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Lessons Learnt from My First Journal Publication
by Kumaripaba Athukorala
Recently I got my first, first authored journal article accepted to the Journal of Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST for short). I thought of sharing what I learnt from the journal article writing process while my experience is still fresh.
Some of the lessons might be specific to the JASIST journal. However, I generalized the details so that this article is useful to anyone.
Select the right journal
The first step of any scientific publication process is deciding where to publish. The good news is that we do not have to put any extra effort on that. As we review literature, we eventually realize where all the best articles are published. I found that all the articles that are highly relevant to my topic have been published in the JASIST journal. Then I checked its impact factor. Impact factor is a good indicator of the quality of a journal. Many universities in Finland refer to the julkaisufoorumi (AKA JUFO) to find the quality of the forum. For example, JASIST journal is categorized in JUFO level 3 (highest level).
Set a deadline
It is a good idea to make a proper schedule. If we are targeting a special issue of a journal there will be a manuscript submission deadline (most probably). However, many journals do not have any deadline. For example JASIST does not have a deadline. Yet the journals have a particular number of issues per year with which we can get an idea of when the article will be published and which issue should we target.
I also contacted several experienced colleagues to learn about how long in general it takes to get the first round of reviews from a journal. According to many it takes approximately a year for the whole process. However, one of the researchers who have published in the JASIST journal told me that it has a pretty fast reviewing process and he received his first round of reviews within two months. I also posted in twitter asking more information from other researchers who have published in JASIST. I received a lot of very useful comments in twitter. I suggest twitter as a good medium to gather such information from more experienced researchers out there.
If the journal has no deadline, we should set a deadline our self. I learnt this in the hard way. We kept on coming up with more additions and at some point I noticed that we have spent over a month on just making minor changes. That is when I realized that we must set a hard deadline and stick with that. It is a good idea to enforce this deadline on the coauthors.
Thoroughly check the formatting guidelines
It is very important to adhere to the formatting guidelines provided by the journal. Some journals allow submitting the first version in any format and if the article gets accepted they provide the template. And then some journals might provide both latex and word templates. However, JASIST does not have a latex template, but allow submitting latex files. Fortunately, I got many useful formatting tips through twitter.
It is also crucial to check whether there is a limit on the page/word count. One big mistake I made was paying less attention to the word limit. I noticed the 8000-word limit just when we decided to finally submit the manuscript. At that time we had around 19000 words. We spent nearly one more week on cutting down words and submitted the manuscript with 15000 words. But then the editor desk rejected the manuscript, fortunately giving us another opportunity to resubmit with less words. We had to spend another week on further reducing the words. It was not an easy process but at the end we made it to nearly 9000 words and the editor accepted it for reviewing. The bright side of having such a restriction on word count is that I learnt how to write to the point (not to be verbose). Though painful, it was indeed a very useful writing exercise for me :)
Get feedback from colleagues
I also found it useful to get feedback from other colleagues in the field. When the first version of the manuscript was ready, I asked few colleagues who were not aware of this particular research to read it. Their feedback was like the pre-reviews and helped me to improve the readability of the manuscript greatly.
Well, after the first round of reviews in general we get an idea of the future of the manuscript: will it make it or not? We received the first reviews about one and half months after submission. That was a pretty fast review process compared to many other journals and conferences. At first it was a major revision but we were positive because reviews were addressable. Then about two weeks after submitting the first revision, we received the second round of reviews. This time it was a minor revision. I was over the moon to see that all the reviewers were very positive. Few hours after I submitted the second revision, we received the acceptance notice from the editor. We are very impressed with the fast review process of the JASIST journal. But every journal is not the same.
I hope my experience help other young researchers out there, struggling with the first journal article. Good luck to everyone!!
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