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How To Publish Your Paper In A Journal

As academicians, we strive for high-quality research that will advance science. As we write up our findings, we aim to present our hypothetical approach and applied consequences via our paper. Then we submit our paper for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Yes, this is the toughest part of the research. The job of writing a scientific research paper is quite competitive; there could be several reasons behind a rejection. Hence it’s important to understand the vital element of publication before journal submission.

The output of such efforts can be maximized by adhering to the following guidelines:

1. Have a specific target journal in mind

When you start writing about your study, it is wise to keep a specific target journal in mind. Search for journals that you think will be suitable for publishing your paper.  After identifying a journal, you must organize your paper as per the journal guidelines to decrease the chances of rejection.

2. Start your paper early in your research phase

You need to start writing from the early stages of your research or doctoral study. A proactive outlook will decrease the chance of rejection. Re-reading is needed in the research arena because it helps identify the most common flaws in the manuscript, which might otherwise be overlooked. It is also advisable to share your manuscripts with colleagues or other researchers to request their feedback, thus avoiding many errors.

3. Organize your paper as per the journal guidelines

After getting feedback from you your co-workers, revise your paper according to the aim and scope of the journals in your target research area. That will improve the chances of acceptance.

4. Develop an impressive title and abstract

The title and abstract are extremely important parts of a manuscript. Basically, the title should encapsulate the theme of the paper. The abstract should be a summary of the article within a specific word count.

5. Take the services of a professional editing firm

It is advisable to have a professional editing firm copy-edit your manuscript. An article submitted to a peer-reviewed journal will be analyzed critically by the editorial board, especially the references, main text, tables, and figures before it is selected for peer review. Running the manuscript through available software might help, but that can never replace the efforts of an expert and experienced editor in your chosen research field.

6. Include a cover letter along with the manuscript

A cover letter outlines the theme of the paper, presents the innovative aspect of the paper, and communicates the significance of the manuscript to the target journal. Therefore, it is mandatory to submit a cover letter along with the manuscript for publication.

7. Report reviewer comments carefully

Editors and editors-in-chief often ask researchers to “revise or resubmit” based on the comments provided by the reviewers. These revisions may necessitate major or minor changes in the manuscript. Therefore, it is important to address the comments received from the reviewers and avoid critical omissions. It is also crucial that you meet the given deadline for submitting the revised paper.

Given the ever-growing number of manuscripts submitted for publication, the procedure of presenting a manuscript in the best possible form and to have it accepted by a journal can be a formidable task because high-impact journals accept less than 10 percent of the articles submitted.

Therefore, the guidelines mentioned here could go a long way toward having your paper accepted and published by an esteemed journal. These recommendations require proper planning and careful implementation. Following the instructions could help researchers and other scholars improve the chances of getting their work published, and that is the key to having a productive and gratifying academic career.

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When to Use Commas, Colons, Semicolons, and Dashes

Comma, Colon, Semicolon, Dash

Which Punctuation Mark Should I Use?

Knowing which punctuation to apply within sentences can be confusing. But rules are important and made to be followed, especially in academic writing. Putting a comma between two independent clauses will confuse your readers and make your work frustrating to read. On the other hand, a well-placed semi-colon can add nuance and subtlety to any kind of writing. Keep the following rules in mind when choosing to use a comma (,), colon (:), semicolon (;), or dash (—).

When to Use a Comma

Commas are the most frequently used (and abused) punctuation mark in most kinds of writing. The reason for this is that they have so many uses and so many rules—it can be hard to keep track of them all. Let’s take a look at just a few of the comma’s crucial functions and discuss when to choose a comma over another similar punctuation mark.

To list items or short phrases:

I bought bread, cheeseand pickles at the grocery store.

To separate long independent clauses when conjunctions connect them:

Astronomers have known about the positions of stars for centuries, but they didn’t understand that the earth revolves around the sun.

