How does the publication cycle work?

What is the publication cycle?

The publication cycle is an inseparable and critical aspect that every researcher or writer needs to understand. This is because the publication cycle gives a tangible form to a theoretical concept, an idea, or an expression of writing talent. To use a commercial term, it is much like an assembly line where an idea passes through various inter-related processes and iterations before it develops into its final published form.

Content and medium: Two determinants of the publication cycle

The publication cycle differs based on two factors: the nature of content and the medium of publication. A writing output can belong to one of a myriad range of topics and publication mediums.  Some writers present their ideas in the form of research articles on various topics in, inter alia, journals, dissertations, conference papers, and scholarly books. Conversely, the output of other writers might be in the form of informal writings that appear in magazines catering to the general reader.

Apart from the nature of content, publications also differ in the medium selected for publication. Unlike most of the 20th century, publications are no longer limited to the print medium. In fact, the digital revolution and advent of the Internet have given an entirely new dimension to publishing with the popularity of articles and even books published on the web and in the electronic medium. Therefore, one needs to understand that the publication cycle, or the intervening processes for an idea to reach the reader, is determined by several factors. These factors determine the processes and the time cycle for a writing to be published in its final form.

Electronic publications include two categories. The first is the category of online publications on the World Wide Web. These include personal web pages of the author, individual blogs, online videos or presentations, as well as online research journals or periodicals. The second category includes electronic books, often referred to as e-books, which are bought and sold in the market, but the reader can access them only by using software on a digital device or a personal computer.

Conversely, the more conventional publications in print include research papers or reports published in journals, magazines, and books.

What does the publication cycle involve?

The publication cycle starts with the generation of an idea by the author or writer. This first step toward publication is basically an individualistic approach in the sense that it is a creative process and not a time-bound phenomenon.

After an idea takes root in the writer’s mind, the next step is to undertake the research that will help develop that idea into a well-constructed piece of writing. In this step, the authors search for existing literature on the relevant subject and identify the lacunae in such writing. This helps them make a useful contribution to their area of research.

The research work is followed by an informal communication among the authors (in case of multiple authors) that includes regular conversations on the phone and meetings for discussion of their research output. This stage provides a common platform for different authors to share ideas and views on a particular topic or idea of research.

The next major step involves report research. This could either be an informal approach adopted by the author or authors to share their research on their individual blogs or web pages, or a formal approach that includes white paper publications, report publications such as lab or research reports, and presentations at conferences and colloquia.

The next step is to report the findings as a publication in journals and/or magazines. Such publications provide a platform for popularization of the authors’ work, or to bring the research to the notice of a wider readership.

The culminating point of the publication cycle of a research idea occurs in a book or encyclopedia publication.  This is the most formalized medium of publishing a research work, and is recognized as the ultimate achievement for a researcher.

Each stage of the publication cycle is relevant because it constitutes a step in the ladder toward the final form of a research idea. Considered holistically, an understanding of the publication cycle facilitates the development of an efficient strategy for publication of a research work in an organized manner.


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