What's 1 important thing you've learned about preparing a manuscript for journal submission? — R Voice

What's 1 important thing you've learned about preparing a manuscript for journal submission?

Andrea Hayward
Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 185 admin

I've been reading all the discussions on the community and have realized something interesting -- one person's experiences often serve as lessons for others. In this way, we're all treasure troves of advice and suggestions owing to the wisdom and learning we've gained along our own respective journeys. 🙂

So today I thought, why not pass this advice forward? Specifically I thought we could talk about something that most of the community would have experience in - preparing a manuscript for journal submission.

So here's my question - What's one important thing you've learned about preparing a manuscript for journal submission? It could be related to any aspect of manuscript preparation and it might just be something that you wish you'd known at an earlier point in your academic journey. Think of it as YOUR piece of advice for the next set of researchers who're about to start their publication journey.

Let's share what we know today - GO! 😃

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Comments

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 64 ✭✭✭

    I'm torn between read the instructions on the journal submission site so you submit your paper correctly which stops delays to the process OR be clear about the focus of your paper, you're not meant to put in EVERYTHING you've ever done but zoom in on one valuable aspect and write about than. This gives the room to give your work the detail it deserves within the wordcount without just being a list of stuff.

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 185 admin
  • Nicholas Rowe
    Nicholas Rowe Member Posts: 7
    edited May 21

    For me, its organization and logical progression. Start-Middle-End.

    Whatever the article type or level, there has to be a base that justifies why the 'work' needs to be done, and it has to have comprehensive support from a full range of fields. As soon as I see a restricted search (search term, timeframe, scope, database, language, etc.), it rings alarm bells. The search has to raise a specific gap, and this raises specific questions (main +/- sub). Then you can justify how these are best answered, which methodology, etc. Too many papers have a cut/paste approach to describing the method/analysis type, and do not argue WHY this approach is suited to this particular investigation. Results are quite straight forward, but again, they need to be organized, especially with qualitative work where categories may not be so clear. Discussions need to go through the results in the context of the research questions AND wider field/topic/society contexts that come up in the initial justification. This also needs a lot of new searching and investigation to give a supported, considered and balanced view. Finally, lots of people think conclusions simply sumarize what was done, with a token 'further research needs to be carried out' statement .... aghhhh! For me, the conclusions are one of the most important contributions of a paper, and say that given the identified issues of x,y,z raised in this paper, and the contexts/concerns surounding xxx, there is a clear need for xxxx. I also like it if authors state what will happen if something is not done - it gives us incentive. 😏


    If the 'science' is clear and strong, then slight imperfections in language shouldn't stand in the way of you getting published, as long as the reviewers can clearly understand what you mean. Chirs is right that 'first impressions count', but as long as people see only minor errors or differences in phrasing, then they will concentrate on the content first. The rest can always be 'polished' prior to publication.

  • Ruchika Yogesh
    Ruchika Yogesh Member Posts: 10 ✭✭✭

    Thank you, Andrea, for bringing me in.

    I have leant that before I document my research work in the form of a journal article, I need to zero down upon an appropriate journal. This takes a little bit of extra time, but the result is rewarding later on. The next step is to check the journal's scope and go through the guidelines provided by the journal. Keeping all the guidelines in mind while preparing the manuscript helps avoid the last minute confusions and rework.

    I would love to hear from others too!

  • Mark Azavedo
    Mark Azavedo Member Posts: 19 ✭✭✭

    Choosing the right journal is the be all to end all. Note that by that I don't just mean the scope of individual journals (and in fact I have a habit of getting published by pushing journals to extend their scope, or sensing that is in their minds through my reading of their articles and playing to that). The understanding one must have behind all this is of academic publishing as an industry - who is doing what, where and why? Your job is to navigate that to your best advantage. I don't regard academic publishing as an academic enterprise, see scholars as way too "hung-up" with the hard skills of their discipline and their competence relative to those.. They worry about the wrong things!

