Find resources to help you craft and refine your scholarly writing
The Writing Center's Scholarly Writing Publication Guide covers everything you need to know about preparing a document for publication (or the FGCU Writing Awards). Find FGCU scholarly writing classes and writing clubs on campus. Learn about some of the great scholarly writing craft books available in the FGCU library.
IntroductionToggle More Info
Getting a scholarly work published is a rewarding but challenging process. Below are some of the basics for scholarly publication. But keep this in mind: conventions in a field and the guidelines of a journal come first. If the conventions of a field or the guidelines of the journal contradict anything written below, please follow the conventions and the journal’s guidelines.
Before StartingToggle More Info
1. Write a Publishable Paper: Scholarly publications are well written and take part in a larger scholarly conversation. It’s like you’re entering a room, and people have been talking about something for a very long time. They use words in particular ways and have certain formulas to how they talk, and here you are, hoping to add something that’s relevant.
This can be challenging. How do you write a polished work that’s relevant to the current research, about a topic that is important, making claims or doing research that’s progressing the scholarly conversation, and, finally, adhering to all the conventions of a field and journal, all at the same time?
Well, there’s no easy answer. Below are some important suggestions to help you write a publishable paper:
Connected to and Progressing the Current Research
Before writing on your topic, you must research it thoroughly. Because you are joining an ongoing conversation, what you write will often be limited (or inspired) by what has already been and is being said. Writing about a topic that scholars have reached a consensus on, or writing about something that isn’t appropriate for a field, is a quick way to get rejected because it’s not relevant to the conversation. When reading the research, try to find gaps in their thoughts. What aren’t they writing about or writing about enough? Or, look for issues that scholars disagree about or the problems that they continue to come back to. How does your research fit into this conversation?
To help with this, the librarians and the FGCU Library website are great places to start. The Writing Center is often a good place to help you connect to the scholarly conversation, which you might be asked to do in a literature review. Finally, don’t forget that your professors are experts in their fields. Approach them with your request, and you may be surprised by how happy they are to help.
Having a quality manuscript is the most obvious and essential part of any publication, but it might be the most difficult—particularly when journals and disciplines have different ideas about what a quality manuscript looks like. You probably know that your manuscript needs to be free of grammatical errors, easy to read and understand, and organized (using organizational tools like a specific thesis and topic sentences). Having said that, there are real fundamentals to good writing that you should consider:
- Audience: All writing is directed at certain groups of people. These groups help you determine the writing choices you make. Think about it—would you say the same things to your best friend and your grandmother or grandfather if you were asking them for a favor? For the vast majority, the answer is ‘no.’ Considering your audience helps you decide what background information needs to be given or can be left out, what arguments will be persuasive, and what assumptions your readers might have that you need to address. Here’s a resource on audience that you may find useful.
- Purpose: What, ultimately, are you trying to do with your work? What do you want your audience to think or do when they finish reading? Well written papers make this clear—always. They are clear about what the paper is trying to do, why a certain paragraph appears somewhere, and why certain information is given. Along with audience, your purpose will have a huge effect on the writing decisions you make. Often, problems with purpose are a matter of articulation. Force yourself to say aloud how a sentence or paragraph is adding to your work. Then ask yourself if you are clear and direct in writing about how a sentence or paragraph is ultimately helping you to prove your main claims. If it’s not clear, make it so. If the sentence or paragraph is not helping you prove the main claims of your research, remove it.
- So What?: Readers want to read about important topics. Very early in the paper, this should be clear (and therefore the readers will have an answer to the question, “So what?”). Try to think about what problem or problems your research is addressing. Why is your work essential or important to the field or a group of people? Why should your audience care about this topic? Once you know the answers to these questions, clarify to the reader early why they should spend the time reading your work.
2. Target a Journal: Unlike publishing fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction, scholarly publications usually do not allow simultaneous submissions. This means that you can only send one article to one journal at a time, so each submission is extremely valuable. You may find yourself waiting for six months for a response, get rejected, and then you will be back where you started. Because of this, it’s often a good idea to have some journals in mind while you are writing. Remember that different journals will have different expectations and organizational and formatting guidelines, which will affect how and what you write. If they publish a work that is similar to yours, they may reject you not for the quality of the work but to give their readers a diverse range of topics. Having a few journals in mind will give you options and get you thinking about how your work can be tailored to a specific market. Finally, pay attention to calls for submissions on a particular topic. If your project is appropriate for the call for submissions, you will have a lot less competition for acceptance.
