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How to Get Research Published in Journals.

This claim should grab the attention of most academics: "You can write a good academic paper in a couple of days" (Day, 1996, p. 87). Abby Day's book How To Get Research Published in Journals makes that claim and sets out to prove it. The back cover of the book says it is the first book to address the subject of getting research published. Moreover, Dr Day has been a publishing and editorial consultant and now is the executive director of a group of marketing journals for MCB University Press. Thus it is worth investigating her claim.

This review looks at How To Get Research Published in Journals from the point of view of academics, marketing academics in particular, to identify its strengths and weaknesses and to draw out its implications for would-be journal article authors and for the structuring of PhD programmes. Several related papers are referenced to place Day's book in a context of previous writing on the topic.

Essentially, I argue that the book's strengths are its structured approaches to planning and writing an article and its description of the survey of journal editors and readers on which the book is based. But its weaknesses include its confusing treatment of the structure of an article and its lack of references to other writers on the topic.

The review is structured in three parts. The first is an evaluative summary of the book's chapters. On that summary, the second part considers the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Finally, implications are drawn for academics and for their training of PhD students.

The first part of the book: setting your objectives

The first five chapters of the book are about setting objectives and are essentially scene-setting ones. Having the whole of the first chapter devoted to answering the question of "Why publish?" would have appeared unnecessary in a book aimed at academics for the answer is clearly "to not perish". However, Day begins by correctly pointing out that the process of drafting and redrafting an article helps us to clarify our ideas regardless of whether they will form part of an article or not. "Usually, to get it right, you have to get it wrong first" (p. 5). The second chapter points out how to overcome the major barrier to publishing of fear of criticism: follow the procedures in her book and do not aspire to perfection. She quotes wise Christian Gronroos: "There are only two types of articles; those that are perfect and never get published, and those that are good enough and do" (p. 5).

The third chapter is more meaty for it introduces the two most important questions that editors and reviewers ask (p. 20):

* What is this paper about?

* Why does it matter?

Day emphasizes again and again that the answer to the first question must be clear; for example, she says, "A sense of purpose is crucial and fundamental. Editors reject papers that are vague and directionless (p. 26) ... [It is] clearly established on the first page" (pp. 26, 70).

However, it is at this stage of the book that Day's treatment becomes confusing. For example, these two questions are mixed together when they are reintroduced on page 26. The implications for theory, practice and policy that help answer the second question are not clearly identified and are mixed up between chapters 3 and 4. The distinction between a summary and an implication is clearly noted (p. 29) but the distinction between a "conclusion" based on empirical findings and a speculative "implication" flowing from those conclusions is not drawn. Perhaps most British researchers do not make this distinction. Phillips and Pugh (1998, p. 60) make a "conclusion" the same as a "contribution to the body of knowledge", but I think this type of conclusion is the same as an "implication for theory" in Day"s book (chapter 4). Maybe a distinction should have been drawn between direct implications for the body of knowledge flowing from the research findings and indirect implications arising from speculation arising from those findings. Finally, Day does not appear to distinguish clearly enough between delimitations of scope from limitations of methodology.

From several readings of chapters 3 and 4, I think the structure of a paper and the links between parts of a paper that she recommends are those shown below. A reader of Day's book would benefit by keeping this pattern in mind. The contents are as follows:

(1) This part answers "What is the paper about?":

* 1.1 Research problems (presented on the first page of the article).

* 1.2 Delimitations of scope.

(2) Background/literature review (which includes the research issues that are the background around the research problem like tributaries of a river).

(3) Methods.

(4) Analysis of data.

(5) This part answers the question "Why does it matter?":

* 5.1 Conclusions from analysing the data.

* 5.2 Those conclusions relate to the body of knowledge (that is, the direct implications noted above).

* 5.3 Implications for theory.

* 5.4 Implications for managers and other practitioners.

* 5.5 Implications for public and organizational policies.

* 5.6 Limitations of the study arising from limitations of methodology (these limitations are additional to the delimitations of scope in 1.2 above).

* 5.7 Implications for further research (arising in the main from extensions to the delimitations and limitations in 1.3 and 2.6 above).

Having sorted out chapters 3 and 4, we turn to chapter 5, "Making sense of the literature". It has the useful mnemonic for literature reviewers of SSAA:

* S - summarize briefly what researchers have found;

* S - synthesize those findings around themes;

* A - analyse that synthesis to highlight contribution or flaws influencing this research; and

* A - authorize contributions for the body of knowledge arising from this research's findings.

