Navigating the Unseen Stages of Academic Publishing

Isabelle, I’ve got exciting news! My first article’s draft is complete! I guess we can submit it by the end of this month, can’t we?

Does this resonate with you? Do you believe that finalizing and submitting an article should ideally be a matter of days, or at most, a few weeks once the initial draft is ready

However, for several PhD students crafting their debut article, reality offers a stark contrast to this expectation. Despite dedicating countless hours, sweat, and sleep to their manuscript, submission seems to evade them for months beyond their initial timeline. So, what causes this delay?

One of the primary reasons lies in the lack of clarity among early-career researchers about the numerous stages a manuscript must traverse before it can be submitted to a scientific journal, let alone published. This ambiguity can lead to considerable frustration, as the sensation of being on the brink of publishing your first paper while still not quite there can be rather demotivating.

In reality, preparing a manuscript for submission is an intricate process involving a multitude of time-consuming steps. Many of these steps are often beyond your direct control, adding to the frustration:

πŸ’‘ Multiple rounds of feedback from your supervisors, focusing on enhancing the story, structure, content, figures, tables, and more.

πŸ’‘ Additional feedback rounds involving collaborators.

πŸ’‘ Lengthy discussions to reach consensus on the authorship list.

πŸ’‘ Further adjustments prompted by last-minute changes, such as a particular figure in the supplementary data requiring alteration.

πŸ’‘ Tweaks to the layout and reference list if a change in the target journal is decided.

πŸ’‘ Waiting for your supervisor to find a spare slot in their packed schedule to submit your manuscript.

πŸ’‘ Addressing overlooked details, like forgetting the Highlights or low resolution of figures, often pointed out by your supervisor’s keen eye.

πŸ’‘ Battling the fatigue towards the end of the process when you feel so drained that even the confirmation of submission doesn’t evoke any emotion.

Expectations versus reality – submitting an article to a scientific journal is much, much more than the writing procedure! Copyright I. Kohler (2023). All rights reserved.

While these may sound daunting, take heart, I have some advice!

Firstly, remember that with each subsequent article, the process becomes faster and less exasperating. Your knowledge enhances, writing skills improve, and feedback rounds get streamlined. This explains why most articles are published in the final two years of a PhD journey.

Secondly, much of the frustration stems from unrealistic expectations or unfamiliarity with the process. Taking time to understand the steps beforehand, discussing the plan with your supervisor, and seeking advice from experienced PhD students can make your journey significantly smoother.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t forget to celebrate your submission! It’s a massive milestone, a testament to your hard work and perseverance. Embrace the accomplishment and take pride in it. Remember, every academic journey has its unique challenges, but navigating through them is what leads you to success.


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