JITE v32n2 - Comments - Writing for Publication

Volume 32, Number 2
Winter 1995

Writing for Publication

Sarah Smith Duncan
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"Publish or Perish." While we have all heard the admonition, it is a fact that major contributions to the field are made by publishing the results of our professional activities. Unfortunately, few of us enjoy writing, fewer still feel competent about our writing skills, and even fewer actually claim expertise in writing. Writing is hard work, and writing for professional publication requires submitting ourselves to critical reviews by others, rewriting according to the suggestions of these reviewers, and making more changes as requested by editors.

Why bother to write for publication? In academia, promotion and tenure are contingent upon more than our abilities to teach and conduct research; we must also disseminate the results of our research and participate in theoretical and practical dialogues with our colleagues. "Publish or Perish" has real meaning for aspiring academics.

To assist those writers attempting to get their work ready for submission to journals, the Editorial Board of the Journal of Industrial Teacher Education put together some advice for aspiring authors-occasionally tongue-in-cheek, perhaps even amusing. To lighten the mood, we borrowed the format of David Letterman's "Top Ten Lists." The lists are presented below, with some additional comments. Our hope is that the information will be useful to our readers as they prepare manuscripts.

Top Ten Considerations When Preparing a Manuscript

Brian McAlister, Assistant Editor

  1. If you expect a blind review, don't over-cite yourself. Manuscripts that rely heavily on one author can reveal the identity of the author to the reviewers and may compromise anonymity. The tradition of blind review is intended to ensure a fair and impartial reading and evaluation of the manuscript.
  2. Purchase the APA Style Manual and use it! The Journal of Industrial Teacher Education is one of many journals that follows the conventions of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . This manual provides excellent advice about writing in general, specific guidelines for proper development of tables and figures, examples of appropriate methods of reference lists and citations, cautions against pejorative language, and avoidance of plagiarism and copyright violation. We recommend the 4th edition although we still use the 3rd edition for formatting reference lists.
  3. Send the article to the appropriate person. Directing your manuscript to the appropriate individual can reduce delay in the review process. JITE and most other journals provide this information for authors in each issue.
  4. Follow the journal submission guidelines exactly. Submission guidelines facilitate the review, editing, and publication process. Failing to comply will only delay processing of the manuscript.
  5. If you use a chart, graph, or an article written by your mother, include it in your reference list. Reference lists provide the reader with all the information they need to obtain the materials cited in the manuscript, and by acknowledging the original author, they reduce the risk of plagiarism. Professional manuscripts, based upon the work of others, must acknowledge each original source-including tables, charts, and other illustrations. In most cases, these cannot be reproduced without the consent of the original author.
  6. Use your spelling checker, then have someone else proofread the manuscript. Sophisticated software is available to assist writers (e.g., spelling checkers, thesaurus, grammar programs), but none of these programs can match the critical eye of a knowledgeable reader. Establish a reciprocal review arrangement with someone whose writing style and expertise you respect.
  7. Outline the article-before you write it. Developing and following an outline, concept map, or other organizational device is an excellent way to ensure that the manuscript is well organized, coherent, and complete. Outlining can also assist in dividing the writing task into manageable pieces and facilitate planning and time management.
  8. Have a colleague read the manuscript for content-they may not understand it, but it will make them feel important. Your reader may see flaws in the logic, holes in the information, or provide other feedback that will improve the overall quality of the manuscript.
  9. Target your audience; this is academia, not Humpty Dumpty Magazine. The first consideration of an experienced author is to identify the reader. The tone, vocabulary, sentence structure, and complexity must be appropriate to the intended audience. Writers submitting manuscripts to JITE can assume an educated, professional audience that possesses significant knowledge and expertise in a variety of fields related to industrial teacher education.
  10. Break new ground-select a current and relevant topic . Manuscripts that challenge current issues in the field and are relevant to the readers of the Journal are much more likely to be published than articles that simply rehash old topics.

