As researchers, we all have to go through the ‘ordeal’ of getting published in international academic journals. For Chinese researchers, this ordeal is often greater due to a number of challenges such as writing as a non-native English speaker and in a “western” style, translating and presenting data examples in English, finding journals that are more receptive to non-Western perspectives, and so on.

Based on my recent experience of publishing a peer-reviewed article in a special issue of the Journal of International and Intercultural Communication (JIIC), I would like to offer a few suggestions for Chinese researchers who are considering publishing in international academic journals.


Find the right balance: regarding the language issue

Writing is hard for everyone, let alone writing in a second or third language. For Chinese researchers, it is important to find the right balance between the time spent on polishing the writing and the time spent on sharpening arguments and/or refining findings in the process of preparing a manuscript for submission.

This insecurity arising from writing as a non-native English speaker prompts many Chinese researchers to spend a tremendous amount of time revising the language instead of working on the ideas in the manuscript.

A simple and clear writing style is good enough, and what is crucial to our reviewers (and our academic audience) are rigorous analyses and well-developed arguments and findings.

Find the “right” journal

To get a manuscript published, it is also crucial to select the “right” journal in your research area. Consider what kind of academic audiences you would like to reach, as we know different journals tend to feature different kinds of research, theoretically and methodologically.

If one third of your references are coming from one journal, it is very likely that readers of this journal are also interested in your research and you will probably have a better shot at this journal than others.

It is also important to browse through past issues of a journal to get some ideas about what kind of research are being published here. This can also help you to decide whether this is the right journal for you or not.


Find an alternative: special issues

Special issues of international academic journals offer a very good alternative for graduate students and junior researchers at the early stage of their academic careers.

It is worth noting that submitting to a special issue is not necessarily easier than submitting to a regular issue in a journal and that the quality of a special issue will still be guaranteed through the peer review process.

Based on my recent experience of submitting to a special issue of JIIC, there are a few advantages for Chinese researchers to consider:

  • Every special issue has a specific theme or research focus in its call for papers. Sometimes it may also have a very specific structure guiding all the contributions. These are useful guidelines for researchers to outline their research and organize the content of their manuscript.
  • Special issues call for contributions from researchers sharing the similar research interests. Very often these contributors are from different disciplines but they all write about a salient research topic or theme. As such, if your publication appears in a special issue it has a better chance of reaching a wide readership, even researchers outside of your discipline.
  • Special issue editors are usually leading scholars from particular fields of research. For junior researchers, this provides the very valuable and beneficial experience of working with these leading scholars, such as getting extra feedback on your manuscript, developing a better knowledge about the research trends in this area of study, and attracting more readership of your manuscript after being published.
  • Special issues are usually time-bound so the publication process can be shorter than for a regular issue. This means that you will have a better idea about when your manuscript is scheduled for publication, which can be very useful if you need to have a publication out by a certain date for some reason (e.g. promotion or job application).