  • Asli Telli
    Asli Telli Member Posts: 28 ✭✭✭
    edited May 21

    Valuable question, thanks @Andrea Hayward :) The suggestions provided so far are all worthwhile. I have a very simple take as an addition: Form simple, clear and shorter sentences, accessible to any reader. This is my 50 cents, both as a communicator and researcher. No matter how accomplished the research or scientific content is, longer, complicated sentences kill the argument from the start. This would be viable economizing for the reviewers, editors as well as the readers:) I would also read the text aloud for a few times to pinpoint awkward grammar; helps a lot before submitting.

  • Erin Owens
    Erin Owens Member Posts: 13 ✭✭✭

    For me, it's about reading and re-reading the journal's submission instructions. I read them early on in preparing the manuscript, if I already have a sense of where I want to send it. But regardless, before submitting a completed manuscript, I work through it step by step according to the journal instructions, from the appropriate scope of content to the formatting of references, and I make sure I've given them everything they ask for, and in the manner they requested. I want the editors focusing on my content, not on whether I structured the abstract correctly or met the word count limit, so I want to know that those types of "checklist" issues are fully addressed.

    If I could choose two things, though, my second would be - I always get a colleague to read the paper for me before I submit. I know I've been alone with it too long to notice problems in clarity and flow, so a set of fresh eyes reassures me that I have managed to express the thoughts in my head clearly on the page. This way, my paper has essentially already been through a "light" version of peer review before it ever makes it to the editor and anonymous peer reviewers. My departmental colleagues and I have reciprocal agreements to review one another's work like this, and it is sooooo valuable.

  • Mark Azavedo
    Mark Azavedo Member Posts: 19 ✭✭✭
    edited May 22

    A couple of points in response.

    First, I wish that journals were always, even often, as clear about their formatting requirements as implied. They aren't. There is a great love out there of saying, say, "APA 6" when what they mean is "something that bears some resemblance to APA 6". Quite often the "some" there means in reality "very little resemblance to APA 6". It happens over and over. That means that the best guide to format is what has been accepted and printed. But even that went wrong on me once. The whole publication process was so time-consuming that meantime they had changed the formatting (meaning informally changed). Always focus on the last one or two articles published. Here I'm referring to format, but the same applies to content - directions of travel change.

    I totally agree on getting editors to focus on content, but it can be that simply isn't their focus. There's a lot of safety in quibbling about whether or whether not a caption should be italicised, not least because at the end of the day you have to do what the editor says, however wrong. But, of course, there is that the conceptual is simply more difficult, more open, more subjective. It's also fair to say that the more conceptual is the stuff of peer review.

    I so much confirm your second point. Detail checking your own work is well-nigh impossible. You always see what you thought you wrote or what you should have written. I have nobody to check my work from fellow academics down to even a pet in the house. That is essentially impossible. That said I've press-ganged people on a couple of occasions. Reluctant help is worse than no help. Two minute skim "Yes that's all OK". "It wasn't"! Reading aloud does help with flow.

  • Erin Owens
    Erin Owens Member Posts: 13 ✭✭✭

    Mark, I do take your point about the journal guidelines, but I suspect this varies by discipline. In my field, most journals have extremely detailed lists detailing exactly how word counts, references, captions, abstracts, author contribution statements, etc. should be addressed. And the editor may desk-reject if enough of those points have been ignored. As long as those look mostly in order, however, the editor can focus on: Is this in scope, is it of interest, and does it seem methodologically reasonable? Their answers to those questions generally help determine whether they send the paper to peer reviewers for the detailed conceptual (subjective) feedback. (Obviously I only have experience in my own field, but that includes nearly 14yrs as author, peer reviewer, and now associate editor for research articles.)

    I absolutely agree with your comment about reading aloud! Always a good editing tip.

    It sounds like I might be very fortunate in my departmental colleagues; they always provide robust constructive feedback far beyond "it's all fine," and they know I will do the same for them. Once again, this type of relationship likely varies, not only by discipline, but also by institutional and departmental culture. Our culture is highly collaborative.

