I recently caught up with Dr. Jason Swarts of the CRDM program to get his thoughts on the art of scholarly publication. Here is his advice:
And here is the “source code” for the infographic (aka Dr. Swarts’s original answers):
What would prevent a seminar paper from being publishable?
Two things come to mind. The first is that seminar papers frequently address an audience of fellow classmates, all of whom share a common understanding and awareness of the readings and the importance of the issues they raise. This common understanding is reflected in seminar papers which tend to have weaker stated exigence because the importance of the topic is taken for granted. The second thing is that many writers tend to approach the literature review in a seminar paper as an occasion to demonstrate a comprehensive awareness of the literature read. Published papers take a much more strategic and selective approach to the literature review, organizing the sources chosen to reveal a gap in our knowledge.
What is the most important element of a publishable paper?
For me, it is that you need to make a clear argument about why your research needs to exist. What is the exigence driving the paper? How does it fit in with what we (in the field) already know and need to know? It is often not enough simply to say “nobody has studied this before” because that is true of many topics — sometimes with good reason.
How do you go about *beginning* the process of writing an academic paper?
I usually pick a topic first and decide what it is that I want to say about it. Then I try to fit the topic to a journal. After selecting a journal, I always read a few recent articles to get a sense of the audience that the authors are addressing.
Any other advice or suggestions about the topic of academic publishing?
Academic publishing takes a long time, and if you want to get a piece in print and on your CV before you go on the market, there is no time to waste. A realistic timeline to publication would be something like 19-20 months. This assumes 3-4 months for the review of your initial manuscript, 1 month to work on revisions (for a revise and resubmit), 3-4 months for review of the revised manuscript, and 1 year waiting in the journal’s publication queue.
The other piece of advice is to keep in mind that it is exceedingly rare that an article is accepted for publication “as is.” Most articles that a journal editor feels are capable of being worked into publishable shape will come back to you as “revise and resubmit.”