Tips and tricks for publishing in psychology with Dr Rachael Fox
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (00:08):
Hello and welcome to Psych Attack. I'm Dr. Jasmine B. MacDonald. In this episode, Dr. Rachael Fox and I share some tips and tricks for publishing in psychology that will be especially useful for listeners new to publishing. I hope you're going well and have settled in with a warm cup of tea.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (00:28):
Rachel, welcome back to Psych Attack, round two.
Dr Rachael Fox (00:31):
Thank you for having me.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (00:32):
This time around we're gonna talk about tips and tricks for publishing in psychology, which is kind of fun because last time we kind of poo-pooed publishing in psychology,
Dr Rachael Fox (00:43):
Felt negative by the end . In
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (00:46):
The last episode when we caught up, we were talking about critical aspects or taking a critical lens to publishing in psychology and we looked at, you know, why do people publish in psychology? How quality is thought about in psychological research and psych publishing, the kinds of journals that exist and how they're ranked. And also certain groups that can be excluded or disadvantaged through mainstream publishing processes. Today we're gonna take a different focus and think about if you are publishing or you're intending to publish, what are some tips and tricks? That might be a good segue Rachel, for you to tell the listeners a little bit about yourself in context for what we're gonna discuss. Yeah,
Dr Rachael Fox (01:28):
Sure. I'm a senior lecturer in the school of psychology at Charles State University and I live in Wagga Wagga, new South Wales and that's about five hours in land from Sydney. And my research and work is mostly around community psychology and critical psychology. And I, I do exclusively sort of qualitative research. I am also the editor of the, or one of two editors actually I should say this year of the Australian Community Psychologist. And that's a journal that comes under the Australian Psychological Society. It's a much smaller journal. Um, also in the committee of the college as well, college of Community Psychology
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (02:06):
In the previous episode that we did together when we took that critical focus on publishing, there is a nice introduction to the episode all about Rachel and Rachel's research and kind of the role of uh, being an editor for a journal. So there's a lot of really great context and interesting stuff there. I highly recommend going back and having a listen to that. So I am thinking here our first point, finding a journal.
Dr Rachael Fox (02:34):
I feel like you wanna find a journal before you finish writing a paper. It's not a great idea to have a finished paper and then go look for a journal. 'cause a lot of the time you actually need to tailor it quite a lot to the journal that you're writing for, don't you think?
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (02:50):
Oh yeah, absolutely. Otherwise it's a lot of heartache towards
Dr Rachael Fox (02:55):
The end. Yes, well yeah because then you look at the scope or whatever and find out that actually you need something different. And there's so many different things that you tailor an article to a journal. So, so many different ways in which you tailor it. If it's a Australian journal, you know, you're writing and if doing Australian research there's lots of things you don't have to explain. But if it's an international journal or a European journal or an American journal, you've actually got to put lots of context in about Australian policy or something that explains to an international audience. So figuring out the audience of that journal. If that journal, for example, you've done qualitative research and that journal doesn't often have qualitative research. You've got to quite carefully explain what you did or if it's like a discursive journal and then you know, you can get real complex into discursive theory.
Dr Rachael Fox (03:44):
So lots of subtle ways in which you tailor an article to a journal. So you probably will have done the research or whatever it is you're writing about, you'll have done lots of work on it. But it's probably a good idea to find a journal before you finish an article. I was thinking about that because it really depends on who's writing the article, but if you've done some research and now you want to produce some results and show people what you've produced, you probably did a literature search to find out what else is out there and you are also thinking about having an introduction to that piece of research that explains what else is out there. And we'll probably get into that somewhere about how you write and that's what a conventional article that has research in it. That's not what everybody is doing. But most people who are writing a manuscript have read lots of existing literature.
Dr Rachael Fox (04:38):
And the reason I say that is that you are already reading journals and there are some that you'll admire and there are some articles that you'll admire and some that you think are good and some that you think are close to your work. And there might be more than one article you've read from the same journal. And I always think that's a good direction to think where am I reading, which journals am I reading in these days? That's not that obvious. When I was like undergrad, we'd literally be stood in the library looking at a paper copy of a journal . Like it was obvious that you were looking at the same journal but sometimes you're just filing, you know, firing through different articles and you don't realize that you'd be looking at the same journal. Mm-hmm But there will be a group of journals that you spend more time in.
Dr Rachael Fox (05:23):
Those might be your space. Now there's also a couple of search engines that are really handy if you aren't too sure, particularly if you think what you're writing is a bit unusual and you don't feel like there's an obvious home for it. This really varies 'cause you might be in a discipline or a sub-discipline that really just has this group of journals, you know, you're absolutely gonna write for them. You've been thinking about these journals for a while, uh, you know what their audience is but sometimes you really aren't sure 'cause maybe it's kind of a in between disciplines article or it's a bit peripheral or you know. So a lot of your work I think often has that. Yeah, you bridging several disciplines. So one of them is there's a CLAT database and then there's one called Jane Bio Semantics. But those are both just a website that you can go to and you can put keywords in and find a list of journals.
Dr Rachael Fox (06:16):
So those are also really useful and I think those are great. They've just emerged in recent years and that makes it easier. So you can, with a Claro it one, you can actually match a manuscript. So there's a, on that main page there's a bunch of things you can use search terms but you can also click match manuscript. And um, yeah as I said, you can put things in like your keywords, the main topics that you're doing and it'll give you a list of journals and that's quite handy because it might be things that you hadn't heard of before or didn't realize existed. How
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (06:45):
Does that work? Is it like based off articles, similar articles that cite that paper or similar search terms or?
Dr Rachael Fox (06:54):
So it's a particular group of journals. So we talked last time about the ranked journals. So it's clari it, so it's Web of Science and that's the database of the journals which have made it onto a ranking and they actually own that database. So it's all those journals. So click on match manuscripts. Oh I have to create an account Classic. We usually log in through our institutions, don't we? So I can't look at it right now, but I have used it before and I've used the Jane bio semantics one as well, which I think that one is a free piece of software that was created. Oh that one's great 'cause you can insert your title of your article or you can insert your whole abstract and it just looks for everything from PubMed. Mm-hmm . And that one actually says on the front that you just still have to be aware of any predatory journals that it might have picked up.
Dr Rachael Fox (07:47):
Yeah, okay. Yeah, so lemme just give you a list of journals that you might not have thought of before. Yeah, so you really wanna find a journal that you think your article will fit in. Some of that relates to methodology, some of it relates to topic, some of it relates to kind of geography. If it's a very niche Nordic journal it might be hard to get Australian research into some of the US journals are very difficult to get into if you're not in the US. So the next thing I do, if I'm selecting a journal, if I've had a, I've got some kind of list and I've got some ideas or I've actually thought of some is go to them and actually the first thing I do is a lot of journals, most of them you can search the journal itself and I put in keywords in relation to my methodology and also my topic to see whether that journal has previously published similar articles.
Dr Rachael Fox (08:38):
And if any of your methodology is a bit niche and that journal has never published it, that's a bit of a red flag. I suppose that's one of my sort of red flags of like that's journal might want nothing to do with me topic-wise as well. So if I'm finding that journal has published similar work and then the other important thing to note about that is that that search will give you stuff from however old that journal is and for however long they have a database you really want to see that they were publishing things like that in recent years because the culture of a journal can change. So 10 years ago they might have been publishing qualitative research and now they are not. So if you see loads of it but actually none of it in the last five years, that can also be an issue. The final thing I think people should feel they can do is to ask the journal Yes. Is to send them a description of what they're writing. Is this something that that journal would accept? Oh the other thing I missed of course is go look at their scope, go read what they say they accept.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (09:45):
Excellent. Yes. Yeah, we wanna point to is to check very, very carefully scope and formatting requirements. So let's put a pin in there 'cause I wanna come back to two things. The first one is where you were saying around you should feel okay to contact the journal. It's really interesting how many people don't do this. And I often share, it's usually with masters or honors candidates that I've supervised or people who maybe haven't published as much like early career. And I'll always encourage them to reach out and people think that they're not allowed to do it or they'll get a response back that is really brief and says something like the scope of what we accept is on the website or we can't comment pre-submission. If you get that response, they're not that interested in your work. , you know like I've not been an editor of a journal but I have always used this strategy of contacting an editor beforehand and just saying hey this is the piece of work I have and I think it's well suited to your journal. Here's maybe why I'm not quite sure 'cause it might be niche in methods and the times when review has been really straightforward is when an editor has gotten back to me relatively quickly and said please go ahead and submit that is of interest to us. Mm-hmm and the times when I've gone ahead and submitted when people just say we can't tell you before submission, usually it's a pain in the butt and they don't want the paper , you know like,
Dr Rachael Fox (11:14):
I mean yeah those journals. Yeah there's friendly journals and there's non-friendly journals and uh, sometimes you still wanna get into the non-friendly journals and sometimes you can but it definitely gives you some information when they communicate like that you're like okay this is gonna be a authoritarian journal should we call it Exactly. But we'll get to this later as well. But if you get formatting wrong, it's one of those that will reject it 'cause you've got the formatting wrong. I think if you're, I mean if you're really sure that they absolutely publish what you do, I'm not sure you do need to contact the editor if you can see that it's absolutely your area. Uh, there's lots of papers that are similar to yours but particularly if you're not sure, you're not sure whether that journal will accept what you are doing, then I think it's really, really useful.
Dr Rachael Fox (11:59):
And if you're really polite and you're quite concise, you don't write like a massive essay and you're quite clear about what it is you're gonna be doing and you're polite, you know, most people will get back to you and they'll be honest and say, I'm sorry that's not enough data for what we accept. And it's quick for them to do that as well. It's longer for them to read a paper to decide if they're gonna send it off for review than it is to go, yeah, sorry, that's not really our scope. Sometimes they'll suggest other journals you might send it to as well, which is useful.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (12:28):
Totally. I've definitely had that because of some of the stuff that I've done topic-wise might be suited to some quite mainstream highly ranked journals but methods might be not quite what they usually publish. One interesting thing I found is some editors will say here's our sister journal .
Dr Rachael Fox (12:48):
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (12:49):
That they wanna increase submissions to but doesn't quite have the ranking or the prestige of there.
Dr Rachael Fox (12:54):
They're always trying to get things in there . Yeah, right.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (12:59):
Which is, I mean it is kind and it's generous to take the time and make that suggestion but also I think this topic is a little bit of a lie Rachel, because I think it's really how to choose journals and to not just have one when you are looking for a journal for your papers, you wouldn't stop with one right. Be coming up with three or fours because we expect you may need to move on to the next one. So you do all that searching at once.
Dr Rachael Fox (13:23):
I'm doing, I'm going for the one that I think's the best one I want, which might be slightly different reasons, it might be the highest ranked I might be thinking, hmm, I might not manage to get into that one. Uh, but it might not be the highest ranked, it might be the one that has the audience I want or has the scope that I want. And there's one that could be higher ranked that I'm not too sure about. But yeah, there's usually a group of journals that you're looking at and eventually you pick one because you need to write and finish an article that's specifically tailored to that. And it's difficult to tailor an article to five journals 'cause they will have quite different scopes. Maybe if you're in a discipline where there's like a lot of similar journals, maybe you could write one that works for all that. If you fail to get into your one that you wanna go for, you're usually slightly editing it to put it into the next one or you should anyway. Yeah you should tailor it again.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (14:14):
So in that process I think it's really useful to keep a document history like this was the original submission and then this is what it was like after review just so if you have to go on to another journal, you've got that original version.
