Publication Strategy

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Publication Strategy

What to publish during a PhD? 
by Aidi Ahmi, 13 June 2023 

PhD research journeys offer an array of opportunities to contribute to academic discourse beyond the final thesis or dissertation. Each stage of the research process provides a chance to generate output that can inform and impact the scientific community. This article uncovers these opportunities, detailing potential academic outputs for every step of the research journey. The journey spans fifteen stages: defining the research problem, conducting literature reviews, formulating research questions and hypotheses, defining theoretical and conceptual frameworks, choosing appropriate research methodologies, crafting research proposals, conducting pilot studies, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting results, drawing conclusions, and finally, submitting the final thesis. At each stage, this article offers examples of types of papers that can be published, thereby illustrating how a single research project can enrich academic discourse in multifaceted ways. 

1. DEFINE PHD TOPIC

At the outset of a PhD program, one of the first things students must do is define their PhD topic. This involves identifying an area of interest within their field of study and exploring it in detail. The chosen topic should not only be of interest to the student, but also add value to the existing body of knowledge. During this stage, the student will conduct initial readings and explorations in their field, looking for areas that are not yet fully explored, controversies, or unanswered questions. This process helps the student in refining their topic and identifying the need for their research. At this stage, two types of papers (but not limited to) that can be produced are:

Bibliometric review articles: Bibliometric analysis is a quantitative method used to explore the impact and development of a particular field over time. A bibliometric review article focuses on analyzing the current state of the field, typically using citation analysis to identify the most influential papers, authors, and themes in the area. It highlights the need for further research, helps in understanding the prevalent trends and directions in which the field is progressing. Example of published papers are: 

Mansour, A.Z., Ahmi, A., Popoola, O.M.J. & Znaimat, A. (2022), Discovering the global landscape of fraud detection studies: a bibliometric review, Journal of Financial Crime29(2), 701-720. https://doi.org/10.1108/JFC-03-2021-0052 

Zakaria, R., Ahmi, A., Ahmad, A. H., & Othman, Z. (2021) Worldwide Melatonin Research: A Bibliometric Analysis of the Published Literature between 2015 and 2019, Chronobiology International, 38(1), 27-37. https://doi.org/10.1080/07420528.2020.1838534

 

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Bibliometric analysis literally means measuring the properties of all kinds of documents, including journal articles, conference proceedings, books, etc. These properties can easily be obtained from academic databases such as Scopus. Unlike other qualitative studies, the bibliometric study required very little effort to get the data before it can be analyzed. If you understand the concept, it will take less than five minutes to obtain the dataset. While this study originally comes from the library and information science field, it has now become popular among scholars regardless of their area of interest. This study is suitable for anyone who wants to explore the current state of the art of literature in any field of study. Analysis can easily be conducted with several freely available tools such as Harzing�s Publish or Perish and VOSviewer. This book is suitable for anyone who wants to write and publish their first paper using bibliometric analysis. 
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Bibliometric papers discussing emerging trends and challenges: Similar to bibliometric review articles, these papers use bibliometric analysis to explore emerging trends and challenges in a particular field of study. The difference is that while bibliometric review articles provide an overview of the field, bibliometric papers discussing trends and challenges delve deeper into specific areas of interest, often looking at potential areas for further research and pointing out the gaps in current knowledge. Example of published papers are:

Wahyudi, M., Ahmi, A. & Herianingrum, S. (2022). Examining Trends, Themes and Social Structure of Zakat Literature: A Bibliometric Analysis. Global Journal Al-Thaqafah, 12(1), 40 - 67. https://doi.org/10.7187/GJAT072022-3

Abdul Rahman, N.A., Ahmi, A., Jraisat, L. & Upadhyay, A. (2022). Examining the trend of humanitarian supply chain studies: pre, during and post COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, 12(4), 594-617. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHLSCM-01-2022-0012 

Both types of papers are valuable at the initial stage of the PhD as they help in defining the research topic, understanding the current state of knowledge, identifying the gaps, and thereby shaping the direction of the upcoming PhD research. They also contribute to the scholarly landscape by providing a consolidated view of the field to other researchers and academics.

