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Basic elements and process of pretty much any academic article

Step 0: Planning!

Before you begin writing

1. Decide what type of writing you want

Descriptive Critical
Analytical Some combination


This will help inform the type of Journal and the type of article you will write. Different types have different
lengths, purposes, and expectations

Types of journal articles:

Letters Review
Current Opinion Research
Perspectives Clinical case study/trial

2. Who is your desired audience??

Planning this before you start writing will help you to determine what methods, discipline language, and
academic journal is most relevant to your purposes (or even IF an academic journal is the most appropriate!)

a) Who do you want to read your article?

e.g., Policy-makers, laymen, scientists, law academics, social scientists, other??

e.g., If you want foreign affairs policy-maker-types to find your paper, dont publish in a fisheries
management journal!

Hint: academics and other researcher-types are usually the only ones who read journal articles In Real Life,
not politicians and practitioners

Open vs Closed access: open access = greater readership, but publishing in some journals can be $$$!

b) Who do you want as your academic peers?

Consider who might peer review this paper this is especially important when publishing in a multi/inter-
disciplinary environment!

Consider potential career benefits:

Are you going for MAXIMUM READERSHIP or a targeted, niche few?

Is your priority Journal Impact Factor, or just getting published?
Building a coherent body of work what do you want to be known for (and by whom?)?

3. How quickly do you need to get this paper out?
Journals have vastly different review and publication schedules if you need to get something out quickly,
dont pick a journal with bi-annual publication schedule
This sort of information is always on a journals homepage somewhere
o e.g.,:
Articles can be different lengths original Research articles are ~5000 words without references.
4. Imitation is the sincerest (quickest?) form of flattery
Is there a particular published article that you like that can guide you? e.g., logical structure,
Look at where the articles you are reading are being published can you publish there too?

Step 1: Structuring your work

Every good article has a story what is yours??

What is your unique contribution? Be clear about the significance of your work from early on: make sure
anything you write passes the So what? Test
Brainstorm your structure into a logical flow before you start writing tree diagrams, mind-maps,
flowcharts, outlines whatever works for you!
Every article ever written has: Abstract, Introduction, Paragraphs, Conclusion
Some journals will tell you what sections they want in their Instructions to Authors
o Or look at some of the previously published articles and copy their section layout!
Make sure your story is clear assume your reader has academic knowledge but is learning about the topic
for the first time. E.g., for problem-driven original research articles:
o What is the problem?
o Why is this a problem?
o For whom is this a problem?
o Why should [Your Audience] care?
o In response to this problem, what is your Research Question?
o How do you propose to answer this Question?
o What did you find? Stick to the facts!
o Why is what you found novel or unique? Why do you think that you found what you did? Have other
peers found the same thing? Did you answer your Question?
o What are some of the limitations to your findings?
o Wrap it up! Conclusion should mirror introduction but not introduce new information


Regardless of the publication discipline, focus, style or length, your argument will still need to follow a logical
structure and flow that ultimately persuades your peer reviewers of its unique contribution to The Literature!

Step 2: Writing!

5000 words cut-and-pasted from your thesis does not an article make!
A good abstract is important!! Its your articles first impression
Consider the length of your article sections in relation to the whole paper e.g., good rule of thumb is
introduction is ~10-20% of the whole paper
Editing and proofreading is critical

Writing a publishable article: