Are you a PhD student who wishes to make a career in the field of teaching or research? If yes, you must go through this guide to publishing and begin preparing yourself for the fiercely competitive job market while you are still a student.
As a PhD student, you might already be flooded with numerous academic responsibilities ranging from ‘endless piles of reading’ to ‘teaching students’ to ‘writing and editing your PhD thesis or dissertation’, and the idea of engaging in any additional work may seem daunting to you. However, you need to understand that the above-mentioned academic obligations are not enough to catch the undivided attention of prospective employers these days somehow.
The hiring teams at various academic or research-oriented institutions often look for candidates that are able to demonstrate their capacity to conduct research through their published work. So, you may want to consider getting your research papers/articles published before you graduate, in order to maximise your chance of landing a teaching job at a reputed university. If you have a piece of published paper under your belt, it simply proves that you excel at both understanding and answering the most complex problems of this world, and this is highly appreciated by employers when you go seeking employment.
In this article, we will address some of the pressing questions related to publishing that will help you meet both your personal and professional goals in the future.
A) When should you start thinking about getting your first research paper published?
Frankly speaking, the process of getting published is extremely time-consuming, and the ones who postpone the idea of publishing their first research paper until the final year of their PhD programmes may not have any published content under their belt by the time they graduate. What this translates into is a lack of employment opportunities after your graduation and this is something you would definitely want to avoid.
As per the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Graduate Connections program, it could take up to 3 years for PhD students to get their first research paper published as they often have to engage in a great deal of editing and re-writing so as to make their research paper publishable. Besides, many journals publish on a quarterly basis and this definitely causes the publishing timelines to get extended further unnecessarily. So, start as early as possible with an intention to have a published paper under your belt a year before graduation if you want to go for a teaching job at the university of your choice soon after you graduate.
B) How should you get your first research paper published?
After journals put out their generic or specific calls for submissions over an academic year, students go about submitting their research work and cover letters to the journals that match their research interests and that are more likely to publish the work of new researchers. The idea of solely competing with experienced researchers/scholars/academics may seem intimidating to many PhD students when they set out on their journey to publish the very first research paper. If you are in a similar situation, it is better for you to co-author the first paper by collaborating with your PhD supervisor or advisor or another professor. Not only would such collaboration help you conquer your fear of failure or rejection, but also it would aid you in getting your research findings validated by someone credible and becoming widely known for your research contributions in the academic communities before your graduation.
C) Where should you get published?
When evaluating a number of journals for the purpose of getting published, you should consider asking: i) if your research interests align well with those of the journal you are considering applying to, and ii) if your research paper bids fair to get published in the journal of your choice. Depending on your research interests and your chance of getting published, you would be able to figure out as to which all journals you should be targeting for your research paper. It is not a bad idea to work with a new journal that is trying to add to its total number of contributors.
By having your first paper published at a new journal, you would basically be increasing your chances of being accepted into top-tier publications in the days to come. In addition to approaching journals, you could look into giving presentations at conferences or writing up chapters of any book. Doing so would also get your name out in the publishing world for sure.
D) What should you consider publishing?
Besides thinking about publishing research articles in academic journals, you could consider resorting to other outlets and paths to expand the reach of your research work, e.g. Conference Papers, Books, Dissertation/Thesis, and Research Findings. Below given is the description of the publishing options that are available to you as a PhD student:
- Journal Articles: Being the most common means of publishing academic work, journal articles are well-researched essays that aim at addressing a research gap from a fresh perspective and advising on how the research work in a particular field could be further advanced. These articles range between 4000 and 7000 words, and often appear in peer-reviewed journals, with each journal specialising in a specific academic discipline. For example, British Medical Journal, Journal of Operations Management, and European Journal of Sports Science.
- Books: You have the option to either write the whole book on your own or simply draft book chapters to get your work noticed by a larger audience. Since the former option is very time-consuming, many PhD students go for the latter one, i.e. authoring or co-authoring chapters of a book. The most common type of book publishing, while you are studying your PhD at university, is anthology that seeks to put together various ways of mulling over a specific question in a given discipline or subject area. Please feel free to check out great examples of anthologies at Oxford University Press.
- PhD Dissertation/Thesis: PhD students have to write a dissertation or thesis (averaging approximately 90000 words) and submit the same to their universities for satisfactorily completing the requirements of their degrees. So, you could look into getting your PhD dissertation or thesis published by the university press or you could rework it for a relevant academic journal or conference.