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Essential Steps to Conduct Bibliometric Analysis Study

2. CONDUCT LITERATURE REVIEW

After defining the PhD topic, the next critical stage is conducting a literature review. A literature review is a comprehensive survey of existing studies and scholarly articles related to your research topic. The purpose of this step is to gain a deep understanding of the existing research in your area of study and identify what has been done, what gaps exist, and how your research can add to this body of knowledge. Conducting a thorough literature review helps to establish the foundation for your research, formulate research questions, and identify appropriate methodologies. It also helps avoid duplication of effort by ensuring that you're not researching a question that has already been answered. At this stage, two types of papers that can be produced are:

Systematic literature review or meta-analysis: A systematic literature review is a thorough and detailed review of existing literature on a specific topic, conducted in a highly organized and methodical way. It identifies, evaluates, and interprets all available research relevant to the research question, topic area, or phenomenon of interest. Meta-analysis, on the other hand, is a statistical technique for combining the findings from independent studies. These types of papers are beneficial in summarizing existing studies, identifying research gaps, and shaping the direction for your own research. Example,

Chaudhuri, R., Apoorva, A., Vrontis, D., Siachou, E., & Trichina, E. (2023). How customer incivility affects service-sector employees: A systematic literature review and a bibliometric analysis. Journal of Business Research164(114011), 114011. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2023.114011

Tengilimoglu, O., Carsten, O., & Wadud, Z. (2023). Implications of automated vehicles for physical road environment: A comprehensive review. Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review169(102989), 102989. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tre.2022.102989

Critical review papers: A critical review paper is another form of literature review that not only summarizes the existing literature on a topic but also provides a critique, highlighting controversies, debates, or inconsistencies in the literature, and proposes new research directions. It requires a deep understanding of the topic area and a critical evaluation of the methodology and findings of previous studies. An example is,

Christopher, S., Vikram, M. P., Bakli, C., Thakur, A. K., Ma, Y., Ma, Z., Xu, H., Cuce, P. M., Cuce, E., & Singh, P. (2023). Renewable energy potential towards attainment of net-zero energy buildings status � A critical review. Journal of Cleaner Production405(136942), 136942. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2023.136942

Publishing systematic literature reviews or critical review papers helps to establish your understanding of the field, demonstrate your ability to critically evaluate existing literature, and position your research within the broader academic conversation. These types of papers also add to the scholarly landscape by consolidating the current state of research and pointing out areas for future exploration.

 

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This book explains all the topics and analyses covered in Biblioshiny, a tiny app part of the Bibliometrix R package. For each topic, this book will (1) introduce the concept, (2) show the steps of how it can be conducted, and (3) explain how each result can be interpreted. Some of the important references have also been highlighted for the readers to investigate further. R is a programming language that has been used for statistical computing and data analytics. The use of this software is possibly quite difficult for non-technical users. However, this book will introduce an app that can integrate all the technicalities into a simpler one that can easily be used by non-coders or those who do not have any knowledge of programming. While this app seems too easy to use, it does, however, require the user�s understanding of some of the processes and concepts before it can be run. This book also introduced a tool to clean and harmonise bibliographical data using OpenRefine, a powerful tool for working with messy data.
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3. FORMULATE PROBLEM STATEMENT

After conducting a comprehensive literature review, the next step is to formulate the problem statement for your research. This step involves taking the knowledge you've gained from your literature review and identifying a specific problem or gap in the existing research that your PhD study will address. This problem statement becomes the justification for your research and guides the research questions, hypotheses, and overall direction of your study. The problem statement should be clear, concise, and well-supported by evidence from the literature. It should articulate the problem to be solved or the question to be answered, demonstrate the relevance and importance of the problem, and indicate the novel contribution that your research will make to the field. At this stage, two types of papers that can be produced are:

Theoretical paper discussing the significance of the problem: These types of papers delve into the theoretical aspects of the identified problem, its implications for the field, and its importance. Such papers require a deep understanding of the theories and concepts related to the problem and involve critical evaluation and synthesis of these theories in relation to the problem. An example is

Pindek, S., Shen, W., & Andel, S. (2023). Finally, some �me time�: A new theoretical perspective on the benefits of commuting. Organizational Psychology Review13(1), 44�66. https://doi.org/10.1177/20413866221133669

Conceptual paper proposing a novel framework: This type of paper focuses on proposing a novel conceptual framework for addressing the identified problem. It usually starts with a review of existing theories and models related to the problem, then introduces a novel framework that offers a new perspective or a solution to the problem. Such a paper often requires a creative and innovative approach, along with a rigorous understanding of the theories and literature related to the problem. An example is

Minder, B., Wolf, P., Baldauf, M., & Verma, S. (2023). Voice assistants in private households: a conceptual framework for future research in an interdisciplinary field. Humanities & Social Sciences Communications10(1), 173. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-023-01615-z

Publishing theoretical and conceptual papers during the problem formulation stage of your PhD can help establish your understanding of the problem and your innovative approach to addressing it. It also contributes to the scholarly dialogue in your field by offering new insights or perspectives on an existing problem.

