How to...
Write for a practitioner audience

If you are an academic, then you have compelling reasons to publish: your job and your status depends on maintaining your publishing profile in quality scholarly journals.

However, if you are a practitioner then writing for publication is not part of your job and can seem much less important than keeping up with core targets and learning goals.

Why write for a practitioner journal?

Why, therefore, consider publishing? There are a number of reasons:

  • Because you may have done something interesting and/or that has made a difference, or your company or organisation has something to say! If you have a new product, development or initiative which could be communicated as part of a case study, then publishing will get your company or organisation noticed.
  • By getting your organisation noticed within both industry and academia, you will create valuable networking opportunities.
  • You may have a hand in improving or changing practice in other organisations or countries.
  • You may have done some research as part of an MBA or other master's degree, and publishing will provide a means of building on that research.
  • Even though you may not be required to publish, a publication will always look good on your CV, and also get you noticed with your peers. In a very competitive job market, being published can give you an edge, particularly in an area which values particular knowledge and expertise.
  • Publishing will provide a good means of sharing your opinions and experiences with colleagues and peers worldwide.

Why publish with Emerald?

Emerald is widely known and respected as a publisher of management journals, and as such will provide you with a respected platform for your work.

Given that most of our journals are part of a database, your work will be distributed electronically to over 1,000 institutions in more than 200 countries, ensuring maximum visibility to the right audiences.

You will be read by people at leading research institutions and multinational corporations.

Why publish in a practitioner journal?

If you are a practitioner working for an organisation, you might think: Why not publish for a trade journal?

If you are an academic, you might equally think: Would it not be better to publish in an academic journal?

To answer these questions, we need first to consider: What is a practitioner journal? Practitioner journals are journals that are aimed at a particular professional market.

They differ from trade journals in that:

  • They are targeted at a niche market rather than a broad audience.
  • Subscribers to these journals are usually senior managers who are key influencers in their particular organisation and often beyond, so your ideas could well be taken up at a very senior level.
  • They are of a higher quality than trade publications in that they are much more selective about the quality of content.
  • For the above reasons, there is more kudos attached to writing for them.
  • Articles go into an online database, thus increasing dissemination.

They differ from academic journals in that:

  • They are aimed at a professional rather than at an academic market.
  • There is proportionally more emphasis on practical implications and less on rigorous research methodology.
  • The editor often selects articles and do not have to go through a formal process of peer review.

If you are an academic author, you may wish to consider publishing a more practitioner-oriented version of your research in a practitioner journal, as a means of disseminating your research findings and making a difference in the wider world, as well as reaching a larger audience.

Which are Emerald's main practitioner titles?

This section looks at the main practitioner titles published by Emerald, providing a brief description and links to each journal page. It also looks at the process of being published in a practitioner journal.

The following is a summary of our main practitioner titles. For more information, click on the journal title to go direct to the journal's home page and find out more about the sort of articles it publishes (journal information), how to prepare your manuscript (author guidelines), its editorial team, and to read some sample articles.

Emerald's main practitioner titles




Word limit

Corporate Governance: The International Journal of Business in Society 

Board performance, corporate responsibility, chief executive officer (CEO) effectiveness and other governance issues

CEOs and senior managers, board members, business schools, education and training professionals


Development and Learning in organizations: An International Journal

Presents the latest thinking in the fields of organisational learning and training in summary form, alongside case studies and viewpoints from leading thinkers in the field

Human resource (HR) and training managers, senior managers, management consultants, and researchers


Human Resource Management International Digest

An essential information resource for today's HR managers. Provides a unique service by scanning through the best 400 management journals in the world and distilling the most topical HR management issues and relevant implications for HR personnel out of the cutting-edge research

HR professionals, personnel and training managers, academics, HR consultants, and company directors


Industrial and Commercial Training

To provide all those involved in personnel training and training management with current practice, ideas, news and research on major issues in organisation development and employee education and training

Consultants, general managers, lecturers, libraries, personnel and HR managers, and training professionals