  • Mark Azavedo
    Mark Azavedo Member Posts: 19 ✭✭✭

    I think there are a couple of points, Erin. Yes, often journals I deal with are loose in their stating formatting demands. But, equally, they sometimes simply don't follow their own supposed rules that are fully-stated. Now I could look at my manuscript part way through editorial process and compare comment against supposed rules, but a few times I've done something else - taken something that has been published, compare it against the formatting rules, then ask for their comment on which they want. The mails back always start "thank you for your feedback" with the substantive comment being "either is OK". Obviously, I choose relevantly against my own work. I think we all know what they really mean! Caught. But do the guidelines subsequently change - No!

    I deal with a range of countries and I think that is a key issue. I have never submitted to an American Journal and never will as I speak and write British English, more particularly structure prose writing in the British way and spell in the British way. My inclination is to believe that editorial processes may well be different in USA - different for the better. I just don't hear complaints from academics working with American journals that are absolutely usual in other parts of the world. It seems to me that exactly the same is likely to apply to collaboration beyond what, of course, you rightly suggest. National cultures differ, as do regional ones.

  • Mark Azavedo
    Mark Azavedo Member Posts: 19 ✭✭✭

    I love the three viewpoints and would hope that the aim is solid engagement with each by the author, and they with you.

    I think it important to look at that list and note that there is nobody in it whose job it is to correct English. I could mean finessing English. Equally I have received scripts for peer review where the English was so poor that it actually obscured meaning. I have had to deep-correct English before even trying to get a view of content, be that overview or deep-detail technical material. Ultimately my conclusion was "competent" on one such occasion. And competent is perfectly OK, perfectly publishable. But it wasn't "Wow. This is a major advance in this area of scholarship".

    Now the question arises, when there is so much competent out there how often will the various staging points in the editorial process, usually under time pressure, really bother to fight something into shape, particularly if that means to even read and understand in the first place? Certainly my editor on the occasion of that review was "OMG! You went the extra mile - that writer should be very grateful" Another scenario is when something really is a major contribution to knowledge, that is obvious from day 1 and editorial staff, reviewers, everybody will go to the ends of the earth to polish and publish the contribution". You want to be that latter person and from day 1 - so that manuscript arrives perfectly ordered and in perfect English.

    Taking that last point the question arises as to why the manuscript isn't in perfect English? I have discussed this endlessly and there are many, many reasons. If English isn't a person's first language their performance may not be that good or may involve a regionalised English variant. The question then arises as to why authors don't get manuscripts edited as a matter of course? The answer comes back: "Cost". In fact sometimes horrendous cost. I so understand - but isn't that simply a necessary cost of trading in this environment, like, say, a restaurant making sure its staff are trained for and receive the the necessary health, safety and food-handling certification to trade at all? Put another way, what is the point of re-submitting the manuscript elsewhere, and again and again for it only to be refused over and over?

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 170 ✭✭✭✭

    @Mark Azavedo : I get your viewpoint. When I started out as a reviewer, I somehow took it on me to improve the English if it was to the point where the meaning was obscured and I felt I was not able to give the work a good chance because it was communicated in a way I simply cant understand.

    However, with my own time constraints - I have simply learnt to say (after getting really sick - physically trying to do my best, and understanding that I was doing a thankless job anyway as a reviewer who doesnt take a power trip) - that this is too much for me. I now just refer it back to the authors/editors with comments on what needs to be changed and how [without rewriting the entire paper for the authors].

    In the case where the English is passable, proof-reading editors do a good enough job with ironing out the paper at the end. Many publishing houses also seem to offer services to finetune writing - and there are editing companies offering similar services for authors. Yes, for a cost.

    Yes - it is not always fair to push it back on ESL authors who cant afford editing services, it is a disservice to science (sort of) losing out on the "competent", yes - editing costs can be high. I do NOT have a solution for this. Perhaps - peers with better English skills can start a pro bono service for those who REALLY cant afford editing services. I am happy to chip in.