The final A of "authorize" will of course not be done in the literature review but in the final section of the paper which draws out implications for theory, but Day does not make this clear. However, Day does emphasize some other useful points of writing a literature review like delimiting its scope to the focus of the paper, the principle of Occam's Razor, "evaluate - don't regurgitate" (p. 41), and frequent use of signposts that show where the review has come from and where it is going.

The second part of the book: think "audience"

The second part of the book, chapters 6 to 9, emphasizes the important fact that an article is not a self-indulgent ego trip but a convincing communication to a particular reader, that is, to the "consumers" of the article (p. 48): "The objective is to create a mental picture of real people just like you, trying to do their jobs in the best and least difficult way possible" (p. 58). Day makes two contributions in this discussion. First, she emphasizes the desirability of a continuing relationship between members of a supply chain - author, editor, reviewers, publishers, librarians and readers (p. 59). As a foundation for this relationship, she has quotations from editors of journals like David Carson of the European Journal of Marketing about why they enjoy doing the job and what they look for in submitted articles. Other points rightly emphasized are the importance of a journal's "Notes for authors", reading editorials when a new editor takes over a journal, referring to an editor's own work in the covering letter when submitting an article whenever it is appropriate, and selecting the review board members who will probably review the submissions before finalizing the paper. She could have added that editors sometimes select reviewers from the list of references in a submission, and so writers should not be too critical of other researchers whom they reference.

After this nitty gritty but appropriate emphasis on writing for the customers, Day's second contribution in this part of her book is a summary of the 1994 Buckingham Consortium Survey into quality in academic journals (chapters 6 and 10), highlighting the importance of focus for each journal. On that foundation, she outlines how to target the right journal, starting with directories through to journal editorials. This material may be "old hat" to experienced authors but is important and almost unobtainable for new academics.

The third part of the book: from draft to print

The third part of Day's book directly addresses the question presented at the start of this review: "How can I write a paper in less than a week?" The answer is: by first going through the planning processes outlined above to produce a detailed outline, for she advocates first writing a 1,000 word synopsis for joint authors and colleagues "for your own clarity" (p. 93). Day provides detailed and useful guidelines for those planning processes (pp. 90-2).

After all those planning processes have been done, we are in a position to try to write the article in less than a week, and Day even provides an outline of what should be in each section of the article.

First, there is an introduction of about 1,000 words, based on the familiar AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action) structure, that gives "the story in a nutshell. You keep back no secrets ... You give a glimpse of the end of the story at the beginning"(p. 98). This prescription is similar to Brown (1994, p. 99) saying that an article should not be a "whodunit". Then the "background" section is a literature review of about 1,000 words which you should "crack ... in a couple of hours" (p. 99). Then follow the method and analysis sections. The final "implications" section of about 20 per cent of the paper's words ends in a review of the introduction to ensure the main points outlined there have been covered.

Day correctly points out that the first draft written over about two days should always be a rough one, with the next drafts being refined with comments from colleagues. About this redrafting, Day says confidently, "Writing is a pleasure, almost effortless, when you are absolutely sure about what you are saying to whom. Now its time to relax and enjoy yourself"! (p. 105). I am not sure about relaxing in this rewriting stage but I agree that it is the most enjoyable part of the writing process. However, the treatment of the many drafts involved in journal writing is treated better in Lindsay (1995). He calls the aim of each of the four drafts: getting started, getting it together, readability and editing.

Day also covers the usual points of style in chapter 12, like not using the passive voice and not using jargon. Unusually, she offers a guide to writing a three-sentence abstract distilled from professional abstractors (pp. 113-14). Then Day goes through the mailing and revising process which should interest new researchers. She shows how to handle conflicting comments from reviewers which may even interest experienced researchers (p. 121). She recommends doing everything a reviewer wants if at all possible, only ask the editor to adjudicate if you cannot do something after discussion with a colleague, and do not send the unrevised paper to another journal until it is finally rejected. She does not mention one tip that could have been added to the discussion: read reviewers' reports once, and then always put them in a file and forget about them for at least a week. By then, your anger will have subsided and a constructive approach to their comments is possible.

The final chapter points out that there has been discipline and routine in the preceding chapters but the creative, original ideas for an article come from "fun" (p. 125) and so the analytical mind needs to be silenced sometimes to allow the subconscious to throw up inspiration. Thus the ideas in the book are tied together in this final paragraph (p. 130):

In the end, the analyses of our editors, reviewers and readers determine how well we can communicate. That doesn't stop us from being informed by our intuition and, as we do so, to perhaps briefly inform theirs.

