Before you begin to construct the paper you
should consider who you want to read it. Is it your peers within your
own institution? Is it directed at an audience within your own country?
Or, do you want it to be read by the international community? Once you
have a clear idea of the scale of your desired readership you then need to
look at the potential journals available to fit that audience and determine
whether the information you hope to produce is suitable for that journal.
All reputable journals define their scope either in the journal itself or on
their website. Some are broad, for example
The International Forestry Review
states that it 'is a peer-reviewed scientific
journal that publishes papers, comments and book reviews covering
forest science, policy, management and conservation.'
while others are more specific, for example
The material published in JEM focusses on the interests and concerns of scientists in natural
and social sciences, policy makers, administrators and practitioners in
environmental management. Subjects must concern environmental management
but may range widely to include theoretical and conceptual aspects,
environmental system analysis (including modelling), policies, legal
aspects, planning and practice of environmental management. Topics may be
covered at the international to national or global to local scales and may
deal with terrestrial, aquatic or atmospheric systems. Ecosystem concepts
and integrated perspectives of natural and cultural ecosystems should be
adopted and developed wherever feasible.
Make sure you read these statements to guide
you in your search for potentially suitable journals.
Another point to consider is when you want your paper to be published.
Most journals indicate the average length of time between submission and
publication and it is worth taking note of this otherwise so that you get a
realistic indication of how long you might have to wait.
Your key message
is one of the most important parts of writing your paper, and one that is
often overlooked. Think carefully about what it is that you want
your readers to understand about your work. Remember, we are all
busy and we need to absorb key messages quickly and clearly. Try
Write down the three key points of your paper.
Summarise your paper in one sentence.
Describe your work to a colleague in one minute.
These might sound easy, but try them and you'll find out they aren't!
Don't rush this part of your planning. It really is worth spending
time getting it right. Once you have mastered these exercises you
will feel more confident about the whole writing process that follows.
you find it difficult to summarise your work in one sentence then these
examples might help you:
A firm's size, type of tenure holding and
reliance on export markets are important factors in explaining why
forest companies consider certification.
The investigation indicated that while
D. edulis is an important tree for farmers its value to the rural
economy could be increased through further domestication.
This paper seeks to describe and explain
changes in forest cover, and highlight the need for more accurate and
reliable data collection in the future.
common problem with summarising work is that there are several key
findings. Remember this exercise is simply meant to focus your
thinking on the key issues. It is not going to form the published
abstract. So, if you really can't squeeze your key message into one
sentence don't worry. Try to do it in two. If you can't do that then
you need to take a careful look at the reasons. Is it because you
aren't confident about your work, or maybe you aren't too sure yourself
what are the key findings. Remember, this is a very important part
of the process for writing papers so work at it. Talk to your
colleagues and see if between you it is possible to highlight the key
message of your work. Don't go on to the next section until you
are confident that you have summarised your main message.