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How to... demonstrate professional achievement through publication

By Chris Hart, Rose Dewey, Paul Johnson and Helen Evans


How to promote your company through publication?

One way of doing this would be to write for Emerald Group Publishing Limited. We can publicize ideas, knowledge, experiences – and your company – to thousands of readers all over the world.

Emerald operates a "research you can use" policy where we actively seek case studies and viewpoints from industry. Emerald is widely known and respected as a publisher of management research, and as such will provide you with a respected platform for your work.

Most articles are part of a database so your work will be distributed electronically to over 1,000 institutions in more than 200 countries, ensuring maximum visibility to the right audiences and also promotion of your company.

Publish your ideas and success stories and reach a wide audience promoting not only your own achievements, but your company too!

Case study guide

Why publish?

We acknowledge that writing for publication may seem an unfamiliar task for many practitioners; that publication is not in the remit of your job description, and therefore may seem much less important than day-to-day responsibilities such as keeping up with your targets and the inevitable "firefighting". However, the very fact that you're reading this demonstrates not only a desire to go that extra mile in your job, but also the potential commitment to undertake the task of writing a paper for publication. Possible reasons motivating a practitioner to write a paper – some you might relate to – include:

  • Internal and external recognition: you may have done something interesting that has made a difference, or your company/organization has something worthwhile to say, such as a new initiative which could be communicated as part of a case study. If this is the case, publishing will get your company or organization noticed.
  • Esteem: publishing will bring recognition of the part you played in improving or changing practice within an organization.
  • Career progression and personal development: a published paper looks good on a CV, even if you are not expected to publish. This extra accreditation will give you an edge in a very competitive job market. Publishing will also help get you noticed among your peers and provide valuable networking opportunities:
    "The value for practitioners is having a link from a credible source like Emerald. By having a page where you feature your author that says 'this is Mary Adams, this is her business' and a link to my site, it begins to create a community and identity for the author" (Mary Adams).
  • Sharing knowledge and experience: publishing will provide a good means of sharing your opinions and experiences with colleagues and peers worldwide. The very act of writing a paper will also provide an opportunity to commit yourself to an idea and explore its development at a critical stage through your research.

From our own surveying of practitioner authors, we have been able to gauge an understanding of the importance of each motivation as a determinant towards writing a paper specifically for publication. For instance, in our survey of over 2,000 practitioner authors, we have found the following results to the question, "What best describes your motivation for writing and submitting papers?":

Figure 1. Graph depicting authors' motivation for writing and submitting papers.

  • 85 per cent identified esteem as a main driver.
  • 80 per cent identified career progression and personal development.
  • 70 per cent answered sharing knowledge and experience.
  • 50.2 per cent answered internal and external recognition.

What paper?

The question of what paper to write can be a difficult one, and often dependent on the scope and depth of the research being conducted. Academics will tend to write research papers, primarily because this format best fits their own objectives regarding depth of analysis. However, producing a lengthy research paper, including the research behind it and writing of it, is not a feasible option for a practitioner author who also has additional day-to-day requirements.

From a research survey of practitioner authors, where they were asked, "What type of papers are you/would you be most inclined to submit?", the following answers were given:

Figure 2. Pie chart depicting the type of papers authors are most inclined to submit.

In addition to the survey of practitioner authors, we also took the opportunity to survey a large number of editors of Emerald-published journals, who gave the following responses to the question, "What type/format of papers are best received from the corporate and public sectors?":

Figure 3. Pie chart depicting type/format of papers best received from the corporate and public sectors.

Of those editors who responded, 82 per cent registered an interest in engineering greater network links with practitioner authors, while nearly all agreed that content written by practitioners is perceived as valuable to both current and prospective readers. Case studies, in particular, especially when written by practitioners working within the area of enquiry, were singled out as being of high demand by most editors.

What is a case study?

A well written case study allows readers to investigate a contemporary phenomenon within a real life context. For instance the case study can be a valuable method of communicating the tangible benefits of a particular project or specific way of working. It is this focus on something real and particular that makes case studies an exciting alternative to the orthodox research paper written by academics. For this reason, case studies are often used in business education and fed into both academic and practitioner communities.

