10 Tips for Writing an Academic/Technical Journal

By Zaki Yamani Zakaria1 Comment

For those who have not published, writing an academic or technical journal maybe tedious and a hassle. Getting it accepted is another fearful chapter. But, if you have the write planning, mindset, strategy, coach and guideline, you can write and publish successfully.

Following is 10 tips of how to write an academic journal so that it will be easier for you to publish it in reputable journal. The tips are from Rowena Murray, a professor in education and director of research at the University of the West of Scotland.

biomassbioenergyjournal1) Have a strategy, make a plan

Why do you want to write for journals? What is your purpose? Are you writing for research assessment? Or to make a difference? Are you writing to have an impact factor or to have an impact? Do you want to develop a profile in a specific area? Will this determine which journals you write for? Have you taken their impact factors into account?

Have you researched other researchers in your field – where have they published recently? Which group or conversation can you see yourself joining? Some people write the paper first and then look for a ‘home’ for it, but since everything in your article – content, focus, structure, style – will be shaped for a specific journal, save yourself time by deciding on your target journal and work out how to write in a way that suits that journal.

Having a writing strategy means making sure you have both external drivers – such as scoring points in research assessment or climbing the promotion ladder – and internal drivers – which means working out why writing for academic journals matters to you. This will help you maintain the motivation you’ll need to write and publish over the long term. Since the time between submission and publication can be up to two years (though in some fields it’s much less) you need to be clear about your motivation.

2) Analyse writing in journals in your field

Take a couple of journals in your field that you will target now or soon. Scan all the abstracts over the past few issues. Analyse them: look closely at all first and last sentences. The first sentence (usually) gives the rationale for the research, and the last asserts a ‘contribution to knowledge’. But the word ‘contribution’ may not be there – it’s associated with the doctorate. So which words are used? What constitutes new knowledge in this journal at this time? How can you construct a similar form of contribution from the work you did? What two sentences will you write to start and end your abstract for that journal?

Scan other sections of the articles: how are they structured? What are the components of the argument? Highlight all the topic sentences – the first sentences of every paragraph – to show the stages in the argument. Can you see an emerging taxonomy of writing genres in this journal? Can you define the different types of paper, different structures and decide which one will work best in your paper? Select two types of paper: one that’s the type of paper you can use as a model for yours, and one that you can cite in your paper, thereby joining the research conversation that is ongoing in that journal.

3) Do an outline and just write

Which type of writer are you: do you always do an outline before you write, or do you just dive in and start writing? Or do you do a bit of both? Both outlining and just writing are useful, and it is therefore a good idea to use both. However, make your outline very detailed: outline the main sections and calibrate these with your target journal.

What types of headings are normally used there? How long are the sections usually? Set word limits for your sections, sub-sections and, if need be, for sub-sub-sections. This involves deciding about content that you want to include, so it may take time, and feedback would help at this stage.

When you sit down to write, what exactly are you doing:using writing to develop your ideas or writing to document your work? Are you using your outline as an agenda for writing sections of your article? Define your writing task by thinking about verbs – they define purpose: to summarise, overview, critique, define, introduce, conclude etc.

4) Get feedback from start to finish

Even at the earliest stages, discuss your idea for a paper with four or five people, get feedback on your draft abstract. It will only take them a couple of minutes to read it and respond. Do multiple revisions before you submit your article to the journal.

5) Set specific writing goals and sub-goals

Making your writing goals specific means defining the content, verb and word length for the section. This means not having a writing goal like, ‘I plan to have this article written by the end of the year’ but ‘My next writing goal is to summarise and critique twelve articles for the literature review section in 800 words on Tuesday between 9am and 10.30’. Some people see this as too mechanical for academic writing, but it is a way of forcing yourself to make decisions about content, sequence and proportion for your article.

6) Write with others

While most people see writing as a solitary activity, communal writing – writing with others who are writing – can help to develop confidence, fluency and focus. It can help you develop the discipline of regular writing. Doing your academic writing in groups or at writing retreats are ways of working on your own writing, but – if you unplug from email, internet and all other devices – also developing the concentration needed for regular, high-level academic writing.

