In the last few weeks, this column has concentrated on students, this week we shall look at another aspect of the academic world, which is publishing in reputable journals. This is essential for a number of reasons. The first reason is contribution to knowledge. The essence of a university is to provide direction for the society, and the best way to provide this direction is by conducting rigorous research that will analyse issues from different perspectives and offer solutions. For instance in UK universities at the moment the quality of an article is not judged by its publication in a reputable journal only, but the ability of the published research to influence policy making, and each academic staff will have to submit his publications for review and measuring of their impact factor through the Research Excellence Framework (REF).
The second reason why it is important to publish high quality research is to help in research led teaching. This is very helpful, because the teacher, lecturer or the professor will be passing first hand information to the students, he will as well inculcate in them the culture of critical thinking, and for those of them who would equally join the academia, that is a good learning process.
The third reason is about reputation. Usually in the academia, the reputation of an academic is judged by his ability to spread his research across different platforms. He may be writing from Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, Saudi Arabia or Philippines, but if his work has the real quality, it will spread beyond borders; the work will be translated in languages other than the one in which he produced the research, institutions of learning will invite him to present his research etc. We have seen this with the works of scholars like Jurgen Habermas, Noam Chomsky, Dennis McQuail, Ali Mazrui, Samir Amin, Walter Rodney, Pierre Bourdieu, Aaidh Al-Qarni and Edward Said. Their articles and books have been translated into different languages and the world continues to benefit from their scholarly erudition. Even the works of less prominent scholars has received similar attention.
The fourth reason which is equally important is that publications are the means of promotion in the academia. So it is actually not an option but a mandatory requirement that every researcher must satisfy before he could move into the next step of his career.
So what do you need to do to publish in these reputable journals? There is usually a criteria to help you achieve that. First of all reputable journals are produced by reputable publishers such as Sage, Routledge, Darussalam, Intellect, Elsevier, Palgrave etc. Although they are commercial ventures, the journals are run by reputable academics. The second criteria is that they are free, you do not have to pay a submission or review fee, you should be very sceptical of international journals that ask you to pay a fee before reviewing your article. Because there are numerous publishing companies in Europe and North America that ask for money before publishing your work, be wary of that.
The third yardstick to use is by looking at the editorial board of the journal, who is the editor, who are the reviewers; the names contained will tell you how good the journal is, it will also tell you the ideological leaning of the journal. Is the editorial board populated by liberal academics or by right-wing and pro-establishment scholars? Because even in the academia there is politics, and you need to be aware of that. The fourth factor is to look at the rating of the journal, is it a two star, three star, four star journal etc. The higher the rating the better.
Once you have made a decision, the next thing is the submission of manuscript. Rejecting submissions is common in reputable academic journals, so before submitting a paper you need to do your homework. So when you write a paper give it to somebody to read and give you feedback, what Professor Martin Conboy calls “a friend with an eagle eye”, somebody who will indentify mistakes, because as Professor Conboy also says “criticism is the life blood of academics”. You may also present it in a departmental seminar or a conference. In fact if you attend conferences like the American Political Science Association (APSA), or the International Association of media and Communication Research (IAMCR), you will meet journal editors looking for quality research, and that could be a good starting point for you.
Never take the criticism personal, improve the manuscript from the feedback you received from your colleagues/friends. The next step is to look at the writing style of the journal. This is important; otherwise the editors will return it to you without hesitation. Following that is the submission guidelines, make sure you follow that strictly, and these procedures are available on the websites of the journals.
After submitting the article, journals usually have a policy of blind peer review in which the article will be submitted to two or three anonymous reviewers. Once the review is complete, the editors will send it back to you with a decision, either rejecting it, or asking for resubmission after major corrections, or even accept it with minor corrections, and some will simply recommend submission to another journal.
To me this is the most important stage in the publication process, because reviewers can demolish your work. But this is the academia. I have seen established professors whose work has been rejected, so bear that in mind. Should your work be rejected, incorporate the feedback you received from the reviewers and submit to another journal, and in many instances what one journal rejects, is the meat of another journal.
But to succeed, you need to be patient, make the corrections asked of you and then submit. If your work is accepted in these excellent journals, that is an important milestone; because it will lunch you to the rest of the world especially in this age where serious journals have an online presence and are subscribed by universities across the globe. In fact it will enhance the reputation of your university, as well as the department you contributed from. If you believe in the quality of your research, be confident by submitting it to the best journal in your field, whether it is the Lancet for those in the field of medicine, Political Studies for political scientists, Journalism Studies or Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies for those in the field of media and communications or Ethnic and Racial Studies for Sociologists and other related fields.
*Dr. Yusha’u (firstname.lastname@example.org), a former staff of the BBC, teaches journalism at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, England. He is a weekly columnist for PREMIUM TIMES