How to write an academic paper – what journal editors look for

On 28th April 2009 I attended an Academic Writing Skills Workshop hosted by Martin Oliver an ALT-J Editor. The purpose of the workshop was to look at what Journal Reviewer look for when reading Academic Papers.

In preparation for the workshop we head to Review a Paper called Student Perceptions of Learning management Systems

In or to be published the paper had to fulfill these requirements:

  • Have the aims of the paper been clearly stated and met?
  • Are the key terms and concepts adequately defined?
  • Is the content logically developed with a beginning, middle and end?
  • Do the conclusions relate logically to the results/discussion?
  • Is the content relevant, timely or “cutting-edge”?
  • Does the paper make a significant contribution to the learning technology field?
  • Is there any relevant literature that has not been cited?
  • Are the references complete and in the correct format?

Here are the key finding to come out of the session:

What is the focus of an Academic Paper:

  • Papers should support or change or challenge existing theory or practice
  • Can have theoretical/methodological focused papers. If you are trying an innovative approach to research, new methodology focus on that

Aims and Objectives

Reflections on the paper:

  • Stated but not met
  • inconsistent, too many
  • connections between, too many
  • aims of project vs. aims of paper
  • claims and modesty

What makes good Aims and Objectives

  • Good papers can be simple but effective
  • Don’t try and cover too much
  • Can you back up your claims
  • You may be involving in a project, but an unexpected finding may be worthy of a paper. Therefore the aims of the paper don’t have to be the same as the project.
  • Don’t make too larger claims about your find reflect upon the facts

ALT-J Suggest these questions are answered:

  • Does the abstract summarise the study and interest you sufficiently to want to read more?
  • Is it a succinct summary of the paper including findings and recommendations?
  • Does it make clear the links with current or future theory/research?

Defination/Clarity

The definitions of any terminology used and clarity of the explanation

Reflections on the paper:

  • Only some defined
  • Taking things for granted
  • Consistency

What makes good Defination/Clarity

  • Define all terminology: Technical, pedagogical, theoretical. Don’t have to explain in depth, Reference
  • Define terms using other terminology e.g. LMS=VLE=CMS. This will make it more searchable
  • Know the audience  has the journal covered similar topics before

Introduction

Reflections on the paper:

  • timeliness/context
  • modesty/credibity

ALT-J Suggest these questions are answered:

  • Is the research question/problem clearly identified?
  • Is the aim of the paper/research clearly stated?
  • Is the literature review relevant and comprehensive?
  • Has the relevance to practice of learning technologists been highlighted?

Methodology

Reflections on the paper:

  • iterative approach interesting
  • should this be the focus
  • student participation
  • precision/carefulness
  • is this the right approach

What makes good Methodology:

  • Is the approach appropriate to the wanted outcomes

ALT-J Suggest these questions are answered:

  • Is the research design chosen appropriate?
  • Has the chosen research design been clearly described and justified?
  • Have the chosen statistical tests been adequately justified?
  • Are the ethics of the research considered?

Analysis/Discussion

What makes a good Analysis/Discussion

  • Use appropriate evidence
  • Evidence Venn diagram: This show overlapping evidence that make a good case when evidenced

evidence venn diagram

ALT-J Suggest these questions are answered:

  • Are the results/findings presented clearly for interpretation?
  • Are tables and figures relevant and explained?
  • If statistics were used, are they presented appropriately (please note that authors may use verbatim reports from print outs of statistical packages – e.g. Minitab- where p values might be presented as p= 0.000. For the purposes of the journal we require a more conventional p value to be reported e.g.  p<.001)
  • Is the discussion based on the results/findings?
  • Have the findings been analysed effectively?
  • Have the results been interpreted accurately?
  • Have the aims of the paper/research been fulfilled?
  • Does the discussion relate back to the literature review?
  • Have the practical implications of the results/findings been discussed?
  • Has the methodology been critically evaluated?
  • Have issues around reliability/validity/trustworthiness been addressed?

Conclusion

ALT-J Suggest these questions are answered:

  • Do the conclusions relate logically to the results/discussion?
  • Are there further recommendations made from the research?

References

ALT-J Suggest these questions are answered:

  • Has the correct referencing style been used?
  • Are all the references quoted within the text also listed in the reference list at the end of the article?
  • Are the references complete? (Please check that pages numbers, place of publication etc. are not missing.)

Literature

Reflections on the paper:

  • Emphasis is on theory, practice
  • Citing own work. Good or bad?
  • Provide adequate evidence for claims

What makes good Literature Review:

  • Literature reviews in elearning focus on: policy, theory and action

Contribution of the paper to the community

Reflections on the paper

  • Stating stuff that self evident
  • what is “significant”?
  • Does it make a contribution?
  • Who is the contribution significant to?

Logic of the paper

Reflections on the paper:

  • structure blurred
  • Result/Findings/disscussions?Implicatio Blurred
  • Not revealing evidence for something you mention
  • If problems unclear, logic will be an issue
  • “Ace up the sleeve” of Aims in Conclusion
  • Relative weighting of sections

What makes a logical paper:

  • Set up the problem
  • How are you going to investigate/solve
  • findings/outcome (can be different to project)

Although the paper was heaviliy critiscised there were some useful finding and interesting methodology. The paper was eventually publish Grounded Theory as an approach to studying students’ uses of learning management systems (Alsop, Graham and Tompsett, Chris) (2002)

For more information on publishing in ALT-J and the appropriate writing style: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/authors/caltauth.asp

Ideas for papers

  • Using web 2.0 tools to build ePortfolios for life
  • Uninstitutionalising institutions (school model)
  • Measuring effectiveness of produced resources. A before production twitter # tags/ student forum to influence design of resources
  • Deigning an institutional PG record system – JSS – user purpose – institutional purpose
  • PLE: review, concepts, possibilities and the future
  • careers timeline – where it came from – adaptation – future
  • Learning communities

3 Comments


  1. academic paper resembles dexterity of clarity in vision and thought pattern and polarity of ideas in crux and subjectivestand -point. it has a cohesive power points and critical affirmations of approach.the art of writing in this area is scholastic and creative at the same time. the review of ideas and conclusion of facts plays a great role in academic writing and research. it is honorific and quasi- formative approach in felicity of style.

    Reply

  2. academic paper resembles dexterity of clarity in vision and thought pattern and polarity of ideas in crux and subjectivestand -point. it has a cohesive power points and critical affirmations of approach.the art of writing in this area is scholastic and creative at the same time. the review of ideas and conclusion of facts plays a great role in academic writing and research. it is honorific and quasi- formative approach in felicity of style.

    Reply

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