The Long Academic Publishing Process Life-Cycle

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The Long Academic Publishing Process Life-CycleOne of the most important things prospect or current PhD students are not aware of perhaps till well in their 2nd or 3rd year of studies is what the academic paper publishing life-cycle looks like. Most of the students who enter a PhD program with a declared commitment to an academic life have no experience with publishing a paper. My observations usually categorize early stage students into one of the two commonly naïve views :

  • I don’t know but it’s fine, I’ll learn about it as I go along.
  • I’ve heard it’s difficult, I accept it so it’s okay and I’m ready for it.

Problem with both of those views is they lead to a few interesting phenomenon :

  • Tending towards a very critical review of papers without realizing the effort invested in them.
  • A general shock, often disappointment, sometimes sense of betrayal and dismay, rarely a decision to quit, when confronted with the actual publishing life-cycle.
  • Cognitive dissonance – a rationalization of how the new process might actually work or finding out other things in academic life that are worth the struggle.

Honestly, I’ve yet to  see anyone positively excited about the process.


In one of our recent seminar sessions, someone highlighted for us what publishing a review piece in Journal of Management means. I cite her here :

For 2012 Review Issue:

June 1- July 1, 2010: proposals due to the JOM online at

Sep 15, 2010: Final decision on proposal and initial feedback provided to authors Feb 15, 2010: Full draft of paper due to the JOM April 15, 2011: Feedback to authors on full paper June 15, 2011: Final paper submitted to the JOM

(Around) 2012 JOM Review Issue get published

So, the above information basically implied that if we start working on the review piece now, we can only get to the 2013 review issue.

To which a student replied :

It is really a surprise it would cost such a long circle.


Not meant to discourage, I believe it’s important to highlight just what a paper-publishing process is, and it is long, much longer than for this JOM review paper process. So, I replied :

In general, it takes about ~1.5-3 years to get a paper published, whether it’s a review or not. In a review paper it might actually be easier, since you first write a proposal and only after an approval you start writing based on a review of articles that are already available. Investment and risk are lower.

In most cases for most articles we would write :

  1. think of an idea (usually involves reading quite a few related papers)
  2. write down a proposal (extensive lit review needed)
  3. (sometimes) apply for a grant (which takes 0.5-1 years)
  4. collect the data
  5. code the data
  6. analyze the data
  7. (most of the times) it doesn’t work out as expected, if it’s critical go back to #4, if you found some other angle, revisit #1 and #2
  8. (sometimes) you have multiple phases (OB) – so do #4 to #7 times the number of studies in your paper
  9. write down a draft of the paper
  10. (most times) you’re interested in friendly feedback, so
    1. might send it to willing colleagues and friends to go over,
    2. might present this in a department seminar,
    3. get a lot of feedback then go back to #9 to edit, sometimes you need to revisit earlier stages
  11. (sometimes)
    1. submit this whole thing to a conference
    2. get accepted to present in a conference
    3. prepare a presentation
    4. present
    5. get a lot of feedback, take time to sort it out, only small part of it useful, then go back to #9 to edit, sometimes you need to revisit earlier stages
  12. finally, submit it to a journal
  13. wait for 2-6 months
  14. Chances are that being inexperienced you get rejected. Some people go back to #12 with a different journal, some people read the feedback they got and go back to either #1, #2, #4, #6, or #9
  15. If things are going well you get an Revise&Resubmit. You struggle to understand what the reviewers want and which direction you should go with. Go back to either #1, #2, #4, #6, or #9 based on the feedback.
  16. Send back the fixed revision.
  17. You might get rejected at this stage.  If things are going really well you get another R&R, go back to #15. You might have to repeat this again.
  18. If you survived so far, probably after 1.5-3 years, you get published, congrats.

I could have missed a few stages (especially if you have co-authors and it’s not a small project). But, essentially, this is what it’s about.

Do explain this to prospect PhD students. Not so that they’ll feel scared and run away, but so that they’ll prepare themselves well in advance and have a strategy on how to cope with it,


Just my 2 cents.

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[…] has been commented on many times, the publishing process for academic papers takes a long time. The consequence of this is that even when a paper has only just become available – only just […]