Success in Publishing: Selecting an Appropriate Journal and Braving the Peer-review ProcessMS Tullu, S Karande
Department of Pediatrics, Seth G.S. Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Correspondence Address: Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None DOI: 10.4103/jpgm.JPGM_618_17
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Merely writing a research paper well may not be enough to achieve success in publishing it. The authors also have to select an appropriate journal and the paper has to outlast the rigorous process of peer review. This editorial attempts to offer useful tips for the prospective authors to get their research papers published in eminent peer-reviewed journals (which have a high standing in the academic field) with a greater success rate.
Submission of the manuscript
Once the manuscript is correctly assembled, it would be a good idea to ask a colleague (especially the one who is well-versed with English language and grammar and also has experience of successfully publishing research papers) to read it for grammar and content (an “informal” in-house peer review).,,, It is usually necessary to obtain permission from the Institutional Head (Dean/Director/Superintendent) for using hospital data for publication. A polite covering/submission letter to the Editor (explaining the importance of the research findings and suitability/interest of the paper to the journal's readership) needs to be uploaded along with the manuscript.,,, Nowadays, all eminent journals need electronic submission of the title page, the main text, photographs/figures, copyright form, financial assistance declaration form, declaration of conflict of interest, supplementary files, and an undertaking that the manuscript has not been published before and has not been simultaneously submitted to any other journal. Proper presentation of one's manuscript is important and hence authors need to adhere to the journal's guidelines for all details of the manuscript (including the journal style, correct grammar, word count, number of tables, number of references, and details of artwork) and they should use the checklists provided by the journals for the same., This will ensure that the first impression of the paper with the journal's Editor/Editorial board is favorable, which increases the chances of the paper getting into the peer-review process., Many journals offer the authors an option of suggesting names of up to four reviewers for their manuscript. Although the editor is not duty bound to accept these names, the authors should grab this option and choose the reviewers who can review their manuscript competently (the “subject experts”). These names should be from another city/state and definitely not from the same institute as the author/s.
Selecting the right journal
This is an important decision which needs a lot of effort and the choice is made only after searching the internet (PubMed) and by taking help from experienced researchers. One should either choose the target journal before drafting the manuscript or draft a “generic” manuscript and then adapt it to the journal style and instructions.,, Beginners should take help from the seasoned senior authors for this critical decision. The selection of the target journal needs to be objective as the authors have to honestly evaluate scientific content of their own manuscript and then decide about the journal for submission (whether a high impact journal or a lower impact journal). It is advisable to check the website of the target journal and ensure that the journal is published regularly, else one may lose precious time. Some of the factors influencing the selection of the journal are described here:
A journal that will (most probably) accept the manuscript
The authors should ask themselves – Who am I writing the manuscript for?/What is the main message? Then they should check the appropriateness, readership, and scope of the journal.,,,, Also, the authors should look at the reach of the journal (local/regional/global) and whether the journal is a general postgraduate or a specialty journal (and try to reach a broader audience whenever possible). The authors should check few previous issues of the journal to see whether it has been publishing articles on the concerned topic. If a similar study with identical results has already been published in the recent past, the editors would most likely not be keen to publish similar work (as the novelty of the research has already been lost)., However, if one is lucky, it may also happen that the manuscript can become a part of a bunch of papers on closely related topics giving the editors an opportunity to print a “theme” to the journal issue. Such themes are also declared by the editors from time to time.
Indexed journals, especially those with good/high impact factors, are rightly presumed to be of certain high “quality.” Such journals ensure a consistent and good quality peer-review process and it is prestigious to publish in them. However, these high impact factor journals also have a very high rejection rate.,,,, Hence, the authors should ensure that their manuscript is high on scientific quality, well-designed, addressing specific research question/s, well-powered, preferably randomized as well as have good clinical applicability, so that it is published in a high impact factor journal., PubMed/Medline, EMBASE, Web of Science, and Scopus are considered to be some of the best indexing agencies for scientific journals.,,,
Ease in submission and author-friendly
Nowadays, every high-quality journal has facility for electronic submission via a manuscript management system to submit (as well as to track the paper) and clarity in their “instructions to authors.” Authors should make it a point to find out from the journal's webpage the average time period for the reviewing (up to 8 weeks is generally acceptable), a stated review process, facility for electronic tracking of manuscript status, and there should be minimal lag from acceptance to publication., Also, the authors should check whether the journal has a facility for “ahead of print” publication as this helps timely visibility of the research work, much before it actually gets printed in the hard copy of the journal.
Easily accessible for readers
The target journal should be regularly published, having its own website and electronic versions. Open access journals tend to have wider visibility/readership due to free availability.,
The authors should check that the expenses involved (if any), such as the manuscript handling charges, page charges, reprint charges, and charges for tables/colored figures, are within their budget., Some journals also waive these charges if the authors express inability to pay the same due to nonavailability of suitable funding sources. So authors need to check whether they would have an access to the print version of the journal or whether a pdf electronic copy of the author's own published article will be made available by the journal (after the publication).
