Planning the article
Your article will contribute something new to the academic discourse in a particular field. To successfully plan your article:
- Choose a journal that will allow you to reach an audience that is interested in your research topic, and that meets your strategic goals (e.g. a high-quality, reputable journal in your discipline). Consult your supervisor or trusted contacts in your field for guidance in choosing a suitable journal.
- Develop your article's content and structure to best meet the needs of your chosen journal and audience.
- Maintain your article's focus on a clear gap or problem in the existing research literature.
In considering how suitable your article is for publication, the journal editors will consider various factors. As a starting point, aim to demonstrate the following qualities in your article:
Originality of the ideas
A journal article needs to be novel, based on your own ideas and research, and add to current scholarly knowledge.
Significance of the ideas
Novelty is not sufficient if there is no purpose or significance in relation to current scholarly writing. Consider:
- Does your work fill a gap or address a problem in the current literature?
- Does it offer new methods or ways of reconceptualising theory?
- Does it challenge current assumptions?
Answering questions like this will help you to make a unique and valuable contribution to the discipline’s scholarly discourse.
Quality of the writing
Your article needs to be written in an academic style, according to the standards in your discipline and/or chosen journal. Scholarly writing is formal, but not necessarily boring. Making the writing clear and engaging will help to maintain your audience's interest.
Clarifying your contribution
An effective journal article makes a distinct contribution to an academic field. Communicating your contribution in clear, concise terms can be a challenging part of the writing process. However, clarifying your ideas early in the process can make it easier to organise the writing:
- If your journal article is based on a larger research project (e.g. your research thesis), conceptualise the article as a discrete argument with smaller scope. Choose a smaller 'slice' of the broader research that will function as a self-contained journal article, with its own smaller argument.
- Whether your journal article is based on an existing project or new research, use the below strategies to clarify and refine your ideas before producing a full draft.
Formulating your title
One way of distilling and synthesising your ideas for a journal article is to consider its title. The process of considering alternate titles encourages “unity, creativity and significance” (Crosby, 1976, p. 387). These are all important aspects in writing a good journal article.
Hartley (2007) offers twelve different types of title, each one emphasising a different way of engaging with readers. Explore the below activity to consider which style of title best represents your contribution to the academic field. This will help narrow your ideas down to the essence of your argument.
Can you think of titles which conform to these styles? Have a go at writing your own title according to the description, then click "Turn" to see an example (all found in business and economics journals).
Creating an abstract
Writing an abstract is another strategy for refining your thoughts. An abstract is a 200-300 word text that provides a short summary or description of the article. Generally, the abstract describes the background, methods, results and conclusions, depending on your discipline. An abstract is also required as part of a published paper; as such, its purpose is to attract the interest and inspire prospective readers.
Authors typically finalise their abstract after writing the full article, so it more accurately reflects the content of the finished article. However, consider drafting an abstract before you start writing the full article. Drafting an abstract first can assist in conceptualising your main argument and creating a structure. There are different types of abstracts which can serve different purposes, including:
This style of abstract is suitable for some disciplines (like engineering). It is a summary of the paper, providing a description of the contents, without presenting the conclusions.
The “informative” style is best for helping you refine your thoughts on an article. Not only does it provide a justification of the paper within an academic context, it provides the reader with your argument.
A mixed abstract is a combination of the descriptive and informative models. It provides a summary of the content as well as the main argument. It tends to be longer than the other versions and is ideal for a larger project, like a thesis.
A simple way to create an abstract is to answer a series of questions. There are several sets of questions offered in the literature on writing for publication, including Brown’s ‘Eight Questions.’
Write for 30 minutes on the subject of your journal article
- Who are the intended readers? List three to five of them by name.
- What did you do? (50 words)
- Why did you do it? (50 words)
- What happened [when you did that]? (50 words)
- What do the results mean in theory? (50 words)
- What do the results mean in practice? (50 words)
- What is the key benefit for readers? (25 words)
- What remains unresolved? (No word limit)
(Brown, 1994/95, p. 6 as cited in Murray, 2013, p. 131)
One of the advantages of using Brown’s 8 questions is the ease by which the resulting answers can be used to write a comprehensive abstract and to develop an outline for your paper.
- Take the keywords in each sentence of your abstract.
- Write them into section headings.
- Use them in the topic sentence and throughout the section.
- Define and explain the terms, as needed.
(Murray, 2013, p. 136)