Choosing ‘Journal Papers’ as today’s topic, you might be forgiven for expecting advice on referencing, seeking out key papers or something similar, but no – this sort of advice should be readily available from your Library.
Writing journal papers requires a slightly different skill set than does writing a thesis, but any experience of writing is a good thing when it comes to the final ‘book’. Journals have their own house-style that you have to be cognisant of and they often will want your art-work in a very specific format which means that you have to master a whole new programme in order to convert your file into the appropriate format. And don’t get me started on peer-review. This is absolutely essential in many respects, whilst also being a deeply flawed system that is need of much revision. It is both useful and incredibly irritating at exactly the same time: I have seen, and heard of, very worthy papers rejected on the flimsiest of grounds, and I have seen very superficial pieces accepted without the need for correction. Ho hum.
In the context of a guide to writing a thesis, I am not going to break off and provide a guide for writing a journal paper – if demand is great enough then perhaps that is the topic for next year sorted! – but rather it seems to me that it is worth taking a moment to extol the virtues of having written and published prior to the commencement of writing your thesis:
1) As I’ve already said, no writing experience is wasted (although you do need to be mindful that a journal paper is not a mini-thesis, or even a single chapter complete and ready to go).
2) Comment on point 1 aside, it does give you some useful, peer-reviewed seed-points for sections within the appropriate chapters (although you may end up rewriting this text significantly to fit the style of your thesis.).
3) One of the things that your examiners are looking for is that your work is of publishable quality and that it is original. If you have published on the subject already in an appropriate peer-reviewed journal, then at least a part of the examiner’s mind will be set at rest.
For some programmes, publication is a prerequisite for submission, but these are comparatively rare. Unless you are very unlucky, you’ll present at a conference during your studies and you’ll need to write a paper for this, which can be included as an appendix, but again, a subtly different skill set it involved from writing either a thesis or a journal paper. Not writing a journal paper isn’t a disaster, but if you’ve been feeling at all ambivalent about this step and have been viewing it is a bit of a distraction, I would advise thinking again.