Case study objectives

A case study involves an in-depth examination of a single instance or event. It is therefore important that the scope of a case study has a specific focus, and tries not to deviate too far away from its original agenda. However, to produce an interesting scope it is also necessary that the case study is produced with a clear idea of what the reader will take from its particular focus: will they understand its findings or key message? Is it accessible to those readers who are not subject experts in the particular area of focus? By answering these questions you can begin to understand the importance of identifying the needs of the reader. Other relevant questions worth assessing include:

  • How will the reader benefit from my work?
  • Is there anything new or original about my work?
  • What can be generalized about my work/focus, and is it translatable for the next person?

This last point is very important for deciding on the focus of the case study because, as mentioned, case studies are now being predominantly integrated into business education: it must be practical research as an aid to gaining a sharpened understanding of a particular phenomenon. To help sharpen your readers' understanding a good structure is a key ingredient for any valuable case study.

Case study: structure

The following advice should be read as a generalized overview of a case study's key features. For a more technical guide on how to write a case study, you may find the author guidelines on the Emerald website to be of good use, see:

As mentioned, with a substantial piece of writing it is important to identify a particular area or subject of focus before you begin, and how best to present this focus to the reader so that they can take the most from it.

Essential elements to include in a case study are:

  1. Background – answering why this particular focus was chosen.
  2. Objectives – answering what the research is trying to achieve.
  3. Analysis – of salient events.
  4. Results – and how they were obtained.
  5. Implications – for readers, practitioners and researchers.

Once these five key elements are included, it is then necessary to think about a structural design for the case study, including how the research will read or look. For example:

  • Linear analytic: adopting the viewpoint of the observer, and always dealing with the issue/research subject from beginning to end.
  • Comparative: looking at the subject of focus from various perspectives or points of view and considering which gives the best explanation.
  • Chronological: the analysis or results of the case study are presented in chronological order.
  • Theory building: the case study is presented in the context of a particular theory.
  • Suspense: the opposite of the linear analytic structure, with the outcome being presented first and followed by a contextual explanation.

Once you have decided on the structure that will best present your particular investigative focus, the next important step is to consider how you will gather the data that not only form the core of your investigation, but also give it validity.

Case study: methodology

When attempting to gather data you will begin to notice many different sources of data, and what you choose to use will depend on your research design. No one source of data is complete, and it is important to give your research depth by having more than one source.

Two main examples of data types important to a case study include:

  1. Secondary data: An example of secondary data includes existing documents or archival records from a company's databases. Existing literature covering a particular subject is also a common source of secondary data. This type of existing data are good for backing up one's point of view or rationale.
  2. Primary data: An example of primary data would include one's findings from interviews with key informants, questionnaires, or direct observation. The achievement of such data requires an active or direct approach from the researcher/author. It would be difficult to write a good case study by ignoring the inclusion of primary data. When collecting any data it is essential that the researcher adheres to a system of ethics and research protocol, details of which can be found at the research "how to guides" section of the Emerald website.

Interview with a practitioner author

About Mary Adams

Mary Adams is the principal of Trek Consulting LLC, Winchester, Massachusetts, USA. Mary Adams' article entitled "Management 2.0: managing the growing intangible side of your business" published in Emerald's Business Strategy Series was chosen as a highly commended award winner at the Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence, 2009.

How did you get to know Emerald?

When I met the folks from your organization in Boston, they gave a good introduction to Emerald. My partner had written a paper for the Business Strategy Series in the past and I had written a paper last year, but I didn't really know that much about Emerald and the fact that you are trying to be academic and serious, but also really practical.

This came through very strongly for me in the presentation delivered by Emerald. I think that's something you want to emphasize and make real for people. Something that came to mind that day, and I shared it with one of your people, was the idea that the value for practitioners, for people that are in business, is having a link from a credible source like Emerald. It's very valuable to us because of search engine maximization. By having a page where you feature your author that says "this is Mary Adams, this is her business" and has a link to my site begins to create a community and identity for the author as well as credibility, so it's a great thing for me as it gives me a link.

How visible is Emerald in your work and how aware are people in your line of work of Emerald and other competitor journals?

Emerald is known for specific journals such as the Journal of Intellectual Capital. I had certainly been very aware of this. I think that people are aware of journals in their field.

Does the awareness of individual journals translate into people reading these journals? How do non-academics get access to the content?

I subscribed for one year to the Journal of Intellectual Capital, but it was a little too academic for me, I write and I blog a fair amount, but I found the journal material a little too micro studies by academics so I found that less practical.

Did you find the website a useful resource?