- Research Findings: Quantitative and qualitative data collected by PhD students while carrying out research work for any academic paper would fall under the umbrella of research findings which appeal to a wide array of audiences as the collected data provides new pieces of information that can further be analysed for gaining new insights. Examples of research findings include interviews, statistics or any other form of primary research.
You could consider having your primary research data published by relevant journals, think tanks and research forums to increase the likelihood of getting your name noticed in academia and landing a teaching job post your graduation.
E) What are the hindrances that you are likely to encounter on your way to getting published and how could you deal with those?
Getting published for the first time may be nerve-racking for many PhD students while they are still studying, and their success would totally depend on how persistent they are when it comes to approaching journals with cover letters and examples of their work or presenting at conferences or collaborating with others besides shouldering their routine academic obligations ranging from ‘teaching’ to ‘writing up PhD thesis or dissertation. So, be persistent in your publishing endeavours if you wish to gain accolades from the research community for your research contributions. Below given are challenges and suggested solutions that you may want to look at in order to publish your first piece of research work successfully:
- Lack of time – When results are not directly linked to one’s efforts, one normally tends to procrastinate. Since publishing a research paper is not a mandatory requirement for you to obtain your PhD degree, you would most likely not assign much significance to it while you are studying at your university. In order to thrive and succeed though, you need to get rid of this mindset and carve out some time to carry out research work for publication without compromising on your routine academic obligations.
- Lack of confidence – PhD students have been reported to suffer from a great deal of mental stress resulting from intense competition and their desire to stand out in the crowd. Such mental stress gets further intensified when PhD students have to face direct competition from researchers and academics who have years of research experience in the publishing arena. Yes, it is difficult to feel confident in such kind of situation. However, you need to remind yourself that these experienced research professionals also had to start their journey from scratch in the past and it is okay not to be as good as the experienced researchers in the beginning. With the passage of time, you would get recognition for your research contributions and be as confident in the days to come.
- Lack of funding – When conducting academic research, PhD students are likely to incur some expenses, such as the cost of travelling to archives or the cost of data collection or printing cost. While you are studying at the university, you might be living on a low budget and it may not be possible for you to finance your research for academic journals out of your own pocket. So, please check with your university and see if you are eligible for research grants that can make up for the expenses you incur during such kind of research.
- Intense competition – There is a large number of academic scholars, including experienced academics and inexperienced students, trying to get their research work published. However, it is highly unlikely that all of them would succeed simultaneously due to the availability of space being limited or scarce in nature. Hence, if your work is rejected by any academic journal due to any reason, you should take it as an opportunity to improve your work even further rather than take it to your heart and go into depression. Remember that perseverance prevails. So, do not feel down and out if it is taking longer than usual for you to find your first breakthrough. Instead, keep up with your hard work until you succeed.
- Adequately addressing feedback – When a piece of research work is submitted to any publisher or academic journal, it is highly unlikely that the same would be accepted and published in its current form. This could happen due to the submission guidelines not being adhered to in a meticulous manner. Examples of this could include ignoring citation and referencing style requirements, exceeding the word count, grammatical issues, syntax errors, and missing out on cover letters.In most of the cases, the submitted draft is critiqued and returned by the publisher to the author, offering constructive feedback on how to make the existing piece of work publishable in the future. In case your draft has been returned for revision by the publisher, you must edit it in line with the shared feedback meticulously, even if that means restructuring or rewriting the whole piece of work. Please feel free to consult your PhD supervisor or any reliable professor/academic if you have trouble comprehending any specific comment or addressing any piece of feedback shared by the editor.
F) How many journal articles should you publish during your PhD?
There is no concrete answer to this question somehow. It all depends on a number of factors ranging from ‘length of the programme’ to ‘research team access’ to ‘relationships with faculty members’. Although you may come across PhD students who completed their PhD programmes with 10 publications, yet such cases are quite rare. In a normal scenario, you are expected to get through your PhD with a minimum of one publication under your belt.
Let us say that you are pursuing a 4-year PhD programme and you put your hands to writing your first journal article while you are in year 2. As you move into year 3, you submit the research paper to the publisher after engaging in data collection, data analysis, and writing. As you may already know, there is hardly any research paper that is accepted without revision. So, let us presume that your article is accepted by the chosen publisher in year 4 after you fully addressed various sets of feedback from the editor. So, you would ideally have one published paper in your name by the time you graduate.
Hopefully, this piece of content would help you get closer to your goal of getting published in the near future. In case you need any help with regard to a research article that you intend to publish or you have any question related to academic publishing, please feel free to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with all the details and our elite editorial team would be happy to assist you further. Alternatively, you can send us your detailed message or requirements through our CONTACT US form.