At some point – ideally at regular intervals – you can get a lot more done if you just focus on writing. If this seems like common sense, it isn’t common practice. Most people do several things at once, but this won’t always work for regular journal article writing. At some point, it pays to privilege writing over all other tasks, for a defined period, such as 90 minutes, which is long enough to get something done on your paper, but not so long that it’s impossible to find the time.

7) Do a warm up before you write

While you are deciding what you want to write about, an initial warm up that works is to write for five minutes, in sentences, in answer to the question: ‘What writing for publication have you done [or the closest thing to it], and what do you want to do in the long, medium and short term?’

Once you have started writing your article, use a variation on this question as a warm up – what writing for this project have you done, and what do you want to do in the long, medium and short term? Top tip: end each session of writing with a ‘writing instruction’ for yourself to use in your next session, for example, ‘on Monday from 9 to 10am, I will draft the conclusion section in 500 words’.

As discussed, if there are no numbers, there are no goals. Goals that work need to be specific, and you need to monitor the extent to which you achieve them. This is how you learn to set realistic targets.

8) Analyse reviewers’ feedback on your submission

What exactly are they asking you to do? Work out whether they want you to add or cut something. How much? Where? Write out a list of revision actions. When you resubmit your article include this in your report to the journal, specifying how you have responded to the reviewers’ feedback. If your article was rejected, it is still useful to analyse feedback, work out why and revise it for somewhere else.

Most feedback will help you improve your paper and, perhaps, your journal article writing, but sometimes it may seem overheated, personalised or even vindictive. Some of it may even seem unprofessional. Discuss reviewers’ feedback – see what others think of it. You may find that other people – even eminent researchers – still get rejections and negative reviews; any non-rejection is a cause for celebration. Revise and resubmit as soon as you can.

9) Be persistent, thick-skinned and resilient

These are qualities that you may develop over time – or you may already have them. It may be easier to develop them in discussion with others who are writing for journals.

10) Take care of yourself

Writing for academic journals is highly competitive. It can be extremely stressful. Even making time to write can be stressful. And there are health risks in sitting for long periods, so try not to sit writing for more than an hour at a time. Finally, be sure to celebrate thoroughly when your article is accepted. Remind yourself that writing for academic journals is what you want to do – that your writing will make a difference in some way.

These points are taken from the 3rd edition of Writing for Academic Journals.

Rowena Murray is professor in education and director of research at the University of the West of Scotland – follow it on Twitter @UniWestScotland

Journals, Research

New Semester New Era

By Zaki Yamani ZakariaNo Comments

MilleniumLabThe new semester just started signalling a new era in my career. The 4 years study leave duration just ended in June and I have been really busy preparing for the submission of my Ph.D thesis. Thank God that was completed. After such a long period of time, I am now an active lecturer which means I have classes and other tasks.

First I would like to welcome my new students. I hope I can give the best our of me to them. I hope they can learn from my experience and knowledge. I hope they will come out 4 years later a good, reliable and respected engineer. Good luck to all of you.

I was just informed today by my supervisor that my VIVA is going to be held this October (next month). That’s fine. I just want to get over it as fast possible. Wish me luck.

p/s: It has been quite some time since I updated my semi-official site. Despite of my tight schedule, I’ll try to update this site once in a while.

p/p/s: Image is the Millenium Lab in Newcastle University, UK. A place where I had my research attachment for 2 months in 2012.


Is Cyanobacterium the Answer for the REAL Renewable Energy?

By Zaki Yamani ZakariaNo Comments

After lunch just now, I read the latest buzz via yahoo.com and I stumbled upon a news that attracts my attention. Since I’m involve in the renewable energy research area, I found the title quite catchy and I could not resist reading it… The title of the article:

Mass. Company making diesel with sun, water, CO2

Is this really the answer for the renewable energy dilemma? Joule Unlimited, the company that developed organism called cyanobacterium claims that the fuel produced is almost like diesel and ethanol. They make the fuel from natural resources such as sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. The most interesting thing is that they say, with the emergence of this new technology, they can eliminate the middle man!!! Who is the middle man?

