What you don’t know about academic publishing is keeping you stuck

Why is academic publishing so intimidating?

“We’ve got a paper here,” my PhD supervisor told one of my peers as they were looking through the data.

I was happy for my friend that he got to publish his research: his third paper since he started his PhD program less than 4 years earlier.

I had been working on my project for over 2 years and I wasn’t even close to publishing.

Even worse, I had no idea what I had to do to get my research published. 

It was only after I finished my thesis that I was able to pull together my research into 3 publications: 1 literature review, and 2 research papers.

What I realized was that the biggest hurdle to writing a publication was that I didn’t know how to do it

I had imagined that one day my data would look so spectacular that my supervisor would take one look at it and say: “Dora, I think we’ve got a paper here.”

But that’s not how academic publishing works.


Academic Publishing: How to Learn From the Pro’s

My postdoctoral supervisor was one of the most published researcher in his field.

Before I joined his group, I talked with one of the postdoctoral fellows who had just accepted a position at a company.

“Did you like doing research here?” I asked her.

“Oh, it was great,” she replied. “I loved the research and I published 5 papers.”

I remember being speechless at the thought of publishing 5 papers in just a few years.

But 4 years later, when I finished my postdoctoral fellowship there, I had 5 publications too.

It was not a coincidence that this group was so successful in academic publishing. 

They didn’t leave it up to chance whether their research would result in a story that the journals liked.

Instead, they had a vision of what they would submit to the journals and then reverse-engineered what it would take to create that paper.

Does this mean that every idea turned into a published paper?

Of course not.

Many ideas were never published, many publications turned out very differently than expected.



What distinguished this group is that they were intentional about their research, and how it would contribute to the story they would submit to the journal.

I later learned that other well-published professors used similar approaches.

They drafted their paper in advance with place-holders for their results, and use that as their guide to carry out the research.

Being intentional about your research (rather than hoping that something will just work out) is the first step to creating a publication.

You might be thinking: “But Dora, I know so many people whose papers were rejected. Is it  worth my time to put so much effort into something that might not even get accepted?”

I hear you.

Coping with rejection or addressing revisions is not the most fun thing in the world.

But here is a little-known secret:

Many of the factors that determine whether a journal accepts your paper are within your control. 

Read that statement again.

Most journals get more submissions than they can publish. But they also get many papers that get rejected before they are even read by reviewers.


Many authors don’t take the time to write a paper that meets the journals requirements, including formatting, the submission process, and the scope of the journal.

While there are no guarantees that a specific journal will publish your paper, if you write  a well-thought-out paper and follow the submission guidelines, you have already set yourself apart from most of the manuscripts that a journal receives.

I would go even as far as saying that journal editors are pleasant surprised when they get a manuscript where the authors have followed all the submission guidelines.

You might be wondering: “Why doesn’t everyone just follow the submission guidelines for journals?”

I suspect that many authors don’t have the time, or academic publishing is not a priority for them.

But based on my experience with PhD students and postdocs over the past 10 years, I can safely say that many of these rising researchers don’t know the process of academic publishing.

“Publish or perish” is the motto in academia, yet publishing is shrouded in so much mystery, that many PhD students and postdocs don’t even know how to get started.

One of the best ways to get started is to model someone who is already successful at it.

It can be someone you know in person, or another researcher whose papers are widely cited.

How do they present their stories in the publications? What are the gaps in knowledge that they fill in?

Second, look through the journals where you would like to be published.

Anytime you write a manuscript for publication you must know who your audience is.

Which journals publish papers that have a similar focus as yours? How are those papers structured?

Third, use the approach of reverse-engineering your paper.

Even if you are just getting started with your research (or have years of data to sort through), create a rough draft of your paper based on a journal article.

How does your research contribute to the field? What actions do you need to take to create that paper? Get started today. Remember, ideas are born with writing.

The Publish Your Research Program is Opening For Enrollment Soon

Click here to Get on the Waitlist!




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find the cost of your paper

Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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