The Definitive Guide to Writing a Good Journal Article

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Let’s Get Started

Are you a researcher or an academic ready to publish your first paper or add another feather to your academic cap? Or are you feeling a little nauseous that you are not sure how you can start writing a good journal article?

Writing a good journal article

The path to publishing can seem daunting and often ends in disappointment due to high rejection rates (yes, by now, you should realize that reputable and high-impact journals reject plenty of submitted papers).

With the right knowledge and preparation, you can increase your odds of success.

What is a Journal Article?

A good journal or scholarly article is a piece of writing that presents original research findings and is peer-reviewed for validity and reliability. It is a significant way for scientists and researchers to communicate their work to the academic community and beyond. The typical structure of a journal article contains the following elements: Abstract, Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results and Discussion/Conclusion.

The Importance of Journal Articles

Journal articles serve as an important parameter to assess academic achievements. They are pivotal in advancing knowledge within a field, stimulating further research, and improving professional practice.

Publishing in a peer-reviewed journal also adds credibility to your work and can boost your professional reputation. But more importantly, when you make breakthrough findings, formulate new theories and discover new ideas, you want these findings to be discovered and read by the research and public communities.

The Writing Process

How to Start Writing a Good Journal Article

Developing Your Idea

Your journey toward a published article starts with a solid idea. This idea should be based on original research that contributes new insights to your field. That idea could come based on your recent discussions or even some data from your latest scientific experiments or archeological evidence from your last trip to the Amazon jungle.

Researching Your Topic

Before you start writing, ensure that you have a deep understanding of your topic. After all, someone who has published in an academic journal must have considerable knowledge in the field they are writing. Otherwise, they get discredited during the peer review process.

Journal publishing is about novelty and closing the literature gap.

In academic publishing, a literature gap refers to an area or topic that has not been sufficiently explored or researched in existing scholarly literature. It could be a specific question that hasn’t been answered, a theory that hasn’t been fully tested, a population or setting that hasn’t been studied, or a methodology that hasn’t been used before.

Identifying and addressing these gaps is crucial in academic writing as it helps to advance knowledge in the field, provides new insights, and contributes to the overall body of research. By doing so, researchers can ensure their work is original and adds value to their discipline.

You can also use journal databases and online search engines such as Web of Science, Scopus, PubMed and Medline (some require you to have subscription access) to gather information from indexed journals. Make sure to critically evaluate the evidence in the referenced articles to present meaningful and informative content. It is also crucial to take a record of your reading, as these materials can be useful for your literature review and citations.

Organizing Your Thoughts

Once you’ve done your research, it’s crucial to organize your thoughts logically. This will help you write a coherent and impactful article. Start by creating an outline of your manuscript following the stipulated format as outlined by your chosen journal.

Always have a clear understanding of the main idea or research question that the article will address. This should be based on original research that contributes new insights to the field. Once you have a solid understanding of their topic and how their work contributes to the field, you can start to create an outline for your manuscript.

Within each section of the outline, you should organize their thoughts logically. For example, the introduction should provide background information, establish the context, and state the aim of the study. The results section should present the findings clearly and concisely, while the discussion should interpret these results in the context of the research question.

Writing Your First Draft

Now that you have an outline, you can start writing your first draft. Remember to keep your language simple and accessible. Be mindful of word count limits set by journals, especially when writing your abstract – a concise summary of your work, usually capped at 250 words.

Tips for Writing a Good Journal Article Draft

Write for your readers

When writing, aim to be clear and concise.

Avoid overusing ellipses and exclamation marks. Keep your paragraphs short with proper indentation. Use a standard font like Times New Roman in size 12, and maintain double or 1.5 line spacing. Also, remember to insert page numbers and mark chapter breaks with page breaks for easy navigation.

Always keep in mind that your submitted manuscript will be read by third parties who will be doing the peer review of your manuscript. You will want your manuscript to be easily navigated, provide a smooth reading experience and not deter the reviewer’s motivation.

Editing and Proofreading

After drafting your manuscript, it’s essential to review it carefully. Check for logical flow, clarity of ideas, grammar and spelling errors, and adherence to the formatting guidelines provided by your target journal. You might also want to revise your abstract every time you make revisions to your manuscript to ensure consistency.

Read and reread your draft. In between rereading the draft, go for a break that will keep your mind off your publication for a while. Go and watch a movie or something. Join your colleagues on this afternoon’s paintballing game. Challenge your roommate for a Play Station duel.

Chances are that, once we come back to our draft with a fresh mind, you will discover plenty of shortcomings and even errors you may feel illogical to happen. Yes, these things happen. A lot.

Having some distance from your manuscript can help you spot errors and inconsistencies more effectively. Read your article aloud to check for awkward phrasing. Don’t rely solely on spell-check tools; manual proofreading is equally important.

Next, consider getting a colleague or mentor to review your work. They can provide valuable feedback and catch errors you might have missed.

And when it comes to writing a good journal article that gets published, my most important advice yet would be the following:

If the language (English) is not your strong point (perhaps English is not your first language), please engage professional editing services, many of which require reasonable investment and affordable cost. Having served in journal publishing for over a decade, I came across numerous manuscripts rejected due to poor language.

The Value of Peer Review

In journal publishing, peer review is an integral part of the publication process. It involves having experts in your field review your manuscript for quality and validity. Their feedback can help improve your work and increase its chances of being accepted.

Peer review in academic publishing is a process where experts in the same field as the author critically assess a manuscript for its quality, validity, and relevance. The peer reviewers, who are usually anonymous, evaluate the manuscript based on various criteria, including the originality of the research, the soundness of the methodology, the analysis and interpretation of results, and the relevance and significance of the findings to the field.

This process helps ensure that only high-quality, credible, and rigorous scientific work gets published. It also provides authors with feedback that can help improve their manuscript before it is finally published.