The answer is “biomass”.

For further reading, click here.

Image credited to news.yahoo.com/nphotos.

green, News, Research

Welcome to the new Zaki Yamani Zakaria Page

By Zaki Yamani ZakariaNo Comments

After being temporary idle, I have decided to make my site active. I want to provide fresh updates on my activities as well as subjects associated with my career and chemical engineering field.

I welcome any suggestions or comments for improvement of my official page.

As for now, I’m in my 4th semester of my Ph.D and I’m scheduled to complete my studies at the end of 2nd quarter 2012.


Personal, Research

Egypt: Nanotechnology Comes to AUC

By Zaki Yamani ZakariaNo Comments

This article details research being carried out at the Yousef Jameel Science and Technology Research Center (YJSTRC) at The American University in Cairo (AUC), Egypt, in the nanoscience and other technology-oriented fields. AUC says their new research includes “…the development of novel diagnostic tests for sensitive detection of the hepatitis C virus; detection of cancer biomarkers, as well as creating a new generation of nanodevices that include smart bricks with tiny sensors, which can analyze building safety and warn of fires and earthquakes.” The AUC is using a variety of nanoparticles, including gold and nanocrystals, to develop unique diagnostic tests for detection of the hepatitis C virus. Sherif Sedky, a physics professor and associate director of YJSTRC, added that they “…are also working on developing energy harvesters that could convert wasted energy into a useful one, which could then be used to charge devices implemented inside the human body, as well as developing miniaturized antennas and high precision motion systems that are suitable for space applications.” The projects are funded by grants from YJSTRC and the Arab Science Technology Foundation in the United Arab Emirates. The article can be viewed online at the link below.


Name change highlights links between engineering and biology

By Zaki Yamani ZakariaNo Comments

nanotechnologyThis news is adopted from Princeton University website.

Reflecting the growing intersection of biology and engineering, the Department of Chemical Engineering will change its name as of July 1, 2010, to the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

“Adding ‘biological’ to our name makes a public statement,” said Richard Register, who chairs the department. “It signals to the community — especially prospective graduate students and faculty — our commitment to leading in this area of great scientific and social importance.”

The name change was formally approved at the Faculty Meeting on Dec. 7.

The field of chemical engineering has had longstanding ties to biology, Register noted. Fermentation processes, discovered millennia ago, became a modern tool for chemical production and most recently in making advanced biofuels. Chemical engineers pioneered the use of polymeric materials (plastics) for implantable medical devices and controlled drug delivery.

These connections have developed rapidly in the last decade, and now about a third of the department’s faculty members focus a significant portion of their research on questions related to biology. Two senior faculty members, Christodoulos Floudas and Robert Prud’homme, have moved much of their research into biological engineering. Floudas collaborates with biologists to apply his expertise in optimization to the analysis and design of proteins. Prud’homme has leveraged his understanding of polymers and nanoscale processes to develop innovative drug-delivery technologies.

Read more

Featured, News

Talented Men Leave – Dead Wood Doesn’t

By Zaki Yamani Zakaria1 Comment


Every company faces the problem of people leaving the company for better pay or profile.

Early this year, Mark, a senior software designer, got an offer from a prestigious international firm to work in its India operations developing specialized software. He was thrilled by the offer.

He had heard a lot about the CEO. The salary was great. The company had all the right systems in place employee-friendly human resources (HR) policies, a spanking new office, and the very best technology,even a canteen that served superb food.

Twice Mark was sent abroad for training. ‘My learning curve is the sharpest it’s ever been,’ he said soon after he joined.

Last week, less than eight months after he joined, Mark walked out of the job.

Why did this talented employee leave ?

Arun quit for the same reason that drives many good people away.

The answer lies in one of the largest studies undertaken by the Gallup Organization. The study surveyed over a million employees and 80,000 managers and was published in a book called ‘First Break All The Rules’. It came up with this surprising finding:

If you’re losing good people, look to their immediate boss .Immediate boss is the reason people stay and thrive in an organization. And he ‘s the reason why people leave. When people leave they take knowledge, experience and contacts with them, straight to the competition.