    On a different note: dare I say - at least in my subject area - 99% of research is derivative. Not many results are ground breaking. Because ground breaking needs a lot of derivative work, lot of trial and error, lot of failing, lot of really minor increments, etc. And in the time constraints, with careers in line, manpower constraints, a lot of researchers do the best they can I would like to think. Derivative still serves as reproducibility check. So, as a reviewer, I take this into account. However, my usual issue/complaint is not with derivative work but the way papers are worded (good or bad English, high or low impact factor - doesnt matter) to mean that somehow the work is fantastic and ground breaking, when it is clearly NOT the case. The unnecessary BS PR and salesmanship annoys me endlessly. I try to be empathetic and try to see where the authors are coming from with these claims...but I must admit that my willingness to be helpful as a reviewer is inversely proportional to the BS tall claims made in the paper. I am human and have this bias, unfortunately. ☺️

  • Mark Azavedo
    Mark Azavedo Member Posts: 19 ✭✭✭

    Yep, I too came to similar conclusions around correcting English. The levels of correction often required are just not doable within any reasonable timelines that I have available. But my real decider was ethical - at what point am I actually writing this or at least am a co-author? I'd rather pass the ethical conundrum to someone else.

    On the point about BS I totally understand your point. But I wish authors would take the time, make the effort, to honour me with such BS!!!!!!! I continually end reading a piece with "and" or "so" on the tip of my tongue.

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 170 ✭✭✭✭
    edited May 23

    @Mark Azavedo >> at what point am I actually writing this or at least am a co-author...

    My breaking point as a reviewer was when an author copy-pasted my suggested sentence (that went with a prelude - "As an example, the authors could rewrite this text somewhat as...") verbatim into the revised paper and the editor ruled this was not plagiarism and the paper got published.

    Since then - I have become extremely careful. There is no emoji for shoulder shrug with a wry smile, is there? 😃

  • Mark Azavedo
    Mark Azavedo Member Posts: 19 ✭✭✭

    Wowa! Dreadful. My reaction would be the same too. I think all too often plagiarism is defined as what shows up during the application of plagiarism detection Apps. Cough!

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 170 ✭✭✭✭

    I have another story for this (plagiarism detection software...) - but that is for another day. 😂

  • Jayashree Rajagopalan
    Jayashree Rajagopalan Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 88 admin
    edited May 24

    Okay I now declare this conversation thread as my most favorite on R Voice...so far, I mean (until a new and even more interesting one surfaces - a personal choice). As someone who has been an academic editor and reviewer for several years, I have seen/edited/worked on multiple papers that were intended for publication, not just as journal articles but in other formats as well. @Andrea Hayward - it's tough to share just one thing in response to you question. Overall, I've found that these things matter A LOT:

    1. The title of the paper - Unfortunately, authors are so focused on the content of the paper that the title often suffers neglect. I can't emphasize this enough. Make sure the title of your paper is STRONG! I've seen and tried to suggest revisions to so many weak titles, realizing what the submission desk/editors would see when they see those 12 words or more first.
    2. And @chris leonard is right - Preparing a well-structured, well-written manuscript that follows what the journal guidelines say is really important. If anything, as @Raj sundaram says you want the editors focusing on your content, not on how you've structured the paper or if the journal's instructions have been followed.
    3. Another mistake authors often make is NOT COMMUNICATING with the journal/reaching out for help if the submission guidelines are unclear. It's an unfortunate fact (as @Mark Azavedo says) that not all journal submission guidelines are clear. More than once, while helping authors structure/format their papers for submission, I have spotted inconsistencies in journal requirements and requested authors to clarify these.
    4. It's crucial for authors to be their own editors and be somewhat aggressive with their own writing while looking it the finalized paper. Of course, it's a great idea to have an informal peer review - like @Erin Owens mentions. But at the end of the day, this is your work and you know if best of all. So taking a break/some distance between finishing the writing and editing it would help. Another tip - read your paper as though you are reviewing it. Change roles. You'll be surprised at what you might find and how hugely helpful this might be.