Journal of Business Strategy

Articles designed to help readers develop successful business strategies

Executives, senior and middle managers, consultants and researchers


Journal of Knowledge Management

Strategies, tools, techniques and technologies for knowledge management with a focus on innovative strategies and real-world application

Senior managers, consultants, academics and researchers, managers particularly concerned with knowledge management, i.e. IT, quality, benchmarking, and intellectual asset managers


Measuring Business Excellence

Models for measuring business as used by other best-practice businesses

Managers, consultants and researchers using measurement and improvement tools


Strategic Direction

Covers information on defining the strategic intent of your organisation, initiating change, learning from global competitors, procuring, organizing and utilizing competitive information

Managing directors, market analysts, business strategists, management consultants, company directors, financial directors, CEOs and their advisers and strategy teams


Strategic HR Review

Corporate case studies, research and a wealth of practical ideas

Senior HR professionals


Strategy & Leadership

Authoritative comment from the world's leading experts in corporate strategy and strategic management

CEOs and senior management, leadership coaches, trainers, and HR strategists


What if my proposed article does not fit one of these publications?

Look at the rest of Emerald's journals under the subject listing to see if there is a more suitable one in terms of subject coverage.

Then scrutinise its journal information page and author guidelines as discussed above to find out how practitioner-oriented it is, and how much of an emphasis it places on the thoroughness and depth of the research.

Look also at the communities it serves, and see how high up the list that practitioners come.

The publishing process

The first point to consider is to target the right journal. Read its journal information page carefully to see that your article matches its requirements.

It's also important to plan your article in accordance with our advice in the next section ("What should you write for a practitioner journal?"), and that you submit it in accordance with the author guidelines.

Once submitted the editor will undertake a desk review of your article. Academic titles nearly all use a peer review process, and this can mean minor or major revisions depending on the reviewer's comments. Many practitioner journals do not have this peer review process, but rely on the judgement of the editor, who may also take a second opinion, such as from their editorial board.

However, some practitioner journals do send papers for peer review, e.g., Journal of Knowledge Management, so it is important that you pay close attention to the author guidelines before submitting your article.

What should you write for a practitioner journal?

By this stage, you will have researched the journal for which you wish to write, established its synergy with your own work, thoroughly considered its objectives, and decided that the article which you have in mind meets the relevant criteria.

So far, so good. However, this is only the first stage in planning. There are a number of other things to consider.

In this section

What do readers want?

Focusing on the needs of the reader is especially important. Your own work may be vital to you and your organisation, but why would people in the wider world be interested? How might they benefit from your work? Do you have an improved way of working or have you developed a unique way of measuring business performance? If you are using technology, are you really using it in an innovative way, and if you are using it in an innovative way, what are the benefits?

Always focus on:

  • What is new about your work
  • What is generalisable
  • What is good about it and how the benefit can be translated into something tangible from which others can learn.

A training manager at a large multinational company has developed a set of training materials using the Web to deliver all product-related training to the company's worldwide sites, after a strategic decision has been taken to use this method in preference to face-to-face training. She is now thinking of publishing a case study and is considering what it is about her experience that would benefit other people. In particular, she is asking herself:

  • Was there anything new about the technology?
  • Was there anything new about the teaching strategy (she used computer-assisted assessment (CAA) and some multimedia, both of which are tried and tested methods)?
  • Did the experiment result in real learning benefits, demonstrably greater than those that would have been achieved in face-to-face training?
  • Was the method of delivery new (in fact, several other organisations have adopted a similar method of delivery)?
  • Was there anything new about the way in which the project was evaluated?

In other words, the training manager needed to consider how her experience would offer substantial business benefits to her counterparts in other organisations. If she had, say, set up webcams in training centres at the local sites to collect data about the use of the training material, then this would have been an unusual and innovative method of evaluating training at a distance.

Use of web-based materials in themselves, especially with CAA which is tried and tested, is not particularly innovative and, therefore, lessons will have little explanatory power.