‘People leave managers not companies,’ write the authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

Mostly manager drives people away?

HR experts say that of all the abuses, employees find humiliation the most intolerable. The first time, an employee may not leave,but a thought has been planted. The second time, that thought gets strengthened. The third time, he looks for another job.

When people cannot retort openly in anger, they do so by passive aggression. By digging their heels in and slowing down. By doing only what they are told to do and no more.. By omitting to give the boss crucial information. Dev says: ‘If you work for a jerk, you basically want to get him into trouble. You don ‘t have your heart and soul in the job.’

Different managers can stress out employees in different ways – by being too controlling, too suspicious,too pushy, too critical, but they forget that workers are not fixed assets, they are free agents. When this goes on too long, an employee will quit – often over a trivial issue.

Talented men leave. Dead wood doesn’t.


How to Spec Lighting for Sight Glass Applications

By Zaki Yamani ZakariaNo Comments

This new white paper from L.J. Star explains how to specify lighting for sight glass applications. It covers the surprising relationship between voltage and wattage, how to mitigate heat concerns, the relationship between reflectors and bulb position, and the difference between foot-candles, lumens, and lux.

Handy reference charts give the recommended distances for different types of explosion-proof and non-explosion-proof lights.

View this FREE white paper


Why Performance Management Matters

By Zaki Yamani ZakariaNo Comments

Upstream oil and gas exploration and production is a skill-based industry made up of highly trained individuals, and its use of advanced technologies and computerization is unmatched. Yet there is pressing demand in the upstream, as in other industries, to move away from point solutions and over-reliance on spreadsheets.
This need is exacerbated for the upstream by increasing volatility in supply, demand and prices; the need to tap into difficult-to-access reserves; and the need to increase recovery from existing wells.

It’s news then, but not entirely surprising, that oil and gas professionals are increasingly drawn to the idea of performance management based on a common business-intelligence platform.

“What we’ve seen,” says Paul Hoy, industry director, IBM Cognos Software, “is that the petroleum industry, like a number of others, is in a state of transition, moving from automation of day-to-day transactions to the strategic use of information as a means for driving optimized business operations.”

Performance-management applications include business intelligence (BI), which can be said to describe a decision-support system that relies on historical, current and predictive views of business operations based on data gathered from disparate sources. In production-driven industries, performance-management applications—by integrating on-site process monitoring, operations decision-making, and business functions—allow better decision making based on a single version of the truth.

“IBM Cognos is used today by petroleum companies for performance management,” Hoy says, “to control costs, improve customer service, maximize productivity and manage all elements of their upstream operations.”

IBM Cognos makes it easier for the oil and gas industry to benefit from performance management by providing tools, including a pre-defined industry-based data model. Such tools ease implementation and furnish industry-specific applications. Companies tend to engage with the system based on the need to solve a specific problem, then, based on its benefits and flexibility, deploy it in other uses throughout the organization.

CLICK HERE to access this alert to learn uses, methods, and benefits of performance management and business intelligence based on a common platform, especially as applied to upstream oil and gas.


Diana goes green, opts for sustainability

By Zaki Yamani ZakariaNo Comments

vag-goes-green-by-jin-chen_0Barnard’s new Diana Center may be bright orange at the moment, but planners and architects plan to make sure the building “goes green.”

When the Diana opens in 2010, it will follow in the footsteps of a number of recently renovated Columbia structures opting for sustainability, as it has a certified silver rating from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The newly renovated Columbia Faculty House was also LEED certified.

“Barnard is really conscientious of our community and also our environment,” said Giselle Léon, BC ’10 and vice president of communications of the Barnard Student Government Association, said. Léon is also a member of the Diana Opening Committee.

The Diana will include a host of environmentally friendly features, such as a daylight dimming system and recycled building materials. Perhaps the most visually striking feature of the Diana Center will be the green planted roof, which can help to reduce storm runoff, extend the life of the roofing membrane, and reduce the heat load of the building. The roof will also provide an additional social area for students as well as resources for the biology department.

Continue reading the full article here.

Featured, green
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