Meet Dr Deluded. Dr Deluded is angry. Very angry.
Dr Deluded just can’t get published.
It’s not that he doesn’t try. Dr Deluded writes a lot and submits to journals. In fact, he is so keen to get his work out into the world that he sends his manuscripts off as soon as he is finished with them. But he is consistently bothered and bewildered by the number that are desk rejected. He is convinced that Editors are out to get him.
Dr Deluded is making a few key mistakes which are contributing to his continued lack of publication success. Here’s five of the most important. He:
- doesn’t research the journal he is submitting to
Continued desk rejects suggest that Dr Deluded is not doing his journal homework. Dr Deluded assumes that if the title and mission statement of the journal have some synergy with his topic that means he will automatically get accepted. But journals are quite particular knowledge communities and they have different expectations about what they will accept. They each have their own implicit rules and conventions too. As the first line of decision-making about “fit”, Editors usually look to see whether the paper sits neatly within the journal, and meets expectations. If it doesn’t, well, it’s curtains for you Deluded. Editors regularly report that the major reason for desk rejection is that the paper has been sent to the wrong journal, but Dr Deluded hasn’t read that advice. Poor chap, he just hasn’t worked out that he is writing for a different reader than the readers of the journals he’s chosen.
2. thinks that a written paper is a done paper
Dr Deluded suffers from premature satisfaction syndrome. Revise? It ain’t me babe. He believes that it’s best to get the paper off to the journal to get reviewer feedback which will help him do the revisions. He doesn’t let a paper sit for a few weeks so that he can come back to it with fresh eyes. He doesn’t have any particular strategies for revision. In fact, he doesn’t think about revision at all, he thinks it’s all just a matter of a teensy bit of editing – correct a few typos and sentences and that’s it. Dr Deluded would certainly never consider giving a paper to a colleague to get their response. No, if it’s written, that’s good enough.
3. writes everything in his own inimitable way
Dr Deluded has a strong critique of academic journals. He thinks that they are stuffy, pompous and hard to read. Well, he may well be right. But that doesn’t mean that his writing will have an easy ride. It doesn’t mean that book publishers will fall over themselves to publish his PhD and journal reviewers will love his eccentric syntax. Dr Deluded either needs to find academic outlets that will accept his particular approach to writing, or tone down what he does just enough to make it through the reviewing process. Or get together with a group of like-minded others and start his own open access publication.
4. wants to write all of the things
Dr Deluded is very flattered by requests to contribute. He says yes to every special issue, every book chapter and every op-ed piece, regardless of whether they are directly in his field or not. He is afraid of missing out on something – that conference that his best friend keeps talking about but is really out of his field? Why not, it’s just a paper. He seriously overcommits – that edited book that brings this year’s chapter total to ten? Ooh go on then. Dr Deluded knows that he can write fast, so hell to the yes.
5. likes turning a project into shed loads of papers
Dr Deluded thinks that it is more than OK to write fifteen articles from one small piece of research, each taking a slightly different angle. His papers often make the same argument over and over again and use the exact same set of references. Sometimes he even cuts and pastes from one paper to another. Dr Deluded hasn’t quite cottoned on. He doesn’t get that a significant contribution to knowledge is not an emaciated one. And that, in reality, he is better served in the long run by fewer and more substantial papers than a lot of rather meagre ones.
Dr Deluded has a quality problem.
Dr Deluded doesn’t know how to ensure that his work is as good as it can be. And he also doesn’t do the work that means readers will see the quality in, and of, his research and writing. He may occasionally luck out and get a paper through the reviewing process. But he is actually wasting a lot of his own and other people’s time by not doing his homework, rushing things and salami slicing his work.
Less haste more speed, and all that means, might help Dr Deluded quite a lot.
Other posts that might be of interest:
Image: Marina Khrapova on Unsplash
Just in defence of Dr Deluded. I wonder if he is a tenured academic or has recently been conferred as a PhD? I do wonder about the guidance and support Dr Deluded may have received from his supervisory team, if he is a recent graduate or how collegial his practice/department may be?
I guess this article raises the question for me about how does one find the most appropriate journals. Trial and Error? How do you work out whether “it sits neatly within the journal”, especially when you are new to the game, and your thesis has used a range of literature from various journals.
Finally- many thanks Pat. My PhD is submitted within a week and your blogs have been enormously helpful.
Congratulations on getting your PhD finished and in. Dr Deluded didn’t read the chapter in Thomson and Kamler’s “Getting Published” book about how to find out all about a journal even though he was advised to. However I have taken pity on him and will post a few pointers in the next couple of weeks. I hope he follows this blog and will take note. 🙂
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