Getting published

There is little doubt that research is an important part of what academics do, yet it is also undertaken by many who work outside the university sector such as in government agencies, private research centres and business organisations. In the field of small enterprise and entrepreneurship research is fundamental to the development of a better understanding of how small firms are managed, supported and impacted by government policy.

For research to be useful to other researchers, or those engaged in government policy or business management, it must be made available through publication. One of the most important outlets for the dissemination of research work is the scholarly peer reviewed journal. For academics the publishing of their research in journals is a critical part of their work. Academic appointments and promotions typically depend on the academic's ability to publish in scholarly journals. 

The following is a summary of some of the key things that should be considered when seeking to get published in scholarly journals. 

Understand the purpose of academic writing

One of the first things that should be understood about writing for academic journals and other publications is that it is different to many other types of writing. Scientific research is published in journals in order to disseminate findings so that other researchers can build on this work and use it to advance the overall knowledge base in a given field of study. Academic research can also be disseminated via books, which are often more accessible to the general public. However, peer reviewed journals remain a key part of the global system of scientific knowledge distribution.

Academic research papers are therefore objective and designed to report:

  • why a study was undertaken;
  • how it drew upon past research in the same field;
  • how the methodology was designed;
  • what was discovered;
  • what it means; and
  • the contribution that the research has to theory, practice and policy.

In essence academic research is about advancing the field of knowledge. It is broadly focused on building theory or testing theory. The quality of a research paper is going to be measured on how well designed the study that underpins it was, plus the ability of the authors to explain their research clearly and coherently. Many academics are concerned over getting published in high impact factor journals. These are typically well-established journals that get a large number of citations.

To get cited a paper generally needs to be providing significant or important findings, or some other type of contribution. Some papers offer original conceptual or theoretical contributions. Others provide strong evidence to support existing theory or to help explain phenomena. Many papers are valuable because they offer measurement scales, or a very good analysis of the extant literature in a field.

It is therefore important that you think about the contribution your research is trying to make to the existing scholarly knowledge-base. The main purpose of academic writing and publishing should be to make a useful contribution not just to get another paper in press.

Where to publish - Impact Factors and citation metrics

In choosing where to publish your work you may look at the Impact Factor of a journal and/or its h-index. These are two of the most commonly used metrics for assessing how many times papers in the journal have been cited. The h-index was developed by J.E. Hirsch in a paper titled "An index to quantify an individual's scientific research output", published in 2005 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. The h-index measures the number of citations a paper or an author has received over their lifetime.

For example, in the case of an academic the h-index calculates the number of citations that each of their papers has received and the total number of papers they have published. It is a measure of the cumulative impact they have had and is defined as follows:

"A scientist has index h if h of his/her Np papers have at least h citations each, and the other (Np -h) papers have no more than h citations each." (Harzing, 2014)

So if an academic will have an h-index of 10 if they have 10 papers that have received at least 10 citations. However, if they have 81 papers with at least 81 citations their h-index will be 81. Thus an author might have a paper that receives many more citations than the h-index but many of their other papers will not get that many citations.

In fact a study by Thomson-Reuters found that the average number of citations per article in economics and business journals over the period 2000-2010 was 6.22. Research by the London School of Economics found that the average h-index of full Professors in economics was 7.6, while across the social sciences the average h-index was 4.9. 

By comparison with the h-index, journal Impact Factors only measure two years' worth of citations. For example, a journal Impact Factor for the year 2011 would be calculated by taking the number of citations made in 2011 from all the citations from 2009 and 2010 and dividing by the number of source items published in 2009-2010 (Elsevier, 2013).

Although many journals promote their Impact Factors it should be recognised that these statistics vary greatly across different subject disciplines. Impact Factors may therefore be unreliable as a measure of journals across different academic fields. It also takes a newly established journal at least two years of indexing before it will get an Impact Factor. 

Impact Factors have been criticised with Professor Stephen Curry of Imperial College London, in an article titled "Sick of Impact Factors" suggesting that they are not the best way to measure the quality of journals. Nevertheless, they are currently a widely used measure of the impact and profile of a journal. Whether they can be deemed to reliably measure quality is another matter. Perhaps the best way to determine the quality of a journal and its papers is to read them.