Top Ten APA Issues for Authors Submitting Manuscripts

Sarah Smith Duncan, Style Editor

  1. Be brief, concise, succinct, pointed, pithy, laconic, and don't repeat yourself, thereby avoiding both redundancy and repetition. Perhaps because some high school and early college papers were required to be a certain length, some writers tend to repeat themselves unnecessarily. Include all necessary information and discussion, but do not belabor each point; unnecessary repetition sedates readers.
  2. Eschew the temptation to utilize an exorbitantly effusive lexicon. Roget's Thesaurus is an excellent example of how a useful tool can be used as a weapon. Avoid using a five- or six-syllable word when a simple, short word will do; write using a clear and understandable vocabulary. By all means, use the most appropriate and precise technical terms, but do not inflate the vocabulary just to impress the readers.
  3. Avoid Verb-ing-Networking should not be attempted without a net from which to work above. There is a growing trend of transforming nouns into verbs by adding "ing." Networking is an excellent example of this corruption, and I have heard people say they were conferencing .
  4. Match the in-text citations and reference lists exactly. Writers should verify that each in-text citation is properly presented and that a corresponding, properly formatted reference list citation appears for each. Appropriate citations and references must be corrected and included in the published manuscript. Be sure that the dates in the reference list match those in the text.
  5. Write in clear, simple sentences-few among us possess such consummate scholarly propensity. An inflated vocabulary can impede communication, and so can the overuse of complex sentences. Sentence variety makes reading easier and more pleasurable. If our teachers in the past rewarded us for using an inflated vocabulary, we may also have been rewarded for writing in complex sentences.
  6. Include all necessary information in Tables-even if these details reveal the logical fallacies of your conclusions. Tables, Figures, and other illustrations should be used whenever (and only whenever) they will illuminate the text. When a table is used, APA guidelines require that all pertinent information appear in it-again the goal is to enhance communication. If the Table, Figure, or illustration does not clarify, explain, or provide more detail than the text, omit it.
  7. The avoidance of the passive voice in writing is preferred. Back to our past writing classes-the active voice is not only more powerful, it also frequently shortens the sentence. Direct, powerful statements make a stronger impact.
  8. Avoid Which-ing clauses; There is simply no place for the Occult in serious academic writing. In the third edition of The Elements of Style , by Strunk and White (1979) , we are advised to go "which hunting" and remove these improperly used phrases from our manuscript (p. 59). In only eighty-five pages, their book compresses many important writing issues and is a tool all writers will find invaluable.
  9. Include the page numbers for all quotations. In APA style, only direct quotes require a page number in the parenthetical citation. Summarized or paraphrased material must be cited (author and date of publication) but page numbers are not necessary.
  10. Be certain Headings clarify and direct the reader; otherwise, off with your headings! The APA manual gives specific direction about the proper use of headings in manuscripts.

Top Ten Ways to Get Your Manuscript Accepted

James Gregson, Assistant Editor

  1. Explain both the practical and statistical significance . Too often statistical significance makes a meaningless study seem important. Your audience may be more interested in the practical significance of the results of your work than its statistical significance.
  2. Make the piece interesting to the target audience-who knows, someone might actually read it. Writers of professional manuscripts should strive to make their manuscripts as interesting as possible to the audience. This means knowing something about the readers of the publication to which the piece has been submitted: their interests, education, cultures, prejudices, preferences.
  3. Describe the elements of your study completely and clearly. When describing a research project, we have an obligation to provide enough information about the study's elements, methods, and procedures, so that others can replicate-or perhaps challenge-the results. Omitting information to hide problems or limitations is misleading and dishonest.
  4. Take risks. It is said that Beethoven's music was considered too radical for his day, and now he is thought to have been a genius; of course, he was composing music with substance. Take risks, but be sure the work has substance and will stand the test of time.
  5. Minimize mechanical defects. Proofread the manuscript; use spelling and grammar checkers; have a colleague read and comment on the manuscript. We ask this of our students, so we must expect to do it ourselves.
  6. Be sure there is congruency among the problem, research questions, findings, and discussion. The stated problem, the research questions, the findings, and the discussion based on the findings must all be logically connected. The questions should address the problem directly; the findings should present data that answer the questions; the reported findings and discussion of the findings must also be based on and confined to the data gathered and be presented logically.
  7. Write in a scholarly, yet reader-friendly manner. Writers who wish to be read must write in a style that combines professionalism with comfortable clarity. Remember the goal of written communication is to achieve a shared understanding between writer and reader.
  8. Provide an adequate review of the literature. In scholarly writing, we are obligated to build our own arguments upon the appropriate knowledge base. Writers must carefully review the related literature to (a) avoid needless duplication of efforts, (b) acknowledge the work already done by others, and (c) provide a context in which the manuscript will be most meaningful to the readers.
  9. Explicitly describe the theory behind your work. Tradition demands that writers identify clearly the theoretical foundation of their work.
  10. Be honest and acknowledge the limitations of your study. Professional writers/researchers gain nothing by hiding the limitations of their work. At best, hiding the limitations misleads the reader; at worst, withholding information can destroy the writer's credibility and reputation as a scholar.

Top Ten Reasons Manuscripts are Rejected

Tad Foster, Assistant Editor

  1. The manuscript is poorly organized . This can be avoided by beginning with an outline or some other organizational plan.
  2. The topic is irrelevant . Identifying the appropriate audience/journal will reduce the risk of irrelevancy.
  3. The manuscript is poorly written. Writing is hard work, but it is a skill that can be learned. Follow the suggestions given by the reviewers; consult a style manual; take a writing course.
  4. The study is poorly designed. Unless the study can be revised and repeated, the written report of a poorly designed study is not correctable.
  5. The data are poorly handled. In some cases, data can be reanalyzed using more appropriate methods and the rewritten manuscript can then be resubmitted.
  6. The data are insufficient. Unless unused data are available, this may be irreconcilable.
  7. The manuscript covers trivialities.
  8. The manuscript is limited in scope . Manuscripts that are limited in scope should be revised and submitted for either the "At Issue" or the "Comments" section of the Journal .
  9. The manuscript does not advance our understanding of the topic. If the manuscript simply rehashes old information, it is not likely to be published by a professional journal. Each manuscript should add to our knowledge base.
  10. The theoretical foundation is insufficient. This issue might be resolved by returning to the literature and gathering the necessary information to provide a more substantial theoretical base.

A final note on rejected manuscripts: When the rigorous standards of a refereed journal result in the rejection of a manuscript, it may be revised and refocused for a different audience and submitted to a journal that may have a less rigorous review process.

Top Ten Reasons Faculty Don't Write

Rod Custer, Associate Editor

  1. It might result in tenure, and then I'd have to write for a living.
  2. Nobody reads the stuff anyway. You might be surprised by the number of letters and phones calls authors receive after they have published a provocative and scholarly article. The most useful articles are also frequently cited by other authors.
  3. I did, but my manuscript was rejected. Most, if not all, published writers have had material rejected. When a manuscript is rejected, the author can use the explanations for its rejection as a guide for revising the manuscript and for improving future work.
  4. There are no pictures in the kind of journals I'm supposed to publish in.
  5. I had a bad experience with my 6th grade term paper; therefore, I hate to write. Past experiences always color our perceptions. Writing is part of academic life and our attitudes about writing will change as we become more skilled.
  6. I can't write without revising all the time. Writing is rewriting. With proper guidance, each revision will improve the manuscript. Reviewers' comments should be considered carefully and addressed during the revising process.
  7. Its to much werk. Writing is hard work, but breaking down the project into pieces, and working on each piece separately, can make an overwhelming project manageable.
  8. I don't have enough experience. The more we write, the more experienced we become. If you want to become a better writer, read well-written material and write often. No one ever learned to swim without getting into the water.
  9. I honestly don't have anything to say. Maybe it is time to critically examine your contribution to the field.
  10. I don't want my students to think I'm a nerd. People who do research don't appear to have much fun. Most published authors are proud to see their work in print. Students also have great respect for their professors who publish and contribute to the field.

The "Writing for the Journal of Industrial Teacher Education " session at AVA in Dallas on December 11, 1994 was attended by approximately 25 people. The Editorial Board hopes this information provides both entertainment and sound advice and offers it to the readers of JITE as a support for their endeavors in writing for publication.


Duncan is Style Editor for the Journal of Industrial Teacher Education and doctoral student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois.


American Psychological Association. (1994). The publication manual of the American Psychological Association , 4th edition. Washington, DC: Author.

Morehead , A. H. (Ed.). (1978). Roget's college thesaurus in dictionary form. New York: Signet.

Strunk , Jr., W., & White, E. B. (1979). The elements of style , 3rd. edition. New York: Macmillan.

Reference Citation: Duncan, S. S. (1995). Writing for publication. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 32 (2), 95-102.