Fall 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 3 // Tools of the Trade // 3TOT2

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How To Get Published in a Professional Journal


Barbara M. O'Neill
Extension Home Economist and
Associate Professor
Department of Home Economics
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, New Jersey

In states where Extension agents are considered faculty of their land-grant university, they're often expected to publish articles in professional journals as a way to demonstrate their contribution to the "body of knowledge" of their profession. This article shares 10 tips for "getting published" based on one county Extension agent's experience during the past decade.

  1. Write About What You Know. I've heard some people say they're hesitant to write articles because they feel they haven't "done anything" to write about. That isn't true. You simply need to be interested in and/or knowledgeable about a topic. For example, let's take something you've been teaching. You could wait until you've taught a number of classes and write about the evaluation results or you could write about the actual topic itself.

  2. Research Outlets for Publishing. Think about all the professional journals and magazines you've seen with articles on topics similar to yours. The preferred medium is the refereed journal, which means that its articles are reviewed by one or more "referees" and only the best are selected (like a juried craft show that separates quality pieces from junk). The Journal of Extension and the Journal of Home Economics are examples of refereed journals. Concentrate your efforts on publications like these because they carry more weight in academia. On the other hand, don't ignore other publishing opportunities. Any published article is better than none.

  3. Time Your Article. Find out if a particular journal is featuring "theme issues" and, if so, try to tie your ideas into the theme. Doing this can increase your chances of acceptance and, perhaps, move up the date of publication (important for the nontenured). Extension Review is an example of a theme publication. The Journal of Extension doesn't solicit articles for special themes, though the editor may group articles together in theme sections.

  4. Outline Your Manuscript Before Writing. Write an outline of the introduction, body, and conclusion of the manuscript. Do an "implications" section at the end that ties the information presented to the needs of the readership or actions they can take in the future.

  5. Follow the Rules. In every professional journal, there's a section that describes how to prepare a manuscript. Failure to "follow the rules" on number of pages, footnoting, abstract length, manuscript review fees, and margin width (to name just a few) can mean rejection or-at the very least-time delays or the need for substantial revision. Also, be aware that it's unethical to submit the same manuscript simultaneously to more than one journal.

  6. Use Primary References and Proper Footnoting. Many articles are rejected because they were improperly referenced. Also, be sure to use only primary sources of information in your list of references.

  7. Learn the Computer. Don't even think about having your article prepared on a typewriter. You need a word processor to allow you the flexibility to make corrections and changes and to move paragraphs without "feeling sorry" for your secretary.

  8. Revise, Revise, Revise. In 10 years, I've submitted 32 articles to journals and had 27 published. Of those, 13 were published only after some sort of revision (sometimes more than once). I tell you this so you know revisions requested by journal editors are normal and to be expected (another reason to save all your manuscripts on the computer). A "request to revise" isn't a rejection, but rather a set of suggestions to improve an already good article. (If the editors didn't like some of what you wrote, they'd have rejected it outright.) Simply do what they say...and do it quickly. The sooner you make the required changes, the sooner your article can be reconsidered and, hopefully, published.

  9. Have Your Article Reviewed Before Submission. Even the most careful writer is bound to make spelling, and perhaps grammatical, errors. Some of your ideas may be fuzzy because you're "too close" to the material. Get several people to critique your article before you send it to a journal.

  10. Make Writing a Priority. Pretend your manuscript is a report for the boss with a firm deadline. Then make the time to write.


Think of everything you do as a possible source of manuscript material. For example, your work on a state Extension issue task force or a professional association committee may be the source of an article. Also consider writing about topics discussed in an oral presentation at a professional meeting. The extra work involved should be minimal. Writing an article for publication in a professional journal is a much simpler task when an author has a clear focus and is familiar with the style requirements and content emphasis of a particular publication.

Note: The author has just been appointed as a Journal of Extension mentor for Rutgers Cooperative Extension.