesting? 

Obviously, every researcher would like to answer this question with a resounding YES! However, the truth is that not every single idea is golden. When you’re brainstorming ideas, duds will pop up alongside the winners—this is part and parcel of any creative endeavor, and it’s your job to separate the good ideas from the half-baked or unoriginal ones.

Before you even start writing your paper, ask yourself whether your idea is original and interesting enough for a journal to publish it. Does it shine a light on a new problem or address an old one in a new way? Has similar research been conducted before, and if so, was it successful? How is yours different? Are you likely to find viable solutions to the problem you’ve identified? 

Basically, even if your topic is already widely covered, you want to make sure there’s something uniquely valuable about your research, whether it’s a novel methodology or an exploration of an often overlooked aspect of the issue. Journals receive far more submissions than they can publish, so you want to give them a reason to accept yours over the others. You definitely don’t want to dig into a problem that people are sick of hearing about or replicate existing research, so do your due diligence before you invest endless hours into a topic that will interest no one. 

When you first start thinking about your hypothesis, do some research by combing through search engine results, databases, and indexes for the topic you want to explore and see what’s already out there. How can you bring a fresh perspective to it? What’s the angle? You don’t need to rush the process. Even if you can’t come up with a brilliant new angle right away, let your brain chew on it for a few days—you may just stumble upon a great idea.

Remember that journal reviewers and editors look for well-written articles that present new material in a clean, organized way; they expect consistency, concision, transparency, and relevant, interesting conclusions that advance the field. If your paper isn’t quite there yet, we recommend you develop it further before submitting it for publication. 

2. Do you have enough material for a paper? 

This is a big one because not every research topic will provide enough original data and material for a manuscript of adequate length and weight. Even if the idea is interesting and novel, unless it produces enough material, it may be hard to get it published. 

Many journals offer options for submitting shorter works, mainly rapid communications (which are memos for significant advances) and perspectives (which are usually invitation-only and provide reviews of recent developments rather than introducing new information). However, these types of submissions aren’t the norm. You don’t want to intentionally write a short paper with the aim of getting published through these means—aim for a bigger, more conventional paper, even if that means looking for a new topic.

Most researchers seek to have their full articles published and cited by their peers, thus adding to the conversation. If you don’t yet have enough material to make a significant contribution to your field, we suggest expanding your scope before you start writing. Think about ways you can meaningfully augment your study, whether it’s by adding a variable, changing the research methodology, or exploring the topic from a different angle.  

3. Is your research within the scope of your target journal? 

One of the most common reasons papers get rejected is that their topic falls outside the journal’s scope. That’s why we always recommend choosing a publication before you start writing—in this way, you can tailor your text to its style, expectations, and guidelines. Journals will reject papers that fail to follow their guidelines to a T even if the research itself is top-notch, so it’s crucial to comply with all the requirements of a particular publication. 

Your paper has to be relevant to the journal in order for it to accept your submission, so be careful when choosing a publication and make sure you’re submitting your highest-quality work. Read through back issues if you’re not already familiar with the types of articles your target journal tends to publish and the topics and subjects it gives attention to, and start thinking about how your research fits in. In case you’re not sure where to start, consider the journals you’re using for your own research. It’s okay to identify multiple publications where your work would fit in as a backup plan, but you should zero in on one target to tailor the writing and style to.

If you’re aiming for a journal with a strong impact and notoriously high rejection rates, your research needs to be challenging, innovative, original, and gripping. If you don’t think your research is at that level but you deem it ready for publication, submit it to a journal with a lower rejection rate and impact—you can always work your way up to the big names. Building an academic career is a long-term venture, and you need to improve your skills, experience, and competencies, so it’s okay to start small—just take a long-term view of it.

You must be thorough and purposeful when submitting your research paper for publication in an academic journal and take extra care to follow strictly its guidelines for authors to avoid rejection on a technicality. If your work is turned down on a technicality, the journal will likely invite you to resubmit after you’ve addressed the issues, but you’ll save yourself time and stress by dutifully following the guidelines the first time.

If your paper needs a final check to ensure it’s free of any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors, get a quote for our editing and proofreading service and let our experts help you craft a compelling submission.

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