    Great insights from everyone else - this is slowly taking the shape of a guide to journal publishing for early-career researchers. Loving this!👍️

  • Asli Telli
    Asli Telli Member Posts: 28 ✭✭✭

    great point @Jayashree Rajagopalan it is becoming a talking guide, too:) smth alive and speaking in our dull/quasi locked-down/uncertain and hopelessly-academic lives! I`m so grateful that no matter how serious the topic is, the community here is sincere and open about it. warm, virtual hugs to all, have a lovely week, folks 😍

  • Jayashree Rajagopalan
    Jayashree Rajagopalan Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 88 admin
    edited May 24

    Separately, I also wanted to acknowledge some of the great stuff others have shared here - think of it as why this is becoming one of my favorite threads on R Voice (for now 😄)

    • @chris leonard @Shruti Turner and @Ruchika Yogesh I agree that paying attention to manuscript language, structure, and presentation matters. I've had some conversations with researchers who're working on their first two or three papers where they mention this as one of the biggest hurdles they face. Yes, seeking help, informally within one's network, or professionally through specialized service providers is an option and more and more journals are now offering this kind of assistance to authors.
    • @Shruti Turner I really liked what you said about authors needed to be very clear about the focus of their paper. It's so easy to "go with the flow" and forget focus while one is trying to talk about their own work.
    • @Nicholas Rowe - Thanks for bringing up that point about the Conclusion. It is certainly not a token and there's so much you can do when you're summarizing your work in that section. I especially liked your suggestion to nudge readers about what would happen if the next steps recommended weren't followed up/implemented. It's a nice idea to incentivize others to act upon the blanket statement "further research is required".👍️
    • @Mark Azavedo I found your experiences with journal publishing interesting. I appreciate that instead of making it a simple one-way process where journals state and authors follow, you are also actively taking up journals to think about their aims and scope as well as the way in which their journal guidelines are shared.
    • @Asli Telli You mentioned another underrated and overworked part of writing. I completely agree with you - it's easier to get carried away in the vortex of your own never-ending phrases than to sit up and think about the reader. 😀
    • @Erin Owens I love that you have the arrangement within your own circle to make sure that your paper is seen by a fresh pair of eyes. It's encouraging to hear that! I believe this is also a great way for researchers to build their network - sometimes a simple gesture of helping someone by looking at their paper before submission might open up opportunities for long term collaboration, support, or friendship. A reason to initiate camaraderie in an otherwise competitive universe.
    • @Raj sundaram Agree with the suggestion of taking a look at one's work from three points of view. It's also a healthy practice to broaden our own perspective - much needed for authors I think. It's nice of you to be willing to offer support to researchers who might need a brief editorial look at their papers before submission. Also - VERY interesting point about the emphasis on the suggested impact a study claims to make versus the broader perspective of the overall field and how research is building upon itself within that field.
  • Mark Azavedo
    Mark Azavedo Member Posts: 19 ✭✭✭
    edited May 24

    So, so, so agree with number 1. And the reason people get it wrong is that they do not see that they are involved in an act of marketing, in fact a multiple act of marketing, firstly to an editorial team and then to a readership. When looking at the latter it's worth remembering that you needn't be trying to interest specialists, let alone hardened obsessives. Very often titles are fairly generalist within a discipline. You have to attract those uncommitted readers. The Editor has to attract those uncommitted readers. I work a lot in semiology. I do my best not to use the word. "The semiological meanings of French food choice investigated". OMG! The reader is lost at the second word. So lose that word.

    Then there's that point 4. It is your work. You are the expert on it. Be absolutely confident on that. But yes, you need "filtration time" as I call it. For me that is two to three weeks before I return to review that manuscript.

    Hold that thought and let's go back to my point about readerships often being fairly generalist. But so too can reviewers be. Don't believe that a uber-specialist will be on your case - very unlikely. Let's take my article on semiology. I'm hiding the word and there's nowhere particularly obvious to place the paper anyway. Probably the best bet would be linking the semiotics with marketing or niche marketing. That would work, but the number of marketing journals is relatively few against the pressure (Management Scientists just love Marketing). Anyway, I decide a better approach is a general Economics journal that state within their scope "Marketing" and I can see that isn't BS because, indeed, occasionally they do publish articles that are marketing-focused. But what's their network for peer reviewers? Any specialists in semiology? No. Any specialists in marketing at all? Yes quite possibly one or two. But marketing guys are in big demand. Which is how my paper arrives with an Emeritus Prof of Econometrics. Thankfully, he can access Google. But know more than me about the subject? It's presentation? Qualitative research?

