The pathway to publication

Advice for first-time authors who are mystified by the research paper publication process.

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You want to get published in a medical journal. Now what? The first steps can be unclear, but fortunately for AUA2023 attendees, Robert Siemens, MD, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Urology®, has some advice.Robert Siemens, MD, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Urology®Robert Siemens, MD, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Urology®

“The processes involved in medical publishing tend to be a bit opaque,” Dr. Siemens said. “Unfortunately, they are often not taught all that formally to trainees and usually learned more by trial and error as one progresses to getting that first paper published. This is something we would like to see become more transparent and accessible, and it’s the reason our editorial team has been out in the urological community during conferences like the Annual Meeting in Chicago.”

There isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all answer to the process for publishing your first paper, but Dr. Siemens provided a few tips to help authors get the ball rolling.

1.   Know your elevator pitch.
”One thing I always highlight to students is to make sure you understand your unique selling proposition,” Dr. Siemens said. “In other words, what is the clinical or research issue that your data will be able to solve? How specifically can your study design and analysis allow us to move forward relative to what is already established? This should be answerable as a quick elevator pitch and set up the rest of the flow of manuscript writing.”

2.    Read a few examples.
If you’ve decided you’d like to publish a research paper, you’ve no doubt studied up on the subject. However, despite how much reading you’ve already done in the quest of learning about the science, you should consider reading a few more articles with a different purpose in mind.

“Have a thorough read of a similar article seminal to your subject matter to understand how to best structure the writing and flow,” Dr. Siemens said.

3.    Work on your figures and tables.
“Next, I would get the figures and tables polished based on our reporting guidelines,” Dr. Siemens said. “These should be right in front of you as you write the prose of the results to complete the data.”

4.    Sit down with a mentor.
“Finally, I would suggest taking [the figures and tables] and sitting down with one’s mentor or senior author to ensure the data is presented well and the analysis is tight,” he said. “This saves so much time to ensure the message is clear and sets up the rest of the writing of the paper without the interminable back-and-forth revisions from the track-changes versions if you just send them electronically at the end of writing the entirety of the paper.”

The above four steps should have you well on your way to a polished research paper, but the work doesn’t stop after a publication goes to print.

“A research finding is useless without effective dissemination,” Dr. Siemens said. “The printed publication of a paper in a scientific journal should be just one step in its journey. At The Journal of Urology®, we publish the paper ahead of print to start getting that information into the hands of those who need it as soon as possible. For transformative papers, we have multiple mechanisms to enhance impact and reach, including social media posts and press releases.”

Just because you’ve built it doesn’t mean they’ll come.

“We create visual abstracts for online dissemination and cross-pollinate our messaging through other AUA resources, including the printing of our JU Insights in AUANews. Our online content editorial team has been integral to these strategies with another upcoming initiative using a JU-branded podcast to get the author’s ideas out to the community.”

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