The structure of a research paper

Academic journal articles can take a variety of forms and each journal will have its own guidelines for how they want a paper to be structured. However, most scientific research papers tend to have a similar structure.

This is illustrated in the diagram shown here that was adapted from Derntl (2014). It can be seen that there are six primary parts relating to:

  • the title; 
  • the abstract;
  • the introduction;
  • the body;
  • the discussion and
  • the references. 

There are also four sub-elements that form the body of the paper comprising:

  • the literature review;
  • the methodology
  • the limitations and
  • the results.

Let us look at each of these elements in turn:

The title

The title should be chosen carefully. It is important because it will often decide whether the paper is noticed and therefore cited. The title should not be too long; ideally between 8 and 10 words. It should clearly identify the main focus of the paper and contain the key words that describe what the paper is about.

The title is a form of promotion for the paper and should catch the reader's attention. Electronic indexing services use titles to locate papers when people are searching for past research. How well you think about the title may influence whether your paper is found and read, and subsequently cited.

The abstract

An abstract is an important part of the paper. It is usually a short paragraph summary of the entire paper. However, many journals are now prescribing a structure for the abstract that requires authors outline the paper's purpose, design or methodology, findings, research limitations, practical contribution, originality and value. It should be remembered that after the title the abstract is most likely the next thing another researcher will read. If they are to take an interest in the paper and subsequently cite it in their own work, the time spent developing the abstract is important.

Whether or not the abstract follows a specific structure, it is a good idea to ensure that it contains information on why the study was undertaken and the problem that was being addressed. It should also provide information on the methodology, the results and the implications and contribution of the study. However, avoid making the abstract too wordy. Many journals will set a limit of around 150 to 200 words for abstracts. 

A word about Key Words

In most academic research papers the abstract is followed by a number of key words (usually six). Most journals require this for their publications and they are important for several reasons. Hartley (2008) suggests that key words:

  1. Allow readers to judge whether or not an article contains material relevant to their interests;
  2. Provide readers with suitable terms to use in web-based searches to locate other materials on the same or similar topics;
  3. Help indexers/editors group together related materials in, say, the end-of-year issues of a particular journal or a set of conference proceedings;
  4. Allow editors/researchers to document changes in a subject discipline (over time); and
  5. Link the specific issues of concern to issues at a higher level of abstraction.

Care should be taken when selecting your key words. They will be important in future online database searches and indexing. Key words that describe your study's main areas of focus (e.g. small business, entrepreneurs, family business, etc.) should be included. Ideally they all should be nouns and terms that are well-recognised in the particular field where you are researching. Acronyms should generally be avoided unless there is a well-established use of such terms (e.g. SMEs). Also avoid including mathematical symbols and Greek letters as these will not be easily captured in online searches.

The introduction

The introduction of the paper is very important as it should help to draw the reader into the body of the article. An introduction should provide the reader with a clear understanding of the context in which the study has been undertaken, and make a case for why the research was necessary. It is a good idea to identify a research problem that the study is addressing. This can highlight gaps in the body of knowledge, weaknesses in current theory and method or issues of policy and practice that require attention. 

It should not be too long or try to outline all the literature, method and findings, but it should provide the reader with a justification for the study, and a road map for the paper. The introduction also generally contains at least one or two well considered research questions. These should be the questions that have guided your initial research project. They not only guide the research but they help to focus the study in relation to the literature that is reviewed. 

Hartley (2008) suggests that the introduction should achieve three key things:

  1. Establish a research territory - it should explain the importance of the research and its relevance, and point to previous research that has formed the foundation for the present study.
  2. Establish a "niche" - it should highlight any gaps in the existing body of knowledge and the past research where such gaps have been found or identified.
  3. Occupy the "niche" - it should outline the overall aims and objectives of the paper, list the research questions or hypotheses that are to be address or tested (if appropriate), and summarise any key findings.

