Writing for academic journals – by Rowena Murray

(by Dr Alice Baillie, Research AssociateSchool of Biological Sciences)

‘Writing for academic journals’ presents sound advice in an easy-to-read format for those looking to improve the quality and quantity of their academic publications. I imagine that this book would be of greatest benefit to those who struggle for the motivation or confidence to write, and particularly for those with no prior experience of publishing. Having co-authored a few papers, and naturally enjoying writing, I found much of the advice familiar and affirming rather than revolutionary. Nonetheless, I gleaned some useful tips which I intend to put into practice in my ongoing writing.

The cover of this third edition proudly claims to help you ‘get to grips with using social media’. I felt that this was a bit of an overstatement, with a mere two pages devoted to a brief and rather theoretical discussion of this topic. Aside from that, the book is true to its promise of offering practical approaches to help you to make time for writing and to write productively for publication. I thought that the chapter entitled ‘Responding to reviewers’ feedback’ was particularly good and a bit of a must-read for anyone going it alone with their first publication or two. The chapter on targeting your writing to your chosen journal would, I think, also be particularly useful to newcomers to the world of publication.

While some of the approaches suggested might not suit everyone, I think that the vast majority of ideas in this book could be useful to more-or-less all academic writers, even if they don’t initially like the sound of some of them! Murray is a particular advocate of regular writing, even if much of the output is not directly destined for a draft. This may strike some as a waste of time when writing time often seems at such a premium, but I suspect that taking an open-minded approach to such advice could help all writers to establish productive habits.

My overall verdict: a useful read for any writer or would-be-writer, and especially for those just starting out trying to publish their work.