Dr Rachael Fox (14:28):
So I've got the RA's spreadsheet, which I mean era a's kind of not got that kind of spreadsheet in the same way. And this one's probably old but I've got the journals, the huge list from the r a and then I've got one that's called my e r a of what I have and I cut and paste the ones that I'm interested in and it's got all the information in them. I mean I could have put more information in there probably, probably. But yeah, it means I can sit and look at the list sometimes because
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (14:54):
In reality you're not doing this search from scratch every time. You know, you're building up through experience and through doing more and more studies in a, in related areas and through submitting somewhere and not having a great experience and or having a really awesome one. Sometimes I'll submit to and there's a couple of journals I have in mind that aren't as highly ranked but they do publish stuff in my space and their absolute pleasure to work with. The review is always done in a way that the reviewers have been thorough but they're not unkind , you know? Mm-hmm Yeah. And the constructive the response you get back. Yeah, exactly. Or the response you get back is whether it's minimum or the level of changes actually reflects what the feedback says. So the
Dr Rachael Fox (15:35):
Other thing to say about that is that if they have had a good experience of you, they are also wanting to work with you again. So mutual, if you feel like you've had a good experience, they probably have too. Um, hopefully , unless you're completely um, deluded but , if they've had a good experience with you, they're more likely to publish your work because they trust and they know you're gonna be someone who does the revisions in time and has a good style of writing and a good article. So they feel that way too. Yeah,
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (16:05):
It's interesting. I hadn't thought of it that way.
Dr Rachael Fox (16:06):
Yeah, because authors can be a pain in the butt I'm afraid. I
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (16:12):
Feel like I really wanna unpack that
Dr Rachael Fox (16:16):
Some people are hard to work with. Everyone in the process can be a nightmare and authors can also be quite difficult . So
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (16:26):
Yeah, I think that's a nice way to balance the conversation. I'm just thinking from the author's perspective. Yeah,
Dr Rachael Fox (16:31):
That's great. You have to stop feeling like you're a customer, don't you? But yeah, no it does go. But always
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (16:37):
One of your points is in checking the scope really clearly you have started talking about this, but I just wanted to make sure, check in with you and see was there anything else?
Dr Rachael Fox (16:45):
Every journal's, website's a little bit different. It can be a bit of a tricky part when you're first looking to find the scope, don't you think? Yeah, they can be in different places and the big publishing houses have similar format across some journals but some vary. So what you'll find on the homepage will be some sort of introduction to the journal and probably a bunch of current articles or the current issue or something like that. Even if you are not subscribed to that journal or through your workplace, you can't get access to those articles. You should still be able to find all the information of their scope and what they expect you to do to submit an article and all those sorts of things. And the scope of a journal, it's usually just about a page long it's describing and it's very carefully worded what topically and also methodologically are the contents of this journal.
Dr Rachael Fox (17:36):
What does it include? Usually more what it includes than what it doesn't include, but it will say the discipline area, the topic sorts of areas. It might talk about other disciplines being welcome but it might also talk about the methods of research that are welcome there or that it publishes. It might also talk about the types of articles. So we are getting talking more about research articles 'cause it's a dominant area of academic publishing but it's not the only one. So it might also talk about uh, meta reviews or literature reviews or discussion papers or policy discussion or there might be special sections of that journal that are more commentary or reflections and things like that. Practice papers, that's another common thing. So that's all in the scope description that all encompasses scope and it can be quite broad so you can struggle to know whether you fit and also it can be broad but the actual reality can be narrower.
Dr Rachael Fox (18:35):
I mean that's worth noting. You still should go look at what articles are getting published because it might have quite a broad sounding scope, but what the editor and team want might have somehow become narrow for reasons of that scope might have existed for a long time and the editorial team might be more recent and they have ideas and they should have put that into the scope but sometimes they haven't. But you should definitely take it very seriously. Absolutely. Hmm. For me doing qualitative research, one of the things I always check very early on is the word limit. Because if it's 3000, 4,000 words, some of my bigger pieces of qualitative research are just, it's just so hard to write such a short piece. So I have to think quite carefully about whether I can do that. And the length of words also speaks to me about the types of articles are probably more likely to be quantitative.
Dr Rachael Fox (19:29):
I mean that's just if you're doing qualitative, so again the formatting requirements can be hard to find. So they're in different parts of a journals, pages should be somewhere under submission or guidelines to authors or how to submit. But it varies in its language. So you're sometimes flicking around a bit together and it varies what they tell you. Some of them don't even have a word count. And again, sometimes I'm emailing an editor to say, could you just let me know what your word count is or do you have one just to get some idea? Or I'm even sometimes haven't been able to get any of that information so I'm like uh, converting PDFs to word to actually count how many words most of the articles are to try and guess Some will do a page limit instead of a word count. Yeah, that's from and may still exist where they actually have to print.
Dr Rachael Fox (20:16):
Yeah. Interesting. That's why that exists. So some journals still print and still have very strict guidelines on how many pages their journal can have in print. And actually that page limit can be quite fluid because the editor is thinking about the issue as a whole. And so if they've got some that are shorter and some that are longer, that's okay or some must might just stick to strict. But in my experience, a lot of them, when they're working towards an issue, they might allow somebody to have more pages 'cause they know someone else has got less. There's a
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (20:47):
Submission that I'm working on with a colleague and where we wanna submit has a page restriction. The kind of stuff we're doing exists in separate places, but it has been brought together like this before. The approach that I plan to take is to point this out in the cover letter to the editor. It's a place I have published before and say Hey, I know we've exceeded a little bit, I just wanna bring that to your attention. It's about this much but here's the rationale for it. In bringing these different things together, you're very kindly smiling and nodding right now, but what is your reaction to that as an editor? I
Dr Rachael Fox (21:24):
Think it's absolutely worth doing and when you've got a justification for it, the worst is when someone does it and uh, hasn't said anything and hopes no one will notice . .
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (21:34):
It's just a little bit cheeky.