Preparing Your Journal Manuscript

Structuring Your Article

Ensure your article follows a logical structure and, more importantly, one that complies with the journal’s requirements.

Generally, you can start with an engaging introduction that highlights the importance of your study. Follow this up with detailed sections on materials and methods, results, and discussion. Finish off with a strong conclusion that summarizes your key findings and their implications.

Writing a Good Journal Article Abstract

An abstract of a journal article is a brief, concise summary of the entire research study. It typically includes the research objective or question, the methods used, the key results or findings, and the main conclusions drawn from the study. The abstract is usually capped at around 250 words, although this can vary depending on the specific guidelines of the journal.

The abstract is an essential element in journal publishing for several reasons:

1. First Impressions: It is often the first part of the manuscript that editors, peer reviewers, and readers see. Hence, it plays a critical role in creating a positive first impression and enticing them to read the full article.

2. Accessibility: Because it provides a snapshot of the whole study, it allows readers to quickly determine whether the paper is relevant to their interests without reading the entire document.

3. Indexing and Searchability: Abstracts are used by electronic databases and search engines. When researchers search for articles on a topic, the search engine uses keywords found in the abstract to display relevant results. Therefore, a well-written abstract can increase the visibility and accessibility of your paper.

4. Time-saving: For many researchers who have limited time, reading the abstract helps them decide if they should invest more time in reading the full article.

Crafting the Introduction

The introduction sets the tone for the rest of your manuscript. It should provide a relevant background for your study, establish the context, and end with the aim of your study. Avoid reviewing all available evidence on your topic – for now, focus on what’s directly relevant to your research.

Presenting Your Research Findings

Present your results clearly and concisely. Use tables and figures to represent your data visually, but don’t forget also to discuss them in the text. Avoid repeating details already presented in your visuals. Be sure to maintain a consistent order when comparing groups.

A word of advice. Use good-resolution visuals and graphics when presenting your data. A good manuscript with poor illustrations may end up as well in the rejection bin. Think of the number of other manuscripts trying to get published the same as you. Only the winners get picked.

Discussing Your Results

Take the time to discuss your results in detail. Highlight what they mean in the context of your research question and how they contribute to the existing body of knowledge. Discuss any limitations and suggest directions for future research.

Concluding Your Article

Your conclusion should tie together all the elements of your research. Summarize your main findings, their implications, and the contribution of your study to your field. Make sure it’s impactful and leaves a lasting impression on your readers. Don’t forget to highlight research gaps and weaknesses in your research, which others can learn and improve.


Accurate and complete citations are vital in academic writing. If citations are your weak spot, consider using referencing tools offered by some publishers or software providers out there. Using the tools will save you time and resources.

Also, journals are very particular about citation styles and have their own preferred citation format. Read their guidelines, understand their citation requirements, and follow them! Some of the popular citation styles include Harvard, Vancouver, APA and Chicago Manual.

Submitting Your Journal Manuscript

Choosing the Right Journal

The choice of a suitable journal is one of the first steps to consider in the publication process. It should primarily depend on the target readership. More importantly, your target journal should publish the same scope as your research topic. Submitting a journal manuscript to a journal that does not publish your topic is a fast track to rejection. Yes, your manuscript will get rejection without even the peer review process.

Having said that, have one or more backup options in case your manuscript gets rejected from your first choice. A word of caution, though. Do not submit your manuscript to more than one journal. This duplicated submission is an unethical practice that may get you blacklisted by the journals involved.

Note that globally, they are more than 30,000 journals in the world right now, which means that there are plenty of journals to choose from. But you also need to be aware of predatory journals since the number is showing a massive increase in recent years. You want to avoid publishing in predatory journals as this will be detrimental to your career.

Some senior academics prefer to choose high-impact journals indexed in established databases and have a good impact factor. The more reputable a journal is, the more difficult it will be to get your manuscript published.

Factors to Consider

Before you start writing, assess whether you’re ready to publish by analyzing the significance of your achievements. Decide on the type of manuscript that best suits your work. Also, familiarize yourself with the guide for authors of your target journal to understand the specifics of manuscript preparation.

Understanding the Submission Process

Once you’ve chosen a suitable journal, it’s time to submit your manuscript. Remember, submission does not guarantee publication. Your article will undergo peer review, where it will be evaluated and possibly sent back for revisions. Only after these revisions are made and approved will your article be produced for publication.

Responding to Reviewer Comments

Reviewer comments are an opportunity to improve your manuscript. Take them seriously, address each comment in detail, and make necessary changes to your manuscript. Be professional and respectful in your responses, even if you disagree with some comments.

Understanding the Publication Process

Publication involves a series of steps from submission to production. It’s crucial to understand this process so you know what to expect. Be prepared for possible rejections or requests for revisions.

Remember, perseverance is key in the world of academic publishing.

Dealing with Rejection

Rejection is part and parcel of the publishing process. Don’t let it discourage you. Instead, focus on the feedback provided, make necessary improvements, and consider submitting to another journal. Remember, every rejection brings you one step closer to acceptance.

Celebrating Acceptance

Getting your manuscript accepted for publication is a significant achievement deserving of celebration. It marks the successful end of your hard work and dedication. But remember, the journey doesn’t end here. Continue researching, continue writing, and continue contributing to your field of study.


Final Thoughts on Writing a Good Journal Article

Writing a good journal article is a meticulous process that requires a clear understanding of your topic, effective organization of your thoughts, and an engaging presentation of your research findings. Always remember to pay attention to the details – format your manuscript professionally, adhere to the word limit, use a consistent referencing style, and adopt an engaging and clear writing style. Above all, stay persistent and don’t let setbacks deter you from your quest for knowledge dissemination.

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