Getting Your First Publication

How often have you heard the phrase ‘publish or perish’? It’s common advice for anyone planning a career as a researcher, and it can be a little intimidating. Perish, really? The phrase always brings to my mind the image of a researcher lying dehydrated in a desert, clutching an unpublished manuscript, with a nearby Reviewer 2 cruelly withholding a glass of water.

OK, so the phrase might be overdramatic. But there’s truth in there too. If you aspire to an academic career, having a strong publication record (ideally balancing quality AND quantity) is important.

But: authoring a journal article is a LOT of work. Even after investing all those hours, there’s no guarantee of getting published in your chosen journal. High-impact journals can be notoriously picky with what they accept; and even if you are successful, some journals charge prohibitive publication fees that can be out of reach on a student research budget.

So how can you score a ‘quick win’ to get that first publication under your belt and get familiar with the publishing process?

Books with '#1' icon above

We’ve written previously about some entry-level ways to start publishing: writing with co-author/s, writing a book review, or writing for a blog or news site. These are ways to get into the habit of writing and submitting work for publication without (yet) taking on the burden of independently authoring a full paper.

Another great option to kickstart your publishing career is to submit to a publication specifically for PG students. When you’re not competing against established academics, it can be much easier (and less intimidating, and cheaper) to get your name on a byline. There are loads of PG-specific journals out there, often called something like ‘Graduate Journal of XYZ.’

AUT’s own Rangahau Aranga journal is a great place to start. With Rangahau Aranga, publication is 100% free. The journal accepts a wide range of pieces: short-form writing, summaries of your work, abstracts, creative work, research articles, and more. It is multi- and trans-disciplinary, and is designed to support and nurture new scholars through the publication process. And major bonus: the editorial board is made up of PG students too! Their mission is to try to help you publish; not to try to block you out. You can email the team at or visit their website for details of their submission process.

One big advantage of targeting a PG-specific journal is that the publication process can be significantly shorter and easier than that of a general academic journal. It can take months or years to get published in a traditional journal. PG journals are often more agile, meaning you can get that first publication on your CV much more quickly and build your confidence to move on to the next.

Wherever you choose to target your first publication, remember that getting published can be tough even for experienced academics. But the more you write and submit, the stronger your publishing ‘muscle’ will grow.

About Anaise Irvine

Dr Anaise Irvine is the Editor of Thesislink and leads the Researcher Education and Development team at Auckland University of Technology. Her PhD research analysed how contemporary films and novels represent genetic engineering as a social justice issue. These days she works with researchers at all levels to improve their research skills, and the most obscure of her own research skills is being able to turn novels into phylogenetic trees!

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