Steps Towards Publication

  1. Initial Preparation. See the sections on research and writing.
  2. Extended Abstract. Most conferences will ask for an extended abstract (or sometimes a full paper), which will be used to decide whether or not to accept or deny your submission of a full paper. In our group, we generally treat an extended abstract as a rough draft of the final paper instead of a proposal of what you plan to do. In other words, you should have your methodology pretty well worked out and have preliminary results by the time you submit your abstract. The reason is that this usually leads to higher quality publications and minimizes the probability that you will have to withdraw from a conference. This is not a hard and fast rule, but we don’t violate the rule without good reason (e.g., for a conference that is a great fit but that does not occur very often, an unusually long lag between abstract acceptance and the conference, other milestones or requirements that suggest a final paper will be ready in time).
  3. Conference. A conference publication is not the end goal—peer-reviewed journal publication is. However, conferences are a great opportunity to network, disseminate ideas, receive feedback on your work, and learn broadly about other research. Not every paper needs to go to a conference. Sometimes we skip straight to journal submission. Some reasons to skip straight to journal publication include: particularly groundbreaking research (which can be presented later at a non-proceedings-based conference), a desire to publish in a particular journal that does not have a good conference tie-in, a publication that is impactful but does lend itself as well to a conference presentation format. You should be aware that by publishing in a specific conference you almost always limit what journals you can publish that work in. You will need to think of the journal you want to publish in up front, as this will often dictate the conference you can go to. For example, if you publish in an AIAA conference you can only publish in one of the AIAA Journals (with the exception of the Journal of Solar Energy Engineering for the Wind Energy Symposium). Wind Energy does not have many conference tie-ins (other than the recently established NAWEA which is a good option) and so if you have a publication appropriate for Wind Energy you may have to skip straight to journal publication. Remember: don’t leave your paper as just a conference publication!. In most fields, journals are much more widely read and have a much bigger impact.
  4. Journal Preparation. After the conference you will want to incorporate feedback and improve your work for journal submission. Not everything in the conference paper needs to be in the journal version. Only the most important and impactful results should be in a journal publication. Usually the journal paper is at least 30% different (improved!) as compared to the corresponding conference paper.
  5. Journal Submission. After submission your paper will be sent to two to three peer reviewers who will assess your work and provide detailed comments to you and the editor. They are looking at things like: fit with the journal’s scope, originality and impact of the work, quality of the research, etc. After receiving the reviewers recommendations, the editor will make a decision on your paper.
  6. Acceptance or Rejection. After about 3-12 months, depending on the journal, you will receive the feedback and decision. The decision usually falls into the general categories of:
    • Accept without change
    • Minor revisions
    • Major revisions
    • Reject

    It is rare that a paper is accepted without change on the first submission. Usually, the reviewers have some suggestions, questions, or concerns that need to be addressed. Sometimes these are very minor changes that you can quickly address that afternoon, and other times it involves a few months of regenerating results and rewriting. It can be difficult to receive criticism on your work, but you should be grateful for it. The reviewers are providing valuable feedback that will almost always help you improve the quality of your publications. Sometimes you may disagree with some of the reviewer’s comments. That is fine but remember, as discussed in the presentations section, you should not get defensive. Often if someone provides a comment, even if you disagree with it, it probably means there is something in your writing that could be presented more clearly. After making changes you will provide a document outlining the changes and a response to each of the reviewer’s comments. You will then resubmit the paper to go back through the peer-review process.

  7. In Press. Once the journal has accepted your paper without further changes it will be sent to the publishers. They will edit your document for formatting and likely provide a list of additional suggestions/edits. These include things like stylistic changes to comply to the journal format, grammatical errors, or incomplete reference information. You will not make changes to the scientific content at this point.
  8. Published. After your changes, and preparation by the journal, your paper will be published. Most journals these days will publish it online first, and sometime later (months, a year, never) it will appear in print.



If you are wondering who should be included in your author list, this page contains a good summary of what constitutes authorship as adopted by most journals. Understanding proper authorship is important to maintain the integrity of the work. The two main criteria are that an author should have 1) made substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work, and 2) drafted the work or revised it critically for important intellectual content. Please read the link for more details.