Publishing a paper

The purpose of this resource is to provide you with an overview of the steps in publishing a research paper. We’ve included essential resources within each sub-topic.

Why publish?

Sharing your research is essential to advancing knowledge and practice within your field. Publishing in a peer-reviewed journal is a popular way to do this as it enhances the rigour and trustworthiness of your reported findings and gives your findings wide visibility.  

Some other potential benefits of publishing include opportunity to:

  • Advance your career or gain professional recognition
  • Receive important feedback through the peer review process
  • Clarify your goals for the research
  • Practice and improve your writing skills
  • Establish yourself as an expert in your field
  • Gain evidence to help secure funding requests

Publishing in a peer-reviewed journal is a momentous achievement for all researchers, especially new and emerging researchers. This resource steps through the process and contains lots of tips especially for first-time lead authors.

Writing your first research paper

In this clip Dr Hannah Beks from Deakin Rural Health, Deakin University discusses how to go about writing your first research paper.

Click here to download Hannah’s tips.


Being an author is both a privilege and a responsibility. Being named as an author on a research paper implies that you have made a significant contribution to the research paper. As an author you are also accountable for the published work. 

Who should be an author? 

Not everyone involved in a research project will necessarily be listed as an author, however those who have made significant contributions should be offered the opportunity to be an author. 

Many publishers have different criteria for what constitutes authorship, but one commonly used definition is provided by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). 

The ICMJE recommends that authorship is based on the following criteria:  

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work, or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND 
  • Drafting the work or reviewing it critically for important intellectual content; AND 
  • Final approval of the version to be published; AND 
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. 

What about those involved in the research who do not meet criteria for authorship? 

Those involved in the research who do not meet criteria for authorship should be acknowledged instead. 

 Some examples of activities that in and of themselves do not satisfy the requirements for authorship include: 

  •  Securing funds for research activity  
  • General supervision or guidance for the researchers  
  • General administrative support for the research 
  • Assistance with writing (e.g., technical or language editing, proofreading) 

Before acknowledging any individuals in a paper, you must check with them first. 

Order of authors  

The order of the co-authors typically reflects the relative significance of their contributions. Typically, the first author is the one who makes the most significant contribution to writing the paper. The last author is often the most senior author, contributing substantially to the study design and supervision.  

Most journals require an author contribution statement which clearly specifies the responsibilities and contributions of each author (see resources for advice) 

Some key points to remember when establishing authorship: 

  • All authors need to agree to be part of the paper and all authors should have approved the paper before submission.  
  • Those involved in the research who do not meet criteria for authorship should be acknowledged instead.  
  • Before submitting to a journal check whether they specify criteria for authorship.  


For a brief summary on responsible authorship see:  

  • Nundy, S., Kakar, A., Bhutta, Z.A. (2022). Who Should Be An Author? In: How to Practice Academic Medicine and Publish from Developing Countries? 

For more information on what constitutes authorship see: 

  • The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommendation  

For information on authorship as it pertains to the Australian Code for Responsible Conduct of Research: 

For guidance on how to write an author contribution statement see: 

Selecting the most appropriate journal for your research paper is a crucial factor in getting your paper published.

The three most important factors to consider when selecting a journal are scope, reputation and reaching your intended audience. 

  • The scope of a journal includes what type of papers the journal publishes and the journal’s intended readership
  • The reputation of a journal is somewhat based on metrics such as impact factor but the overall quality of studies published in that journal, peer review process, and ethical principles the journal employs
  • Identifying the best journal to reach your intended audience is not a scientific process, but can be informed by reading the journal’s scope, discussing suitable options with colleagues representing your target audience, and reflecting on your own preferred sources of peer-reviewed information

Note: Beware predatory journals – Predatory journals are deceptive and fraudulent. They take advantage of authors by asking them to pay a fee to publish without providing reputable peer-review or editing services. While it may be tempting to publish in a predatory journal this could negatively impact your reputation. See the link below for more information on how to identify a predatory journal. 

Other factors to consider when selecting a journal:

Impact factor

A journal’s impact factor is the average number of times papers in the journal have been cited in a particular year. Impact factors are generally based on a two-year period and are calculated by dividing the number of citations by the number of papers.

The higher the impact factor, the more highly ranked the journal. The Lancet is a highly prestigious journal with an impact factor of 168.9 (as at 2024).

Journal ranking


Selections of journals within the same field are often ranked. This is usually determined by the metrics such as the journal impact factor.

Ranking is typically expressed as a quartile score where:

·         Quartile 1 (Q1) = Top 25% of journals within a subject area 

·         Quartile 2 (Q2) = journals in the 25%-50%

·         Quartile 3 (Q3) = Journals in the 50-75% 

·         Quartile 4 (Q4) = Journals in the 75-100% 

Acceptance rate

The acceptance rate is the ratio of the number of papers submitted vs papers published. It can indicate the selectivity or prestige of a journal.  

The top journals are highly selective and thus have a low acceptance rate. For example, Nature only accepts about 8% of submitted papers. Most submissions are declined without being sent out for peer-review.

On the other hand, the Australian Journal of Rural Health had an acceptance rate of 50% in 2023.

Publishing frequency

Journals publish at different frequencies. A new issue may be published quarterly, monthly, or bi-monthly. Many of these journals offer online access to papers that have been accepted for publication but are yet to be assigned a volume or issue number.

Other journals publish papers continuously, i.e., papers are published online as soon as they’re ready.