Good research questions should not be so narrow that they make the study of little interest or relevance. They should be sufficiently open to allow you to explore in depth a topic, but focused on addressing your research problem.

In the video shown here Jill Ostrow from the University of Missouri explains how to develop a good research question. 

In developing research questions avoid the following:

  • Avoid questions that are simple "yes" or "no" items as they limit the scope of your research inquiry.
  • Don't make the questions "leading" (e.g. by including words that suggest a particular outcome. For example, that something is inherently good or that a particular outcome is desirable).
  • Avoid making the questions too long or wordy.

Keep research questions short and to the point without any inbuilt bias or presumption of a given outcome. They should also be focused on one thing at a time. If you need to address multiple issues you should create multiple research questions. However, try to avoid having too many questions. In general the more focused a research paper is the better. 

The literature review

A key part of the body of a research paper is the literature review. This is an important area for attention and lies at the heart of the academic research process. As noted above, the purpose of academic publishing is to build on the existing body of knowledge. Good research should therefore demonstrate that the authors have read the previous literature published on the subject, understood it, identify any gaps, and are now making their own contribution to that knowledge base.

The literature review in a research paper should not be just a summary of the previous published work or ideas of others. This is a useful starting point, but a well-developed literature review should seek to make a unique contribution. According to Chong (2012) common errors in the literature reviews of many research papers are:

  • An absence of new ideas, even when the work of others is being cited.
  • Failing to outline the "original point" the authors are focusing on making.

When writing a literature review it is important to criticially analyse the extant literature and use it to help address the research questions that are guiding the study. The review should highlight underlying theories and concepts that are being used to underpin the research. It should also outline what other studies have found, particularly if they are empirical studies that have tested relevant hypotheses.

However, the literature review should also aim to highlight any inconsistencies, conflicts or gaps in the previous literature. It is here that the authors can then make their own unique contribution. In the case of empirical studies the literature review can be used to generate testable hypotheses. Remember that the literature review is a critical analysis and not just a summary of what has been published.

Think carefully about how your literature is to be undertaken and then how it is to be structured when writing it up. As Chong (2012) explains, avoid a common trap for novice academic authors:

In the course of 1-3 paragraphs, rather than summarising the work of previous researchers in some principled and methodical way, in a way that is logically and thematically connected, the student author will make several points with one author, in the process, citing the said author ad nauseam. Then the student will move on to make several other summaries using another author, citing the new author ad nauseam. I will refer to this as the "beating-on-horse-to-death" problem.

Another issue for literature reviews is how many citations there should be? There is no rule of thumb for this, although some have suggested an average of 20 to 30 references (Porter, 2007). What is important is that you have examined and covered all the major research papers that are important to your field of inquiry. Make sure that you conduct a thorough search of the available literature. This is much easier to do now that so many journals are online. Google Scholar is a useful starting point as it indexes a wide range of work from the peer reviewed journals and also the "grey" literature (e.g. conference papers, reports, working papers etc.). 

It is important that you read across a wide range of sources, including books. Many books are now being made available online and they can often contain important work that is not covered in the peer reviewed journals. Further, don't make the mistake of only reading high impact factor journals. There are some who suggest that if you wish to publish in the "A" level journals you must only read these publications. However, this is to deny yourself access to a very large quantity of available research. 

I final word on literature reviews is that if you are targeting a particular journal with your paper you should make sure that you read any papers published in that journal, which might be relevant to your study. Many Editors require you to cite papers from their journals when submitting. However, what is important is that you identify the work of other authors within journal, review and cite it if it is relevant to your own study. It is very likely that these same authors might be asked to peer review your paper.

The methodology

The methodology section of a journal article will vary depending on the nature of the methods used. Many papers are conceptual or theoretical in nature. As such they may not require a methodology section. However, for most other studies, both qualitative and quantitative, a methodology is required.

What methodology you chose for your study will depend on what it is that you are trying to achieve. As a general rule qualitative research methods are designed to develop theory while quantitative research method is designed to test theory. 

