Last summer, I had a chance to attend the Sardinia Symposium 2019 together with other ESRs from NEW-MINE. The Sardinia Symposium is one of the largest conferences in the field of waste management and is held once in every two years. More than 650 participants from 55 countries attended this conference. In this conference, I presented my work on the gasification of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) obtained from the landfill mining project of NEW-MINE. I wrote a glimpse about my gasification work here. If you are a PhD students working on the field of waste management and treatment, I recommend you to attend this conference as you can meet many interesting people and there are many inspiring workshops you can join.
Among the workshops that I joined in the conference was a workshop about publishing a journal article. This workshop was delivered by the Editors-in-Chief of the Journal of Waste Management and Journal of Hazardous Materials, which are among the top journals in the areas of Environmental Science and Engineering. The workshop was impressive as you learn about the expectations and what the editors and reviewers are looking for.
In this short blog, I would like to share a few tips and tricks which could increase your chance of getting published. These are based on what I learned from the workshop and my own previous experience with the bumpy road towards publication. These tips might be useful for you when you are writing and publishing your articles, especially if you have just started your research career as a PhD student.
- Start writing the article when you start the research
You can start by writing the introduction and the method sections of your article before you start your experiment/research. Based on my own experience, writing the article at the beginning of our research helps keep our focus on achieving the specific objectives of our articles. In writing the method section, we are urged to describe the justification, relevance, and rationality of our methods. For example, satisfying reasons should be written to explain the use of particular temperatures, types of the sample that we use, sample preparation procedures, etc. If you can write a solid method section at the beginning of your research, it can help you in getting relevant data much faster and avoiding unnecessary experiments.
- Novelty, novelty, and novelty!
The editors want original and attractive papers for their journal. The novelty of your articles will be the very first thing that the editors evaluate. It will mainly decide whether your article will be rejected or going to the next review process by the assigned reviewers. Therefore, a solid introduction section, in which the novelty of your research is clearly explained, is very valuable.
The editors explained that the following examples would usually be rejected by their journals:
- a simple case study without any new methodological consideration,
- a paper that is very similar to the previous publication, with only changed employed materials, analyzed sites, etc., or
- an article that reports the environmental analysis and monitoring of specific geographic areas without presenting new insights.
- Be careful with plagiarism
I am sure that you will not take a lazy route and just plagiarize other papers. However, when you write your articles, you should be careful not to have too high similarity level with the existing literature. Most of the reputable journals normally use iThenticate software to check the plagiarism/similarity level of the submitted manuscript. Different journals often demand different similarity levels. As I know, some journals managed by Elsevier normally demand that the manuscript should not have a similarity level above 35-40% throughout the whole manuscript and the reference list. Otherwise, the manuscript will be rejected by the desk reception. So, make sure that you do a proper paraphrasing when you cite other papers and keep the similarity level as low as possible.
- Ensure that your paper is up-to-date and in the right context
Your article must be written upon the most recent insights, in which all relevant international work has been taken into account.
- Write a good cover letter
A poor cover letter is a bad start. The cover letter should be clear and essential. It should briefly describe the framework of your research and the innovation of your work (e.g., what is new about your work, compared with the existing literature).
- Prepare your revised manuscript properly
If you are asked to revise your manuscript by the reviewers, make sure that you answer the reviewers’ comments at least as carefully as the manuscript. You should make sure that the editor is convinced that the comments are taken seriously, and it is easy for the editor to review your answer. Sometimes, it is OK to disagree with the reviewer’s comment, but be respectful and careful.
Thanks for reading and good luck with your article!
About the author
Ilman is our ESR 5. He originally comes from Indonesia and currently lives in Stockholm, Sweden. Before moving to Sweden, he lived in Tokyo to pursue a master degree in the field of solid fuel thermochemical conversion. His current research at KTH Royal Institute of Technology focuses on the plasma-based gasification process to convert RDF from landfill into gaseous fuel. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.