The act of publishing a research was my utmost goal of doing a masters degree. When I started conducting my dissertation, I was keen to deliver a high quality and original research, not only to get a good mark but to publish it in an international journal. As I discussed here, I wanted to contribute a little bit to my biggest life’s question; What if our search for knowledge changed the world around us?
This article is the third one in a series of articles about academic research, which I started by discussing the resources that helped me to understand the academic research skills here and the literature review process here.
In this article, I am going to illustrate the seven steps that I took in order to take my master’s dissertation a step ahead and get it published in a scientific journal.
Choosing where to publish
Like most of you, the first questions that came to my mind when I wanted to publish my research were where do I want to publish my research? Am I going to publish it in a conference or a journal? Is my research qualified to be a chapter in a book or even an entire book? Does my university provide a platform for such a purpose?
I started by clarifying these options with the academic support team in my university and my supervisor. Additionally, I read carefully through different resources and others’ blogs and concluded that I want to publish my research in a journal. Therefore, the next step was to find the right journal.
To do so, I reviewed my references and bibliography lists to identify potential journals that I could publish with, and finally, I selected The TQM Journal which personally I used in my research. In this way, I could assure that my research will be published to the right audience.
Reviewing the publisher’s guidelines carefully
After selecting The TQM Journal, I read carefully the instructions that are provided by the journal itself. There was a section called “write for this journal” where they put all the needed information and guidelines for new authors. In this stage, it is important to understand the different aspects of the publishing process such as the manuscripts’ submitting platform, the review process, the copy right issue and any third party copyright persimmons (if needed).
Submitting the manuscript
After selecting the right journal and familiarizing myself with their guidelines, the most difficult step now was to get my manuscript ready for publishing. In case of the TQM journal, they had an online submission platform for which I created an account and started filling the needed information. A major headache for me was preparing my research in a way that follows the journal’s guidelines, and mainly, reducing the word count from 45,000 words in my original research up to 7,000 words only. It was a tough step where actually I was not summarizing my research; instead, I was rewriting everything from scratch. Honestly, I don’t know how strict they are in regards to the word count. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t reduce mine to a less than 8,000 words so I submitted my manuscript anyway.
Since this journal depends on a double blind review process, the online submission platform will ask you to submit your paper in different files. For example, the information about the authors should be in a separate file than the manuscript itself in order to make sure that the document that will be sent for the review doesn’t contain any information about the authors. Additionally, the journal recommended submitting a cover letter telling the editor what my research is all about. Here is the First Cover Letter that I submitted at that stage.
Once I prepared my manuscript according to the required guidelines, I sent it to my supervisor, who acted as the second author; in order to review it and make sure that it still conveys the right message especially after reducing the word count.
Later, I submitted my online application and received a confirmation e-mail after 2 days stating that my paper has passed the initial screening and it is now awaiting reviewer selection. The journal told me previously that this review process might take from 4-6 months.
Receiving the first decision
After 12 weeks, I received the first communication from the journal telling me that the double blind review process is finished; the final decision is that my paper needs a major revision and the deadline for submitting my comments/ revised manuscript is after two months. I did expect that. I read a lot in others’ blogs who were in a similar position and I realized that it is unlikely a research will be published without any revision.
Submitting a revised manuscript
I went through the comments and responded/ amended my manuscript accordingly. I did not agree with every single comment as I found some of them were impossible. For example, one reviewer asked to extend the literature review in my research, which was not applicable due to the way I designed and executed my research, so I illustrated the detailed justifications for my point of view. The point is, you do not have to agree with every single comment; however you needed to provide clear arguments and justifications on why you might believe conversely.
I developed a detailed response to each comment and I created a second version of my manuscript accordingly. As per the journal’s guidelines, I had to mention clearly where did I reflect my changes, i.e., the page number and line number if possible, and I had to reflect the new changes using a different color.
Following to that, I sent the revised paper to my supervisor to review it again and then I submitted it back to the journal for a second review.
It is worthy to mention that a second cover letter was needed here in order to thank the reviewers for their comments and to tell the editor what is the purpose of this revised document. Here is the Second Cover Letter that I submitted at this stage.
Additionally, I couldn’t finish my amendments within the original two-month deadline, so I had to request an extension for which the editor gave me another one month.
Once I submitted my revised manuscript, I received a confirmation e-mail telling me that the review process takes on average, without any unforeseen delays, from 8 to 12 weeks.
Receiving the good news
After 7 weeks of waiting, I received the final reply from the journal.
“Dear Miss Saleh,
Your manuscript entitled “Business Excellence in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous Environment (BEVUCA)” which you submitted to The TQM Journal has been reviewed. The decision is to accept the manuscript in its current form for publication in The TQM Journal. The comments of the reviewer(s) are included at the foot of this letter.”
Probably, that was the best e-mail I received during the year 2017.
At this stage, the journal asked us, me and the second author, to submit a final confirmation called “Copyright Transfer Agreement” which implies that the copy right of the paper is transferred from us, the authors, to the publisher, the TQM journal.
Providing the final proof read
The paper was accepted to be published in the upcoming issue of the TQM Journal, so after a couple of weeks, the journal contacted me again, because I act as the corresponding author for this research, to proof read the article. Mainly there were some changes needed to the references. Usually, they give only two days to finish off this step, so I submitted all the needed changes in the same day. They all were easy to handle such as missing the volume number or the issue number in some of the references.
It took me 9 months from the day I started thinking about publishing my paper until I got the final acceptance. I asked myself several times do I really needed it? I struggled to keep my energy level in order to finish this task, but when I received the final acceptance e-mail, every single up and down moment I had in that journey became an unforgettable pleasant memory.
I am grateful that this step is done and definitely, I could not ask for a better mentor and supervisor which supported me throughout this challenge, Richard Watson.
Was it easy? No. Worth it? Absolutely!