5 Tips on Getting Published in a High-Impact Journal

How do you define success as an academic researcher? We’ve spoken with thousands of academic researchers, and their end goal is almost always the same – getting published. Publishing papers in academic journals is just as crucial for a graduate student to show their worth as it is for an assistant professor who is hoping to get tenure. We understand that your career depends on your ability to publish your work, and publishing in a prestigious journal is essential for accomplishing the goals of your research. In addition, every paper you write accelerates scientific discovery – the more your work gets published, the bigger the impact your research has.

At Nicoya, we aim to improve human life by helping scientists succeed. We do this by providing researchers with access to affordable surface plasmon resonance instrumentation. We believe researchers should be focussing on their next big discovery instead of stressing about getting their manuscripts accepted. Publishing quantitative data for your binding interactions is a powerful way to impress challenging journal reviewers, but what other things can you do to help your work get accepted into the journal of your dreams? We did some digging into what journal reviewers love to see and what advice they have to give. We’ve compiled our findings into five tips to help you get published in prestigious journals like Nature, Chemical Reviews and The Lancet.

1. Know Your Audience

Some of the most common advice we found reviewers giving was to pick the right audience and tailor your writing to them (Glover, N. M. et al., 2016). If you’ve made a ground-breaking discovery in the field of neuroscience, submitting a manuscript to Nanoletters might not be your best choice. However, the editors for Frontiers in Neuroscience are likely much more interested. 

That said, even though this journal specializes in neuroscience, you’re the expert in this field – and the journal’s readers may not be. Properly defining acronyms and explaining concepts that might seem like second nature to you will significantly increase the readability of your paper. A great way to determine what information you should be elaborating on and what data is most important is to read a few published papers from your chosen journal. This way, you can find out what’s been working for other authors so that you can follow suit.

2. Keep It Clear & Concise

You and your team did some amazing work and made some big discoveries. Your hard work deserves to be appreciated. However, a reviewer doesn’t want to read an entire Ph.D. crammed into one paper. It’s essential at this point to determine exactly what knowledge gap your research is addressing and to choose a compelling finding to argue. Think about what data you’ve collected that directly supports your argument when considering which details of your preliminary work to share.

A lack of context and clarity is also a common reason for rejection (Gould, J., 2014). You’ve made a big discovery that’s worth publishing – make this information easy to find! The title and abstract are by far the two most-read sections of a paper. Your argument and the knowledge gap you’re addressing should be clearly stated here and revisited again in the introduction.

3. Organize Your Data Effectively

Your data is the evidence that proves your argument. Ideally, you want your readers to interpret your data easily. However, you’ve likely come across publications with figures that are too small or diagrams that are poorly labelled. This is usually the product of trying to fit enough data into a paper without sending the page count into double digits. Sadly, many manuscripts are rejected because the data is not presented in a readable way (Choi, K., 2002).

The right approach here is to think about what you would want to see when reading a publication. Try to keep figures clean without too much data on one chart so that the data can be easily read. Your SPR data should have each analyte concentration clearly labelled with the binding model overlaid. Consider organizing numerical results into a table that is explicitly defined. Many other factors could be addressed here, but the overarching theme here is to present something your readers can easily interpret. Getting a few colleagues to read over your paper is an easy way to figure out if you’ve done this effectively.

4. Use Multiple Techniques To Support Your Data

To reiterate our last tip, your data is the evidence behind your argument. Your reviewers need to find your data compelling enough to believe in your cause, so how can you make your findings believable? Consider using multiple techniques that return the same measurements – this will help to confirm your data is true and correct. Presenting structural information? Try using NMR and X-ray crystallography to confirm the structures of your molecules. If you’re using ITC or BLI to measure your binding interactions, consider supplementing with surface plasmon resonance as well. If you can verify the data using different techniques, it will be very challenging for someone to critique your findings!

5. Publish Quantitative Data With Surface Plasmon Resonance

At this point, it’s clear that the data you present can be the deciding factor between acceptance and rejection from a prestigious journal. So, what type of data are reviewers looking for? More and more reviewers are asking for quantitative kinetics data for binding interactions. Luckily, surface plasmon resonance provides the on rate, off rate, and overall affinity of your interactions in real-time and without the use of labels. We’ve noticed a 51% increase in publications using SPR over the last ten years alone shown in Figure 1. With the OpenSPR, SPR instrumentation has never been more accessible to academic researchers. With the help of our Customer Success Scientists, you’re guaranteed to get the data your reviewers have been waiting for! Just ask Stasevich et al. who recently published in Nature Communications and used the OpenSPR to characterize the high-affinity interaction between an antibody probe and its target epitope, helping to improve imaging in live cells.

Figure 1. The number of publications per year that Western Blotting, SPR, ITC, and Co-IP are used from 2005 to 2016.

At the end of the day, everything that we’ve talked about can be boiled down to two big ideas – communicate your findings effectively and provide data that will make everyone believe in your argument. At Nicoya, we’re here to help provide the quantitative binding interaction data your reviewers are looking for with affordable surface plasmon resonance instrumentation. Contact an Application Scientist today to see how the OpenSPR can accelerate your research and get you published faster.

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  1. Glover, N. M., Antoniadi, I., George, G. M., Götzenberger, L., Gutzat, R., Koorem, K., … Mayer, P. (2016). A Pragmatic Approach to Getting Published: 35 Tips for Early Career Researchers. Frontiers in plant science, 7, 610. doi:10.3389/fpls.2016.00610
  2. Gould, J. (2014, November 3). How to get published in high-impact journals: Big research and better writing. Retrieved from
  3. Choi, K. (2002). How to Publish in Top Journals. Retrieved from