After an introductory phrase:

In preparation for the next convention, the representatives studied up on the most important issues.

To separate a parenthetical phrase or interrupter:

All doctors, if they care about their patients, are concerned with good office hygiene.

Common Comma Mistakes

Comma splice. Do NOT use a comma to divide two independent clauses without a conjunction.

IncorrectThousands of protesters showed up on the streetsthey were shouting and carrying large posters.

CorrectThousands of protesters showed up on the streets; they were shouting and carrying large posters.

Combining lengthy phrases. Using commas with compound sentences or to separate clauses with other commas can cause confusion. Use a semicolon.

IncorrectSome useful subjects are English, which is an international language, math, which is used in all domains of sciences and social sciencesand philosophywhich underpins many other areas of study.

CorrectSome useful subjects are English, which is an international language; math, which is used in all sciences and social sciences; and philosophy, which underpins many other areas of study.

When to Use a Colon

A colon is used to make lists and tell the reader, “This is what I mean.” The colon should not be used often in most kinds of writing unless there are extensive lists involved. The rules of the colon are strict but fairly easy to remember.

To introduce an item or series of items:

Humans use five major senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.

To separate independent clauses when the second clause/sentence illustrates, explains, paraphrases, or expands on the first:

Martha realized that her worst fear was coming true: her son was being sent to war.

(*The information after the colon explains Martha’s fear in the form of an independent clause.)

To follow the salutation in a business letter or more formal letter:

To the Central Valley Committee Chairman:

More Tips For Using Colons

Do not capitalize the first word after the colon unless it is a proper noun, is part of a quote, or is the first in a series of sentences:

Incorrect: I have three desiresTo eat, sleep, and work.

CorrectI have three desires: to eat, sleep, and work.

When a quotation contains multiple sentences, many writers prefer to introduce it with a colon rather than a comma:

In Chapter 3, the author explains his theory“Dogs have dreams, but they don’t dream as humans do. Their dreams reflect a primal desire for pleasure, whereas humans are preoccupied with the ego and self-image. This is equally true in wakefulness and sleep.”

A complete sentence after the colon is not necessary—a word or phrase is fine.

There is one mantra that can sum up our position towards climate change: urgent action.

Common Colon Mistakes

Separating two clauses that have equal rank or unrelated information:

IncorrectSarah and her friends loved spending time on the mountain: nature always held a special meaning for them.

CorrectSarah and her friends loved spending time on the mountainnature always held a special meaning for them.

(*Use a period if the clauses are not at all related. Use a semi-colon if the information in the second clause is somewhat related but does not illustrate, explain, or paraphrase the first clause.)

Overusing the colon:

The colon is a powerful punctuation mark and should be used sparingly. Think of it as a stop sign that calls readers’ attention and says, “Hey! Pay attention to this. This is important.” If there are too many stop signs on a street, you won’t be able to drive very smoothly or quickly. This is the same effect colons can have upon readers.

Because colons are so attention-grabbing, they can clearly indicate which information is important. For this reason, many authors use colons to introduce their main argument or supporting evidence.

When to Use a Semicolon

A semicolon is used to separate two ideas (two independent clauses) that are closely related. They can also be used when listing complex ideas or phrases that use commas within them.  Essentially, a semicolon is like a comma with more meaning or a colon with more flexibility.

To join two or more ideas (parts) in a sentence when their ideas are given equal position or rank:

The universe has always called to human beings; there could be no more final frontier than space.

To join two independent clauses connected by conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases:

Sam thought David was inviting him to the picnic to enjoy a nice day outas it turned out, David was planning a surprise birthday party.

To present items in a list or series if there are commas within the items, or if the items are relatively long and complex:

Our family members came all the way from Denver, ColoradoRochester, Minnesotaand even Paris, France.

To connect independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (if the clauses are already punctuated with commas) or if they are lengthy.

