How to... prepare papers if English is not your first language Part: 1

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How to... prepare papers if English is not your first language

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Article Sections

  1. Why write for an international journal?
  2. Using an editing service
  3. Book resources
  4. Website resources

Why write for an international journal?

There is extensive advice all over this part of the Emerald Management eJournals site on how to write for an international journal. On this page, we summarize the process for the benefit of those writing in a foreign language, point to other parts of the site where these are covered, and talk about particular issues faced by those with language difficulties.

Why an international journal: what are the advantages?

Writing for an international journal has a number of advantages, principally:

Have I got something to publish?

Being published is about making an original contribution to the body of knowledge. The first task is to consider whether you do have something original to say – what is your article about, and why will your peers want to read about your work? What are the implications for future research? For practice? It is a good idea to prepare a brief 50-word statement which covers these questions, for your own benefit so that you have a clear idea in your own mind what your article is about and why it is important. It is also highly advisable to discuss your work with experienced academic colleagues.

"My first piece of advice would be: 'Get as many experienced academics as possible to read the work before sending to publishers'. Perhaps an 'authors' support group' could be established in faculty to meet and comment on developing work. My own experience of such a group is that, given a non-threatening and supportive atmosphere, it can be very productive in generating research ideas and collaborative working."

Dr David Parker
editor specialising in operations management, logistics, marketing, e-commerce, based in Queensland, Australia


"Most editors will not be experts in your field of study. Before you submit your work to a journal, you should have colleagues within your field read your work as well, as editors are usually not able to tell if you have said something that is inappropriately controversial or if your statistics contain a mistake."

Dr M. Lynne Murphy
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, University of Sussex, UK

Believe it or not, the above considerations are far more important than putting the article into reasonable English, which is always possible with a bit of help.

"Improving the English will not get a poor piece of research published – it is the research method, rigour and appropriateness of analysis and findings that are the important things. A paper's structure, the English, format and style can always be improved. But little can be done if there is a poor conceptual framework, shallow literature underpinning, inappropriate data collection methods and techniques of analysis, and which culminate in superficial conclusions."

Dr David Parker
editor specialising in operations management, logistics, marketing, e-commerce, based in Queensland, Australia

Where should I publish?

If you have answered the question "Have I got something to publish?" favourably and fully, you will be in a good position to deal with the next part of the process, which is finding an outlet for publication. Most people in the publishing business recommend targeting a suitable journal – which means that you have to go about looking for a journal whose editorial aims and objectives match your work. See our How to... find the right journal guide for more on how to go about this.

Producing a draft

Write a draft of the paper in whatever English you have – it is better to do it like that than to write in your own language and then translate. Don't worry too much about grammar, spelling, etc. – this should come later, once you have a draft of the content, as a separate, editing stage.

When you write, good advice is to look at your targeted journal, and others in the same field, and look at how articles are written. That way, you will pick up tips concerning phrasing, nuances, English idiom, etc.

"My general advice to a non-English speaking author would be to read high quality journals in their field (it is important that it is in their respective discipline) and take note of how experienced authors draw upon others' work, their use of referencing to support argument and develop research methods, and the phrasing adopted (discipline specific rather than generalised). Be succinct and keep sentences short."

Dr David Parker
editor specialising in operations management, logistics, marketing, e-commerce, based in Queensland, Australia


"When writing a paper, it is best to look at how papers in the same subject area are written [and to try and] mimic the way language is used to discuss a certain topic. A native English writer will use language to discuss the same topic in a wide variety of ways, and these ways can be used to help non-native speakers get around the problem of repeating themselves."

Simon Linacre
Publisher, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

You may need more 'hands-on' help here, in the form of someone who can help you express yourself more clearly in English. This is not the same as using a professional editing service but involves sitting down with someone (perhaps a colleague in your department) whose English is better than yours and who can help you clarify your meaning.

Once you have a draft where your meaning is reasonably clear, even if the English needs polishing, then it is worth getting informal advice as to its publishing potential.

When to approach the editor?

Before entering the publishing process formally, it is always worth approaching the editor, or perhaps someone on the editorial Board whom you know, to read a draft of the paper with a view to giving you an opinion of its research and academic content before you go to the trouble – and possibly expense – of polishing the English.

However, before this stage is reached it is important that the article is clear enough for the editor to see the general argument, even if the English needs a polish.

"Most editors will be willing to give an early draft of a paper a first read and offer comments to an author before formal submission – it is much better to do this with a promise to 'tidy up' the English than submit an article that has poor English, as this will be rejected immediately. Also, editors will not want to struggle with a whole article written in poor English, so any early draft should be a shortened version of a couple of pages to give a flavour of the research area and findings."

Simon Linacre
Publisher, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

It is in your own best interests to check that your draft is reasonably clear before you submit even a draft for informal assessment to an editor. Check with a member of your department, or if that is not possible for whatever reason, find a colleague in another university department, or even a non-academic with reasonably fluent English.

Getting help with the English

Although you should not approach an editor until you have a draft which is reasonably clear, once you have an indication of interest you need to think about tidying up your English.

At this point, you might wish to consider using the services of a professional editor – see Using an editing service section.

In the latter case, if you cannot make your ideas clear enough, you are advised to find someone whose English is reasonably good and who can help you find ways of expressing yourself clearly. You should do this before you approach someone even for an informal assessment.

Getting into the formal publishing process

Once your paper is in reasonable order you are ready to enter the publishing process formally. At this stage, your position is little different to that of any other author: you will have chosen your journal, and you will submit your paper to the editor in the knowledge that there is a reasonable overlap between the scope of your article and the objectives of the journal. If the editor considers that your article has potential, he or she will submit it for peer review (see our How to... survive peer review and revise your paper guide for more details on this process). As part of that process, reviewers may offer their own suggestions for changes to the English.

You will need to make sure that your article is carefully and fully referenced. This is not something that demands a great knowledge of English but something which is fiddly and which requires care. See How to... use the Harvard reference system guide for more information.



Printed from: http://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/authors/guides/write/english.htm?part=1 on Thursday November 23rd, 2017
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