Publishing in Top Journals

The Information Systems Society, the INFORMS division affiliated with one of “biggee” Information Systems journals, Information Systems Research (ISR), just published an online newsletter. The interview with Samba (V. Sambamurthy), Editor of ISR includes a question of particular relevance to doctoral students.

As an editor, what advice would you give to doctoral students and people who want to publish in the top information systems journals?

Samba’s answer includes a succinct description of quality research criteria:

In order to publish in the top journals, I would first emphasize care and attention to the choice of research topics and how they are executed. The key criteria for getting research published in a top journal include the significance of the research topic (i.e., why is the topic relevant and important), completeness of the literature review and theoretical development, rigor of the methodology and analysis, and the novelty of the findings. Getting the research right on these criteria requires a significant investment of time in thinking about the phenomenon, paying attention to the details of the research method, and writing the paper in way that is clear, compelling, and interesting.

That all sounds much easier said, than done, doesn’t it!? Thankfully, after describing the destination he illuminates the path:

To be successful, it is important to test out the ideas in as many forums as possible before sending the paper out to a journal for review. Therefore, leveraging conferences such as ICIS, AMCIS, CIST, Academy, or Decision Sciences and invited research workshops at peer schools should be a part of a conscious strategy to revise and improve a paper before sending it out for review.

Second, I would emphasize the role and value of networking. Good collaborations not only help in maintaining a higher level of productivity, but they also help in pooling of complementary skills. Not all of us are good at theorizing and in empirical analysis. Further, with the growing sophistication of data sources and analytical methodologies, collaboration helps in producing higher quality papers. Therefore, I would strongly advocate networking and building productive collaborations.

Did you hear that? Samba just said we should submit our papers to Academy! He’s also stressing networking activities (like contributing posts and comments to this blog? :)).

Finally, my advice to all would be to be persistent and not get discouraged with the journals, if your paper gets rejected at one journal, or the revision requirements seem unusually demanding. All the top IS journals are working hard on accelerating the cycle times for review as well for accepting deserving articles. Editors are serious about constructive reviews and making sure that manuscripts get a fair shake when they are submitted for review. There are multiple outlets available for most work. Therefore, do not take a rejection as an “end-of-the-road.” Figure out how to improve your work and submit it to another journal. If the revisions seem difficult or challenging, develop a strategy document to share with the editors and get feedback on whether your approach seems tenable. Above all, persist with your papers, especially if you believe that it is good work and that you might not have done a good job of presenting it in your initial submission.

Ah, yes. A churches down the road has a sign up: “Failure is not falling down, failure is not getting up.” Samba agrees: persistence pays.


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