4. DEVELOP RESEARCH QUESTIONS

After identifying the problem statement, the next step is to formulate the research questions. Research questions are specific queries you want to answer in your PhD study. They should be closely linked to the problem statement, addressing different aspects of the problem. The questions should be clear, focused, concise, complex, and arguable. They should not be answerable with a simple "yes" or "no," but instead require deep exploration and analysis. Types of papers that can be published at this stage:

Research proposal paper: These types of papers outline the research questions, objectives, and proposed methodology. They are essential in demonstrating the validity of your research questions and your plan to answer them. An example is,

Gonz�lez-S�nchez, R., Alonso-Mu�oz, S., & Medina-Salgado, M. S. (2023). Circularity in waste management: a research proposal to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Operations Management Research. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12063-023-00373-0

Methodological paper: These papers discuss the rationale behind the chosen research questions and objectives. They show how the methodology aligns with and supports the research questions. An example is,

Zacher, H., & Rudolph, C. W. (2022). Researching employee experiences and behavior in times of crisis: Theoretical and methodological considerations and implications for human resource management. German Journal of Human Resource Management36(1), 6�31. https://doi.org/10.1177/23970022211058812

5. BUILD THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

This stage involves identifying, understanding, and integrating the theories and concepts that will guide your research. A theoretical framework provides the structure that can hold or support a theory of a research study. It introduces and describes the theory that explains why the research problem under study exists. Types of papers that can be published at this stage:

Theoretical paper: Such a paper discusses the theoretical foundations and frameworks used in the study. These papers demonstrate your understanding of the theory behind your research. An example is,

Burghausen, M. (2023). The presence of the omni-temporal: theoretical foundations of (corporate) brand heritage design. Journal of Brand Management30(2), 129�143. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41262-022-00302-9

Comparative analysis paper: A comparative analysis paper evaluates different theoretical frameworks and their applicability to the research topic. It contributes to the field by comparing the strengths and weaknesses of different theories or models. An example is, 

Acerbi, A., & Sacco, P. L. (2023). Self-Interest, prosociality, and the moral cognition of markets: A comparative analysis of the Theory of Moral Sentiments and the Wealth of Nations. Rationality and Society, 104346312311704. https://doi.org/10.1177/10434631231170460

6. ESTABLISH CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

A conceptual framework is a researcher�s own perception of the context under investigation. Unlike the theoretical framework, which brings in theories that are already established, the conceptual framework is specific to the researcher�s study and may evolve during the research. Types of papers that can be published at this stage:

Conceptual paper: This type of paper presents the developed conceptual framework and its application to the research area. These papers often propose a new model or framework to address the research problem. An example is,

Casale, M., Somefun, O., Haupt Ronnie, G., Desmond, C., Sherr, L., & Cluver, L. (2023). A conceptual framework and exploratory model for health and social intervention acceptability among African adolescents and youth. Social Science & Medicine (1982)326(115899), 115899. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2023.115899

Case study paper: A case study paper applies the conceptual framework to a specific context and discusses its outcomes. It provides practical applications and examples of how your conceptual framework can be used. An example is,

Anbarasan, P., & Sushil. (2018). Stakeholder engagement in sustainable enterprise: Evolving a conceptual framework, and a case study of ITC: Stakeholder engagement in sustainable enterprise. Business Strategy and the Environment27(3), 282�299. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.1999

7. DESIGN RESEARCH INSTRUMENTS

This stage involves the design of research instruments like surveys, interviews, or observations to collect data for your study. The research instruments should be reliable (yielding consistent results) and valid (measuring what they're supposed to measure). Types of papers that can be published at this stage:

Methodological paper: A methodological paper can describe the development and validation of research instruments used in the study. These papers are important for showing that your instruments are sound and can be trusted to give accurate results. An example is,

Pa�ur, M. (2022). Development and validation of a research instrument for measuring the presence of democratic school leadership characteristics. Educational Management Administration & Leadership50(4), 613�629. https://doi.org/10.1177/1741143220937312

Technical paper: A technical paper can detail the design and implementation of innovative research instruments or tools. It shows how you've adapted or created new tools for collecting data. An example is,

