Entry 4 – How long does it take to create an academic paper from idea inception to paper submission?

Time needed to read entry: 3 minutes


ME is currently a 3rd Year Graduate Student who had worked in Industry for numerous years.
ME TOO is currently a 2nd Year Postdoctoral Research Fellow who began graduate school directly after her undergraduate studies.


ME: How long does it take to put together a paper?
ME TOO: The amount of time that it takes to put together a paper depends on many factors: your field, where you are submitting your work — workshop, conference, journal, the quality of your work, the number of people with whom you are collaborating, the impact factor, and so on.
ME: So what is the difference in time that it takes, for example, when submitting to a workshop versus a conference versus a journal?
ME TOO: A journal is typically more reputable than a conference which is more reputable than a workshop.  So it will typically take longer to generate papers for the more prestigious outlets.  But I still cannot provide a good estimate.  I have friends in the Neuroscience field who spend possibly 2-4 years on one journal paper, whereas people in the computer science world may take as little as one month to publish a conference paper.  The difference arises, for example, because of the amount of time that is required to collect the data.  For a Neuroscientist, possibly training a monkey for 6 months or watching the span of the life of numerous generations of a particular animal is much more time consuming than in the computer science field where it can be as quick as taking a day to gather some images on which an algorithm is then run.
ME: Also, you had mentioned the term ‘impact factor’.  What is that?
ME TOO: Impact factor is a number that indicates how important your work is.  A colleague may spend 2-3 years to get a paper accepted into a journal such as Science or Nature (these are some of the big name journals that, if you publish in, could help you secure an academic position).  This paper has a very high impact factor, and will most likely be read by a huge number of researchers, heavily cited, and regarded very highly.  Think of this as getting into an Ivy League school, such as Harvard or Yale.  Then another colleague may publish in a much lesser known, read, and cited journal that has a low impact factor. Thus, the published work will be read by a lesser number of people, will be less heavily cited, and will not have as large of an impact on the world.

Key Steps in the Process of Writing a Paper

1. Brainstorm for ideas/Literature search
2. Identify and contact possible collaborators
3. Set up the system/test bed for running the experiment
4. Run the experiment
5. Analyze the data
6. If necessary, repeat steps 2-5
7. Write the results up in a clear story that effectively conveys your information

Case Study

For Me Too, the quickest time in which she had a paper accepted from concept to submission was for a conference — it took 3 days with 5 coauthors.  The longest time in which she had a paper accepted from concept to submission was for a journal — it took nearly 5 years with 2 coauthors and one conference paper submitted along the way.


The Craft of Research” by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams


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