How to Write an Article That Will Be Accepted by International Journals
English became an international language long ago and it is used for publications in leading journals. Being published in them is not only a matter of prestige, but a proof that the researcher is part of the worldwide academic community. It’s not easy to be published in Nature, Science, or Cell, but for a start you can improve your academic English. Inna Anokhina, a senior lecturer at the Foreign Language Training Center and the head of the Academic Writing Lab, and Roman Zakoldaev, a PhD and a junior research associate at the Faculty of Photonics and Optical Information with a lot of experience in publishing papers in international journals indexed by Scopus, discuss how to do it in this ITMO.NEWS article.
I have already written a paper. Can I just translate it into English?
If your paper has already been published in any journal, you can’t publish it again elsewhere – that would be an act of self-plagiarism. If you have research that you want to publish in an international journal, it’s preferable to write the paper in English from scratch, following the requirements of the journal. If the article is already written in another language, it’s going to be hard and time-demanding to paraphrase its contents in English. You can’t simply translate it word by word, as English has other grammatical and lexical structures.
What's the difference between academic Russian and academic English?
Academic English is more structured. Each paragraph contains one thought, and there are no extra words: each of them is meaningful. The Western approach differs from the Russian one: it’s more logical and straightforward. Thoughts move from point A straight to point B. In Russian papers, however, we can often see a “spiral” approach: on our way from point A to point B we make stops at points A1, A2, and A3. Then, once we’ve reached point B, we can come back to A1, and so on. It’s especially important to pay attention to the descriptions of experiments. They should be extremely detailed and as clear as possible, so that any researcher could re-enact it. This is the main academic criterion, all proper journals require it.
This means that everything should be re-written?
In most cases, yes. Writing an academic paper in English does not equal translating it from the language in was initially written in. By sending the article to someone else for translation you lose responsibility over it, which is not ethically acceptable when it comes to academic activities. The translator can use a wrong term and it will lead to misinterpretation of your research. Authors themselves have to be responsible for each word.
Where can I get some help in writing an article in English?
At the Academic Writing Lab, we can help with the way the article is written grammatically, stylistically, and structurally, whereas your research advisor and colleagues can help you with the contents. The latter is the most important part of an article. A truly interesting paper won’t be sent back only because your English is not perfect. Most probably, you will be asked to edit it. It’s often put down as “needs a native speaker’s proofreading/editing”. We can provide that at the Academic Writing Lab. Even beginners, such as Bachelor’s students, are welcome to attend our lessons and consultations.
Can the Academic Writing Lab do everything for me?
No, the Academic Writing Lab does not deal with writing nor translating.
What if my English is bad?
There is a Foreign Language Training Center at ITMO University. Any student and staff member of the university is welcome there. Also, the Academic Writing Lab regularly arranges workshops and courses in academic English. In general, it’s much easier to learn how to read and write than to speak. You should read more scientific articles written in your field of studies. Even if you have to use a dictionary, it will give you an expertise in terms. Then, you can try to write a short abstract for a conference in your field of studies. In about six months of exercise, you’ll be able to complete your first article, too.
How do you make sure the article is fit for publication?
You should start by choosing an appropriate journal and taking a look at other articles published there that cover a topic similar to yours. Once you’ve picked a journal, you should write the article according to its rules and requirements. Also, it’s worth reading other articles to see what the authors included in the main sections and what title they chose. Even though most academic papers follow IMRAD, each journal has its own requirements. For example, some journals ask for a separate paragraph called related work, which means a description of literary sources, whereas usually it only takes a couple of sentences in the introduction.
What is IMRAD?
IMRAD is the structure of academic articles. It contains four parts: introduction, methods, results, and discussion. In the introduction, you state the goal, subject, and hypothesis of your research. In methods, you talk about what was studied, where, when, and how it took place, as well as via which tools the research was performed. In the results section, you state what the outcomes of the research are, whether the hypothesis was proven correct or not. In discussion, you describe how the achieved results can be applied further, why they are relevant, and how they fit into the existing scientific worldview.
How much time do you need to publish an article?
Writing, as well as publishing, takes quite a lot of time. Publishing can be time-demanding, especially if it’s a popular, peer-reviewed journal: it may take up to a year. Each article must not only be read by the editor, but also reviewed. Sometimes, articles are sent back to be edited and improved, which makes the process even longer. If the journal does not come out too often, for example, only quarterly, a publication backlog may appear – something like a queue of accepted articles. Thus, waiting for your turn may take even more time.