Turtle, K., McElearney, A., & Scott, J. (2010). Involving children in the design and development of research instruments and data collection procedures: A case study in primary schools in northern Ireland. Child Care in Practice?: Northern Ireland Journal of Multi-Disciplinary Child Care Practice16(1), 57�82. https://doi.org/10.1080/13575270903378443

8. DETERMINE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

This stage requires a clear understanding of the various research methods available, the ability to justify your choice, and the knowledge to apply the methodology correctly. The research methodology should align with your research problem and questions. This might involve choosing between qualitative or quantitative methods, or perhaps a mixed-method approach. The selection depends on the nature of the research problem, the research questions, and the researcher's area of expertise and preference. Types of papers that can be published at this stage:

Methodological paper: This type of paper discusses the chosen research methodology and its suitability for the study. It presents the rationale for the choice of methodology, the method's details, and how it addresses the research problem. For example,

Tanner, P. (2023). Nested Sampling in Sequential Mixed Methods Research Designs: Comparing Recipe and Result. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research24(1). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-24.1.4004

9. PREPARE RESEARCH PROPOSAL

At this stage, PhD students consolidate all their prior research planning into a comprehensive document: the research proposal. The proposal outlines the research problem, questions, methodology, theoretical and conceptual frameworks, and the expected timeline. It is often a requirement for gaining approval to proceed with the research or to secure funding. Types of papers that can be published at this stage:

Conference paper: You could prepare a conference paper summarizing the research proposal, including the problem statement, research questions, and proposed methodology. This gives you the opportunity to present your research to other scholars, receive feedback, and possibly even attract interest or collaboration. For example,

Za, S., Lazazzara, A., Pallud, J., & Agostini, D. (2021). What foster people to purchase further smart devices? A research proposal. In Lecture Notes in Information Systems and Organisation (pp. 191�200). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-47539-0_14

10. CONDUCT PILOT STUDY

A pilot study is a small-scale version of the main study. It helps to test whether your research design, methods, and instruments are effective and practical. You can then refine your plans before carrying out the larger, more expensive main study. It�s a critical step to validate the feasibility of the research design. Types of papers that can be published at this stage:

Results of the Pilot Study: You can prepare a conference paper or presentation or journal article summarizing the findings and lessons learned from the pilot study. It provides an opportunity to share preliminary findings and receive early feedback. An example is

Lizarelli, F. L., Chakraborty, A., Antony, J., Jayaraman, R., Carneiro, M. B., & Furterer, S. (2022). Lean and its impact on sustainability performance in service companies: results from a pilot study. The TQM Journal. https://doi.org/10.1108/tqm-03-2022-0094

11. COLLECT DATA

At this stage, the research questions and hypotheses have been clearly defined, the research design has been solidified, and the data collection instruments have been chosen or designed. Now, it's time to conduct the actual data collection. This could involve various methods such as surveys, experiments, interviews, or the use of pre-existing databases, among others. Types of papers that can be published at this stage:

Data article: You can prepare a data article that provides a comprehensive description of the collected dataset, its sources, and any preprocessing techniques applied. It offers an opportunity to share valuable data sets with other researchers. For example,

Richter, N. F., Hauff, S., Kolev, A. E., & Schubring, S. (2023). Dataset on an extended technology acceptance model: A combined application of PLS-SEM and NCA. Data in Brief48, 109190. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dib.2023.109190

Paper on data collection methodologies: This type of paper discusses the challenges encountered during data collection and proposed solutions. It contributes to the understanding of methodological issues in your field. An example can be,

Ge, L., Du, T., Li, C., Li, Y., Yan, J., & Rafiq, M. U. (2022). Virtual collection for distributed photovoltaic data: Challenges, methodologies, and applications. Energies15(23), 8783. https://doi.org/10.3390/en15238783

12. ANALYZE DATA

This stage involves taking the collected raw data and analyzing it to find answers to the research questions. The analysis could be statistical, thematic, or another form appropriate to your research approach. The ultimate goal here is to extract meaningful insights from the data that contribute to the existing knowledge in the field. Types of papers that can be published at this stage:

Preliminary Study: You could submit an extended abstract to a conference or prepare a journal article summarizing the preliminary findings and their implications. This allows you to share initial results with your peers and receive feedback (if you present it in the conference). Example: 

Jebbor, S., Raddouane, C., & El Afia, A. (2022). A preliminary study for selecting the appropriate AI-based forecasting model for hospital assets demand under disasters. Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management12(1), 1�29. https://doi.org/10.1108/jhlscm-12-2020-0123

Comprehensive manuscript: This manuscript would detail the methodology, results, and discussion of your findings. It can serve as the groundwork for your final research article. Example:

Sun, X., Wandelt, S., & Zhang, A. (2023). A data-driven analysis of the aviation recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Air Transport Management109, 102401. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jairtraman.2023.102401 

13. INTERPRET DATA

Once the data is analyzed, the next stage involves interpreting the results. You have to understand what the findings mean in relation to your research questions, hypotheses, and the existing literature in your field. This could involve identifying trends, understanding the relationship between variables, or explaining why certain patterns exist in the data.