My main research objective is to isolate the cause of the disease, as well as to contribute to the existing literaturefor this will bring an end to starvation across the continent, create new study designs related to epidemiology, and change the very paradigm of my research field.

Using a Semicolon Instead of a Comma

IncorrectThe specimens were treated properlyhowever, they were not stored properly.

CorrectThe specimens were treated properlyhowever, they were not stored properly.

*The conjunctive adverb “however” shows a connection between the two independent clauses; do not use a comma to connect two independent clauses without a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, etc.).

IncorrectThe sun is wonderful: it produces light, which plants need to surviveit gives us warmth, which is useful for most lifeand it makes a sad day happier, which is obviously a positive trait!

CorrectThe sun is wonderful: it produces light, which plants need to surviveit gives us warmth, which is useful for most lifeand it makes a sad day happier, which is obviously a positive trait!

*Using only commas, it is unclear what items are being listed exactly. Semicolons help divide listed items that each contain commas.

When to Use a Dash (or Dashes)

The dash (or, more specifically, the “em dash”) is perhaps the most versatile of the punctuation marks. However, like the semicolon, it is underutilized in most kinds of writing. It can function like a comma, parentheses, or colon, but creating subtly different effects in each case.

Use Dashes in Place of a Comma

Em dashes can be used in pairs to replaced commas when writing a parenthetical or interruptive phrase. The dashes have a slightly more emphatic feel, making the reader focus on this information that is set inside the special marks.

Parenthetical phrase with commas:

And sowhen the baby was born in Junenearly two months prematurethe parents were happy but quite nervousand they still had to buy all of the baby supplies.

Parenthetical phrase with dashes:

And so, when the baby was born in Junenearly two months prematurethe parents were happy but quite nervous, and they still had to buy all of the baby supplies.

(*The dashes put emphasis on the fact that the baby was premature, showing that it is an important detail in this sentence.)

Use Dashes in Place of Parentheses

Put a pair of dashes in the same position that you would put parentheses. Since they are less formal, fewer dashes than parentheses are found in academic writing. However, they do cause more of an obvious interruption and therefore more emphasis. They can also be used as a sort of “meta” parentheses when the content between the dashes already contains parentheses.

When dashes replace parentheses, the surrounded punctuation is omitted:

ParenthesesAfter taking all of his final exams (including seven essays and three multiple choice tests), David just wanted to sleep.

DashesAfter taking all of his final examsincluding seven essays and three multiple choice testsDavid just wanted to sleep.

*The dashes are more visible and therefore interrupt the flow of the sentence a bit more and draw attention to the content.

When used instead of parentheses at the end of a sentence, only a single dash is used.

ParenthesesThat coffee shop offers a selection of exotic gourmet coffee (or at least that is how they describe it).

Single dashThat coffee shop offers a selection of exotic gourmet coffeeor at least that is how they describe it.

*The dash seems to work especially well when placed at the end of a sentence—it extends the sentence like an addendum.

Use a Dash in Place of a Colon

Use an em dash instead of a colon when you want to emphasize the conclusion of your sentence without giving it all of the connotations that a colon brings. A dash can add “extra” information and is more flexible in this way. It is also less formal than a colon.

Colon: The executives finally decided what they would do with the companysell it at a loss.

Single DashThe executives finally decided what they would do with the companysell it at a loss.

ColonLet’s go where we went last yearDisneyland!

Single DashLet’s go where we went last yearDisneyland!

*Using the dash in this way conveys a sense of anticipation (or of inevitability) and can add an almost editorial feel to the writing.

Choose Punctuation with Context and Audience in Mind

As with any technical decisions regarding writing, when choosing which punctuation marks to use and apply consistently, it is a good idea to consider your audience and the context of your work. For instance, researchers looking to publish in journals should read articles from the journals they are targeting to see which punctuation marks are used by most authors in that journal. The same rule applies to any newspaper, magazine, or periodical for which your writing is intended.

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Your Paper, Your Way: All You Need to Know!

