What are the rules you should be following when writing a research journal article?
Read some of the best advice for constructing your paper given by Taylor & Francis journal editors – follow these top tips to write a compelling journal article.
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Get to know the journal you want to submit to
It’s a good idea to choose your target journal before you start writing your paper.
Then you can tailor your writing to the journal’s requirements and readership and increase your chances of acceptance.
Read our guide to choosing a journal for your paper.
Once you’ve chosen your target journal, take the time to read a selection of articles already published, particularly those that are relevant to your own research. This can help you get an understanding of what the editors may be looking for and guide your writing efforts.
The journal’s aims and scope is also an important resource to refer back to as you write your paper – use it to make sure your article aligns with what the journal is trying to accomplish.
Stick to the point
The strongest papers usually have one point to make. They make that point powerfully, back it up with evidence, and position it within the field.
Create a logical framework
The structure of your journal paper is just as important as the content itself, and helps to guide the reader through in a clear way.
How do I format a journal article?
Individual journals will have their own specific formatting requirements, which you can find in the instructions for authors.
We have a library of templates available which are accepted by many of our journals. Save time on formatting by downloading a template to apply to your article text.
A large number of our journals now offer format-free submission, which allows you to submit your paper without formatting your manuscript to meet that journal’s specific requirements.
General structure for writing an academic journal article
The title of your article is one of the first indicators readers will get of your research and concepts. It should be concise, accurate, and informative. You should include your most relevant keywords in your title, but avoid including abbreviations and formulae.
Keywords are an essential part of producing a journal article; when writing a journal article you must select keywords that you would like your article to rank for. Keywords help potential readers to discover your article when conducting research using search engines.
The purpose of your abstract is to express the key points of your research, clearly and concisely. An abstract must always be well considered, as it is the primary element of your work that readers will come across. An abstract should be a short paragraph (around 300 words) that summarizes the findings of your journal article. Ordinarily an abstract will be comprised of:
- What your research is about
- What methods have been used
- What your main findings are
Acknowledgements can appear to be a small aspect of your journal article, however it is still important. This is where you acknowledge the individuals who do not qualify for co-authorship, but contributed to your article intellectually, financially, or in some other manner. When you acknowledge someone in your academic texts, it gives you more integrity as a writer as it shows that you are not claiming other academic’s ideas as your own intellectual property. It can also aid your readers in their own research journeys.
An introduction is a pivotal part of the article writing process. An introduction not only introduces your topic and your stance on the topic, but it also (situates/contextualizes) your argument in the broader academic field.
The main body is where your main arguments and your evidence are located. Each paragraph will encapsulate a different notion and there will be clear linking between each paragraph.
Your conclusion should be an interpretation of your results, where you summarise all of the concepts that you introduced in the main body of the text in order of most to least important. No new concepts are to be introduced in this section.
References and Citations
References and Citations should be well balanced, current and relevant. Although every field is different, you should aim to cite references that are not more than 10 years old if possible. The studies you cite should be strongly related to your research question.
Don’t be afraid to explain
Write your journal article with confidence, to give your reader certainty in your research. Make sure that you’ve described your methodology and approach; whilst it may seem obvious to you, it may not to your reader. And don’t forget to explain acronyms when they first appear.
Clarity is key
Make your writing accessible by using clear language. Writing that is easy to read, is easier to understand too.
Go back to thinking about your audience; are they experts in your field who will easily follow technical language, or are they a lay audience who need the ideas presenting in a simpler way?
Be aware of the other literature in your field (and reference it)
Make sure to tell your reader how your article relates to key work that’s already published. This doesn’t mean you have to review every piece of previous relevant literature, but make sure to show how you are building on previous work to avoid accidental plagiarism.
Make your references current and relevant
Your literature review should take into consideration the current state of the literature. So, don’t talk about “recent research” if you’re giving citations from the 1990s. It is important to include recent references to highlight awareness of all the current developments in the literature that you are building on. This doesn’t mean you can’t include older references, just make sure it is clear why you’ve chosen it.
When you reference something, ensure you fully understand its relevance to your research so you can make it clear for your reader.
Make sure to communicate your unique point of view to stand out. You may be building on a concept already in existence, but you still need to have something new to say. Make sure you say it convincingly, and fully understand and reference what has gone before.
“It’s important that authors try to connect their ideas, their issue, and their topic to something that is existing in the insights or interpretations available in the journal. It may be to challenge that, or it may be to confirm it. It may be to re-examine it, or to indicate why, after careful examination of some of the issues in the journal, the topic they’re interested in is underdeveloped, even neglected, certainly not considered in the way they want to argue. Whichever way they want to engage with it, it’s crucial that people take that time and thought to do that.”Professor Len Barton, Founding Editor of Disability and Society
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