How To Write an Article for Editors, Peer Reviewers & Readers
Academic and scientific journals publish many different types of articles, so exactly how to write an article for a particular journal and its editors, reviewers and readers will depend on exactly what type of article is being written. An original research article, a review of scholarship, a study protocol, an opinion paper and a case study will all differ from each other in important ways, so a vital initial question should focus on what kind of article is appropriate for the material you hope to communicate and publish. The conventions of your discipline may help you answer this question, but so will the specific requirements and expectations of the targeted journal. Most academic and scientific journals have instructions or guidelines for authors that provide practical and sometimes detailed advice on how to write an article to meet the requirements for each type of article they publish. Such guidelines are therefore a perfect place to begin planning how to write an article that will result in a successful submission and ultimately achieve publication.
The author guidelines offered by an academic or scientific journal usually contain important information on the kind of content that should be included in each type of article. In many cases they will offer specific requirements for the ways in which that content should be organised and presented as well. Both are essential considerations when determining how to write an article for publication. In an original research article, for instance, original research content will certainly be expected, and for a scientific journal a basic structure consisting of separate sections dedicated to introductory material, published scholarship, research methods, meaningful results, interpretive discussion and final conclusions is usually recommended. There may be additional requirements for preliminary and final material such as the title, abstract and acknowledgements, and there are almost always some instructions on the preferred documentation style for in-text citations and for the complete bibliographical references that should appear in a list at the end of the article. Length limitations may be set for the article as a whole and perhaps for each of its individual parts, and the number of references, tables, figures or other important elements may be restricted. Knowing the requirements of a journal is an essential part of knowing how to write an article for that journal, so the wise author carefully studies every bit of information the journal provides and works to meet expectations, preferences and requirements with precision and consistency throughout the article before it is submitted for consideration.
If the journal to which you are hoping to submit your article does not provide detailed guidelines on how to write an article, as is often the case, for example, with academic journals in the humanities, authors may have greater freedom in designing and preparing their articles for submission. This potential freedom can be particularly beneficial for research topics and approaches that are innovative or unconventional, but it does not mean that the journal editors and their peer reviewers will not have certain expectations for the manuscripts they accept for publication, so reading a selection of articles recently published by the journal is an excellent strategy for determining how to write an article that will meet those unarticulated expectations. Be sure to track down articles of the same type as your own, and remember that articles that are particularly similar to your paper in content, purpose, methodology and conclusions will prove especially helpful. Pay close attention to the order in which information is presented in each article and to the headings and subheadings used to divide material and create a logical and accessible structure. Take note of techniques and examples that you think will be most useful for the content you wish to communicate and then plan how to write an article about your own work accordingly.
The articles recently published by a journal can also be extremely helpful as models of an acceptable writing style. Journal guidelines rarely offer much advice about writing style, yet there is no doubt that an appropriate and accomplished style is an expected part of how to write an article well and tends to be necessary for publication. Formal language that is absolutely clear, grammatically correct and factually accurate is always required for an academic or scientific article, but the conventions and requirements of different disciplines and fields of study can vary regarding other aspects of style, so a high-quality scientific research article might be written in a concise and straightforward style that is noticeably different from the more elaborate and allusive writing style used in an excellent literary article. The background reading and research an author does to prepare an academic or scientific manuscript for submission tends to provide the necessary familiarity with acceptable prose in the field, but achieving a professional and authoritative style can nonetheless prove immensely challenging as the task of writing the article actually begins, even when a great deal of thought has been dedicated to the question of how to write an article. Focussing on the vocabulary, phrasing, sentence structures, logical transitions and other aspects of the writing style you find in articles recently published by the target journal can therefore be especially helpful as you refine your style to suit the discipline, editors, peer reviewers and readers of that journal perfectly.
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If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.