What is Your Paper, Your Way?

The concept of Your Paper, Your Way1 (hereinafter YPYW) was proposedby Sir Kelvin Davies, PhD, DSc, Editor-in-Chief of Free Radical Biology & Medicine in 2011 and it made its way to all Elsevier journals in June 2013. It is an attempt to simplify the publication process and is marketed with the intent of making the process more “author friendly.” It does so by greatly relaxing the formatting requirements, enabling greater focus on only the content while evaluating a submitted paper. The first draft needs to meet no strict formatting requirements, enabling even authors to primarily focus on the content. Although it does greatly succeed in that intent, there is a lot more to it than the altruistic intent of making things easier for the authors, as you will find out when you read on.

What does Your Paper, Your Way change in the field of publication?

Like a singer should not have to know how to dance, an author should not need to be proficient in technical skills of MS Word. Research papers have greatly been about two things until YPYW—how good the content is and how “publication-ready” does the manuscript appear. Although nothing seems wrong about this at the outset, a disproportionate focus on the latter can very well prevent good research from being accepted. YPYW throws the latter out of a figurative window and brings the former at the center (and everywhere else, as it is the only thing that matters for first evaluation). As YPYW allows for the submission of an entire manuscript in a single *.docx or *.pdf file, the process is more convenient compared to many journals that require the Abstract, the title page, and the artwork separately submitted. Besides this, since the manuscript is now evaluated for fewer criteria, the publication process is much faster. Whether the paper is accepted or rejected, the authors know of the verdict much sooner than they would with the conventional process.

How does Your Paper, Your Way benefit authors?

As mentioned above, researchers should be evaluated for academic proficiency and should not feel “compelled” to learn something they do not have to know. According to Elsevier, “92% of authors surveyed found YPYW easy or extremely easy, compared to 61% of authors who used the traditional process.” With the initial submission being evaluated ONLY based on the content quality in YPYW, this levels the playing field for researchers having inadequate proficiency with using MS Office tools. MedicalWriterslists “incorrect formatting” as one of the top five reasons for manuscript rejection. With YPYW, this reason is greatly neutralized, albeit not completely.

How does Your Paper, Your Way benefit the journal?

Although YPYW is greatly marketed as an “author-focused” initiative, which it is in the most part, there is more to the story. What are the reasons why more journals, even many non-Elsevier journals, are increasingly adopting this style? I assure you it is not pure altruism on the part of the journal. Below, I briefly describe how YPYW benefits the journals.

  • More submissions: Let’s work with the established fact that most journals charge a hefty sum as a submission fee. Now, authors who have limited access to or knowledge of using MS Word for complicated formatting requirements are expected to make sure that their lack of technical proficiency is not a factor in manuscript rejection. There are parts of the world where the submission fee is even greater than the average monthly wage of a scientist, and research funding is more or less absent, inadequate, or indefinitely delayed; in such cases, if the authors are spending their own money for submission, it makes probabilistic sense for them to select a journal which does not have their weakness—improper formatting—as a criteria for rejection. This makes many authors gravitate toward YPYW journals, consequently increasing submissions to such journals and making the YPYW concept a real money maker but not for wrong reasons.
  • One review – and that’s it. In journals with strict formatting requirements, the reviewers often have to go through a single paper multiple times because of returns and revision requests to meet the formatting requirements. For a journal, this is somewhat “redundant” work done by an employee as there is generally no monetary gain associated with reviewing the returned manuscripts; they would rather have their reviewers look at fresh manuscripts which actually bring money to the journal. This increases the number of fresh manuscripts reviewed over any given period of time, thus making more money for the journal.
  • The two points above: It is important to talk of them together as they make YPYW seem like a sheer “common sense-oriented” decision, business-wise that is. More incoming papers and minimal time spent on a non-money-making process clearly scream how much business is at the center of research in current times. I am not complaining though as the win of YPYW does not seem to be any author’s loss to me.