If you are an academic, remember that what makes a good practitioner article is not what makes a good academic one. The content of your academic paper may well be of value to the practitioner, but not in its current form. You might, for example, be better off rewriting the article and creating two articles, one for a practitioner journal and the other for an academic journal.

What do editors want? 

One of the first requirements of an editor, on reading submitted articles, is that the potential contributor should have a thorough understanding of what their journal is about, and have read its overview and author guidelines.

That is the minimum; however, they are also looking for something that will take knowledge forward, will make a difference, and will provide inspiration to their readers about how to change their own working practice.

What type of paper should you write?

In all the author guidelines, you are asked to write a structured abstract which will require you to place your paper under one of a number of categories (see our "How to... write an abstract" guide for more details). This should not be treated as an administrative exercise, but should be a way of structuring your article.

It is possible for an article to be of more than one type, e.g. it could be a general review and a viewpoint.

The categories are listed below, together with their relevance to a practitioner article:

  • Research. Always relevant but include enough information to show that the methodology is robust without going into too much detail as practitioners will not want to read the minutiae of your sampling technique. If necessary, provide the detail in an appendix.
  • Viewpoint. This is a type of paper which allows for the development of opinions.
  • Technical paper. Evaluates technical products or services, or a method of analysis.
  • Conceptual paper. This is where new hypotheses are explored, and is wholly theoretical, so arguably of limited real benefit to practitioners who are more inclined to be interested in practical applications of theory. 
  • Case study. This involves focusing on the particular (i.e., an organization or part of one, an industry sector or a country), and it is highly relevant to practitioners.
  • Literature review. A literature review is more strongly associated with a research project, so it would be slightly unusual for a practitioner journal to publish this sort of article.
  • General review. This type of paper gives an overview of a concept, technique or phenomenon. The review should obviously be written in a general, journalistic style, and should be on an issue which has a bearing on business, e.g., a new piece of legislation, or a particular industry trend.

How should you approach the structure and what should you include?

We are here presupposing that you have already decided what article type(s) you are writing.

What questions will you address?

This will provide a focus for your article, and help you determine the subsequent structure. Here are some examples:

(Referring to the example above) How can one most effectively evaluate training when this takes place on a worldwide basis?

What makes a community of practice operate successfully when it is enabled by online interactive technologies?

"The aim of the study was to explore why corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a concern for firms, what it means for them, and how it is conducted and communicated. The research questions were:

  • Why, for what purposes is CSR necessary or useful for a company? What kinds of motives, purposes or expectations regarding CSR are there?
  • What is CSR? What is its rationale and philosophy, what kinds of principles steer it, and what does it consist of?
  • How are CSR principles led and managed in practice? How are CSR programmes carried out?
  • How is CSR communicated? What kind of communication strategies do companies have? How do they mirror public relation's definitions or paradigms?"

(Elisa Juholin, "For business or the good of all", Corporate Governance, Vol. 4 No. 3)

How will you present your research?

Generally, the advice to authors, as expressed in the author guidelines, is to present any research methodology clearly but under a separate heading. It is particularly important for articles for practitioner journals that the research methodology is presented succinctly and without long references to data collection, etc.

In "Motivation and barriers to participation in virtual knowledge-sharing communities of practice", the authors describe a case study which they did on Communities of Practice in Caterpillar Inc. (see example below). They preface their description of their methodology by giving background to the organisation; they then provide succinct but adequate descriptions of the design of the study and the analysis of the data. (Note that, for example, there is no justification of the sampling technique or the sampling instrument, and that the latter is not described in detail, as might be the case in a more academic article.)

The organisation

The reported research project involved an in-depth case study of virtual communities of practice in a large multinational corporation, Caterpillar Inc. Caterpillar is a Fortune 100 corporation, manufacturing heavy construction and mining equipment. It employs more than 100,000 employees and its products are distributed in nearly 200 countries. The company's competitive advantage depends heavily on the utilization of the professional knowledge of its employees, especially mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineers, designers, new product development personnel, equipment and material testers, and others. Therefore, it is not surprising that knowledge management (KM) has long been a central concern for the company. 

