General considerations

Submitting your dissertation chapters as published papers is encouraged, and sometimes mandatory, in many institutions. The advantages are that published papers have already been through the peer review process, so are deemed scientifically sound by experts in your field, which minimises the potential error for your examiners when assessing your dissertation. Further, published papers are copy edited by in-house editors at the target journal before being published, so your published chapter will in theory be grammatically sound and error free. Finally, published chapters lessen the workload for you as a student when writing your thesis.

Whether or not you are required to publish your dissertation chapters as papers depends on your university or research institution guidelines. For example, the University of Melbourne in Australia allows published chapters in Master’s and Ph.D. theses (see § 4.62–4.67 at Searching your own university or research institution’s policy on publishing thesis chapters will provide specific information.

Practical example for Life Sciences

The best course of action to determine whether your dissertation can be published as journal papers is to check your university or graduate research policy website, as it varies among institutions. Further, the requirements can change over time, so students from previous years may have followed different rules.

I’ve never submitted to a journal before. Where do I start?

General considerations

The first time submitting to a journal can be overwhelming, but there are many resources to help you.

ResourceContent authors/journal-authors/ submit-your-paperSix steps to submitting your paper to Elsevier, a major publishing company. careers/2007/04/tips-publishing-scientific-journalsTips from Science Magazine on maximising your chances of successful paper submission
http://publication-recommender.;jsessionid= 48349197C9E78151A604D8EF23733FC5The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineer (IEEE) online toolkit to help select a target journal

The first step is identifying a target journal for your paper. This involves targeting a readership audience that covers the relevance of your topic, the paper content, and/or the research methods. You will most likely submit in your field of research or a closely related one. Therefore, this step can be as simple as performing an Internet search on journals in your field. A more common approach, however, is searching the literature on your specific topic and looking for journals to which other authors have submitted. As a starting point, you can also search within the bibliography of your own paper. Your readership audience will vary with every paper you submit as each journal has different foci and types of papers they publish. These include methodological, technical, and applied papers. See the below ‘Field-specific examples’ section for more information on this topic.

Once you have identified your target audience and thus your journal, you can now submit your written paper. Journals often allow independent submissions at any time. This means, you can simply follow the submission procedures and submit your paper when it is ready. You don’t need to follow a particular schedule. However, some journals require an Expression of Interest letter. This letter is a pre-submission step requiring you as the author to ask permission from the journal to accept your paper. The journal will decide after consulting the journal editorial board on whether your paper is a good fit for the scope of the journal. If successful, you will be granted permission to submit your paper. If unsuccessful, you can then target another journal to submit your paper.

A prerequisite for submitting your paper involves meeting the formatting requirements of the journal. The formatting requirements are clearly outlined as a checklist-style document on the journal’s website, usually labelled ‘Instructions for authors’ or ‘Guidelines for authors’. As each journal has a different format and style for their published papers, this step ensures your paper meets the publishing and formatting requirements of the journal. This step is negotiated between journal and publishing company, where the publishing company typically sets the tone for the style and formatting of their published material before publishing and distributing the journal’s content. In some cases, the journal itself will set the formatting guidelines, but the final decision will ultimately rest with the publishing company. As an author, your responsibility is to adhere to these guidelines. Journals have the right to return un- or ill-formatted paper to authors if they feel the paper has not met their formatting standards.

After formatting your paper, the final step is identifying peer reviewers to review your paper. This step varies among journals, but journals may entrust the author to provide peer reviewer options. Whether the journal accepts these suggestions is at the journal’s discretions. As an author, this step involves providing the contact details of academics within your field that you believe would, as peers, offer an objective and fair review of your paper’s merit, scholarly contribution, and academic soundness. If your submission reaches the stage of peer review, the journal editor would contact these individuals and ask them to peer review your paper within a given period. This time period varies among journals, but is generally 3–4 weeks. The peer reviewers will then provide their review of your work to help the journal make and objective and informed decision on the contribution of your work to your field of research. To remain impartial and objective, you as an author and your target journal would normally not nominate reviewers that share a conflict of interest in your work. This can include colleagues within your department, those that have seen previous drafts of your paper, or anyone with some previous level of involvement in your research, such as contributions to field or lab work, statistical analysis, or methodology advice.

Once you have identified your target audience, your target journal, sought permission from the journal (if necessary), formatted your paper to the journal requirements, and identified peer reviewers in your field (if required), you can submit your paper to your targeted journal. Detailed information on these criteria is available in the ‘Instructions to authors’ sections for individual journals.

Practical example for Life Sciences

The type of research paper you can publish varies among journals and research fields. For example, within ecology, there are specific journals for methodological papers, e.g. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. These journals have dedicated sections for papers introducing a novel analysis, experimental design, or model. Here’s an example. If you were planning on submitting a paper introducing a new statistical analysis package, you may target a journal such as Ecography that publishes technical documents, such as software notes. This type of work would be less suitable in a theoretical ecology journal, for example, so already you have taken the first step in identifying your target audience. Further, because software notes as papers are less common, there are fewer journals publishing them, so your choice would also reflect the limited number of avenues for publishing this work. Once you are satisfied Ecography is the appropriate journal for your work, you can begin the submission process by following the ‘Author Guidelines’ section (see Software notes are a unique type of research paper and thus require their own set of submission conditions, which is publicly available (see Once you have satisfied the conditions for writing, formatting, and styling your paper to the standards expected of Ecography, you can begin finalising the submission process by creating an account in the Author Centre (see In the Author Centre, you supply the necessary information to submit your paper, including author(s) names and affiliations, paper abstract, word count, number of figures, acceptance of copyright policy, open access option (if available), nomination of peer reviewers, including their contact details, and uploading your manuscript, tables, figures, and appendices.

Practical example for mathematics

An excellent resource is your supervisor or professors in your field, who may know of appropriate and active journals for you to target. Before you submit a paper to a journal, read at least a few of their articles to get an idea of their preferred style and focus. There are enough mathematics and related journals that you may be able to target journals in your specific sub-field. This gives it a better chance of being accepted, but also of being used and appreciated by the journal’s audience since it will be directly relevant to their interests. If you are in a hurry to get published, you should consider checking the backlog information of the journal, if it’s available. If a journal has a large backlog, there will likely be delays in responding to your paper. Another thing to consider is that it’s not unusual for mathematicians to publish work on a personal website or on preprint servers, such as arXiv. This gives your work exposure since it can be found by someone browsing or searching in their field of interest.

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