Writing for Academic Journals by xtw17906


									                        Writing for Academic Journals


What message do you want to get across?
      Choice of audience
      Choice of Journal
      Determines style
      Determines content

Matching the journal

      Know the audience
      Scan the journal — successful authors
      Check work-length
      Check referencing system
      Check layout


            Theoretic treatise
            Review article
                 Substantive issue
                 Policy problem
            Empirical contribution
                           Shape of an Empirical Contribution

Abstract (Keywords)

       Rationale. The point of article — what it contributes.
       Possibly the main conclusion.
       Structure of the article

Review of literature to:
      Specify the hypothesis to be tested
               Identify the gap in knowledge
               Point to the step to be taken
               Leading to
                       Statement of aims

Description of data and method
       Need to be convincing; stress strengths, acknowledge weaknesses/limitations
       Emphasize novelty
              Population, sample size and structure
              Mode of contact
              Response rate
              Extenuating factors
              Structure of ‘sample’
       (Remember it is easy to find flaws and referees enjoy doing so)

Presentation of results (quantitative)
       Structure according to statement of aims (sub-sections?)
       Opening paragraph recapitulating objectives and explaining structure of results
       Usually global findings first
               Followed by sub-group analyses or exceptions
       Simple model
               Followed by increasing complexity
       Recapitulation of principal findings
       (Remember your conclusions should hang on this section and it must be transparent)
Discussion of results (quantitative)
       Often the second (only) part that is read other than the abstract
       Brief restatement of rationale
       Usually structure by aims - (or) most important first
       What does the research add or contribute and with what implications for
       understanding of the world/theory?
       (Remember referees may have a vested interest in the status quo.)
       What new structures follow and/or new questions are highlighted?
       (Probably statement of implications for policy)
       Stake out future territory
       Conclude with a coda (some people only read the first and last paragraphs)

Presentation of results (qualitative)
       May sometimes be preferable to integrate findings with implications
       Usually structure as a series of nets:
              Topic 1
                      Sub-topic 1.1
                               Sub-topic 1.1.1
                               Sub-topic l.l.n
                      Sub-topic l.n
              Topic n
       (Remember only you believe in the validity/reliability of your data.)
              Be alert to weaknesses, share them;
              Justify your interpretations;
              Anticipate criticisms/counter-interpretations and address them
              Modesty is becoming

Conclusion (qualitative)
      Brief restatement of rationale
      Brief restatement of main conclusions and implications
      (Remember qualitative research delves into complexities but only simple concepts are

(Self-referencing gives the game away to referees)

(Policy journals abhor equations and complex tables)
                                   Shape of a Review Article


Statement of the conundrum to be addressed.
Dissection of the main issues and themes.
Possibly a statement of the conclusion that will is to be reached.
Statement of the structure of the article that will usually reflect the issues/themes.

Thematic Sections
The sections are likely to form second order elements in a net (see ‘presentation of qualitative
results’ above). They may therefore be of equal importance but the best order is likely to be
for the content of later sections to be contingent on material covered in earlier ones

Each section may have the following structure:
1. Outline specification of the issue, possibly eliciting contrasting
   political/philosophical/ideological perspectives
2. The substantive evidence, possibly interpreted with respect to the different perspectives.
3. Policy implications following from the evidence
4. Brief synopsis of conclusions

Brief restatement of rationale
Synthesis of findings
Extraction of global themes
Distillation of policy implications
Possibly stake out territory for future enquiry.
Conclude with a coda.
                                         Writing Style

• Check the chosen journal.

• Write simply, but not over-simply. Rely on Latin rather than Anglo-Saxon.
• A journal article should be totally accessible to an informed lay reader.
• Obfuscation is a sign of inadequacy.

•   The shortest possible sentence is usually the best.
•   Having written a sentence, check if it can be shortened.
•   Simple sentences are usually the easiest to understand; they normally have the structure:
    subject, verb, object.
•   The present tense is the simplest, but research findings are usually written in the simple

•   Avoid personal pronouns. (They offend some editors.)
•   Avoid jargon.
•   Define terms.
•   Avoid abbreviations (and define them where they must be used).

•   Each section/subsection should have a structure.
•   One useful structure for sections is:
•   The content within each section should be logically ordered:
        Try decreasing order of size/importance.
        Nets (see presentation of qualitative results) are another useful device.
•   Each paragraph should begin a new sub-topic.

• More sections/subsections are better than too few.
(Include them first as a map. Then use them as a check on the logical development of
thought. Finally, edit some out if there are too many - one per paragraph is usually too

• Always begin with the most important/general before discussing the less
• List points/findings starting with the largest/most important, then in order of decreasing
•   Never start a sentence or paragraph with an exception (unless the sentence/paragraph is to
    be devoted to the exception).
•   Do not repeat words within a sentence.
•   Do not repeat words in adjacent sentences (sic).
•   Try to avoid the same words in adjacent paragraphs.
•   Do not use the same sentence structure anywhere on a page.
•   Each paragraph within a section should commence with a different form of words.

    Use of tables
•   Tables should seldom be described.
•   The text should contain the full story without expecting the reader to look at tables.
•   ‘X is Y (Table Z)’ is invariably better than ‘Table Z shows that’.
•   The same is typically true of diagrams.

  Design of tables/diagrams
• Tables should be as simple as possible.
• But tables are generally the only evidence supplied. They are the reader’s check that the
  author is not a charlatan and, hence, should contain sufficient information to constitute
  good evidence.
• Base numbers should never be excluded without good reason.

    Use of verbatims
•   Verbatims in qualitative research perform the same function as quantitative tables and
•   They should be used in the same way - as evidence rather than essential narrative.
•   Slightly longer verbatims are often preferable to tightly cropped ones - they provide
    context and authenticity.
•   Two verbatims illustrating a single point frequently provide more than twice the value.
•   Discussion groups generate dialogue rather than statements. Therefore when writing up
    discussion groups it is rarely adequate to limit verbatims to single respondents.
•   While it is possible to have include too many verbatims, it is easier to include too much
    interlinking text.
•   The complexity of a topic is no excuse for prolix.
    Supplementary information
•   Use footnotes sparingly.
•   Annexes avoid cluttering the text with more difficult, technical material although editors
    prefer to keep annexes to a minimum.
    Necessary aids
•   Use Microsoft Word’s grammar facility
•   Use a thesaurus.

•   Think.
•   Write.
•   Read.
•   Think again.
•   Rewrite.

• You can understand what you have written. Good. But could your mother - or someone
  similar? If not, start again since your text cannot be good.

Robert Walker
August 1998

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