Initially, Caterpillar's earlier KM efforts concentrated mostly on knowledge capture and dissemination. However, in the mid-1990s the company's strategy in this area started to shift to incorporate the community of practice ideas. Caterpillar's first virtual communities of practice (or "communities of knowledge sharing", as the company employees call them) emerged in 1997. At the time of writing, there were more than 600 online communities with 15,000 members worldwide. Caterpillar's communities are supported by the Knowledge Network, an Intranet-based system designed to provide an infrastructure for community functioning and supported by a group of KM technology experts, and employees of the Caterpillar corporate university. The system allows users to find subject area experts, post questions to specific experts or to the community at large, post and find knowledge entries, conduct online chats and asynchronous threaded discussions of questions and problems, and connect to numerous other online communities. Most of the communities were formed at the initiative of employees, not as a result of interventions planned by the KM group or the top executive team. Communities tend to form around specific subject matter expertise or professional activity areas but are open to all interested employees.

A typical community includes a community manager, one or more "delegates", a number of "experts", and "subscribers". Managers are typically elected by the team, and are, usually, senior, experienced members who have earned the team's respect through a strong history of contributions to the company. "Delegates" are associate managers, who can run the community in the manager's absence, or take on certain parts of the community management duties. "Experts" are people recognized for their skills and knowledge in certain areas. They actively participate in the community by posting knowledge entries, assisting managers in reviewing new postings, and answering questions posted to the community in general or to individual experts personally. Finally, any member of the organisation, interested in a community of practice's (CoP) subject matter, can become a "subscriber" to that community.

The study design

This research project was based on a qualitative case study design, with the main unit of analysis being three communities of practice. These three communities were selected using the purposive sampling approach. One of the communities was among the most well-established and successful communities, with a large (more than 1,000 employees) membership, and high community "traffic" (measured by the number of postings, permanent knowledge entries, and various online activities). The other two communities were classified as less successful and struggling to establish themselves. Both had smaller memberships (several dozen people), and significantly lower levels of online "traffic".

The major method of data collection was based on semi-structured interviews. In addition, the researchers collected a variety of company documentation, visited a total of five different sites housing various work units, and familiarized themselves with the functioning of the knowledge-sharing network over the company Intranet. Interviews were conducted with a total of 30 members, including managers of three communities, community experts, community members, and managers in administrative units responsible for managing and supporting the Knowledge Network (the software system at the backbone of Caterpillar's Internet communities). The procedure for selecting participants was that of purposive sampling: the lists of community participants and documentation on frequency of their participation in the community (the number of postings and knowledge entries contributed by them; the number of times they have accessed the system, etc.), provided by the Corporate University, were used to identify groups of heavy, moderate, and light users. Subsequently, random samples were drawn from each of the groups. The selected community members were contacted by email to solicit their participation in the study. Interviews with community managers and delegates were conducted face-to-face. The remaining interviews were accomplished by phone. Interviews lasted from 45 minutes to 2 hours, and were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim.

Interviews were conducted using a semi-structured schedule, developed based on the review of the literature and industry reports on knowledge management, virtual teamwork, and CoP, and the information obtained from Caterpillar representatives during the initial project planning meetings. The schedule was pilot tested in an interview with one active community delegate. The pilot test allowed the researchers to adjust several of the interview questions and eliminate questions that seemed redundant.

In addition to the interview data, researchers collected and analysed company documentation, which included: conference presentations and papers, developed by the Caterpillar employees, and describing the CoPs and KN; internally circulated manuals for KN users; reports and statistics on KN use and CoP membership and participation levels.

Data analysis

The interview data were analysed using two methods. First, the data obtained by dichotomous questions and questions that required the respondents to provide specific numbers were analysed by calculating descriptive statistics for the sample. Second, the narratives obtained by way of open-ended questions were coded and analysed by two researchers independently using the qualitative data presentation and analysis methods (Miles and Huberman, 1994). This included coding of individual interview data to identify major themes and categories, development of summary sheets for each interview, and development of cross-case data tables.

