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Study Skills

Research skills

Online course for Cambridge researchers about publishing, managing data, finding and disseminating research.

Publishing in academic journals

Welcome to this first module of our Research Skills training programme. 

On this page, you will find information and activities to help you to:undefined

  • plan a publication strategy and choose the right journals for you
  • avoid the snares of predatory publishers
  • navigate the peer review process
  • understand Open Access publishing and what it means for your publications

The whole module should take 1.5-2 hours to complete, but of course you can dip in and out of the activities in whichever way is most convenient for you. There are short activities interspersed in some of the sections, with answers at the bottom of this page.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the content further, email me or come to one of the virtual drop-in sessions

I'd love to hear your feedback on this module, especially as this is the first time we deliver this training online. If you have a couple of minutes at the end, please fill in this survey.

Choosing a journal 

Where to publish is one of the most important decisions you'll make when disseminating your research. It's best to start thinking about this as early as possible, ideally at the very start of each research project. This video guides you to consider some key aspects when making that choice. 

 

How to spot predatory publishers

Predatory publishers are those who 

'prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.' (Grudniewicz, A., et al., 2019, "Predatory journals: no definition, no defence." Nature: 567, 210-212.)

This typically means that they charge authors fees, but then do not provide sound peer review and other editorial practices. To know more about the problems they cause and how to avoid them, watch this video:

 

 

Let's practice your investigative skills! Consider the email below: what would make you suspicious? Note down your thoughts, then check the answers at the bottom of this page. You can use Think Check Submit's checklist to help you investigate. 

Dear Prof. Bloggs, J.,

We are collecting papers for the Journal of Modern Research now. As one of the top experts in the field, you are codially invited to submit your new papers to this special issue. We codially welcome your scientific works for submission via our Article Submission System. Or by e-mail to papersubmission@gmail.com (please indicate the name of journal or special issue you want to submit).

The topics to be covered (not limited to)

* Employment and the payment of wages

* Labour market

* Job creation

[…]

Editorial Procedures

Manuscripts are expected to be submitted at Online Submission System. Once a manuscript is accepted for publication, it will undergo language copyediting, typesetting, and reference validation in order to provide the highest possible publication quality.

We look forward to receiving your excellent work.

Dr Jane Doe (Senior Editor)

Journal of Modern Research

Pownall Avenue, Manchester, United Kingdom

Snapshot from F1000 Research page, showing 4 ticks as all 4 reviewers recommended acceptance.Navigating the peer review process

Peer review can be daunting at first. What will the reviewers think? How much extra work will the revision entail? How do I write a response? 

The first thing to remember is that peer review is there to improve the quality of your work, so try to see it as a constructive process. Even the very best, Nobel-Prize-winning papers will be carefully scrutinised and receive corrections - or sometimes even rejected

Let's start by examining a real example of peer review. Open this paper by Tony Ross-Hellauer about open peer review (yes, we're reviewing a paper on peer review!). You might find it interesting to read the whole article but, if you are short of time, feel free to just read the abstract and focus on the reviews instead. 

Look at the Open Peer Review (OPR) panel on the right-hand side. You’ll notice that F1000 embraces OPR: the reviewers are named and their reports and author responses are available alongside the article. Initially, three out of 4 reviewers approved the article with reservations, but the second version was accepted unanimously.  

Click on ‘read’ under the question marks or ticks to read each report. Notice the tone and structure of each review. In the future, if you are asked to write reviews, open sites such as F1000 can provide useful models to guide your own contributions. You only need to read one or two reports. 

Scroll to the end of a report to see the responses. The author has responded to all reviews of version 1. Click on 'view more' to see his responses in full. Examine one or two of these in detail, looking for examples of best practice that you could apply in your own work. Consider the tone, any useful turns of phrase, and the structure of his responses. 

Once you have made some notes about what was good about the author's response, take a look at this video with my tips for navigating peer review. 

 

Overall, peer review is a very effective process to screen research for publication and ensure only high-quality work is published. However, it is not a perfect process. In some cases, peer review fails to spot articles with incorrect information that had to be retracted, though the chance of this may be decreasing. In one study, Douglass Peters and Stephen Ceci resubmitted 12 articles to the same highly selective psychology journals that originally published them. Of the 9 articles that went undetected through peer review, 8 were rejected this second time around, often due to 'serious methodological flaws'. Why do you think this happened? Look in the answers at the bottom of this page or read Peters' and Ceci's article to find out! 

Open Access: unlocking research publications

While working from home you may have noticed that you don't automatically have access to the research articles you need. We're lucky at Cambridge to have subscribed to a vast range of publications, which we can access by entering our credentials. (Wonder how much this costs? Take a guess and then scroll to the bottom of this page for the answer)

Too many people hit a paywall when they try to access information they need, and this includes patients, conservationists, curious students, researchers at less well-funded institutions... and many more. The Open Access movement is working towards unrestricted access and distributions rights for research publications. You can find out more by reading this Research Support Handy Guide, visiting the Cambridge Open Access website, or watching the video below.

How did you find this module? 

Your feedback would be very valuable to help us improve, please let us know about your experience through this feedback survey. It should only take around 2 minutes to complete. 

Answers

Predatory publishers

You have read the email soliciting an article in the section on predatory publishers. Did you spot all the following warning signs? 

  • Unusual salutation (probably exported a mailing list), including an incorrect title 
  • Flattery 
  • Spelling mistakes (‘codially’) 
  • Unprofessional email address (Gmail) 
  • Scope is ‘not limited to’ a narrow focus – although some legitimate journals do this (e.g. PLOS ONE), this could be because the predatory journal is desperate for submissions 
  • No clear description of peer review process 
  • The address is a suburban street (check on Google Maps!)
  • No previous issues available
  • Unknown editor - beware, though: sometimes fraudsters use the name of well-known researchers without their permission

Problem with peer review

Peters and Ceci changed the author's names and affiliation when they resubmitted the papers. Their study suggests that the author' reputation may alter the outcome of review. 

Cost of subscriptions

The University pays over £5 million each year to ensure we can read all the research publications we need!