  • Kakoli Majumder
    Kakoli Majumder Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 66 admin

    @Jayashree Rajagopalan Appreciate how well you've summarized the key takeaways from each comment. Joining in a little late to this discussion, and I must say it's perhaps the most interesting one I've seen so far on R Voice - so many diverse points of view! All the points mentioned in the comments above are important, but if I have to choose just one - based on my personal experience and interactions with other researchers, I would agree with @Nicholas Rowe and @chris leonard that clarity (or readability), organization, and presentation are definitely most important to manuscript preparation. I cannot overemphasize the importance of a well-structured manuscript written in simple language. I agree with @Asli Telli that using shorter sentences and ensuring that your manuscript is easily comprehensible not only makes a good first impression on reviewers and editors - it also allows them to focus uninterrupted on the content. I guess I've seen too many papers where simplicity and clarity have been compromised in favor of complex jargon-heavy language. With open access making research papers more accessible, it is also the responsibility of researchers to communicate their research in language that can be understood by non-academics.

    One other point that I'd like to emphasize is reading the journal guidelines aims and scope of your target journal - and I agree with @Shruti Turner and @Ruchika Yogesh here - researchers lose out on valuable time and sometimes even scientific priority by submitting to journals that are out of scope. I would also recommend reading some articles from previous issues of your target journal to get a sense of whether your article is a good fit.

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 170 ✭✭✭✭
    edited May 25

    @Jayashree Rajagopalan : thanks for the really nice summary. Indeed this thread is becoming very interesting.

    Also - think I should have explained "looking at a paper from three views" a bit better. 😂

    Details may vary across journals and disciplines - but I guess the broad treatment a paper goes through on submission is:

    (1) Editorial assistant - Editor -> (2) Review [Editor for decisions, etc.] -> (3) Editorial assistant for proof (if everything goes well)

    So - it is best to check the paper from the point of view of requirements of each stage and people involved at each stage.

    Editorial assistant stage (1): Papers get filtered for readability (ideally).

    So, best to make sure that the structuring and grammar is decent enough for the editorial assistant to understand. Otherwise, the paper usually gets desk-rejected.

    In some journals, editorial assistants are in short supply and the onus of dealing with non-readable manuscripts falls on editors, who sometimes push it on to the reviewers.

    Editor stage (1): The editor basically looks at Journal fit and novelty + impact. Passing the editor stage is mostly about first impressions, in my opinion. And as Chris says, first impressions count - totally! Given the handling volume, I hazard to assume that editors mainly look at the title, abstract and browse through the key findings of the paper (figures mostly), and possibly conclusions if they have already not lost interest.

    So - the fit with the journal needs to be checked. I make sure the title is appropriate but not super-boring. Usually, it is a one-sentence summary of my abstract rendered as a phrase. Make sure the abstract VISIBLY carries the context and concept of the work, broad methodology, key findings with implication, novelty and impact for general and specialist readers. Make sure the figures are clear, well-organized, and convey findings at a glance. I also make sure to include a graphical abstract if it is allowed - even if the journal says it is not mandatory at the submission stage. Graphical abstract catches the editor's eyes (first impressions) but also makes it easy for editors to screen papers.

    If the editor feels these aspects are good - then come the reviewers. Otherwise, the paper gets rejected/transferred before review.

    Review stage (2): Reviewers deal with technical details - at least with enough expertise to point out inconsistencies/blatant errors/missing stuff/logic jumps. I am of the belief that reviewers are possibly the only ones who actually read the paper fully (if they do that is).

    From the reviewer viewpoint, I tend to be critical and fault finding about my paper. I check the logical structuring of text - looking for jumps. Check whether all sentences are readable and understandable (weed out grammar errors, typos, abbreviation-symbol inconsistencies, sentences that never seem to end, etc.). Ensure all necessary details of data acquisition and treatment are included. Make sure what belongs in the main manuscript belongs in the main manuscript, what belongs in the supplmentary belongs in the supplementary. Make sure graphs/tables are readable - fonts/letter sizes/coloring schemes (avoid crazy colors), X-Y axes and units are marked, figures are not too monotonous with breaks for the eye. Make sure there is reasonable discussion on data and the implications are charted out, leading to reasonable conclusions based on the data.