What can go wrong for authors while submitting to Your Paper, Your Way journals?

As an academic editor, I am generally elated when I get a paper for editing that is being sent to a YPYW journal. This is because I know that I would have to spare “little” time for formatting. I say “little” but not “no” for a huge reason. Although there are no strict guidelines that a paper needs to be in agreement with, it has to still be what I can best describe as a “disciplined effort.” There should be internal consistency in the formatting aspects, be it in-text references, reference list, line spacing, pagination, etc. Using mixed styles, e.g., inconsistent number of author names before using “et al” in the reference list, inconsistent/mixed use of “&” vs. “and” in two-author papers in the end list and/or in-text references, and inconsistent/mixed use of square brackets, parenthesis, and superscripts to depict in-text references for Vancouver style adherence are ALL discouraged. Although there is no template to follow for these aspects, internal consistency is a must. Thus, despite the journal supporting YPYW, authors should not send in a “shabby” paper by any measure.

What do the reviewers think about Your Paper, Your Way?

Although we have established that YPYW brings great changes from the journal and author perspectives, reviewers are the least affected [check “Feedback from reviewers” section]4 by this change. However, it has to be kept in mind that the people reviewing your papers after your journal started supporting YPYW are the same as those who did it before. Thus, they are used to seeing near-perfect papers from a formatting point of view (all Times New Roman or Arial, double-spaced, 12 pt. font), even at the first submission many a times. Thus, as they have been doing this for years, they may feel “inconvenienced” when a paper comes to them which appears different somehow (10 pt. single-spaced, let’s say). Although it is not likely to influence their overall objective verdict of the paper, it is considered wise if the authors send in a properly presented manuscript for the review. My advice to the authors, always use the above mentioned combination in underline and italics; it is still widely the gold standard of how a paper is “expected” to look like.

My two cents on Your Paper, Your Way

So, if given a choice between a YPYW and a non-YPYW journal, should an author preferably submit a well-prepared manuscript to YPYW? The answer is that this is NOT a deciding factor for choosing a journal. If your manuscript is well-prepared, then find the best journal for it based on the impact factor, visibility, how often it publishes content related to your topic, etc. These are always the priority factors to consider. If your paper is not prepared well in terms of formatting, you may go for a YPYW journal if it meets the abovementioned criteria; if you cannot find such a journal, seek professional editing and send it to a journal that best showcases your work to the world.

Although there has been a lot of debate on how good or not YPYW is for the academia, I am personally inclined in its favor. Because although this changes a lot for the industry, it does not bring a compromise to how robust the content evaluation process should be and it does not force the reviewers to accept more articles for business benefit. The academic decision-making factors have been left untouched and robust and the decision makers are the same as before, and among all the things Elsevier has changed, for me, the beauty of YPYW lies in what they chose to keep intact, which is the “no-compromise” approach on the quality of research accepted.

References

  1. Your paper your way [Internet]. Elsevier.com. 2018 [cited 1 November 2018]. Available from: https://www.elsevier.com/en-in/authors/journal-authors/your-paper-your-way
  2. Davies K. [Internet]. Elsevierscitech.com. 2018 [cited 1 November 2018]. Available from: http://www.elsevierscitech.com/dronsite/FRB_10666_1.pdf
  3. Waaga F. The top 5 reasons manuscripts get rejected – and how you can prevent them » Medicalwriters.com [Internet]. Medicalwriters.com. 2018 [cited 1 November 2018]. Available from: https://www.medicalwriters.com/rejected-manuscript-five-top-reasons-why-it-happened-and-advice-how-to-prevent-this/
  4. Fennell C, Gill D. Your Paper, Your Way – now available to all journals [Internet]. Elsevier.com. 2018 [cited 1 November 2018]. Available from: https://www.elsevier.com/editors-update/story/author-support/your-paper,-your-way-now-available-to-all-journals
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