by Dr Catherine Armstrong
jobs.ac.uk's Career Development site has featured many articles that explain why getting published is so important to furthering your academic career, such as How to Get Your Academic Work Published
Many scholars, especially in the humanities, decide to publish their PhD thesis as a complete monograph, but this is not always possible or indeed desirable. So let's think about why writing journal articles might be useful for your career.
In some fields it is now extremely difficult to get a contract for a monograph with a reputable publisher. This is because monograph publishing does not make much money so publishers reduce the number of monographs during financially difficult times. In some cases, a PhD thesis might not be suited to being turned into a single book. On the other hand, each individual chapter could be adapted to become a journal article. Why does doing this improve your jobseeking chances? Universities are looking for scholars with a robust research profile and one way to demonstrate that is to have a number of publications to your name. Therefore, by turning your thesis chapters into articles you can instantly get a good research profile.
Another reason why being published in reputable journals is important is that your work will be read by your peers, which is vital when developing networking opportunities. If people read your work and are impressed by it then they are more likely to invite you to speak at conferences, ask you to participate in collaborative projects and, of course, are more likely to hire you if a post becomes vacant at their institution.
There will be a limited number of reputable journals in your field, with the most prestigious obviously being the most competitive. It is important to aim high and submit your article to the very best journals in your field. Ask your supervisor and colleagues for advice on the best route into publishing. In most fields, printed journals are still seen as more reputable than online journals. Hence, your reputation will be greatly enhanced by appearing in a print publication. This doesn't mean you should ignore online journals altogether, especially if you do not have your PhD yet.
A publication in an online journal could be an excellent first step on the road to print publication and will certainly do your CV no harm at all. For the future REF exercise (which will audit academic research in the UK around the year 2013) it is important to consider whether your article is being published in a ‘peer-reviewed' journal. ‘Peer-reviewed' means that the editor will not simply accept your piece for the journal, but it will go out to a number of academic ‘readers' (senior scholars in your field) who will then recommend to the editor whether to accept your article or not. This is a rigorous and time-consuming process.
As you progress in your academic career you may be invited to become a peer-reviewer too. Every highly-reputed scholarly journal is peer-reviewed. If you are unsure about whether the journal you have chosen does fit into this category, contact the editor to find out what their selection policy is.
Getting a piece of work ready for publication is easy if you have thought from the start about how to present it and have imagined it as a published piece from day one. Reformatting it from a conference paper to an article, for example, takes a lot of work. However, this is how many journal articles are born. You might have written a chapter of 12,000 words for your thesis, or a conference paper of 4000 words. These will then have to be adapted to fit the required length of the journal to which you are submitting. To find out how long your piece has to be, check the journal's website. There will be detailed information there, usually under the heading ‘Advice for Authors'.
You also need to make sure you have matched your writing to the required editorial conventions. Each publisher and journal has different conventions so you will need to submit something slightly different each time you present your work for publication. The footnotes and bibliography may be required to be done in a certain way, for example. If you have not followed such rules then it will count against you. If your article is accepted you may be required to make further changes to content or style, making it a long overall process. However, the rewards are great in terms of academic prestige, potential career development and the sheer satisfaction of seeing your research in print.