    Editorial assistant for proof stage (3): During and after review - english issues can be looked into until the proofstage. But I try my best to not have typos because editorial assistants and proof-readers are not well paid and are quite tortured with constant deadlines with crazy workloads. I kind of feel sorry for them.

    Usually, it is really hard to do all these checks from various viewpoints by the author himself/herself/themselves - we are too close to our work. I feel it is best to enlist co-authors/co-workers for this.

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 170 ✭✭✭✭

    I didnt know - formatting is a massive issue. Recently, many journals in physical/chemical/biological sciences are bringing down their formatting requirements. Even if there are requirements, they tend to be pushed to the proof-stage. I hear similar things about mathematics and computer science. So, I was quite surprised about extensive discussion on formatting requirements. Is it a thing in social sciences? @Mark Azavedo?

  • Mark Azavedo
    Mark Azavedo Member Posts: 19 ✭✭✭
    edited May 25

    It's a major issue is the simple answer. I am aware of the movement you have mentioned, but very little change in social sciences. Indeed maybe even for the worse, including confusions now between APA 6 and APA 7. Shrugs shoulders and says "I suppose we have to keep APA in business". Anyway, the main point is that if there's a proof stage who knows if the proof is correct any more than they ever did? So then we get another stage introduced. Shoestring productions introduce an external language editor. Can they afford the best? No. Can they afford the worst? Probably not. So it's down to great uncle Somchai then, who always fancied himself at English? For sure. Last time I had such an external editing it came back part British English, part American English. I complained to the Editor, saying that only one or other is permissible. And BTW it's going to be British English. That's what I write in and my writing contains subtle use of language to subliminal effect. And before you ask, no not a preditorial publisher but one decently Web of Science ensconced and University-backed.

    We come back to that same bottom line here. The author won't pay for editing. Neither will the journal. Standards plummet. and as they plummet, so they will plummet further. Others will see and submit similarly. Now, as I previously said (now getting to your point - which was more to do with formatting), often the best approach to getting it all correct is copying previous articles rather than following instructions or template, but it can go spectacularly wrong as I said. Now, I had a journal in mind when mentioning shoestring budgets. Forgetting English now, the external editor was so confused on format too that he simply said I've found a reference for you that I think is right. Just copy Dolores. Great stuff! That meant that I could say "Joseph told me to ........". After all the whole thing is an exercise in shifting onus of responsibility.

  • Mark Azavedo
    Mark Azavedo Member Posts: 19 ✭✭✭

    It's a major issue is the simple answer. I am aware of the movement you have mentioned, but very little change in social sciences. Indeed maybe even for the worse, including confusions now between APA 6 and APA 7. Shrugs shoulders and says "I suppose we have to keep APA in business". Anyway, the main point is that if there's a proof stage who knows if the proof is correct any more than they ever did? So then we get another stage introduced. Shoestring productions introduce an external language editor. Can they afford the best? No. Can they afford the worst? Probably not. So it's down to great uncle Somchai then, who always fancied himself at English? For sure. Last time I had such an external editing it came back part British English, part American English. I complained to the Editor, saying that only one or other is permissible. And BTW it's going to be British English. That's what I write in and my writing contains subtle use of language to subliminal effect. And before you ask, no not a preditorial publisher but one decently Web of Science ensconced and University-backed.

    We come back to that same bottom line here. The author won't pay for editing. Neither will the journal. Standards plummet. and as they plummet, so they will plummet further. Others will see and submit similarly. Now, as I previously said (now getting to your point - which was more to do with formatting), often the best approach to getting it all correct is copying previous articles rather than following instructions or template, but it can go spectacularly wrong as I said. Now, I had a journal in mind when mentioning shoestring budgets. Forgetting English now, the external editor was so confused on format too that he simply said I've found a reference for you that I think is right. Just copy Dolores. Great stuff! That meant that I could say "Joseph told me to ........". After all the whole thing is an exercise in shifting onus of responsibility.