As illustrated in the diagram the cycle of scientific research method is to:

  • observe the world;
  • make empirical generalisations about it;
  • develop theory based on these generalisations;
  • develop hypotheses designed to test this theory;
  • collect more observations and repeat the cycle.

Qualitative research (e.g. case studies, observations, focus groups, ethnographies) typically follows an "inductive" reasoning logic aimed at generating theory from observation. It seeks to make sense of observations by looking for patterns and is generally more descriptive and exploratory in nature.

Quantitative research (e.g. survey data, time series data analysis, experiments) is more likely to follow a "deductive" logic. It will aim to validate or support theories by testing hypotheses using statistical data analysis. By its nature quantitative research method is more focused on measuring and testing variables. The validity and reliability of the data analysis and findings are very important.

When preparing your paper for a journal take care to fully explain the methodology that you used and why this was a suitable approach to take. Remember that in the scientific process it is important that other researchers who follow you can replicate or try to replicate your work. This requires the paper to spell out in as much detail as space will permit the way you went about the method. 

In general this requires attention to the following things:

  • Research design - there are many different research designs but whatever one is chosen you need to explain what it was and justify its selection in the methodology section. Keep it brief, but focused and draw on the literature review and other sources to show that you are using this design because it is appropriate (e.g. you wish to replicate previous studies using the same methods). 
  • Units of analysis - you should also explain what variables you are going to examine within your study if doing a quantitative method; or the key units of analysis you focused on if the research method was qualitative. Make sure that you clearly define your main units of analysis. For example, it is not sufficient to say that you are researching small businesses or entrepreneurs. These are complex concepts and they need to be properly defined within the context of your paper.
  • Sampling - in quantitative studies it is important to explain how you went about collecting your sample. Describe where the sampling frame was derived from, and whether or not the sampling process was random. The quality of the results will depend on the quality of the sample drawn. Samples don't always have to be large, but they should be representative of the target population you are researching. If the research is using case study design, you need to explain how you selected your cases. This is more purposive than random in nature, but the logic and strategy should be outlined.
  • Context - another important component of the methodology section should be a brief explanation of the context in which the study took place. For example, which country or countries did it take place? Was it within a particular city or community, and/or industry sector? Also when did the data get collected? This helps the reader to better understand the factors surrounding the study and what, if any, impact these might have on the findings. 
  • Measures used - in quantitative research studies it is common for researchers to use particular measurement techniques to evaluate their data and test their hypotheses. For example, in survey research the design of questionnaires and the scales used to develop the question items are important. Reviewers will want to know how you developed these measures, whether they were selected from well-regarded measures already published in the literature, or ones that you created specifically for your study. In qualitative studies you will still need to explain how you collected the data, how you controlled for biases and the way in which you identified and defined units of analysis.
  • Data analysis techniques and tools - the methodology section of the paper should also provide the reader with sufficient detail on how you undertook your data analysis to allow them to assess you study's contribution. Remember that they might wish to replicate your work and to do so will require you to have outlined the steps you took. If it is a statistical analysis you should explain and justify the type of statistical tests you used and the type of statistics software you employed. You are not reporting findings here, but you should make reference to published research work that describes your techniques and their use.
  • Ethics approvals - although not always required in journals, it may be useful to indicate whether the study was approved by ethics committees.  

The limitations

It is a general requirement that you outline any limitations your study might have. This can be done prior to the reporting of the findings, or it may come at the end of the paper. Few research studies are without limitations. These can be due to the nature and size of the sample, the lack of time to collect the data, or other things relating to the research design. 

The results

Your paper's results or "findings" section should be written in a clear and objective manner. You are not discussing the findings at this stage, but simply reporting what was found. Layout the results section in a logical manner and if the paper is quantitative in nature you should:

  1. State the main findings in order - work systematically through each procedure or test that you undertook and relate them to the hypotheses that you were testing. Show where each hypothesis was or was not supported. Remember that you are testing the "null" hypothesis, which is that there is no effect and therefore nothing new to report. However, once the null hypothesis is rejected the data will indicate some support for your hypothesis and the potential discovery of new and interesting findings.
  2. State the subsidiary findings - if you have any secondary findings these should be listed next. Like the main findings you should relate them to the methods you used and any hypotheses or research questions you were testing or seeking to answer.

