When scientific publication is how your research gets disseminated into the world and how you establish yourself as a researcher, an unpublished paper is a failure. And it’s one you can almost always avoid.
Researchers don’t finish their manuscripts because of “uninteresting” study results, missing sections, and the demands of peer review, and many other factors. In most cases, they can still get their work published, though many, sadly, give up. This means one more (sadly) unpublished manuscript that the world will never see.
This article will give you five proven ways to avoid not finishing your manuscript. How to expect to get published and not have to react to and recover from obstacles. Then you won’t have to give up on your manuscript because it seems like it’s too much trouble to finish.
What you’ll learn in this post
• How to plan ahead to proactively prevent unfinished, unpublished papers.
• Best practices for getting your research manuscript published.
• Defining authorship, target journals, and roles before you even begin your study.
• Ways Edanz can help you get published.
Why do some manuscripts never get finished and therefore never get published?
Poor research planning may be the main reason manuscripts don’t get finished. Poor planning, or no planning, leads to problems during the research, such as the studies not working or not giving useful data.
Planning your research includes not only planning your study and methods but also planning the journal you publish in and who exactly will do what (and by when). It extends to authorship roles and support systems such as your academic network of peers and resources.
Another big issue many of our client authors naturally face is that they’re not native English speakers. You may be a great speaker, but writing uses a different skill set. It’s not your fault, but it is a challenge you have to deal with. Delaying when you publish or only publishing in your native language greatly limits your impact. Constant English training and finding language support are part of the research preparation process.
As we discussed in another post, many great people had unfinished works. But for researchers compared with artists, for example, unfinished works can be avoided with some planning. So, how can you do this?
In fact, many of the problems that lead to unfinished manuscripts can be avoided with a proactive approach. In other words, rather than reacting to problems after you’ve conducted studies or received peer review, you can plan ahead. Then you’ll have fewer obstacles and fewer chances to abandon your work.
Unclear authorship roles lead to inadequate or unfinished papers. There may be sections missing or tasks to do, but it’s unclear who’s responsible. For instance, Author A might be waiting for Author B to send them a draft of part of the Results section. But Author B thinks Author A, as lead author, is handling all the writing. This can lead to delays and even conflict.
Plan your co-authors and your other sources of help, and define their roles before you begin. The ICMJE guidelines are a good place to start in determining roles. Naturally, the first and corresponding author roles are the marquee items. Beyond this, though, is what each author and contributor will do. All authors must agree to provide their time and involvement throughout the research work.
One way to do this is to use the CReDiT authorship statement. CReDiT is a detailed description of every contributor’s area(s) of responsibility during the research. It can be included in your final manuscript above the Acknowledgments. This also encourages transparency throughout the research.
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2. Choose the right journal (before you start writing)
Once you know your research question and which methods you’ll use, create a list of a few journals you can potentially submit to.
For ideas, look at the journals that your paper’s cited works were published in. Use the free Edanz Journal Selector tool for more. Check the journal aims carefully to make sure your topic fits into their scope. Having these options decided in advance will help you save time when it’s time to submit.
Also, check the editorial board of the journal. Ideally, you should recognize some of the names. If you don’t, the journal might be out of the scope of your work.
If you’re publishing your first paper, don’t be too concerned about impact factors and prestige. And consider submitting to an open-access journal. This option will help make your research more visible, increasing your impact and your chances of greater recognition, collaboration, and funding.
3. Build your support network
Sometimes, scientific papers aren’t finished because researchers lack intellectual, emotional, and, of course, financial support.
These issues can be avoided by forging collaborations and establishing a network of peers from your own field and other fields. This encourages sharing of ideas, methodologies, tools, and new funding options. And this can help you learn and apply new skills to your research. Exchanging with others can also help you feel more motivated to complete projects. And always look to give more than you receive.
The bigger your network, the more chances you have that someone would want to collaborate on a joint project. You can then write a grant application together and increase your chances of obtaining funds to finish your paper or start new projects.
Suffice it to say, social networks like LinkedIn and ResearchGate are invaluable sources of network partners. Use them to reinforce current relationships and build new ones.
4. Do “good” research with publication in mind
Although you should always try to do “good” research (instead of “bad” research), the notion of good research extends beyond opinions. There are good and not-good practices that become even more important when your goal is publication. Poor methods, weak hypotheses or research questions, and missing or incomplete sections are some of the main reasons why papers get rejected.
Conducting good research means rigorously following all aspects of the scientific process. Follow recommendations for best research practices in your field of research. Use validated and reliable methodologies and conduct power analysis before you begin your study. This will help you have enough statistical power for your analyses, which will help your study be successful.
Make a detailed plan of how you will do your entire research before starting. An emerging and transparent way to do this is by pre-registering your study on an open-access platform such as the Open Science Framework (OSF). Pre-registering justifies why you’ll do what you’ll be doing in the research. It will help you think more deeply about designing a “good” study and help you stick to the plan during the work.
Also, before you start writing, create a basic outline of all sections for your paper. Check the best practices for necessary sections in your field of study.
Following best research practices will make your paper stand about among the mountains of other manuscripts that journals receive. Editors and reviewers will notice and, hopefully, reward you for it. In doing good research, you’ve made their job a lot easier.
5. Improve your scientific writing and communication
There are general standards and expectations in English scientific writing. Journals themselves provide the specifics that must be followed to be published in that journal. Writing scientific English is the hardest part of science for some researchers. And non-native language skills (ESL/EFL) can be a big roadblock for researchers and lead to avoiding tasks like writing or presenting their work.
A lack of English skills can also lead to unfinished manuscripts.
Learn about scientific writing as you advance your career as a researcher. Knowing and practicing how to write scientifically beforehand will help you avoid delays during the writing process. In this article, we compiled some easy ways to improve your academic English when English not your native language.
Edanz Learning Lab offers many detailed courses for improving your skills, and you can sign up for free.
If you’re still in school, take scientific writing courses at your university. And no matter what stage of researcher you are, online courses such as Coursera’s Writing in the Sciences give you examples of how to write succinctly for science. English for STEM is another recommendation.
Also, follow the latest guidelines for scientific writing by authorities such as the American Psychological Association (APA). You may already know APA Style for formatting your references. Both the guidelines and the formatting style aren’t just for psychology. They’re global standards. APA’s resources also provide many practical examples.
And ask for help as much as you need it. Ask a native-English-speaking colleague to proofread your work. Better yet, hire an Edanz expert editor to make sure everything reads well.
We’ll make sure you finish and get published
If you need help with any stage of the research process, we’re here with experts and 25+ years of experience helping ESL/EFL authors level the playing field, finish their manuscripts, and publish their science.
See all of Edanz’s author support services here and contact us with any questions or if you’re not sure what you need. We’ll help you put an end to unfinished, unpublished papers.