Turnaround time

The turnaround time is the period of time it takes for a journal to review and publish a paper. Journals usually give a median time (in days). This can be broken down into:

·         Time to first decision: this is the time take from when the submission is received to when a first editorial decision is made about the paper

·         Peer-review

·         Time from acceptance to publication

Publishing Model

There are three common distribution models adopted by journals:

1. Traditional publishing model – journals charge readers a fee to access the paper, either via an institutional subscription or via individual purchases for instant access

2. Open access (OA) publishing – journals provide access to their content free of charge. However, this usually means the journal charges the authors a publishing fee called an article processing charge (APC). Some institutions have arrangements with journals so that the APC is waived

3. Hybrid – a mix of traditional and OA publishing where authors can either publish their paper for free and readers must pay to access it (or access it via their institution’s subscription). Or the can authors pay the journal’s APC and readers can access the paper free of charge

A few tips for selecting a journal:

  • A good starting point for finding relevant journals is to look at your reference list or similar works to see where it is published
  • Visit the journal websites to find important information on scope, journal policies, submission processes and turnaround times
  • Browse the current issue of a journal to see what type of content is published. If you don’t see any papers like yours published this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As long as your paper fits the scope of the journal this could actually make your research more novel and interesting to an editor
  • If you’re ever in doubt about whether your paper fits the scope of the journal, just send an email to the editors
  • APCs can be several thousand dollars, so if you are keen to publish your paper for open access, be sure to check if your institution (or one of your co-author’s institutions) has an arrangement with any of your target journals


For more information of choosing a journal see:

For more information on identifying whether or not a journal is reputable see:

If you’re interested in looking up journal metrics:

  • Many publishers will make these data readily available on their website
  • Scopus offers free journal rankings and cite scores

What to include in your submission

This varies according to each journal but typically you will need to include:

Cover letter 


The purpose of your cover letter is to demonstrate why you think your research paper is worth publishing in a particular journal. It’s an opportunity to highlight what’s novel and important about your work.

See the resources below for a template and more advice.

The manuscript (i.e., paper)

You will need to format your manuscript carefully according to the journal’s requirements. It’s important to get this right because your manuscript will be sent back by the editorial office if it doesn’t comply with the journal’s requirements.  

Supplementary materials

This might include copies of surveys used, datasets, additional analyses, or graphics.

Author declaration


Some journals require an author declaration form at the time of submission. This is a document signed by all authors.

Note: Be aware that submitting to more than one journal simultaneously is a breach of publishing ethics.

What is peer review?

Peer review is a quality control process where independent experts are asked to evaluate research papers that are submitted to a journal.

 What is Peer Review? (

There are different types of peer review, each have pros and cons:

Single-blind peer review: This is the most common type of peer review. In this model, the reviewers know that you are the author but you don’t know the identities of the reviewers.

Double-blind peer review: In this model, the reviewers don’t know your identity and you don’t know theirs.

Open peer review: Typically, in open peer review the authors and reviewers will both know each other’s identity.

Transparent peer review: In this model, a journal will make available the full peer review history (including the reviewer reports, editor’s correspondence, and the author’s response). Transparent peer review aims to restore trust in the integrity and fairness of the peer review process.

The submission and peer review process can be broadly summarised in the steps below, although these steps can vary slightly depending on the journal.

  1. Paper is submitted

Most publishers now use an online submission system where you can track the progress of your paper. 

  1. Initial Editorial Assessment

The editorial office checks that the paper adheres to the journal’s requirements. If your paper isn’t formatted according to the journal’s author guidelines it may be sent back to you.

  1. Assessment by Journal Editor

The journal editor checks that the research paper fits within the scope of the journal and considers the originality and merit of the work. The editor may choose to reject the paper at this stage if they feel the work is not of interest to the journal’s readership. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘desk rejection’.

  1. Peer review

If the editor deems the article to fit the scope of the journal and believes the research will be of interest to their readership, your paper will then be sent to peer review. Some journals might ask you to nominate a peer-reviewer. Peer-reviewers should be

  1. Decision

The journal editor reads the peer review reports and makes a decision to accept or reject the research paper. The journal editor may also request revisions be made at this stage. See more below.


For more information on the submission and peer review process see this free guide:

For advice on writing a cover letter see:

Based on the feedback from peer-reviewers the journal can either reject or accept your paper for publication. Sometimes the journal will ask you to make revisions. Normally some revision is required before acceptance.  

Here is some guidance to help you to revise your paper and respond to the reviewers.

Response to reviewers

Once you’ve carefully read the reviewers comments and revised your paper accordingly, you’ll need to write a response to the reviewers.

You need to address each and every comment provided on a point-by-point basis. You should use colour or other formatting features to distinguish your reply from the reviewers comments. It may be helpful to do this in a two-column grid.  Where possible your response to reviewers should be self-contained. See example in the resources section below.

What if I don’t agree with the reviewers?

That’s ok. You don’t have to make every change that the reviewers have suggested. However, you should respectfully explain why you haven’t made any suggested changes.

Advice for responding to reviewers’ comments

  • Thank the reviewers for the time taken to read your paper and provide feedback
  • Maintain a positive and professional tone
  • Address all the comments provided by the reviewers and/or editors
  • Provide justification for not making suggested changes
  • Do not take it personally if there are many comments to address – this is common, even for very experienced researchers. Consider the peer review process an important learning process


For more information on responding to reviewers’ comments: