Many scholars strive to get their original research published in top research journals. To assist scholars, I co-taught a Research Methods Bootcamp with Augie Grant, Tim Brown, Dan Stout and Jack Karlis at the Broadcast Education Association conference in Las Vegas, NV. Here is my presentation.
Publishing is related to tenure, job placement, and salary. Tenure-track scholars often must publish a minimum number of articles before they are able to get tenure or be promoted. Most journalism and mass communication research-oriented departments or schools expect scholars to publish nine to 16 articles before they can secure tenure status. Twelve is a common expectation in the field based on informal conversations.
Number of publications is not the only important factor in assessing one’s research career. It is the quality of journal as well. There are two measures used to assess the journal quality: acceptance rate and impact factor. Many programs in the field of communication want scholars to publish in journals with an approximate 15% acceptance rate or less. And more schools are relying on the impact factor of a journal. Citation and article counts are indicators of how frequently researchers are using individual journals. The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (3.6), Journal of Communication (2.4), New Media & Society (1.3), Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics (1.3), and Communication Research (1.4) register on the list. Publication Relations Review (.63), Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media (.45), and Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly (.36) also appear.
I was moved by Kaye Sweetser at the University of Georgia when she shared her tenure packet materials. The information was helpful when structuring my third-year materials.
I adore the dissecting of complex problems and searching for literature that can help people understand human behavior and challenges facing the communication profession. As a nontenured scholar, I am always seeking literature and scholars to help me better myself and better the quality of my research. I wanted to share some tips and resources that may be of use to you when navigating the publishing waters.
- Collaborate with productive people.
- Social psychology professor Duane Wegener says that working with other scholars produces positive pressure to complete projects
- I have had both negative and positive experiences. My advice is to treasure the people who are dependable and mesh well with you. And if you have not found that person, seek them out. I regularly will ask scholars I respect to work with me or ask if they are working on any research to learn from them.
- To ensure a successful collaboration, discuss authorship order and author responsibilities early.
- Serve as a reviewer for a journal.
- Wegener says that the quality of your reviews may affect future opportunities with a journal. I take this process seriously because I want to help the scholar(s) submitting his or her manuscript as well. It usually takes me a day to write up a review. I am especially appreciative of editors who send the reviews of the other reviewers because it helps me scrutinize my work. Mass Communication & Society and Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly both provide all of the reviews to each reviewer.
- My advice is to email an editor expressing your interest in reviewing for their journal. A mistake I have made is that I have not focused my journal reviewing efforts. I have reviewed for Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Mass Communication & Society, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, and New Media & Society.
- As a reviewer, I think as a reviewer when designing my studies. This process is important to ensure publication.
- Make the most of conferences.
- Presentations are a great opportunity to network and discuss your work. I suggest to be well-prepared to stand out. One can meet people by going to socials and volunteering for service as well.
Manuscript Review Process
The manuscript writing and research process can be challenging. Reviewers read your work with a skeptical eye. Reasons for rejection of a manuscript often include poor writing and structure, inappropriate topic for journal, uniqueness of idea, contribution to theory and poor study design including sample selection and procedure.
- Inappropriate topic for journal
- Read several issues of a journal to more precisely understand what type of research they tend to publish. One should carefully read the “instructions to authors.”
- Not a novel idea
- Reviewers will question whether your research adds to existing knowledge.
- Poorly written and structured
- A poorly written manuscript can distract a reviewer from seeing your contributions. For example, you can orient the reviewer by stating your method in your abstract and stating your goals in your introduction.
- A manuscript can be divided into several parts including the title, abstract, introduction, literature review, hypotheses or research questions, method(s), results, discussion and conclusion.
- The introduction section focuses on setting up the problem. It also informs the reader about he sample, method, design and study goals. The literature review should explain to the reader why they should care and connect literature review to your hypotheses or research questions. The method plan should be explained in clear detail to encourage replication of the study. The method portion should include information justifying the sample, explaining how the sample was selected and collected, how variables were measures, and how data were analyzed. The results should present the results. The discussion section addresses the implications and explanation of the results. Alan M. Rubin suggests including information about the contribution of knowledge to knowledge and practice, the impact of the results on theory, and explanations related to unexpected or contradictory findings. The conclusion section usually addresses bigger picture items.
- Little contribution to theory
- Select a topic that withstands time and addresses a problem. Judee K. Burgoon advices new students to “problemize their topic” by focusing on the question. She says that researchers should never pitch a topic about something such new technologies in the workplace, television violence, information overload, etc. The theory and method should be selected following identification of a problem. Topics on new media can sometimes appear attractive. However, scholars need to step back and contemplate what contribution their research will add to predicting and explaining human behavior.
- Poor design
- Your survey questionnaire, content analysis protocol, etc. should be informed by theory or literature if it is a quantitative study. Provide operational and conceptual definitions for major variables and your measures should be valid. Variables should be rooted in theory and previous research. I should be able to understand how to replicate the research. One goal of research should be to encourage replication, and that is why it is essential to clearly communicate your sampling procedure and definitions.
- Not well-researched
- References should be comprehensive. Remember to vary up your keyword searches.