Take care to support your findings with tables, graphs or diagrams. In statistical analysis you should prepare well designed tables, charts and diagrams of say structural equation models, to help the reader quickly understand the findings. Don't cut and paste from statistical packages such as SPSS or SAS as these typically don't format well in a journal paper. Remove any not essential data from the statistical output tables and make sure that the tables, charts and diagrams can "stand alone" with easy interpretation. 

Porter (2007) suggests that authors should avoid including any tables, graphs or diagrams that are "redundant". Only those that really help to develop the paper should be included as he states:

Both tables and graphs should be used sparingly in a manuscript. A review of articles in the main higher education journals shows that authors rarely include more than a half dozen tables in their manuscripts. Considering how much information can be packaged into a single table, more than five or six tables risks overloading the reader with numbers and information. A general rule of thumb is to include a table of numbers when they are essential for your analysis, and when it would be too awkward to describe the information in the table with text.

Qualitative studies benefit greatly from well-designed diagrams, models and tables that help to display the data to the reader. You may also use photographs and selected sections of text from interview or focus group data. These should be displayed in a manner that helps to report the findings and allow the reader to follow you through the study in a manner that is easily understood by an intelligent layperson. 

It is often a good idea to make use of sub-headings to help the reader work their way through the results. Text should support and explain the tables, charts and diagrams and you should make sure that you clearly label these and refer to them in the paper (i.e. Figure 1 shows...). Make sure that you are consistent with how you format your tables and charts, the type of font used and the clarity of the images. As a general rule you should avoid cutting and pasting diagrams into the paper that are taken from PDF documents as they can be fuzzy. Also take care with overly complex or colourful graphs and images. These don't often reproduce well in journals. 

Check with the journal's "guidelines to authors" as to how they want tables, charts and diagrams laid out and submitted. Many journals require that they be placed in separate documents uploaded along with the paper. If so, in the body of the paper you will need to indicate where these are to be placed (i.e. Insert Figure 1 here..).

The discussion and conclusions

The discussion section of a research paper is one of the most important areas. It can be a separate discussion section followed by a conclusions section, or it can have both discussion and conclusions combined. According to Hartley (2008) and Dearntl (2014) the main things that a discussion section should contain are:

  • A brief overview of the aims of the study - this should involve a presentation of the background information and recapitulation of the research aims of the study or research questions examined.
  • A restatement of the findings - this should involve a brief summary of the results with a focus on discussing rather than simply repeating them.
  • An evaluation of how the findings relate to the extant literature - this should involve a comparison of the results with previously published studies, mapped back to the literature review. Do the findings support, contradict, qualify or extend the existing body of knowledge?
  • A statement of the contribution the study has made - this should explain any conclusions or hypotheses that emerge from the results with a summary of any evidence for each conclusion. It might also be where you list the potential limitations of the study. You might also discuss any alternative ways in which the findings can be interpreted or explained so as to pre-empt criticism and counter claims.
  • A recommendation for future work - here you should make proposals for future research questions, suggestions for future studies and methods to address them.

In the field of management research focusing on small business and entrepreneurship it is also important that you include the implications of the research for policy and practice not just for academic research. Many journals now require the authors of papers to outline these implications. It is often difficult for academic authors to explain how their research impacts on areas such as government policy or the managers operating real life companies. However, good papers will be able to make these observations and you should devote some time to considering this as you write up the paper.

The references

The final section of a research paper is usually the references, which are typically listed in alphabetical order by first author surname. There are many different approaches to how journals like to layout the references. The most common style used in business journals is the APA or "Harvard" referencing system. It is important that you check the preference for referencing of the journal that you are targeting. Most journals will provide this information in their "guidelines to authors". You can also find many citation guides online. 

