How to publish a paper

By Diana Davis

So you’ve done some good research, you’ve written it up into a paper, and you’ve chosen a journal. What now? A friend of mine was recently in this situation, so I thought I’d share what he learned.

First, save your paper in PDF format. Make it look good, but don’t worry too much about the pagination, because whichever journal accepts it will have its own formatting stylesheet, and you’ll have to do it all over again anyway.

Next, look at the list of editors of the journal and choose one. Send him or her an e-mail, and attach your paper as a PDF.

But what do I write in the e-mail?” Not too much. Just say that you’d like to submit the paper for consideration. You can also give a one- or two-sentence summary of your paper.

The journal editors will send your paper to a referee, someone who works in the same area as you. It could be someone from your list of citations. That person will read the paper, and then tell the journal what they think: both whether it is worthy of publication, and any changes they think you should make. This process can take several months, depending on how quickly your referee reads the paper.

If your paper is accepted, great! You make the changes that they request, and you send it back. If it’s rejected, then you choose another journal and start the process again.

Some people think it would be more efficient if you sent it to several journals at the same time. However, you should not do this. It takes a lot of effort for the referee to carefully read and understand your paper, and you only want one person to have to do that. Plus, a given paper can only be published in one journal.

Has your experience with paper submission been generally like this, or has it been different? Please share your experience in the comments.

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