How to... survive peer review and revise your paper Part: 3



Product Information:-

  • For Journals
  • For Books
  • For Case Studies
  • Regional information
Real World Research - #RealWorldResearch
Request a service from our experts.

How to... survive peer review and revise your paper

Options:     Print Version - How to... survive peer review and revise your paper, part 3 Print view

Tips for getting your paper right first time

While we're not on this page offering complete guidance about how to write a paper, following these tips will mean that you will have gone some way towards having a paper that's accurate and focused, and which you'll therefore need to spend less time revising.

Meet the journal's requirements

Make sure that you've got the right journal! Compatibility of partners, in publishing as elsewhere, makes for an easier life, and you need to make very sure that the journal you are targetting is the best fit for your paper and for the community for which you are publishing.

However, having targetted the prospective journal, you also need to make sure that you understand its requirements:

  • Look at the names on the Editorial Board – does this give an indication of what the journal will be looking out for?

  • Read carefully the author guidelines, which are published on the inside back cover of most Emerald journals as well as online, and note the criteria specified in journal overview section. This will give an indication not only of required subject matter, approach, etc., but also of other issues such as the extent of empirical evidence required, the balance of theoretical vs practitioner oriented, etc.

Example: Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing

The objective of this journal [Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing] is to provide both academics teaching marketing and practitioners of marketing with new ideas concerning business-to-business marketing. That is, how one company or organization markets its goods/services/ideas to another company or organization. The ideal article would be one that could be used in the classroom to educate graduate students on the theory and practice of business-to-business marketing and read by managers interested in the state-of-the-art thinking in this area. Each article, therefore, must put forth recommendations as to how the material contained in the article can be utilized in business practice and at the same time provide teachers of marketing with examples of how the theories taught in the classroom work in the real world.

The basis of an article may be research, but it is not intended that the Methodology or Methods section be extensive. If the methodology is so unique as to warrant detailed attention, it will be added as an appendix. But research is not the only basis for an article. Cases, conceptual arguments, and industry reviews and practices may be put forth with equal acceptability. In addition, we will publish opinions of industry professionals, when available, in a section entitled Commentary. Book reviews will also be published when available.

Example: Accounting, Auditing & Accountability

The journal Accounting, Auditing & Accountability is dedicated to the advancement of accounting knowledge and provides a forum for the publication of high quality manuscripts concerning the interaction between accounting/auditing and their socio-economic and political environments. It therefore encourages critical analysis of policy and practice in these areas. Analysis could explore policy alternatives and provide new perspectives for the accounting discipline.

The problems of concern are international (in varying degree) and may have differing cultural, social and institutional structures. Analysis can be international, national or organization specific. It can be from a single, multi- or inter-disciplinary perspective.

Major criteria used to evaluate papers are:

  • Subject matter: must be of importance to the accounting discipline.
  • Research question: must fall within the journal's scope.
  • Research: well designed and executed.
  • Presentation: well written and conforming to the journal's style.

Be focused!

What are you really trying to say? Have a statement of purpose" which describes what your article is all about. You need to make a pretty clear statement of why the reader should read on – what will add to his or her knowledge as a researcher or practitioner? That statement should help the reviewer know what the article is all about. In the examples given below, the main part of the purpose statement has been highlighted in bold.

International marketing serials: a retrospective

Michael R. Hyman
New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA

Zhilin Yang
City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong


The content of selected international marketing serials, published from 1985 to 1998, is examined. Results show that the authors published in these serials tend to be affiliated with marketing departments, senior professors, male, and work with a single co-author. Articles often focus on export and import, promotion, consumer behavior, and country of origin. Empirical studies – often survey research based on one-country convenience samples – are typically drawn from the USA, UK, Japan, Korea, PRC, Canada, and Hong Kong; South America and Africa are less studied regions. Statistical analysis is often limited to univariate and bivariate methods.


During the last 15 years, growing academician and practitioner interest in international marketing prompted several academic publishers to launch related English-language serials (i.e. double-blind, peer-reviewed scholarly journals) (Aulakh and Kotabe, 1993; Javalgi et al., 1997). To assess the cumulative content of these serials, which continue to provide valuable insights into international marketing theory and practice, a systematic retrospective is required. Such retrospectives generally reveal how serials evolve, remind editorial review boards and researchers of lacunas between practice and theory, and inform knowledge development efforts (Aulakh and Kotabe, 1993; Inkpen and Beamish, 1994). Clearly, international marketing serials (IMS) published since the mid-1980s contain a substantial body of conceptual and empirical work worthy of a comprehensive retrospective.

This retrospective focuses on contributing authors and their institutional affiliations, editorial review board memberships, coauthorship patterns, article domains, samples collected, and primary methodologies. By assessing knowledge development in international marketing, it can inform future research and editorial mandates. Relative to earlier international marketing retrospectives (Albaum and Peterson, 1984; Aulakh and Kotabe, 1993; Boddewyn, 1981; Bradley, 1987; Javalgi et al., 1997; Li and Cavusgil, 1991), it offers the most comprehensive and recent overview of IMS.