Conclusion

What can we conclude about the 14 chapters in this book? The book's first strength would appear to be its comprehensiveness for it ranges from the reasons for publishing right through handling revisions to coming up with inspiration. Another strength is its emphasis on the needs of the customers, that is, the flesh-and-blood editors and reviewers within the supply chain. Related to this strength is its summary of the 1994 Buckingham Consortium Survey into the quality of academic journals. Another strength is the practical steps provided throughout the book such as the detailed steps of how to target a journal, write a synopsis, write the paper, revise the paper and so on. Another strength is the clarity of Day's writing. She writes as though she is discussing issues with a colleague, using short sentences, frequent headings, the active voice, and a theme sentence early in each paragraph. Moreover, several examples from journal articles illustrate her points.

However, the book also has weaknesses. First, there is some confusion about what an implication is. An implication appears to answer the second major question asked by reviewers of "so what?" but the distinction between direct and indirect implications, conclusions and contributions is not made clear, and the distinction between delimitation of scope and limitations of method is blurred and sometimes even mixed up with implications (p. 33).

The second weakness of the book arises from its lack of reference to other writers about the topic. Admittedly the book devotes half a page to some ideas from Howard and Sharp's (1983) classic The Management of a Student Research Project and notes Strunk and Whites (1979) classic The Elements of Style, but other writers have discussed the issues in this book such as Leedy (1989) and Brown (1994). Research about how reviewers review could have been included, like Fiske and Fogg (1990) and Peters and Ceci (1982). A survey of Journal of Marketing reviewers' comments about how to write an article for that prestigious journal (Varadarajan, 1996) was written at the same time as Day's book was being published and so it could not have been referenced. However, I have found it especially helpful and it should be read in conjunction with Day's book. In brief, Day's own undoubted experience as an editor of academic journals tends to make up for this lack of referencing weakness, but not enough.

Given this blend of strengths and weaknesses in the book, is it worth its price (of [pounds]27.50, US$55.95 and Australia$72.00)? Although it is not published as a paperback, it is a relatively small book of about 130 pages of text. Experienced writers for journals will already know much of what is in Day's book and will therefore will probably not need to buy it. Thus only those academics who are starting an academic career, or academics supervising many PhD students who cannot afford to buy it themselves but who need a comprehensive guide about how to publish, will buy the book. However, other academics should insist that their university or faculty library buy the book for it fits into any professional library.

Day's book raises implications for the training of academics, that is, for PhD programmes. The book reinforces the need to ensure a PhD thesis has one clear research problem which the whole research solves. It also emphasizes how candidates should write for the people who they know will examine their thesis, just as journal article writers should know the editor and editorial board members of a journal. Thus a candidate needs frequent meetings with the supervisor; the supervisor should be a proxy examiner who will tell the candidate whether his or her "customer" would understand and be delighted with what has been written. Finally, the book reinforces the need to have a structured approach to presenting a thesis that is based on the accumulated experience of editors and reviewers like Day and the editor of the Journal of Marketing (Varadarajan, 1996) rather than use the whims of a supervisor and/or the inexperience of a candidate. The PhD experience should be a trial run for the journal writing experience of which Day writes so clearly.

In summary, then, Day does justify her claim that you can write an article in two days by describing how those two days are preceded by weeks of careful planning and followed by days or weeks of revisions.

Chad Perry University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia

References and further reading

Brown, R. (1994), "The 'big picture' about managing writing", in Zuber-Skerritt, O. (Ed.), Quality in Postgraduate Education, Kogan Page, London, pp. 90-109.

Day, A. (1996), How to Get Research Published in Journals, Gower, Aldershot.

Fiske, D.W and Fogg, L. (1990), "But the reviewers are making different criticisms of my paper!", American Psychologist, Vol. 45 No. 5, pp. 591-8.

Howard, K. and Sharp, J. (1983), The Management of a Student Research Project, Gower, Aldershot.

Leedy, P. (1989), Practical Research, Macmillan, New York, NY.

Lindsay, D. (1995), A Guide to Scientific Writing, Longman, Melbourne.

Peters, D.P. and Ceci, S.J. (1982), "Peer review practices of psychological journals: the fate of published articles, submitted again, and its open peer commentary", The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Vol. 5, pp. 187-255.

Phillips, E.M. and Pugh, D.S. (1987), How to Get a PhD, Open University Press, Buckingham.

Strunk, W. and White, E.B. (1979), The Elements of Style, Macmillan, London.

Varadarajan, P.R. (1996), "From the editor: reflections on research and writing", Journal of Marketing, Vol. 60, pp. 3-6.
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Author:Day, Abby
Publication:European Journal of Marketing
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1997
Words:2927
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