The qualitative analysis reported here involved an iterative process. The researchers started with coding the answers to open-ended questions, which resulted in identifying categories and issues pertaining to each of the questions. For example, to answer one of the questions, "What are the barriers to employees' contributing their knowledge to virtual knowledge-sharing communities?" the researchers’ content-analysed not only those segments of the transcripts where a specific question about barriers was asked, but also the whole transcript, trying to find relevant discussions. Two researchers performed the coding independently. Categories generated by the individual coders were compared and discussed in research meetings between the two coders. These discussions resulted in re-coding of some data and re-analysis of relevant segments. Once a consensus was reached on categories, the two coders went back to the interview material to ascertain how many categories were present. 

The iterative analysis of the interview data involved was augmented by the documentation analysis. This was accomplished by constantly referring to the information provided in the company documentation for validation. For example, participants' comments on the uses of the system were compared with relevant segments of the KN manual, and their statements regarding the frequency of certain uses were verified by referring to the statistics provided by the company.

Participant checks and validation

In "For business or the good of all", the author uses a case studie approach to examine the importance of corporate social responsibility in Finland (see example below). The methodology is described in a brief and straightforward way. Note how the author presupposes no knowledge on the part of the reader about how interviews work as a research method, what snowball sampling is, how the data analysis is described in fairly simple terms, without long technical description of the method of analysis.

Subjects and methods

One of the most important sources of case study information is the interview. Most commonly, case study interviews are open-ended in nature, and the investigator asks the respondents for facts as well as opinions. A second type of interview is the focused interview, or theme interview, in which the subject is interviewed for a brief time, say, an hour in a conversational manner. The interviewer leaves the questions rather open, allowing the interviewee to present his or her own view. The aim of the case study was to examine spoken argumentation as it mirrors the interviewees' own deliberations on the issue. 

The units of analysis or cases were a sample of Finnish companies, which sought to prioritise CSR. The subjects of the study were senior executives responsible for CSR issues in their organisations. They represented elite sources (Tuomi, 2003), which is seen to enhance the likelihood of obtaining most recent and relevant information. The sources of information were internet sites, newspaper articles and information received during the Congress of Corporate Social Responsibility held in Helsinki on 4 June 2002 by the Finnish Association of Communicators. The method known as snowball sampling proved to be a practical and efficient way of recruiting the subjects. Accordingly, the author opened the research process by making contact with a representative of Kesko, a company that has been highly profiled as a forerunner of CSR in Finland and Europe. The first interviewee recommended certain colleagues of his, who in turn recommended some of their colleagues. The number of interviewees available who have knowledge on the research theme was limited: a prominent respondent argued that he has less than ten colleagues in the world. Each participant in the case study comprises a "whole" study of its own.

Theory-oriented themes were found to be a suitable method for this study. The interview themes were the background and history of CSR (Buchholz, 1985; Carroll, 1995; L'Etang, 1996; Pearson, 1989), motives (Aula, 2002; Grunig, 1984, 1989, 1996), contents (Panapanaan, 2001), and organisation and communication (Grunig, 1984, 1989, 1996; Panteleeva, 2002). An additional challenge was to create a core category based on the thinking of the grounded theory (Strauss, 1994).

The data were analysed case by case and theme by theme. The analysis was carried out by applying Dey's method (1993). Accordingly, the analyses are reduced in a process in which the interview data are first classified into categories for comparison with the theoretical themes. The categories are then assigned to themes. Finally, the categories are united to represent more general typologies.

In practice the procedure consisted of the following phases. Seven of the eight interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. The first and the second in-depth reading of each transcript simultaneously involved listening back to the recording. (O'Dwyer, 2002). Using the interview guide (themes) as a broad framework each transcript was subject an iterative reading. This resulted in the creation of a mind map for each case. The mind map was a significant help in identifying myriad themes and sub themes in the data.

The interviews initially yielded nine categories. A further four categories emerged during a close reading of the interview transcripts. 

