The Need To Produce a Minimum Publishable Unit in Journal Publishing
Despite the increasing pressure for academics and scientists to publish articles early and frequently in order to receive promotions, grants and salary increases, the requirement to produce a minimum publishable unit remains standard among scholarly journals. It is therefore imperative when preparing an original research paper for publication to ensure that you are providing the basic ingredients to constitute what the journal will consider a publishable article.
Unfortunately, most journals do not specify exactly what a minimum publishable unit is. Many will describe the kinds of papers they publish, however, and such information will certainly cover the same sort of ground. For a research paper, for instance, original research is necessary, and that research should be described in some detail, particularly its methods and procedures. Introductory or background material is standard as well, even if it is very brief.
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Significant results also tend to be a requirement for publication, so the findings of your research should be reported and some analysis demonstrating their value should be offered. For a short paper you may wish to be selective in what you discuss in order to meet length requirements and keep an argument straightforward, but it is a good idea to provide more complete data in tables, appendices or archives to substantiate your research for those specialists who will want to see the larger picture.
An argument that not only relates the story of your research but also analyses the findings and draws conclusions, outlines implications and offers recommendations would also be standard fare in a publishable paper. Do keep in mind that there is considerable variation among disciplines regarding the process and goal of argumentation. However, whether a research paper is long or short, the basic constituents of original research, significant results and a sound and logical argument remain fairly constant across scholarly disciplines and journals.
Requirements are different if the paper you are submitting to a journal for consideration is not a traditional research article. Some journals publish study protocols, for instance, in which the intention of the authors is to describe research projects and how they will be conducted, rather than to report the results of research that is now complete. Similarly, a literature review that aims to outline what has been published on a topic or problem to date would be considered publishable for qualities very different from those characterising a research paper. Most journals that publish study protocols and literature reviews will provide specific guidance for papers of those types, so do check for requirements relevant to the paper you are submitting.
Given the pressure to publish and earn citations in order to advance academic and scientific careers, the temptation to cut research projects, studies and articles up into smaller units for publication purposes can be enormous, but this is rarely a truly successful strategy. Remember that a complete research project chopped up into shorter chunks simply to achieve more publications does not necessarily result in a number of high-quality research papers, and repeating material in different papers across different journals to shore up deficiencies is not the answer either.
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