Tips to Get Your First Journal Paper Published – Cillian McDowell

If you are publishing your work in a journal for the first time, it can seem to be an intimidating process. Hopefully the following tips can remove some of the mystery surrounding publishing your first journal paper.


Always remember that you are writing for someone else. Although you are very familiar with the topic, don’t assume that the reader is too. It is important to make it easy for the reader to understand what your paper is doing, and why. Don’t make them hunt for your argument as for a needle in a haystack. Keep in mind the following points when writing:

  • Why should the reader care about this topic? Take the time to show the reader why, for example, mental health is a problem and current prevention/treatment methods may be inadequate
  • Briefly explain to the reader what is known on the topic to date, and what is not known (i.e., what gap in the literature your paper is attempting to fill)
  • Specifically state the question(s) the current paper is attempting to answer
  • Clearly detail the methods employed to answer these questions to the point that the reader could replicate your study if they desired

Finding the right journal

Finding the right journal is crucial. There are websites to help you find journals most relevant to your topic (see, and check what journals have published similar papers in the last couple of years. Important things to bear in mind are the journal citation report and impact factor on web science, and how long you are willing to wait to get your work published – because certain journals will take longer. This is important if you’re nearing the end of you PhD and/or preparing for a job interview and need to show that you are publishable.


If it is your first paper, it is uncommon to not be flat out rejected or to get fairly substantial revisions. If you are rejected, address the feedback as much as possible (if you are provided with any), and move on to your second-choice journal. If you receive a revise and resubmit decision, brilliant. This is good news and it means the journal editor has an interest in your paper and is willing to negotiate with you.

The first thing to do is to read through it all and methodically break down each reviewer’s comments into bullet points. Under each point either outline what changes you made to address this concern or comment on why you feel no changes are required, responding to all comments, no matter how trivial they seem. It is acceptable to decline a reviewer’s suggestion to change a component of your article. Just stick to the facts, don’t rant, and provide a rational explanation. Often this will be accepted by editors, especially if it is clear that you have considered all the feedback received and accepted some of it. Remember, always be courteous and polite in your response to the reviewers, even though some comments may make you angry or swear!

Cillian McDowell is a postgraduate student in the PESS Department here at the University of Limerick. View Cillian’s profile here!

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