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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
How to Get Research Published in Journals (2nd ed.)
Article Type: Book reviews From: Education + Training, Volume 50, Issue 4.
Abby DayGowerISBN 13 9780566088155
The first edition of this book was published in 1997. Since that time, in the words of the author, “much and little has changed”. Much has changed in the world of journal publication. Fortunately, Day does not get dragged down a pathway discussing the UK research assessment exercise but instead highlights issues such as the impact of online access to journal material. I share Day’s slight apprehension that many academics and researchers have lost a sense of identification with a whole journal as such. The power of search facilities and access via the online resources of libraries mean that only a few now see a full issue of any journal. This is surely a factor explaining the tactics employed by prospective authors who patently fail to identify themselves and their material with one or two journals in particular and unfortunately often reap the consequences in terms of rejection. In terms of the basic processes which can enhance the likelihood of success in “getting research published”, however, Day is quite correct; little has changed.
Day’s task is to help people overcome some of the most common obstacles to successful publication. The book is organised into three main sections: “Setting your objectives”, “Knowing your audience” and “From draft to print”. The real strength of the book, though, is how, within all three sections, key basic themes such as “what is this paper about?” and “why does it matter?” are recurrent. She succeeds in demystifying the writing for publication process ensuring that the message of clear thinking assists clear writing hits home. At the same time the difficulties are not glossed over. It is not necessarily easy to write 20 words or less to convey the purpose of a paper but Day is spot on in cajoling and encouraging the prospective author to keep trying just this. Get this right and other parts begin to fall into place more easily.
I particularly liked Chapter 5 (“So what?”) and Chapters 10 and 11 (“Seven days to a finished paper” and “Writing the draft”). The “So what?” chapter deals with the value of articles. In my experience it is not so much arrogance but more a lack of confidence that accounts for the number of generally well-written papers from new authors which fail to indicate the contribution. Whilst remaining a little nervous with a notion of “seven days” to write an article, I nevertheless found the issues addressed in both chapters 10 and 11 offered an excellent basis for moving into the heart of the article writing process. For example, Day emphasises the importance of an Introduction:
In the Introduction you give the readers the story in a nutshell. …The Introduction is actually your conclusion; it’s an executive summary. You tell the end of the story at the beginning.
This is certainly a practice that I employ and advise others to follow. More specifically, I encourage new authors to try and write the abstract first then proceed to expand and develop each key part. Combining my advice with that of Day will mean that the abstract and the introduction look remarkably similar but I have few qualms about this.
Throughout, using end of chapter action points, Day encourages the reader to write. The 20-word statement of purpose is one example; another similarly uses the 20-word limit, but this time to capture attention. The central message is reinforced throughout such exercises: clarity and conciseness. The author also uses extracts from reviewers to indicate how reactions to weaknesses and problems are conveyed constructively to the author. This works well but it would have been appropriate to have seen some illustrative copy from either published or rejected papers.
I chose to review this book as I prepared to run a writer’s workshop at a forthcoming conference. It helped to sharpen my thinking, gave me one or two good ideas for practical activities and overall confirmed the scope and emphasis within my planned workshop. On this basis, the book is highly recommended as a resource for any novice or aspirant writer of journal articles. It probably is most useful alongside, or as follow-up to some sort of practical workshop, but whether used in this way or as stand-alone, the book meets the criteria advocated by Day herself for journal articles and papers it meets its purpose and it adds value.