Dr Rachael Fox (21:36):
I'll hopefully get away with this. And if they're a professor they're like, I'll definitely get away with this . It's much better to be upfront and to say that. Yeah, absolutely. And then different editors will respond differently. Some will say No you can't do that. Some will say, oh okay that's reasonable. Yeah, a lot of people will say yes, absolutely. A lot of these situations it's good to ask and to have a good clear, like you said, rationale I think makes a big difference. Yeah, absolutely.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (22:02):
So interesting how in psychology we're looping back to the social aspects of hey maybe just have open communication and ask or explain what you're doing
Dr Rachael Fox (22:11):
. I mean the system doesn't look as though you can because it's very technology based now and it's disconnected from people. A lot of journals. You submit your article to a system, you get an automatic system message. Sometimes it's difficult to find an editor's email address. There's almost always an editor's email address to ask them questions. So it seems as though it's a very abstract system. But yeah, there is a person, it's quite hard to visualize the fact that they're all people, everybody's people at working because it is so electronic now and it's very um, you know, it's blind review and stuff like that. It's very removed and disconnected. But yeah, always it's good to ask. Definitely. So the formatting requirements, you should check really, really carefully check. You can meet them, check you understand them, check you have a copy of them, you're going to need them check.
Dr Rachael Fox (23:02):
You have checked all pages of the website that you have understood everything that they say and they vary. Unfortunately every single one I find is very different. Some of them have a very strict description of format, some don't, some you've got to go to another website. So Sage I think I always find has their own. I find that hard 'cause some journals say who are sage direct you to it and some don't. Some have their own. Yeah, I still get very confused about which formatting this journal is asking me to do. So I still have to look really carefully at what they're asking 'cause it's really important to get the formatting perfect on your article. It's one of the things that really helps you when you submit it. Mm-hmm
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (23:45):
With some bigger publishing houses, you go through content review with the reviewer and the editor to get accepted and then it goes to a copy editor. Mm-hmm It's not content specific and it is, it's a really quick turnaround where you don't have long in terms of timeframe to get on top of it. And probably that is the least positive kind of communication I've had in publishing is with the copy editor end because they're really trying to smash it out quickly and move on to the next thing. Yeah. And the systems for tracking and changing formatting and editing at that point are often really tricky as well. So just getting it as close as possible before submission.
Dr Rachael Fox (24:20):
Oh, if it's the kind of electronic system where you've got to copy and paste into a box every section, oh my gosh, I've had somewhere I could just throw the computer across the room by the end of it where you've gotta put your references in a different field and it mucks it up and yeah. Some of those electronic sy Yeah so get it. Get it as right as you can the first time. Yeah. I often also think about the differences in different forms of writing even that look very similar and look to most people the same. So an honors dissertation is often a bit longer than a journal article, but it's the sort of traditional looking journal article of introduction methods, results and discussion. And yet it's so different in lots of ways what you need to be doing to show, and it doesn't have to just be research that we talk about here, but you have to be very, very clear to a reader who's reading it, why what you are writing matters.
Dr Rachael Fox (25:17):
And that's different to when something's being marked uh, in any form. So lots of people have done something before where they've been marked and now they're writing something where it's being read and when it's being marked, you're showing that you understand and you're showing that you're capable and competent. So you're writing more about theory for example, but in a journal article you are trying to show why what you are saying is important for that person to read or valuable, not necessarily because it's new or because it's, you know, with stats because it's a positive result. It might be, you know, I know that's a big problem in stats, that there's too much, there's nothing gets published that's a negative result. That shouldn't be the case. Whatever you're showing has value and a journal won't be publishing it if it doesn't. I hope , although probably you can somewhere find something that's of less value.
Dr Rachael Fox (26:07):
But yeah, you striving to show that something has value and that means it's punchier in a way. That's why articles are shorter than most marked pieces of writing. It's very to the point, it's very succinct. So your introduction, its whole purpose is to give enough background for you to get to whatever point you're making. Which in research is a research question or aims and in a discussion paper, you know, there's sort of more literature in it, but your background in a research paper is there in its entirety to get to the point and for the reader to understand that point and feel that that point is justified. So you might need to describe Australian government context or something like that if it's an international journal so that they understand why the aims are valuable. It needs to have really clear justification for those aims. So justification sections in something that's marked might be a bit longer and a bit vaguer and a marker will be like, okay, 'cause it's not a massive part of the mark, but for a paper it's almost so important and it's got to be very succinct, very short.
Dr Rachael Fox (27:12):
But the justification for the aims of what was done are really important. So it really has to be very clear to the reader. And then what you did, if it's research again, has to be very succinct, very edited down, much shorter 'cause you're not showing that you were competent and good at what you do and that you are okay to pass. That you're actually just giving them enough information that they understand the findings and that they're valuable. If it's a methodology paper, of course you're spending way longer on describing what happened during methods or what occurs in the process of doing a piece of particular method. But if you're showing results, it's quite pared down. And then results again, it needs to show what's important. So you're always thinking about the reader and discussion, what is the impact of this? What has this achieved, what does this say?