3. Get Help: Rome wasn’t built in a day or by one person. All writers need careful readers to help them work. Have careful readers help you with your writing. The Writing Center is a great resource for this, as are your peers and professors.
SubmittingToggle More Info
- Read the Submission Guidelines: Submission guidelines are your roadmap to publication. They will be very particular—with specific ways an essay should be organized and formatted and how sources are cited. Make sure that your essay meets all of these requirements. If your essay doesn’t, the editor has an easy reason to reject you. The Writing Center can be a valuable resource to help you adhere to writing guidelines.
- Cover Letter: Before writing, be sure to check that the journal does not have specific requirements for the cover letter. If the journal doesn’t have specific requirements, do a Google search for suggestions for cover letters in your field or approach relevant professors. If you cannot find suggestions for your field, consider using a guide. You’ll notice that the cover letter is simple and direct—it doesn’t waste time getting to the point or use casual, unprofessional language. You’ll also notice that it emphasizes the significance of the work and why the readers of the particular journal would be interested. Note: Don’t repeat your abstract in your cover letter. The cover letter is another rhetorical opportunity for you to pitch your manuscript to an editor, and you are wasting it if you repeat your abstract.
- Pace: Once something is submitted, be patient. If you did your research on the journal, you should have some idea about the journal’s average response time. Don’t worry until your manuscript has exceeded this response time comfortably. After all, the peer review process can talk a long time, and if you haven’t heard a response, this could be because your submission is of a high enough quality to warrant undergoing the peer review process. If you haven’t gotten a decision, and it is well past the journal’s average response time, then you can consider following up with a very polite and friendly email. Editors are notoriously overworked and under appreciated. Every communication has the potential to irritate them. If you irritate them, getting published by them will be difficult.
The DecisionToggle More Info
Once your manuscript undergoes whatever editorial process the journal uses, you will receive one of four decisions:
- Acceptance: If your article is outright accepted, you’re finished. It’s time to celebrate. But, you should know that it is extremely rare for even extremely well established professionals to receive outright acceptances.
- Acceptance Pending Revisions: If your article is accepted pending revisions, read your reviews and any notes from the editor very carefully, make the needed revisions, and send the manuscript back before whatever deadline has been given to you. Then you are done, and it’s time to celebrate.
- Revise and Resubmit: A revise and resubmit is still a good sign. It means that your manuscript was interesting enough to essentially give you another chance. It is no guarantee of publication, but it’s not an outright rejection. Read over your reviews and any notes from the editor very carefully, and do your best to make revisions before whatever deadline has been given to you. Then, resubmit and hope for the best. A quick note--It’s common to not understand or agree with a reviewer’s comments. When this happens, it’s best to approach an expert in the field to ask how to handle these issues. Writers do occasionally challenge reviewers’ interpretations, and in some cases they approach reviewers for clarification, but these should be handled on a case-by-case basis.
- Rejection: A rejection means that your manuscript isn’t right for the journal for reasons that may or may not have anything to do with the quality of your work. Remember that rejection is a very normal part of the publication process, and don’t get discouraged. If you have notes from reviewers or the editor, read them carefully and see if you can make the manuscript better. If you don’t have feedback, still reread your manuscript and see if you can make it better. When it’s as polished as it can be, target another journal and start the process again.
Explore the Scholarly Writing Community
CoursesToggle More Info
ClubsToggle More InfoGo to Eaglelink to search for organizations by categories that interest you.
BooksToggle More Info
Discipline Specific ResourcesToggle More InfoThese academic journals and conferences specifically accept scholarly writing by undergraduate students. The links below will take you to submission guidelines whenever possible. All descriptions were taken or adapted from the journal's or conference's website, but be sure to learn about the conference and journal before submitting.
Please read submission guidelines carefully. Submission guidelines sometimes require the following:
The paper is written by a current undergraduate or within a year of graduation.
A faculty sponsor or co-author.
A fee, or a membership, to submit.
Some of the links here were found on the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) website, which is a resource you can also use. Each link has been checked for eligibility requirements, and FGCU students should be eligible. If you find this is not the case, send us an email so we can correct this.