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3 things to consider before writing your journal article

Tips from Ruth First Prize winners Grasian Mkodzongi and Steven Nabieu Rogers

So, you’ve chosen the field of your research and the journal you want to submit your article to. What should you now be thinking about before you start writing? With so much to consider it can seem a little overwhelming.

We caught up with winners of the Ruth First Prize, Grasian Mkodzongi and Steven Nabieu Rogers, who gave us their advice on what to consider before you approach your research, drawing attention to 3 key points.

For more tips and advice on writing a journal article, we offer a wide selection of guides, tips, and checklists for getting published. See advice on writing a journal article once you’ve considered the following tips.


From Grasian and Steven

1. Write about your interests

“You must be passionate about what you write about. Getting motivated to write is often very difficult, and therefore, writing something you have very little passion for does not make it any easier. I am from Sierra Leone and passionate about housing conditions in my country which makes it easier to develop a research agenda.” – Steven

2. Have a firm grasp on your field’s dominant theories

“It is important to demonstrate that you have a good grasp of the dominant debates and theories in your field. It is your ability to deploy both theoretical rigour and empirical evidence in your contribution that makes your article stand out. It is not good enough to challenge dominant theories, without offering alternative theoretical approaches or without deploying empirical evidence to validate your claims. Do not speculate, provide evidence. Also, avoid the temptation of making exaggerated claims, the people who review articles are specialists and they will not be sympathetic to an article written carelessly with many claims lacking evidence.” – Grasian

3. Check the journals guidelines

“Lastly, it is important to know the journal requirements before one submits an article to a chosen journal. Quite often articles can be rejected not because they are not good enough, but because they do not fit the agenda of that journal. Once one has chosen the journal, a quick review of relevant articles published in that journal can be a good starting point to familiarise oneself with the writing style and quality of articles.” – Grasian

We’d like to thank Grasian and Steven for their helpful tips, and congratulate them on the success of their Review of African Political Economy articles in the Ruth First Prize.


Grasian Mkodzongi was born and grew up in Gokwe, a rural area in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe. He is an Executive Director at the newly formed Tropical Africa- Land and Natural Resources Research Institute (Tropical Africa LNRRI) and Research Fellow at the Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies in Harare Zimbabwe. Until 2015, he was a Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Western Cape and A.C. Jordan Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Cape Town. He obtained his PhD from the University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom). His current research focusses on the interface of agrarian change, mineral resource extraction and rural livelihoods in Zimbabwe and the southern African region. 

Steven Nabieu Rogers, Phd is from Sierra Leone and is currently a Senior Research Fellow and lecturer at the Development Finance Center (DEFIC) at the Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, South Africa. His research interest adopts a critical view of neoliberalism in Sub- Saharan Africa. Much of his current research work focuses on the impact of neoliberalism on public policy (particularly in the housing sector) in post-conflict and other developing countries, mainly in Africa. He is also interested in the changing socio-spatial configuration of urbanization and its impact on low-income populations in urban cities on the African continent. Steven obtained his Phd in Urban Planning and Public Policy from the University of Texas at Arlington, USA.