Thursday, February 28, 2013

6 tips for midwives on writing for publication

I was really pleased to hear the other day that I have had a paper about ePortfolio accepted for publication in a midwifery journal called "Women and Birth". It took nearly two years to write the paper and get it accepted, which has left me reflecting on my experience as an author over the last few years and come up with a few tips that you might want to consider if you're thinking of submitting a paper for publication. 

1. Start with something small and non-academic
Even now I remember the very first time I had something printed, and that was a letter to the editor of the Nursing Times in the UK. It was quick and easy to write, and the thrill I got from seeing my name in print was enough to motivate me to write more. If you are a midwife in Australia, send a short article to Midwifery News, which is the Australian College of Midwives' magazine - the editor, Rachel Smith is always happy to receive articles of about 500 words on any topic relevant to midwives. If you're not sure you can do that, then start off writing a considered comment on a blog or Facebook page...anything that will give you experience of putting some words together.

Why bother? The reason for that is because I think it is vital that midwives get their thoughts and work out into the public arena because it raises the profile of midwifery, and enhances our credibility with government and other organizations that we work with. The more visible we are, the more likely it is that we will be heard.

2. Find a mentor or critical friend
One thing I really wish I could do is "whip up" a paper in half a day and get it accepted in a top journal without as much as getting a hair out of place. Sadly for me, I find formal writing very difficult - I am prone to huge generalizations....take 50 words to say something that I could say in 5....and can never quite get to the theoretical depth that editors expect in academic journal articles. So I find it invaluable to have a mentor or critical friend who will critique my work, ask questions that helps me refine what I am saying and provide editorial support. I was blessed to have Maxine Alterio help me with my ePortfolio paper. We went back and forth a number of times before the paper was ready for submission. Her feedback was challenging at times, but I knew it was worth responding because I would have a better product in the end.

3. Co-publish with another author who already has writing experience and has published articles 
I have written a number of articles with co-authors and benefited from their expertise and shared motivation and planning. I find it is particularly useful to work with others when I have a mental block, because usually the other writer has the clarity that I lack. However, it is worth negotiating boundaries, roles and even the order that the names appear on the article before you start writing, in order to prevent petty jealousies and academic rivalries getting in the way of the writing.

4. Have patience
Most academics you talk to these days will agree that the process of getting a paper published can be a lengthy one. Even if you are an established author you can expect to be asked to make alterations to your paper before it is accepted for publication. Sometimes, you even have to submit to two or three journals before you find one that will accept your paper. It is worth being patient and responding to editors' feedback, and don't take it personally when you are asked to make changes to your paper.

5. Know when to quit
I have a paper about eMentoring that I have been trying to publish since 2009, and the truth is that it is rubbish. After sending it to half a dozen (or so it seems) journals, and getting the same feedback...that it is rubbish...I have now given up and hit the delete button. Sometimes all you need to do is re-frame an article but other times, you just have to let go, and start again from scratch.

6. Volunteer to be a journal reviewer
One of the most useful things I have done that has helped me develop my writing skills is to be a reviewer for a journal. Being a reviewer helps you recognize what works and what doesn't work with other people's writing, which you are able to implement in your own writing.  Journals are always looking for reviewers - check out journals websites for information on how to apply.

If you want more information about writing for publication or a few tips and resources, have a look at the "How to write a paper in 6 weeks" project that I developed a couple of years ago.

Have you ever written an article or paper for publication? What tips would you pass on to new authors?

Image: 'Be seeing you'
Found on

No comments: