What’s it like writing an academic article for beginners?
Today, I’d like to share my experience writing my first academic article as a beginner. I completed my thesis sometime in 2017. Right after I presented my defense, I started looking for jobs and started working in November that year.
After my thesis was examined, two of the examiners suggested that I write an academic article and submit it to a journal. I have always wanted to try to write a scholarly article but ever since I started working, I really did not have much time thinking about and writing the article. I was always busy busy busy.
It was only this year when I started to look back at my thesis and tried to write an article from it. It took many months for my academic article to take shape because I was struggling during Malaysia’s lockdown, trying hard to balance between my proofreading work and taking care of the kids all at the same time. Truth be told, I only seriously attempted to write my article once I decided I wanted to take time off from taking big proofreading projects.
While I was doing research, there were not many guides on writing an academic article for beginners. As you could imagine, I was pretty overwhelmed.
Anyways, since it took me forever to draft my article, I wanted to share my experience with you as I believe many people could learn about writing an academic article for beginners.
1. Collaborate with someone who is more experienced
Since I decided to write an article based on my Master’s thesis, I think I was not entirely confident of my work because, at the time, I did not receive much guidance. I worked independently and was very grateful that I had passed with minor corrections. However, because of that, until this day I wish I had done better (then again, I am pretty sure many people would feel the same way as they become older and wiser).
So for this article, I decided to co-write with my sister. To be honest, she had invited me to co-write this article a few years back but I was too tired of juggling between work and kids. It was only when I started doing proofreading full time I really had the time and mental space to write this article.
As my sister is someone who is much more experienced, she really did help me a lot in forming some of the ideas and showing me how I could showcase my voice more. It was also very helpful that she has a lot of experience in the field of hate speech which is linked to Islamophobia and xenophobia (the article that I am writing).
If you are new and inexperienced in academia, I would highlight recommend collaborating with someone you can trust. Their experience will help you in many ways including narrowing down the article and making your voice more alive. Their guidance can be very helpful in your process of writing an academic article as a beginner.
2. Decide on which journal you want to submit to
This is probably one of the first things you’d need to decide. You need to determine which journal you want to submit your academic article to.
If you are a PhD student, for instance, you need to check the requirements for your journal article. For instance, are you allowed to submit to any journal? Must it be a Citation-Indexed Journal (CIJ)? Or a Scopus journal? Or Q1, Q2? Don’t forget to check the requirements.
Other important aspects related to the journal are:
- Finding out whether they have APC charges
- What area/fields do they accept
- The format of the article
- Deadline etc
- Make sure your journal is not a predatory journal
Writing an academic journal for beginners can be challenging, especially when you need to find the most suitable journal for you. To narrow down your search, it would always be best to discuss it with your co-writer.
Important info 1 regarding writing academic articles for beginners:
3. Write your abstract first (although you can edit later)
When writing an academic article for beginners, try to write the abstract first.
It’s always better to write the abstract first because when you try to write your abstract, you need to synthesize your article. Therefore, it forces you to have a clear vision of what your paper is about. As a fresh young academic or student who is trying to write their first academic article, at times you may not know what it is you want to incorporate in the paper.
4. Create a skeleton of your paper
Once you’ve roughly figured out your abstract, create a skeleton of what your article will be about. This includes the thesis statement, counterargument, evidence, linking and concluding sentences.
This can help you stay on track.
5. Start from: Methodology, findings, and discussion
For most academic articles, the methodology section, findings, and discussion are fixed. This is the part you can easily edit first.
This is what I did. Previously, I wanted to submit my literature review to an academic journal but based on my research and my conversation with my sister, many journals do not accept concept or review papers. Therefore, I focused on my methodology, findings and discussion first and framed my argument from there.
That was a much easier process! However, some people may have a different process.
6. And then proceed to: Introduction, literature review
The reason why I had started with the methodology, findings, and discussion first was because that was the most significant part of my research.
Writing an academic journal for beginners is not easy, because there are many things that you will need to check and revise.
Once you’re done with your methodology, findings, and discussion, you can always alter your introduction and literature review.
If it has been several years since you published your thesis, you might need to do additional research and add more points for your literature review and introduction to make it more current.
7. Try to update your article by tying it with recent events
One of the biggest challenges about submitting your article to academic journals is that they would like your research to be contemporary, or recent.
However, if your study is not the latest research problem, it can still be significant.
What you can do is try updating your article by tying it with recent events. This can be done in the introduction or literature review.
Important info 2 regarding writing academic articles for beginners: Be mentally prepared
8. Additional research might be necessary
Writing an academic journal article for a beginner can be quite tough because, for some reason, there is this failed idea that you just “cut and paste” from your dissertation or thesis and make it into an article.
That may not be necessarily true.
A dissertation or a thesis is usually 30,000 words long. You would need to narrow down the scope of your academic article. Therefore, instead of using the “copy and paste” method, you need to figure out what part of your dissertation you’d want to focus on.
As a new academic writer, I’d suggest starting by highlighting your findings first.
Maybe for your second article, you can submit a review paper.
9. Start to write bit by bit even though you are fumbling through the dark
If you are trying to write an academic article as a beginner, it will feel as though you are fumbling through the dark. I know because I’ve gone through it.
As a new academic writer, you sometimes tend to doubt yourself, asking whether your research is good enough or whether it can be published at all.
Despite having these worries in your mind, which are indeed valid, you need to motivate yourself to write a little bit every day. If you are experiencing writer’s block, then try to do more research or read topics that are related to your issue.
Sometimes, it is also important to take a break when you need it.
Writing an academic journal article especially for a beginner can be quite stressful. Therefore, don’t forget to take care of yourself.
10. Be prepared to edit and revise your work many, many times.
Yes, to get your academic article published in a journal, you would need to revise and edit your work many many times.
Don’t be overwhelmed by this but it is just the normal process of writing.
Sometimes, when you write, you may have trouble conveying your ideas on paper. The more you go over your article, you might get better ideas about how to ties your ideas together, making your argument more coherent.
If you need to grammar checker, Grammarly has a free version (and a paid one) that is helpful for catching grammatical errors.
Related post: How Grammarly can make your work easier.
11. Get a trusted friend, colleague, supervisor for input
After you’ve drafted your academic journal article, get a trusted friend, colleague, or supervisor for their input.
It’s important to get a third person to read your article to ensure that what you’ve written gets to the reader clearly. Your colleagues and supervisor may also help to add a different perspective that could be very valuable.
Send to an editor or proofreader if you need help
If you have done all the 10 steps above and still need assistance, you can contact me to edit or proofread your work.
Related post: What’s the difference between editing and proofreading?
I wrote this in mind, thinking how writing academic article for beginners can be illustrated in simple steps.
I believe this post can help many students out there!
Let me know if there are another aspects or areas you’d like me to write about!