Dr Rachael Fox (28:01):
Trying to persuade someone that this has value and that style of writing is something that academics are working towards their whole career learning how to do. Again, that inequality exists in terms of, it's really difficult for writers who are not constantly working in academia to do that. Reading articles that are out there in that journal especially and articles that you think are well-written and have a similar format to what you need to write, perhaps even have a similar topic. And obviously you're not plagiarizing them, but learning from that writing and seeing that writing and what it does and how it does things effectively and consciously thinking about how things are written is one way to try to aim for that. It's treated as though it's the best way to write and I'm really critical of that, but it's a very, very particular way to write. You can definitely get creative within that. I mean I think that actually is some of the best writing where you suddenly start to talk about your reflexivity and reflections as a researcher and you're actually using the first person and that's supposedly transgressive but comes across fantastically. And that takes, you know, a bit of confidence. But I don't think everyone has to write the same way. I think creativity in writing actually comes across better because lots of people do write the same way.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (29:17):
I think that focus that you placed on shifting work that you've created or submission for a thesis or something or a dissertation is, is really important. And in that process you definitely create more content than you would put in an article submission. But also those of us who submitted thesis some time ago, we still did that extra writing and thinking that might not necessarily end up in a paper I'm thinking of. So I've published a series of systematic lit reviews and I wouldn't put the method in those anymore. You kind of suss out what an editor wants. But I would say if I'm publishing something similar to what I've done before, I would say, here are the key things that I've done. Like very brief for a full version, see here. Yeah. And usually editors or journals that I've worked with have liked that. 'cause it keeps the word count down.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (30:08):
Yeah. Or you might be working on a topic where a review paper that I did a couple years ago was for a journal where the audience would know these various psychological disorders that I was looking at. But in developing my own thinking, I wrote out the descriptions of these various disorders and why I was looking at them, how they were similar or different. It doesn't end up in the paper, but I would always put this stuff in a cover letter. You know, we've got content that could be slipped straight in if you want more context around disorders or definitions or we've got a method section that we can easily incorporate. So if you think you're gonna cut corners like that, it can be good. Or try to be concise. Thinking about the audience or what an editor might like can be useful to put that in a cover letter.
Dr Rachael Fox (30:48):
You've definitely always got that material ready to go for reviewer asks for it too. You're like, yep, got that. Mm-hmm It's easy to do.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (30:55):
Yeah. And then an editor's not thinking, oh geez, that might take a really long time. This is major revisions. You're like, I got you. I already have this written . Here's one I prepared earlier
Dr Rachael Fox (31:05):
. And it's a good point that it is also valuable to make that journals on the whole are a space where a lot of shorthand is used linguistically and jargon we'd probably call that. So you're often saying that you did something in a really concise way and all the readers that are reading it know exactly what you mean. Mm-hmm . And that is again excluding kind of way in which they work. But if you are complying with that, you are using the kind of shorthand that people use. So a good example would be for qualitative analysis in marked work somebody would spend lots of time describing exactly how they did analysis, like a page so that they can show how competent they are and that it'll get marked positively in a journal article. You just cite the place where it tells you how to do that analysis.
Dr Rachael Fox (31:55):
You just, it's one sentence, it's no more, you don't do anything else. Everybody knows what that method is. If you've, if you wanna say something valuable, again, is it valuable? Does it add, if you wanna say something useful about, I've got a student right now who's combined for code analysis with narrative analysis and it's really innovative and they'll probably write a methodology paper on that, which obviously would be a longer thing and they'll probably be able to refer back to it. But they probably would need a little bit more explanation to the reader about what they did and how they did it. But it's really short. And then going the other way though, I've seen you look at quantitative papers where people state what measures they've used and you're like, um, do you wanna say why you've used those measures? Like there's no justification at all. So you do have to show why something's important and you can't just say, I use this measure, this measure, this measure. You have to say why I thought that was so yeah,
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (32:49):
, I get really frustrated when I see, you know, my nine to five job is rapidly reviewing evidence-based literature to provide recommendations for practitioners. And when I see people say this is the measure that they've used, but they don't tell you what they're trying to operationally define by using that measure, this is a measure of this. It just really frustrates me because then I distrust everything else in the paper. Yeah.
Dr Rachael Fox (33:15):
So make sure you don't leave out vital information, but there's a lot of shorthand. Yeah. And as I said, if that's really difficult, which can be absolutely. And it's a learning curve for sure. It's taken me lots of time to do that. Then looking at how other people write, I mean there are the things to say about learning how to write that way that's so particular. I think the two things that are most valuable in increasing your knowledge and your ability in that writing might be a bit excluding for some people. But one is any forms of marking that you can do. And that depends on who listeners are. But again, it's not journal work, but it just develops my skills in writing by looking at and explaining and giving feedback on how to write helps me write. It's valuable to me as much as it is to anybody else.
Dr Rachael Fox (33:59):
And the other one that obviously is very similar is doing reviews. Mm-hmm. . So being a reviewer and journals are, again, you would think that you couldn't ask a journal to be a reviewer, but they are so desperate for reviewers all the time, constantly 24 7. They'll probably send you a article that day . So, uh, I mean you've sort of gotta tell 'em that you've got some skills for it. People do a good job in reviewing and there there's lots of resources out there which you can freely get through publishing houses like Sage, which show you good ways to review and you can just Google those. But actually doing reviews of papers again really helps with your writing. If you have any sort of supervisor who might be an academic supervisor, you can do them together at first. Lots of journals now allow supervisors to do the review with somebody and they let them know that that's what they're doing if it's the first time or first few times. So I think reviewing articles is also a great way to develop your skills.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (34:59):
Any process or skill that you're trying to develop. Trying to make it explicit why you enjoy reading something or why something makes sense to you. Yeah. Being presented in a certain way is gonna help you in creating your own content. Absolutely. Yeah.
Dr Rachael Fox (35:12):
Something looks good or you realize something's missing. You're like, oh yeah, that does need to be clearer. You would see that easier in your own work.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (35:20):
When you were saying methods are condensed down to one sentence, I chuckled in my head. 'cause in the, the qu stuff that I read is often me and however many tens of thousands of people have cited this paper is thematic analysis. Brawn and Clark.
Dr Rachael Fox (35:38):
I mean that's a whole other podcast where I could talk about how I'm so frustrated that journals don't write or and I want there and I want articles to say something. Yeah. I guess we could just put one massive disclaimer there is that if you say you're doing somatic analysis, at the very least, please say from which epistemology , like you haven't just done matic analysis, you've done it from a phenomenological perspective or a positive perspective or a social constructionist perspective. Yeah. If you're saying then I'm assuming it's positivist because you haven't even thought about it.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (36:15):
Dr Rachael Fox (36:17):
I know. Absolutely. That's a whole other podcast. What I wish did go is journal article
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (36:21):
And that's for absolute clarity. So there's no mistaken understanding here. Braun and Clark's work is great and actually very detailed methodological work. The issue we raise here is just thinking that's enough in your own paper to have one sentence thematic analysis.