International Marketing Review
Volume 18 Number 6

This "statement of purpose" provides some background in the first paragraph, i.e. that the article will be on serial publications in international marketing; furthermore a retrospective is required to give an overview. The second paragraph gives the scope of the article and its implications.

Collaborative practice research

Lars Mathiassen
eCommerce Institute, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA


This research has been partially sponsored by the Danish National Centre for IT Research. The author wishes to thank the software organisations, practitioners, and researchers participating in the Danish SPI project. The author also wants to thank the associated editor and the anonymous reviewers for many valuable suggestions.


Reports from a systems development research tradition in which emphasis is put on relating research activities to practice and on establishing fruitful collaboration between groups of researchers and practitioners. Describes and evaluates a specific research project in which a large group of researchers and practitioners worked together to understand, support, and improve systems development practices in four organisations over a period of three years. Uses the case to reflect on the research goals, approaches, and results involved in this tradition for researching systems development practice. Proposes collaborative practice research as a way to organise and conduct research into systems development practice based on close collaboration between researchers and practitioners. Exemplifies the use of pluralist research methodology by combining action research with experiments and conventional practice studies. Argues that collaborative practice research offers one practical way to strike a useful balance between relevance and rigour. Concludes with a discussion of the implications for the relation between research and practice within the systems development discipline and with lessons on how to design research efforts as collaborations between researchers and practitioners.


The Information Systems discipline has for quite some time been preoccupied with improving the ways in which we do research. This concern for research methodology has played a major role in maturing the discipline and it has resulted in a rather rich discussion of different approaches (McFarlan, 1984; Mumford et al., 1986; Boland and Hirschheim, 1987; Galliers and Land, 1987; Galliers, 1991; Cash et al., 1989; Nissen et al., 1991; Lee et al. 1997). In our efforts to become a respected research discipline we have also established an impressive portfolio of scientific journals and international conferences that serve as the primary media for publishing research findings. Our discussions of research methodology have therefore concentrated on how to support researchers in designing dedicated research activities that lead to good scientific papers.

A number of scholars within our discipline have recently made a strong plea for more relevance without abandoning rigour (Applegate, 1999). Benbasat and Zmud (1999) recommend ways to increase the relevance of our research by reconsidering topic selection, the purpose and content of the articles we write, the article's readability, and the reviewing process. Davenport and Markus (1999) suggest more radical interventions that challenge core academic values around research rigour, publication outlets and audiences, and consulting. Lyytinen (1999) supports this broader view and encourages us to rethink critically the institutional policies and incentive schemes that govern research, the organisation of research groups, the professional image of Information Systems researchers, and last but not least, the ways in which we study practice. Also Lee (1999) argues for a need to go beyond a positivistic research tradition.

This paper is about Information Systems research methodology with particular focus on the relation between relevance and rigour. The argument is based on experiences from a research tradition that for some years has studied practice in close collaborations between groups of practitioners and researchers. Such a collaborative approach raises many practical problems and conflicts, and it is not easily implemented into most institutional settings. The purpose of the present argument is therefore not to criticise well-established research traditions, nor is it to argue that practice research in general should be organised as collaborative efforts. In a more modest fashion, the paper sets out critically to rethink key issues related to researching practice within our discipline based on experiences from a particular research project in which the ambition was to emphasise relevance without abandoning rigour. The argument of the paper is hence driven by a case. But it addresses general issues related to research methodology. Hence, on one level I present experience from a particular project in which practitioners and researchers collaborated closely to produce relevant knowledge. On another level I discuss general challenges and opportunities related to collaborative research efforts.

Starting out from research methods, or from the point of view of writing scientific papers, invites us to think in terms of choosing between different research methods (see for example Galliers and Land, 1987). This viewpoint is extremely useful when one wants to understand the variety and the relative strengths and weaknesses of available research methods. But when designing and organising research projects based on collaboration with practitioners the challenge is not so much which methods to choose. Rather it is to find practical ways to combine qualitatively different research approaches to support the diverse, and partly contradictory goals involved in such an effort. In the following I present one particular way to practice pluralist methodology within Information Systems research (Mingers, 2001). I call this approach collaborative practice research and it combines action research, experiments, and conventional practice studies to strike a useful balance between relevance and rigour.

Information Technology & People
Volume 15 Number 4

This is the third paragraph in the paper – the first two are background.