I certainly visit your website, mostly when there is a new issue of Journal of Intellectual Capital as I get a reminder. I was introduced to Google Scholar recently and I think that it's going to be really good for Emerald and other journals because if you are not an academic, you are not going to have an exhaustive bibliography on your desk all the time. You try to be well read, but it's not your day job so it will probably help people to find your articles.

What made you write the paper for the Business Strategy Series?

I have been working in this field for a long time and one of my frustrations was that I would talk to people about what I thought was a solution to the challenges of business and the knowledge area and I would get that people would understand one little piece of the picture but never really understand the whole thing. I had come up with a series of ideas and I knew that it would make a great article. At about the same time my partner got an e-mail from Emerald about his having written for you in the past, and prospecting for any ideas for papers in the coming year. He forwarded this on to me and I decided that this was what I was going to do with my idea.

Was the main motivation therefore to share information?

Yes, and also to form your own ideas, they say the same about teaching as about writing, until you do it, you haven't really mastered the ideas. This happens a lot in consulting. You experience things live and you help clients solve problems and, after a while, you start to see patterns to the extent that you can capture the patterns and communicate them. This helps me in my thinking, but obviously helps keep my thinking tangible.

This article is a real success story because it really helped me form my ideas. At the same time as writing the article, I read a book called Made to Stick, which is about how some ideas capture people's imagination. This helped me get even more tangible about what I was saying. Once I finished the article, I thought this would be a really good book.

I had previously written for a few magazines and have written for four conference journals after presenting papers. Everybody wants someone who says they have read your magazine article. You have the article and you use it on your website and send it to clients. It's like a book though; sometimes people find it by accident, but most of the time you have to be out there marketing it. The reason for using a publisher like Emerald is that it gives the article credibility through the review process that you don't get from publishing it yourself. As a consultant, you face the challenge that every one is SMART so how do you make your SMART's real to people and also give them some comfort that they know what they are getting into when they deal with you?

When you wrote your paper, did you use any resource guides?

There is a lot of good stuff on the Emerald "For authors" pages. The more interactive you make it, the better. There was a paper guide and an abstract guide that I used. The "Meet the editors" section is really good. Emerald has a really good resource.

Is there anything we could have done to make the process of writing or submitting an article easier?

More visibility of the resources page, I didn't focus on it until recently.

How do you think you have gained professionally from publishing in a journal rather than on the Web?

I have definitely gained credibility. I am able to use your brand as validation of mine. In terms of what I have gained, it gives me something that makes my ideas tangible that I can share with other people. I have two consulting companies and we don't have brochures, we just have folders. Depending on whom we are seeing and speaking to, which is usually through e-mail, we follow up with two or three things that may interest them as a way of continuing conversation. I put a link to the Emerald website and point out where my article is.

The content to practitioners has to be more visible. This motivates them to write. I could change something in the article and publish this myself, but I couldn't put your logo on it.

When I got my award, I wrote in and asked if you had a logo that I could put on my website and I could link it back to yours which is something you could more actively do.

How did you use the article to raise your profile?

I got a logo from you guys, you were very responsive and I put that with the article on my website. I used it in social media, I have a newsletter and I have a blog on LinkedIn where it says, "what are you up to?". I put it there as well as on Plaxo and other different places. I don't use press releases, but a lot of people do. I have enough ways of reaching out to people. The one thing I didn't do was let Emerald know I was attending the European Conference on Intellectual Capital and I was so upset when one of the other people got an award. I had received this e-mail saying if I was going to be at any conferences, let us know and I didn't. One of my colleagues got called up because she won an award and I was like "shoot" because I did too but it was too late at that point. That was my own lesson, you guys didn't do anything wrong. I wasn't on top of the game.

What advice would you give to other practitioners considering writing for a journal?

Think strategically about how you are going to use this in your business from the beginning. All of us are constantly battling for informational integrity on the business side and you have to provide value in what you are writing about, but obviously this is part of a marketing strategy for a business so think strategically about how you would use this and what it would help you accomplish. It makes it easier to make yourself do it rather than just doing an abstract exercise. It also helps you craft your message and I think that blends really well with your mission. Emerald wants the practical, so how do you take these things and make it practical and real to potential clients and partners?

Market the piece and use the piece. Emerald does a great job in marketing, but just getting it into the journal is not doing that much for the practitioner if they don't have a website, which is amazing, some people still don't. Think about other websites and media you can get it on to get the attention.

PowerPoint presentation

Download Emerald's practitioner author pack. Available as a PDF or PowerPoint.