Dr Rachael Fox (36:36):
There's lots of detail in in in Brian Clark's work. They've got books and books you know, but yeah, no, everyone just says thematic analysis .
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (36:45):
Uh, amazing. What about another point we have here is get colleagues support
Dr Rachael Fox (36:49):
Feedback. Yeah. Some people have supervisors and should be getting good support and feedback, but that's often absolutely not the case. So it's really valuable to have people who will read your work for you or people who you can talk to and bounce off the idea and say you're struggling or, or just to get advice all the way through. Really anyone who is going through it as a peer at the same level would be a great peer to discuss. You know, you and I have discussed that's why we're doing this podcast over the year. Kind of what do we do with this horrendous review. Mm-hmm. or all sorts of things. So discussing the whole process through with somebody is just very valuable and doing it in isolation is not as useful. Uh, and then someone more senior as a mentor is also really valuable to have because they've got sort of more experience and they can say, um, you should argue back to the editor. Or you know, things you might not have thought you could do. When you've written something, having someone read it, it's like a pre-review would be very, very valuable and you want to find people that might be closer to the audience or who might be closer to the reviewers I suppose.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (37:56):
And I think there's been multiple times you and I have sat with reviewers feedback and because you just get it in text, I sometimes would read a response and think, oh I, I guess this is how I need to respond to it. And then hearing your perspective of, oh actually I think what they mean is this.
Dr Rachael Fox (38:12):
Yeah. It's easy to misread things or to, there's ambiguity. Yeah. Well I, I mean the other thing to say about that of course is that often you are writing with more than one person. So that's a different thing as well. 'cause I suppose that's all the way through. So far I've kind of spoke as though someone's writing on their own, but you're often writing in a team and hopefully that's a supportive experience. I think writing as a group is a, I don't know, I feel like that'd be a whole podcast on its own. It's really challenging and different every time and inevitably what happens is some people do more of the work or you wish you hadn't brought somebody on 'cause they're not doing any of the work or there's all sorts of tensions. But I guess those tensions are quite similar to lots of other work. You have similar tensions in groups. True. And uh, people I write really well with, I really value. Mm So you're often doing it together before you submit is proofread. Yeah. But getting the format and the proofreading. Right. Yeah.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (39:05):
And I, for me, I need to print it and to be away from my computer to see what it looks like because you have read it so you think you've read it so many times by that point. But there's something about holding the printed words that for me really helps getting a red pen or a colored pen and working through it
Dr Rachael Fox (39:28):
Once it's correctly formatted as well. It sort of looks a bit more finished. Mm. Not got notes all over the place and a bit of time as well. Like any writing a couple of days away from it, you come back, you see things a bit differently, as much as you can.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (39:42):
I got some feedback from someone on a piece that I was writing or submitted last week for a review internally at work as we have, you know, executive research directors in various levels of review. And a very impressive researcher pointed out a typo of something that had gone through many layers before it had gotten to them. I just felt really embarrassed but it made me have a flashback to one of the first things that I had written and sent to you for review when I was doing my PhD . And you were like, the feedback that you put in it was, I was trying to say this is high stakes for journalists but I had written S T E A K S and your comment was like low stakes.
Dr Rachael Fox (40:24):
Yeah, just low
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (40:25):
. It's very funny because that's, that has stuck with me
Dr Rachael Fox (40:30):
A funny spell. Yeah, I remember that too. I remember thinking, ha ha, that's really funny. Yeah, you don't get enough funny points when you're like doing academic writing. There's not enough fun in it. So I should remember that one and it's years ago.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (40:45):
Dr Rachael Fox (40:46):
having your formatting perfect and your proofreading perfect. Again, it's an unequal situation 'cause it's more challenging to get all that done uh, if English is not your first language. But getting it as good as it can be. I mean I suppose chat G P T can do it for you these days but it makes a difference. And if you have reviewers who are less kind than we would like them to be, it makes a big difference. The less kinder the reviewer, the bigger the difference. The any errors left. I mean there'll be some error in any article until it's final copy reading stage. But yeah, you wanna get it as well as possible. Get the formatting exactly how they said they wanted it. The referencing, especially if you're not an academic, you would think that formatting of references looks ridiculously particular, but it is how it has to be. And if you are an academic and you're having to do the a different one that you're not used to, that you're doing Harvard method or something, it's a right pain to try and do, but you gotta get it right. I find more often people who are more senior submit less finished stuff. Professors like professors are like, there you go, you'll sort the references out.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (41:55):
Yeah, you're welcome
Dr Rachael Fox (41:56):
. They probably get away with it too because people do want them. Yeah. But yeah, you should make sure it's, 'cause then there's no room for anyone to get 'cause uh, just like marked work again a review is getting a bit irked. Especially if they're not kind. So don't give them a reason to be irked. There are some journals I have heard the editors say in a public forum that if they have any article that has the incorrect format, when it's submitted it's rejected immediately. Interesting. So that exists and that it's particularly journals who have a very high number of papers submitted to them so they can afford to do that.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (42:31):
Decrease the distraction for them to focus on the content and the cool story that you're trying to tell and why it's important. Don't provide any avoidable distractions.