The peer-review process
The submitted manuscript is read/screened by the Editor/Subeditor/Editorial board members.,,, Outright acceptance of a research article is an exception. However, outright rejection may occur if the manuscript is poorly written or it has major scientific or ethical flaws. This is done to ensure that the reviewers are not made to read a substandard article (either in drafting or in scientific content, or both) and their precious time and energy is conserved for deserving manuscripts. If the manuscript is not as per the technical requirements of the journal, the Subeditor and Editor may request to comply with the same before any further processing is done; hence one needs to be meticulous in preparing the manuscript as per the “Instructions to Authors” given by the target journal.,,
The next step is (usually a blinded or occasionally a nonblinded) peer review. This is a process of independent assessment done by two to four subject experts who are called as the “Reviewers or Assessors or Referees” and are selected by the Editor (either from the Journal's Panel of Reviewers or by searching the PubMed using appropriate keywords related to the manuscript).,,,, The aim of peer review is to provide useful, constructive, and timely assessment of the research paper and improve its scientific quality and readability., After the reviewers have reviewed the manuscript and submitted their comments (usually within 6–8 weeks), the editor compiles these comments from all the reviewers and sends them back to authors. Besides comments for authors, the reviewers also give recommendation/advice on the acceptability of the manuscript (as confidential comments to the editor only). The manuscript may either be rejected at this stage or the editor may invite a revision from the authors. The changes requested by the reviewers may be major or minor. Once the authors submit a revision, the revised manuscript is sent back to the reviewers for their opinion and this peer-review process may continue for a few more turns (consuming about 3–9 months). Finally, the article gets either accepted or rejected.
Usually the rejection comes with the first set of the comments of the reviewers. If the rejection is due to gross scientific or ethical faults, the manuscript is difficult to salvage. However, if the manuscript writing or some of the analysis has been deficient, it can perhaps be improved upon. The common reasons of rejection include an oft-repeated unimportant topic or a topic that is outside the scope of the journal, lack of originality, inaccurate information, inadequate literature review, faulty methods or analysis, conclusions not being consistent with the data, poorly written manuscripts, and unacceptable ethical/integrity issues.,, [Table 1] summarizes the common errors/pitfalls that may lead to rejection of a manuscript.,,,,,, If unsuccessful with one journal (rejection), the authors should incorporate the changes requested for by the learned reviewers and submit the manuscript to another journal (ensuring compliance with the style of the new journal).,,, This process should continue till the authors find a journal willing to publish their manuscript (remember that persistence and perseverance is the key to success in publishing).
After acceptance, the authors should be equally meticulous to reply to the editors for any last-minute author queries and submit the corrected page proofs well before time., Authors should also be willing to reply to letters to editors criticizing/commenting upon their manuscript (and defend their work and highlight its utility/importance) after it is published.,
Regularly reading and analyzing research articles in one's specialty in various journals help in learning how to write manuscripts, and one should make this a regular habit. If a researcher gets an invitation to review, they should grab the opportunity and make the most of it to learn the publication process, as reviewing can make you a better writer.
Revising and resubmitting the manuscript
When asked by the editor to resubmit a revision, the author for correspondence should read the reviewer's comments carefully and objectively. The authors should not get upset with the criticisms and need to respond within the time limit (usually 2–4 weeks) given by the journal (avoiding unnecessary delays). The author for correspondence should share the reviewer's comments with all the co-authors to seek their feedback to revise the paper. The authors should bear in mind to respond to each and every comment in an objective manner (using the templates/tables for the same provided by the journal), be polite and admit errors (if any), accept changes that are appropriate, and provide justification for changes that are not necessary or inappropriate (with adequate references).,, The reply to editor's and reviewer's comments should be prepared very meticulously. The authors should restate each original comment offered by the editor/s and reviewer/s and give a point-by-point complete reply to each comment. This may necessitate additional study/review of literature by the authors. It is probably wise to accept the minor changes suggested by the editor/s and reviewer/s (the suggestions that do not change the main structure or interpretation of the paper). If the authors are not able to address the issues raised by the reviewer/s, they should clearly state so in their reply to that particular comment. If they do not agree with the comment/s from the editor/s or reviewer/s, they should politely state so, giving evidence from (appropriate) literature to support their decision not to carry out the revision on that particular comment/issue. The exact place of the correction/revision in the main text of the manuscript should be stated with each of these replies and marked or highlighted in the revised (“marked-up”) manuscript for easy identification of the place where the revisions have been done. The authors should never falsely state that they have complied with a particular comment from the editor/reviewer (in their reply) and not carry out the corresponding correction in the revised manuscript. This behavior puts off the editor/s and reviewer/s and creates a negative impression about the authors. The authors should mark the corrections/revision in a different font color or highlight the same with light (yellow) color and resubmit (the “marked-up” as well as “clean copy” of) the revised manuscript (within the allotted timeframe) along with a polite covering letter and file containing the reply to the editor/s and reviewer/s comments.,, All these files need to be individually uploaded to the journal website. If the authors need additional time to submit their revised manuscript, they should communicate accordingly with the editor.
To summarize, for success in publishing, it is important to maintain congruence and continuity throughout the manuscript as regards/vis-à-vis the research question, the methodology, the results found, and the conclusions. Authors should always maintain good publication ethics in authorship, shun plagiarism or duplicate publications or simultaneous submissions to more than one journal at a time, and avoid dividing one research paper into short multiple papers (for increasing the number of publications).,,,,
Thus, to maximize success in publication the authors should select novel research topics, use robust methodology and statistics, take Ethics Committee permission, register the research with Clinical Trials Registry (CTRI, India), select the appropriate journal, check the focus and scope of the journal, be alert and careful in adhering to “instructions to authors,” use simple language and check thoroughly for grammatical mistakes, be brief (concise) and focused (precise), be objective about one's research, avoid tall unsubstantiated claims, revise the manuscript in time, and hope for the best outcome.,,,,,,,, Good organization, hard work, meticulousness, and perseverance will lead to success in publication and immense academic satisfaction.,,