Eight steps to writing an academic article

Identify a subject
What is the focus? Why is this significant? Who would be interested?
Identify a journal
Which journals are interested in this subject – according to their aims and scope?
Which journals have editors and readers who are likely to be interested in this?
Check the journal
Download four articles from the last four years that could be in the literature review.
If this isn’t possible, select another journal.
Answer these questions
What is the focus?
Why is it relevant to this audience?
What are the relevant wider debates, what position will the article take on them and how does it develop them?
How will this article relate to the conversation in this journal?
Is the methodology convincing? Why should readers trust the findings?
Why is this significant for readers?
Write an abstract including these elements
1. Locate paper in relation to larger debates and identify perspective
2. Focus on the questions/issues/problems to be explored/examined
3. Anchor the argument by outlining research, sample and analysis
4. Report on major findings relevant to the argument
5. Argue – open out the argument and return to this article’s perspective.
Convert the abstract into a framework
Check the word count for articles in the journal.
A 15-item bibliography will take approximately 350 words. Deduct these.
Decide how to allocate the remaining words to the five sections in the abstract.
Pick a reader
Choose someone who should find this work interesting and useful. Write the five sections for them.
No section need be more than six times longer than this blog post. Some need only be twice as long.
It is clear what the significance of the work is.
It is an argument: not a narrative, recount or description.
It is authoritative and academic.
(With thanks to Pat Thomson – particularly for the five elements of an abstract.)

About Rebecca

I am a research fellow at The Open University. My research interests focus on how people learn together online and in blended environments, and I have studied blogs, online conference and interaction in both Second Life and Teen Second Life.
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