Whatever referencing approach you use take care to layout the references in full. Check your paper thoroughly to make sure that you have not missed any references cited in the body of the paper. You should also check the reference from the original source and avoid relying on the citations found in published papers. There is a risk that a paper has not accurately recorded the citation. 

It is a good idea to set up your literature in a software tool such as ENDNOTE. This will help you keep track of your papers, but it will also assist you with the creation of a reference list and reduce the risk that you will miss references cited in the body of the paper.

Getting it done - writing and research strategies

Let us now deal with the fundamental issues of academic publishing, namely how to write the paper and how to deal with getting rejected by reviewers. First up let's deal with writing the paper and some suggested strategies for avoiding getting rejected. It is important that you have a clear understanding of what your research paper is trying to contribute and some confidence that the findings are going to be important and worth publishing. If you have just finished a major research study such as a doctoral thesis and you want to get it published avoid trying to tell the entire story in one single paper.

Most journal articles have only one or two main points of focus. You should look at what you want to say and then break down the findings into a series of smaller, more focused and "digestible" topics that can form the basis of a series of related papers. A typical journal paper is around 20 to 25 pages and cannot contain massive amounts of content. By dividing the total amount of material you have to report into more concise areas you can develop a pipeline of papers and have a better chance of getting them accepted.

It is also a good idea that you look at which journal or journals you wish to send the paper to. You may wish to target High Impact Factor journals, but remember that you are likely to be one of a large number of authors trying to do the same thing. Just because a journal has a particular ranking does not mean that it is the best fit for your paper. Look carefully at the journal's website and editorial and publication policy. Review some of the papers they have published and assess whether the journal is likely to be interested in your work. 

If your literature review has found many papers that come from the same journal it might be a good sign that this journal is where you should be targeting your own work. Also look at the editorial board of the journal. Are any of the authors who you have cited in your paper also listed on the journal's website as being on the editorial board. If so they are likely to be reviewers of your work.

However, you also need to recognise that writing is a skill that must be developed with practice. If you are not a writing in English as a first language, or if you have concerns over your writing style seek help. It is generally a good idea to work with others rather than trying to be a "lone wolf" in research. Yet even if you wish to work alone you should ask for others to look at your papers while still in draft and provide comments and suggestions. This is particularly relevant to early career researchers and doctoral students.

The following video is a lecture by Professor Simon Peyton Jones from Microsoft Research who provides seven suggestions for how to write research papers that will get published. His recommendations are: 

  1. Don't wait - write;
  2. Identify your key idea;
  3. Tell a story; 
  4. Nail your contributions; 
  5. Put related work at the end;
  6. Put your readers first; and
  7. Listen to your readers.

He also suggests that you seek expert help with the draft before you submit to a journal. When you get feedback from reviewers he also suggests that you "treat every review like gold dust" and even accept the most strident criticism because that is the only way that you will learn.

Getting reviewed and dealing with rejection

The advice by Professor Peyton Jones about valuing reviews of your submitted papers even if they are initially hurtful is sound. Academic publishing is difficult and the peer review process is a means by which the general quality of research can be maintained. While some academic reviewers are harsh critics, most are trying to help authors to improve their work. 

You should approach the publication of your research with a thick skin and as Chesebro (1993) suggests "be willing to be criticised". It is a fact that the majority (perhaps 95%) of all papers submitted to double-blind peer review journals are revised at least once before they get published. The work of the peer reviewer is to provide feedback to the author about their paper in an objective manner. Their review is "blind" because they don't know who the author or authors of the paper are. This ensures that favouritism can be removed from review process.

