Publishing Your First Manuscript

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I think one of the hardest parts about a PhD is putting forth so much effort into one thing and having someone tell you it is wrong or it is not good enough. Talk about breaking you down and making you feel bad. The PhD process is grueling and no wonder people don’t want to go through it. I know the struggles that PhD students face and they are quite taxing on mental health. One of the things that may cause mental stress is getting a manuscript published.

One of the requirements to graduate at my university is getting a first authored publication. Many of the students in my department will send in their research. I sent in a review paper. Literature reviews are required for dissertations but not necessarily for publication. MY adviser wanted me to get a paper in quickly because my research project takes quite a long time, and data won’t be sufficient until the end of this year. So, we decided that it was best to get a literature review over with and send that in for publication.

Well, after 2 years of working on it, it was accepted to a journal. I am super excited so I wanted to spend some time telling you what it’s like to publish and the process of peer review. If you haven’t checked it out yet, go read my blog about writing a literature review. I’m sure it will help those in the process.

When writing a paper for publication, you need to really pay attention to ever little detail. Make sure grammar is correct, punctuation is appropriate, and that all figures are up to the quality of the publisher. When in doubt, check out the website of the journal you want to send your paper to. They will always have a list of requirements that need to be met for them to send off to be peer reviewed.

Prior to sending your paper anywhere, do some research on journals. The worst thing is to keep picking journals where your paper is out of their scope of work. You don’t want to send a physics paper to an ecology journal. I highly recommend using Journal Finder. It is a free service by Elsevier. Here you can see the most appropriate journals with the highest impact factors. This is how I made the decision on where to send my manuscript.

Send your manuscript and hopefully the editor sends it to be peer reviewed. Honestly, this is a very nerve wracking time because the editor can just flat out reject your work. But, if you are fortunate enough, they will send you an email saying they are sending your paper to peer review. Now it’s time to sit back and relax. The paper is in good hands, I promise you.

The peer review process is awful!!! It is definitely needed but you may get comments back that are just flat out mean. They may tell you that this paper is bad or that everything you did was wrong. They may even suggest that you redo the experiments. My experience was with review papers. The reviewers must have gone through every citation because they had a comment for literately everything. It will take you some time to address all comments, but know you will most likely have help from your adviser, so do not fret. They have done this a million times.

After addressing the comments, you’ll send them back to the editor who will read over them. They may accept or reject your paper right then and there. It can happen but sometimes they will send the paper back to the reviewers to see if they are ok with the responses. If you are luck, like me, you will get even more comments from the reviewers -_-. Have no fear, this means that the reviewers are really taking the time to make sure you have a scientifically sound paper. This is a good thing.

By the time all the peer review is over, it is up to the editor to make the final call. After all, it’s their journal that you are asking to be published in. Hopefully they send you an email, like they did with me, that states that they have accepted your article. It is an amazing feeling knowing that you will have contributed a tiny bit to the academic world. Maybe you might have people even cite your paper. That is a cool thing.

If your paper was rejected. It is not the end of the world. Read all of the comments very carefully and make adjustments where it’s necessary. If you have a good project that is scientifically sound, it will get published with some work. I remember reading a comment on Reddit about how someone always sent their manuscripts to Nature. They were rejected every time after peer review, but that is what the person wanted. They wanted to see how to make their experiments and papers better. The reviewers would give them amazing feedback and they were able to use that to make their paper good enough to get into vey impactful journals. So, getting rejected is a learning experience.

If you have gone through the process of your published manuscript, let me know how it went for you. This was the process for me but everyone has a different story to tell and I would love to read about it.