In the following stage all 13 categories were entered into a summary table, where the core contents of every case and every category were recorded. This approached showed a need to combine some of the categories due to overlapping contents, which generated six categories and six typologies.

(Elisa Juholin, "For business or the good of all? A Finnish approach to corporate social responsibility", Corporate Governance, Vol. 4 No. 3).

How should you write for a practitioner journal?

Having structured your article, decided on its type and how best to go about presenting the tips outlined below should help you present your article in an approachable way to your peer group, or your practitioner colleagues.

Title and introduction

Use the title and introduction to capture the attention of the reader. The title of the article should have immediacy, as is neatly captured in the following examples:

All the above titles are catchy, use alliteration or, descriptive phrases, and as such overlap with business preoccupations.

Use a journalistic style to draw the reader into the subject, making clear its practical relevance, as in the following examples:

  • "CEOs of high-tech companies have some justification for blaming their losses and missed earnings of recent years on the economic slowdown. These companies have struggled to optimize their existing business models, many initiating across-the-board budget cuts and layoffs." (Vivek Kapur et al., "High-tech 2005: the horizontal, hypercompetitive future", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 31 No. 2).
  • "We are living in a time of unprecedented globalization. Coca-Cola sells beverages in almost 200 countries worldwide while McDonald's operates in more than 30,000 restaurants in 118 countries (including some whose national diets do not include beef!). And it is not just consumer icons that today must manage their business models and franchises on a global basis: hundreds of packaged goods producers, computer hardware and software manufacturers, mobile-phone service providers, auto makers and others now compete for consumers around the globe." (Jennifer Barron and Jim Hollingshead, "Brand globally, market locally", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 25 No. 1).
  • "Did you ever make a business decision without all the facts? Did you learn something after you implemented your decision that you would have changed had you known it sooner? If the answer to either question is 'yes', chances are you lost money, time, morale and the competitive advantage. All these could easily be avoided with business intelligence." (Seena Sharp,"Building better decisions: strategies for reducing risk and avoiding surprises", Handbook of Business Strategy, Vol. 5 No. 1).

Word lengths for practitioner journals tend overall to be shorter than for academic journals. Brevity and conciseness will be much appreciated by your readers.

Avoid a long preamble: get to the point of your article early on!


Write in a lively and engaging style, as if you were writing for a magazine rather than an academic journal:


  • Write as clearly as possible.
  • Break your article up into reasonably short paragraphs, and use short sentences.
  • Use bullet points where appropriate.
  • Use active verbs, use sub-headings to break up the text.
  • Use plenty of examples and vivid language.
  • Write concisely and summarise things that are not essential to the main arguments or observations.


  • Use the passive tense.
  • Use technical jargon or organisational nomenclature.
  • Use long paragraphs and sentences.

Figures and photographs 

Some journals, such as Journal of Business Strategy, encourage the use of these, and they can certainly liven up an article. Make sure that the figure really does elucidate a point better than plain words could have. Also make sure that you follow the author guidelines for submission of figures, which should always be of a high quality and embedded within the article.

Reference to other works

Practitioner articles should NOT include long literature reviews (descriptions of the literature on the subject). If included, do so as part of the background: see the example of the literature review in the article "Motivation and barriers to participation in virtual knowledge-sharing communities of practice", where the author devotes a page to the literature by way of explaining key background concepts such as communities of practice and what makes them tick.

The different approach to a literature review in a practitioner and academic article can be seen in the following two case studies:

  1. In "For business or the good of all", Elisa Juholin makes a brief reference to case study methodology: "To cite Yin (1987), case study research is preferred, first, when how and why questions are being posed".
  2. In "A case study assessment of performance measurement in distribution centres" (Chun-Ho Kuo et al., Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 99 No. 2), there is an extensive discussion of Yin's methodology.

Note that the style of referring to other works by surname and date – Lave and Wenger (1991) – is known as the Harvard referencing system and it is explained in our How to... use the Harvard reference system guide. However, try to keep references to the minimum.