So you want to be published?

The UK has one of the world's largest research industries, employing more than 60,000 people and worth over £3bn a year to the economy. Every researcher wants their material to be published in respected journals to be read, cited and acclaimed by their peers, but how do you get your work noticed in a crowded market? Martin McDonald, Publishing Editor of Building Services Engineering Research and Technology (BSER&T) explains in this short guide. CIBSE Members benefit from free access to Building Services Engineering Research & Technology and Lighting Research & Technology 

Publication is often the culmination of research and is an opportunity to present your work to the community, to justify your funding, to promote your institution, your research group and yourself.
Impactful papers can make your name at an international level which can bring many opportunities both professionally and personally. It also allows you to influence policy, protect your intellectual property, open up new areas for study and bring attention to a field that might not enjoy the recognition you feel it deserves. Ultimately the purpose of peer reviewed scholarly research is to contribute to the scientific record and to play a part in human development.

Once you have finished your research it’s time write up your findings. You will want the editors to be interested in your paper and to feel it is worthy of sending to peer review. Building Services Engineering Research & Technology and Lighting Research & Technology receive many submissions every year and their first task is to reject a proportion of these to be able to cope with the volume of articles they must process. For this reason many papers will be immediately rejected if they do not conform to certain standards and guidelines (more on submission guidelines later).

Researchers present their findings at the CIBSE Technical Symposium
There are a few key principles you should consider when you prepare a paper to submit. Getting them right gives you every chance of success, and getting them wrong can doom even the best piece of research from the start:

Language. The paper must be written using good English. It is impossible to overstress the importance of a well written title and abstract. Glaring errors in these two areas are some of the most frequent reasons for immediate reject decisions for busy editors.

Novelty. Are you saying anything new? Explain clearly how your work differs, adds to or extends past work by yourself and others. Clearly explain the novelty of the work within the cover letter and the text of the paper itself.

Plagiarism and redundant publication. A perennial problem that plagues publishing. Don’t do it! This can result not just in rejection of the paper but in serious cases the author being reported for academic misconduct.

Authorship. Make sure all authors are included, agree to the submission and that they did contribute to the paper.

Research with practical applications will be
treated more favourably
Coherence. Coherent argument with cogent logic that contributes to the scientific record is paramount. Your paper must present a case that is backed up with reasoned argument, based on a well-researched literature review and clearly presented findings from which you can authoritatively draw valid conclusions.

Significance. Put bluntly - who cares? Your work and findings may be valid but are they interesting? Within BSER&T you must write a paragraph highlighting the practical application of your work under the abstract. Journals like to publish papers in hot topic areas; if your paper connects to one of these fields, make sure you flag it up.

SEO and keywords. Think carefully about keywords and try to use them in your abstract, title and body text. Use shorter titles when you can. The title should clearly describe what the paper is about.

If you have followed all of the advice above you will have hopefully minimised the chances of a desk reject – that is a rejection before peer review.

If a paper is deemed worthy of review, it is sent to reviewers who will assess the paper and give feedback on ways to improve it before finally recommending accepting or rejecting it. The Editor will then normally make a decision based on at least two recommendations.  This might be to reject the paper outright, to revise it or even accept it. Papers usually pass through two or three rounds of review before being accepted.

Above all, read and follow the submission guidelines!

Submission guidelines vary from journal to journal but it is essential that you follow them. Common problems are not using the correct form of reference style such as Harvard or Vancouver. For BSER&T you must include a paragraph under the abstract that details the practical application of the work.

Don’t forget the importance of figures. Clear professional looking figures can make the difference in presenting a good looking paper. Wherever possible use professional software to create vector images, charts and diagrams that can be scaled to fit different displays. Vector based text in images can also make your paper more discoverable in search engines.

Professionally designed images and charts can increase your chances of success
Once you’ve read the submission guidelines, formatted your paper to the journal style and written a cover letter, it’s time to submit.

You must only submit to one journal at a time. If you submit to more than one journal then you are in breach of publication ethics and your paper will probably be rejected.

Most journals use a manuscript submission system. BSER&T uses SAGE track which is powered by the ScholarOne® Manuscript Central™ platform.

List all the authors with their full affiliations and email addresses, answer the submission questions and upload the manuscript (Word and Latex are common formats), the figures (vector files are best but you can use jpgs, gifs and tiffs) and a numbered list of figure legends.

If your paper is sent back for revision:

  • Read the reports and Editor’s letter carefully
  • Follow the timeframes requested
  • Clearly demonstrate what you have changed
  • Address each referee point in a covering note
  • If you can’t meet all criticisms, explain why
  • Be positive and polite

If your paper is rejected don’t fear, it happens to the best academics and you can submit your paper elsewhere.


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