General considations

There can be many pitfalls when publishing research papers, but most are preventable if you have good mentorship to help you navigate the journal landscape and a solid working knowledge of the publication process. It is common for young researchers to underestimate the time budget for publishing a research paper. Therefore, they can often spend a lot of unnecessary time targeting journals that are top tier and popular, but in reality, are unsuited for their work. This can depend on a number of factors, mainly a mismatch between the message of the paper and the scope of the journal, the content or length of the paper and the type of research articles the journal prints, or simply the paper does not meet the high scientific standards of publication. To avoid these pitfalls, young researchers should seek appropriate advice, either from mentors or the journal itself, and make realistic estimates of time commitment to the publication process. Further, journals are people-powered enterprises. Therefore, common human errors can often occur, including misplacing submitted articles. Young researchers should feel comfortable contacting journals to report on the status of the submitted paper when the journal fails to deliver on their own estimates of turnaround times.

Practical example for Life Sciences

Within the life sciences, lengthy decision times on submitted papers can deter young researchers from submitting to certain journals. Familiarising yourself with standard publication practice and talking to colleagues about their own experiences, particularly more experienced colleagues that can reflect on their earlier research years, can provide useful insight into the type of pitfalls to avoid, how to make smarter and more efficient decisions when choosing a target journal, and building resilience to the negative aspects of the publication process. Some useful advice is to make conservative estimates of expected publication dates for your papers and be realistic about these estimates being twice as long as initially anticipated. Planning and writing early during your graduate candidature is a good strategy to ensure you can feasibly meet deadlines.

Practical example for Social Sciences

Aiming too low for fear of rejection is a common error made by young researchers in the social sciences. Due to the publish-or-perish nature of academia, young researchers often feel the pressure to optimise their publication count at the expense of publishing in higher-tiered journals i.e., “playing it safe”. Generally, this is where one should rely on the judgement of more experienced mentors and supervisors, as they will often be the driving force behind motivating researchers to publish novel findings in higher impact journals when younger researchers may not have the confidence to aim for these at the outset. Similarly, younger researcher often have thinner skins when it comes to the review and rejection processes associated with publication. Support and commiseration from more experienced peers and mentors can be instrumental in developing the resilience needed to persist in such a high critical feedback environment, and to be able to discern the important information need to improve the work based on the critiques provided.

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