  • Mark Azavedo
    Mark Azavedo Member Posts: 19 ✭✭✭

    It's a major issue is the simple answer. I am aware of the movement you have mentioned, but very little change in social sciences. Indeed maybe even for the worse, including confusions now between APA 6 and APA 7. Shrugs shoulders and says "I suppose we have to keep APA in business". Anyway, the main point is that if there's a proof stage who knows if the proof is correct any more than they ever did? So then we get another stage introduced. Shoestring productions introduce an external language editor. Can they afford the best? No. Can they afford the worst? Probably not. So it's down to great uncle Somchai then, who always fancied himself at English? For sure. Last time I had such an external editing it came back part British English, part American English. I complained to the Editor, saying that only one or other is permissible. And BTW it's going to be British English. That's what I write in and my writing contains subtle use of language to subliminal effect. And before you ask, no not a preditorial publisher but one decently Web of Science ensconced and University-backed.


    We come back to that same bottom line here. The author won't pay for editing. Neither will the journal. Standards plummet and as they plummet, so they will plummet further. Others will see and submit similarly. Now, as I previously said (now getting to your point - which was more to do with formatting), often the best approach to getting it all correct is copying previous articles rather than following instructions or template, but it can go spectacularly wrong as I said. Now, I had a journal in mind when mentioning shoestring budgets. Forgetting English now, the external editor was so confused on format too that he simply said I've found a reference for you that I think is right. Just copy Dolores. Great stuff! That meant that I could say "Joseph told me to ........". After all the whole thing is an exercise in shifting onus of responsibility.

  • Asli Telli
    Asli Telli Member Posts: 28 ✭✭✭

    Great discussion:) I feel like it is my responsibility to post this book here:  https://www.kobo.com/de/de/ebook/the-scopus-diaries-and-the-il-logics-of-academic-survival

    Such a good source with warm, sincere suggestions and self-reflexivity. The type of writing that reminds us, researchers, that we are humans first, before anything else. Thanks for the flagging @Erin Owens

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 170 ✭✭✭✭
    edited May 31


    Hmm...I guess social science journals can start loosening their formatting requirements and start including a semblance of consistency in their rules.

    This is a problem in some STEM journals as well - in that the rules conveyed to authors are inconsistent for first submissions. The "instructions for authors" vs. "templates" can contradict each other and themselves within a set of instructions. But from passing the editorial desk through to peer-review no one seems to care. Mostly at proof stage - the handling editors provide clearer more consistent requirements to authors OR do the corrections themselves in their in-house software. Most major publishers - big and small - for/not-for-profit publishers - open access/not open access...most of them maintain this level of consistency at the very least, as far as I know. Of course, sometimes the English quality (grammar/typo/crazy sentences) are not properly checked at the proof stage and articles with sloppy English do get published - even in journals (high impact factor) run by big publishing houses. However, nothing to the extent of being completely unintelligible regularly.

    The quality of science/data published - entirely a different story. The peer-review and editorial review can be sloppy letting through less than sound papers because of string pulling. But usually, on the presentation side, things are not that bad. That said my expectations are not that high either. As far as things are kind of consistent and understandable - I am ok. However, I do take issue with bad data/unnecessary salesmanship/inferences not backed by data...because they amount to fraud and lies. And the sciences face a huge reproducibility crisis imo, which is dangerous as the reputation of scientific process amidst society is undermined (among other negative consequences). Guess my standards are high on that end.

    Honestly, with reference management software freely available and better than MS Word publishing software (or even just with MS word) to maintain consistency of British OR US English, I really dont know where or why there should be a problem.

    Of course, there is also discussion that people should be able to publish in their native languages and computers should be able to get it translated to English or whatever else. The technology for this is almost here (at least for many European languages) and moving ahead pretty fast. Just that the will of all the players of this game (publishing houses, authors, reviewers, editors, etc.) need to be turned in the direction to make it happen practically.

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