Most journals provide reviewers with a set of criteria that they must use when assessing the work. This can take a variety of forms but the following examples are those used in Small Enterprise Research the journal of SEAANZ. This assessment criteria comprises:

  • Core ideas - here the focus is on the originality and importance of the ideas that are contained in the paper. Each paper should have at least one key idea that is being explored and discussed. It should be able to make a case that the paper offers an original and important contribution to the existing body of knowledge.  
  • Discussion of the relevant literature - as noted above, the research paper should have a well-developed literature review that is both complete and accurate. Reviewers are selected for their expertise in the fields of study that are being addressed by the paper. They will therefore know the literature and be able to quickly identify whether the authors have covered it appropriately or if they have missed key works. 
  • Development of ideas - the paper should be well structured and here the focus is on how concise and coherent the authors have been in explaining their work. As discussed earlier, a good research paper should open with a research problem and at least one research question. This should then guide the study and there should be no unnecessary diversions from this focus. Reviewers will also be looking at the extent to which the paper has developed theory. How do the authors extend or test existing theory, or create new theory? 
  • Design and execution of research methodology - for papers that have a qualitative or quantitative research design it is also important to evaluate how well the methodology has been done. For example, are the methods, measures and tests appropriate for the aims of the study? It is also important to see whether the authors have provided sufficient depth of analysis in their paper.
  • Contribution to advancement of knowledge of small enterprise - the review process will also look at the overall contribution that the paper makes to the field of study in which it is targeted. In the case of Small Enterprise Research this is the small business and entrepreneurship domain. Here the clarity with which the authors make their contribution and the relative importance of this contribution are key criteria.
  • Value of implications for researchers - the value of the paper to other researchers is an important criterion for reviewers when assessing whether to accept or reject. That is why it is essential for authors to clearly state this contribution in their paper.
  • Value of implications for policy makers/practitioners - finally there is a requirement in Small Enterprise Research for authors to also demonstrate how their paper can provide value to government policy development and practicing managers in the field of small enterprise. These contributions should be clearly outlined by the authors in the conclusions section of their paper. 

Once a reviewer has examined the paper against these criteria they will make a recommendation. This will be to accept the paper without any changes, accept it subject to minor amendments, revise and resubmit for future review, or reject without resubmission. The reviewer will also provide a detailed set of comments for both the editor and the authors. 

Editors will usually get at least two independent reviews and then make a decision based on their recommendations and comments. It is up to the Editor whether or not they accept the reviewers' recommendations. In most cases they will, but where there is a major difference of opinion between the reviewers they might seek a third opinion or make a decision to break the tie.

If you get rejected you should plan on resubmitting the paper, either back to the journal where it was originally submitted (unless they have made it clear they don't wish to receive it again), or to another journal. You should only submit a paper to one journal at a time. Rejection rates are high and you should be expecting to get rejected in your first submission. As Chesebro (1993) explains:

These rejection rates could discourage authors, but they should not. The rejection rates conceal as much as they reveal. The rates do aptly reveal that authors should be capable of experiencing rejection. At the same time, if authors revise and resubmit their manuscripts, they generally have a fifty-fifty chance of having their manuscripts published. 

So don't give up, take any criticism as an opportunity to learn and work with the Editor of the journal to see if the paper can be revised and resubmitted. Most Editors are keen to receive your work. They have gone to the trouble of having the paper reviewed and if you are willing to take on board the advice and criticism, revise the paper and resubmit it, there is a good chance that the Editor will allow you to do so.

References and further reading

Bowler, S. (2008) Common reasons why academic papers are rejected by journal editors, Deakin University. 

Bowler, S. (2008) Preparing articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals, Deakin University.

Chesebro, J.W. (1993) "How to get published", Communication Quarterly, vol. 41, no. 4, pp: 373-382.

Chong, P.H-C (2012) How to read journal articles in the social sciences: A very practical guide for students, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Sage Publications.

Derntl, M. (2014) "Basics of research paper writing and publishing", International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, (in press).

Hartley, J. (2008) Academic writing and publishing: A practical handbook, London and New York, Routledge Taylor & Francis.

Porter, S.R. (2007) Writing and publishing a research paper in a peer-reviewed journal, Iowa State University, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.

Soule, D.P.J., Whiteley, L. and McIntosh, S. (2007) Writing for Scholarly Journals: Publishing in the Arts, Humanities and Social ScienceseSharp University of Glasgow, UK.

Taylor & Francis (2014) How to get published: A guide to publishing your journal article, Author Services, Taylor & Francis Group.

Taylor & Francis (2015) Author Services website.