Grounded theory methodology and practitioner reflexivity in TQM research

Denis Leonard
University of Wisconsin, USA

Rodney McAdam
University of Ulster, UK


There is a paucity of research which seeks to develop TQM theories based on a deep and rich understanding of both socio-political and technical issues. Resultant theories from such an inductive approach could potentially give a deeper insight into TQM, based on sound theoretical evidence. Studies of this kind should not be confused with descriptive case study analysis and examples of applications. While these helpful approaches contribute to the overall TQM discourse, they do not of themselves develop underpinning theory. This paper describes a grounded theory research methodology for TQM, rather than the actual theory and results. The methodology was applied to 19 organisations and to a longitudinal case study. The methodology makes a contribution from two aspects. First, a comprehensive grounded theory approach for developing TQM theory based in practice was developed and applied. Second, the methodology enabled the practitioners involved in the study to be critically reflective and reflexive in their thoughts and influence throughout the study. This reflexivity resulted in the case study organisation evaluating and implementing TQM-based change throughout the study.


The body of knowledge known collectively as total quality management (TQM) continues to grow exponentially both in academia and in practice (Hendricks and Singhal, 1999; Tai and Przasnyski, 1999). The associated proliferation of studies and case examples has led to critical perspective writings which look more closely at the underlying assumptions and theoretical basis of TQM (McAdam and Leonard, 1999; Spencer, 1994; Wilkinson and Willmott, 1994). In developing theory and TQM, Giroux and Landry (1998) show the longitudinal theoretical development of TQM and develop a series of tests for the theoretical convergence of TQM. Furthermore, DeCock (1998) and Lawrence and Phillips (1998) link the theoretical development of TQM with postmodernism and critical theory, viewing these philosophies as a means of transforming TQM. However, these studies identify a lack of practice-based research studies from which underpinning TQM theories can be developed.

The response from those working in the field has been an increasing series of empirical deductive studies which rely heavily on cause-effect relationships and cartesian style thinking (Carson and Coviello, 1995; Wilkinson and Willmott, 1994). These studies (e.g. Wiele and Brown, 1999), have helped to establish causal relationships at a macro level within TQM in differing organisational sectors.

However, many fundamental questions and issues remain unresolved, at least to any rigorous and cogent level. For example, what if key events in TQM in organisations are not linear cause and effect relationships, but rather are phenomena within their own right, in which meanings are unclear? Wilson and Durant (1994) pose the question: "is there a clear coherent quality philosophy underpinning existing TQM methodologies?" Furthermore, do such philosophies and theories need to be elucidated, what research methodologies can be used to achieve this purpose?

TQM is historically rooted in practice (Krishnan et al., 1993) and a rich source of data and experience exists from which theory can be developed. It is essential that research methodologies which seek to develop richer pictures of TQM avail of this resource and, in the words of Carson and Coviello (1995), "have an integrated approach" which involves both researcher and practitioner.

The aim of this paper is to describe a modified grounded theory research method for TQM in organisations which enables TQM theory to be developed based on rich empirical data from multiple organisational sources.

The associated objectives of the paper are to:

  • critique the literature on grounded theory in relation to TQM research;
  • describe a modified grounded theory TQM research approach that has been developed and applied;
  • show how the methodology enables practitioners to become critically reflective and reflexive; and
  • to enable the researchers to develop TQM theories.

While this paper covers the research methodology used in the study it should be noted that the research resulted in conceptual models based on the research issue of how TQM can be effectively implemented in an organisation over a four-year period, which are not covered in this paper. The measure of effectiveness was taken as a score of 500+ on the Business Excellence Model (EFQM, 2000), as measured by independent assessors.

International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management
Volume 18 Number 2

As with the previous example, the authors provide quite a bit of background before the purpose statement which is clearly stated as "the aim", and "the associated objectives".

Be honest and accurate

Look at your empirical data – make sure that it's accurately recorded, and that any conclusions you draw from it are warrented.

Don't hide weaknesses – if your sample is small, say so.

Make sure that all your arguments are coherent, can easily be followed by the reader, and that you substantiate any claims.

Report on the implications of your research/case study/conceptual framework: what more research is required? What are the implications for practitioners?

Answer the question, "What next?"

Having described your conclusions, you should then state the possibilities for further research – what research questions are formulated? – as well as the implications for your practitioner community.

Be careful!

Just as you are justifiably annoyed by colleagues, students etc. who ignore the rules of grammar and fail to run spell checks over their material, so too will the reviewer be annoyed by these things in your own work. So, run a spell check, print out your paper, and proof read carefully, preferably at a time when you have put some distance between yourself and the article, i.e. not when you have just finished it. According to Abby Day, the most common complaint from reviewers is poor proofreading! Reviewers expect to have to pick up on research methodology but not on common spelling and grammar mistakes.

Get your paper read by others

The next section of this guide examines the peer review process and advocates having an "action learning set" to review papers prior to sending them off to a journal. In any event, it is a good idea to give your paper to others in your network to read: these could be colleagues in your department, people you know through meetings and conferences, etc., or a special interest group you find through the Internet. It can be difficult, if you don't know someone very well, or not at all, to ask them to read a paper but you have to remember that most people are flattered to be asked.