Dr Rachael Fox (42:42):
Yeah, that's right. And then you um, go back to the journal's webpage and try and figure out what the hell they mean when they're telling you to submit because every journal's different and they've got some kind of crazy electronic system.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (42:55):
It's a really beautiful experience when you go to submit something and you just have to email it to the journal. It's like Chef kiss . 'cause these systems are rough. Some of
Dr Rachael Fox (43:08):
Those systems are insane aren't they? Yeah. You've perfectly formatted your paper and now the system is asking you in a field to put all the authors and then put all the affiliations and then put the abstracts and then put the title. You're like, I've done that in the article. And then they also want you to upload the article. It's a mystery to me.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (43:27):
Yeah. And in that process, 'cause you don't see the next step in the submission portal until you get to it. So I do this and I suggest people I'm working with you haven't published before, do this of upload some blank documents, see what they want from you. You kind of, when you doing it, get really excited like, oh I'm done. I've written my paper no that you're just beginning ,
Dr Rachael Fox (43:54):
You feel like you're done and then three hours later you've booked to tell somebody Yeah, that's a good idea if you can go back because put the blank papers on it.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (44:04):
Um, because lots of journals will now ask for you to suggest reviewers and have specific information that you would need for them. Or you know, just having the or id for coauthors and stuff like that. It's um, can be a bit more of a fiddly process than you might expect. Yes. It can
Dr Rachael Fox (44:19):
Be a bit fiddly. Yeah, let's be kind and call it that. So be aware if that's gonna happen when you feel like you're done and then it's going to reviewers or you hope it's going to reviewers, they'll let you know. They should let you know. If you don't hear anything. If you, if you hear nothing, do email them . But after about two weeks, if you haven't heard confirmation that they received your paper, send them an email. So you should get confirmation. Often it comes through automatically on those systems like scholar one. So you should get confirmation that they've received it and that it's going to review us. And you don't get to find out rightly or wrongly Again, we can, we did debate that a little bit last time, but you don't get to find out at all who it's going to. Uh, usually it's two people on average.
Dr Rachael Fox (44:58):
They usually have some connection to the journal. You'll find with some journals that as soon as you submit, you get asked to do a review. So that's how you come be connected to the journal. And then, um, the journal itself is then struggling to get those reviews back from those reviewers. So it can take a while and that can seem odd because you're not seeing any of that process happen. And sometimes they'll let you know how that's going, but often you'll hear nothing at all. Sometimes it's not the case that nothing's happening, it's some editorial assistant or editorial member or the editor saying, Hey reviewer one, have you finished that yet? Hey reviewer one, have you finished that yet that you were gonna get that to me two weeks ago or three weeks ago? It's been four weeks now. Occasionally a reviewer says they're gonna do, it drops out after like four weeks of you trying to hassle them.
Dr Rachael Fox (45:47):
So then you've got to go and get a new reviewer. So as much as I can talk about how infuriated I get with journals, it's probably worth noting or knowing that it's a struggle in, in the background that you are not seeing to get those reviews. That's probably worth communicating that especially increasingly, you know how overworked everybody everywhere is, it's hard to get reviews back and then the reviews come to the editor or somebody. So the editorial, they might have a a team of 10 subeditors or editorial assistants or something who might be waiting to get those back and hopefully somebody has a good look at those. But it varies how much somebody reviews the review before it goes back to the author. Because if you've carefully reviewed them, some things might, they might disagree with. And so a in-depth process is that whoever is in the editorial team looks at those reviews and then feels confident about them or has some alterations and compiles a response to the author to say, these are the reviews.
Dr Rachael Fox (46:51):
They recommended major changes. Actually this seems like more minor or anything that's kind of a disagreement or the, the two have disagreed. The least amount of kind of review of those reviews is that they come back, no one looks at them and they automatically go out to the authors. I don't know how often that happens. I only suspect that happens. I think it's really common that people have a quick look and send it back. That's worth knowing because if you massively disagree with what comes back, it's possible that the journal does too. But it does vary how much those reviews have been calibrated, if you like, before they go to you. And with some of the very busy journals who have a very electronic system, I think it's possible that reviews go back automatically almost without too much scrutiny. So there's a variation there. But you receive these reviews back then, you give it three days to have a bit of a tantrum, .
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (47:45):
Dr Rachael Fox (47:47):
You have an emotional reaction and uh, you don't do anything about it for a while.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (47:52):
Yeah, the first reaction I usually have is no why? Like you've not gotten it, but then three days later, oh yeah, no I can do that. Or no, I see the misunderstanding. Oh yeah, I wasn't clear in that part. I can improve that.
Dr Rachael Fox (48:05):
Yeah, that was a good point actually. Yeah. That is missing . Yeah, you swing from how can you possibly think that you're so wrong to, oh, it's like being a teenager to being like this with your parents . So yeah, I've often had that. So they can say that they think it should be rejected outright. So even at that point of review, it could have been fully rejected and the editor's telling you that it's been rejected, it can be a request to fully resubmit with major, major revisions or a kind of accepted with major revisions. Probably not saying it's accepted, but we wanna see some major revisions like, I don't know, that's a gray area I guess between those two. Or the idea that it's got minor revisions and sometimes they'll say, we are accepting this paper but we want these minor revisions. Yeah. Or they might say, we wanna see these minor revisions done.
Dr Rachael Fox (48:54):
And at some point eventually what you're aiming for is them saying it's accepted. Sometimes you have to do more than one round of revisions. Every article I've written, even for the same journal has been a different story. Mm-hmm. , they vary so much 'cause there's so much variation there. You know who the reviewers are gonna be, who the editor selects the reviewers to be, who the reviewers are, what move them in that day, how busy they are, what expertise they have to review that paper. And then how your relationship afterwards goes with the editor. Every single time it's been different. So you're not sure what you're gonna get. But often even with major revisions, you're working towards having a paper that gets submitted. But occasionally also at that point, you and I probably both have withdrawn a paper because it feels as though what's being expected by not just the reviewers, but when asking the editors, it's beyond what you wish to make of your paper and you think this is going to warp it into something it's not.
Dr Rachael Fox (49:48):
And I need to to actually go somewhere else. Yeah. And that's a shame. But that happens too. I remember writing something post-conference for a special issue that was about the conference, but they were full papers and it was an article that was about three different projects. So they're meant to be overviews and it was for a fairly national psychology journal. Not Australian, not us either. It had kind of stricter guidelines usually, but this was a special issue from a community conference. So the word count was quite small and there were these three different projects that were being described. Obviously there wasn't room to put too much in and it was was more about a reflection of the methodology actually of the three projects and what kind of commonalities there were. And the reviewers came back with so much expectation that wasn't possible in the word count.
Dr Rachael Fox (50:39):
Mm-hmm. . And it seemed as well, like the reviewers were not in that field. Like it was a really awkward situation. And we went to the guest editors and so they wanted the results of every project, for example, and this wasn't a results paper and they weren't budging, they didn't agree. They were like, no, you've got to follow what the review is saying. We're like, well, we're really, really sorry. It was well outside what was asked in the special issue as well. So it was really odd situation. So we had to withdraw it, which was a real shame. It went into a better journal. It was a great ending actually. It ended up being a paper I was, we were really happy with, but went to a better journal. So again, every story is so different at the time that felt like that was a nightmare and in the end it was worked out.
Dr Rachael Fox (51:21):
Mm. But yeah, even when a review is very constructive and very useful, my often reaction is to be annoyed about it. But definitely give myself time. Because often the value of a good review is that it has given you the opportunity to have a peer who doesn't have any vested interest in telling you it's great or inside knowledge about the project. So they might take things for granted, which a supervisor will do too. Mm-hmm. or a colleague writing with you will take things for granted. Someone's coming to it cold and is able to show you how to make that paper better than it was and stronger. And you come out with a stronger paper. Totally. It's prospectively a very valuable experience and that's how it should be. And is often, I've often had really valuable reviews. Mm. But what do we do when it's, we feel like it's not valuable? ?
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (52:11):
Yeah. One of the first papers that I wrote, I had a reviewer who was clearly someone whose work I was critiquing and the feedback that they gave, it wasn't really feedback, it was kind of scathing and inappropriate. And so we went back to the editor. I think in that instance the editor probably hadn't read it that well before it came back to us. That's what I think happened. And I was working with someone who was quite senior in the field and they gave me the confidence to push back and say, oh actually maybe we think we might know who the reviewer is. And you know, the comments aren't really constructive, so here's the parts of this that we propose we address and here's the parts we'll pretend weren't sent through. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water just because there's negative aspects of things you don't agree with looking for what are the gems in there? But also feeling like you can push back about certain things. The stuff that I tend to publish outside of work now, I feel really confident in it. And if I get something back that I don't agree with, I'll just make a case really respectfully of why. 'cause I'm thinking maybe you don't have the context you've got maybe working in a different space that's related, but in this context, here's what's important. And making that case. And I've found that that works quite well. But everything is different. Yeah.
Dr Rachael Fox (53:24):
It's worth discussing it with colleagues. Again, like you said, get colleagues support and feedback. It's a really valuable point at which to discuss things 'cause it's difficult to trust yourself about what to do. And it's great to get some other ideas about what you might do if you feel that what's being suggested is unfair or doesn't work in some way. But yeah, often don't be afraid to talk back a little bit. I mean, you have to be so polite and so respectful. And I think that's a good idea to say, I'm really happy with all of this stuff. There's just this thing and I'm not sure what to do about that. In fact, one of the first papers I ever wrote, and it was for a journal I really admired, and again, I don't feel like the editor had closely read the review, it's say, years ago now.
Dr Rachael Fox (54:07):
So I'm probably over-exaggerating what it was like. But it was a, a methodology paper on, on like quite different qualitative research, not just regular qualitative research, but it was kind of out there. And the reviewer was asking why I wasn't arguing about the validity and reliability and things like that. Oh, okay. Big red flags that the reviewer didn't have expertise to review, you know, qualitative methodology. I was really worried, but I had to go back to the editor and say, look, these points that the reviewer said, I don't know how I did it at the time 'cause I would've been very unconfident, but these points that have been raised and said that I haven't done, don't work for qualitative research. I'm not sure what to do with these. And the editor was very polite and very kind and was like, yeah, I agree. You don't, they, they were on my side.
Dr Rachael Fox (54:51):
I agree, you don't have to do this. You should always just do what you think is most reasonable. You shouldn't make a shift in your writing just for the reviewer where you think it alters negatively the paper. I mean, occasionally you're going, okay, fine, I can put that in. I don't think it's that valuable, but it's also doesn't massively alter it or detract from it, you know, you think I'll do that because it's something I've done. So you should just do what you think is best really. I mean, the other space where you talk back, I mean that's a big way to talk back is to go back to the editor and have a big problem. But I mean, of course the other thing is we should mention that when you're doing revisions, one of the things you do is a separate document that is your response to the reviewers. And what you create is a table which is sort of, uh, numbered in one column for reviewer one, two, whoever. And then the next column is a row for each point that the reviewer has made. Those might be quite hard to separate out because the reviewer might have waffled on and mentioned three points hidden in a paragraph or,
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (55:57):
Or make some statements and you're like, does this need a response,
Dr Rachael Fox (56:01):
, is it a question or is it a statement? So you struggle a bit sometimes with the clarity, but the point do you think are things they want you to review. And then in the third column is what you have done to respond. And usually in any set of revisions, there are maybe at least one where I'm saying again, oozing respect language, um, but I really value this comment, but this would take so much to explain and it's outside of the scope of the paper. So I'm proposing not to do this if you've got good justification work. So that's a, a small way of arguing back really respectfully, just making a, a logical, non-emotional as well. You know, really dispassionate logical reasoning as to why that's not something you think you should do.
Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (56:47):
For those of you at home, that's all for today. Show notes for the episode can be firstname.lastname@example.org. If you've enjoyed listening to Psych Attack, please rate it on your favorite podcast platform and share this episode to help other people find the show. If you have questions or feedback, you can reach out on Twitter at Psych attack Cast. Thanks for listening and we'll catch up with you again next time.