Types of papers that can be published at this stage:

Research article: A research article discussing the interpretation of the data, relating it to existing theories, and prior studies can be a significant output. Example:

Tasavori, M., & Bhattarai, C. R. (2022). Understanding the impact of learning orientation and the mediating role of new product development capability on social enterprises� performances. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijebr-12-2021-1009

Theoretical paper: A theoretical paper could propose new hypotheses or conceptual frameworks based on the data analysis and interpretation. Example:

Iftikhar, R. (2023). Crises and capabilities in project-based organizations: conceptual model and empirical evidence. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business16(3), 543�570. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijmpb-05-2022-0123

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14. WRITE CONCLUSION

After interpreting the data and finding answers to your research questions, it's time to draw conclusions from your study. The conclusion summarizes the main findings, acknowledges the limitations of the study, and discusses the implications of your research for your field of study. It also suggests future research directions based on the findings and limitations. Types of papers that can be published at this stage:

Policy implications paper: If your research has implications for policy in your field, you could write a paper discussing these. For example, if your work has significant findings related to public health, you could write a paper discussing how these findings could or should influence public health policy. Another example, 

Jia, W., & Chen, T. D. (2023). Investigating heterogeneous preferences for plug-in electric vehicles: Policy implications from different choice models. Transportation Research. Part A, Policy and Practice173(103693), 103693. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2023.103693

Practical application paper: If your work has potential applications in industry or other non-academic settings, you could write a paper focused on these applications. For example, if your research is in technology and has potential commercial applications, you could write a paper outlining these. Another example,

Benstead, A. V., Mwesiumo, D., Moradlou, H., & Boffelli, A. (2022). Entering the world behind the clothes that we wear: practical applications of blockchain technology. Production Planning & Control, 1�18. https://doi.org/10.1080/09537287.2022.2063173

Methodological reflection paper: This type of paper would involve reflecting on the methods used in your research, discussing what worked well and what challenges you faced, and potentially giving advice for other researchers in your field. For example, 

Meier, N., & Dopson, S. (2021). What is context? Methodological reflections on the relationship between context, actors, and change. In Managing Healthcare Organisations in Challenging Policy Contexts (pp. 93�110). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-81093-1_5 

Commentary or perspective paper: These papers can be based on your research findings and provide a discussion or argument on a particular aspect in your field of study. They don't necessarily introduce new findings but leverage your completed work to propose new viewpoints or theories. For example,

Provost, F. (2023). Ethics and interventions: A commentary on how to �improve� prediction using behavior modification. International Journal of Forecasting39(2), 561�565. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijforecast.2022.10.001

Case study: If your research involved a specific case study, you could write a paper specifically about this case study, focusing on the practical and contextual details that were not the main focus of your whole thesis.

15. SUBMIT FINAL THESIS

The final stage involves preparing your complete research work in the form of a thesis or dissertation and submitting it to your institution. The thesis typically includes all the previous stages and in-depth discussion of each. It's a demonstration of your scholarly work and a significant contribution to your field. Types of papers that can be published at this stage: 

Standalone research articles: Individual chapters or sections of the thesis can be extracted and converted into standalone research articles for journal submission. This maximizes the dissemination of your research findings. Example:

Ahmi, A., & Kent, S. (2013). The Utilisation of Generalized Audit Software (GAS) by External Auditors. Managerial Auditing Journal, 28(2), 88�113. http://doi.org/10.1108/02686901311284522

Thesis abstract for conference proceedings: You can prepare a thesis abstract and submit it to relevant conference proceedings. This can serve as a summary of your overall research project and its findings. Example,

Zimmermann, T., & Herbelin, H. (2016). Thesis abstract:�Design and development of a tool based on Coq to write and format mathematical proofs�. In Workshop and Work in Progress Papers at CICM 2016.

Research doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's part of an ongoing conversation, an exchange of ideas, and a collaborative endeavor to increase human understanding. As such, each stage of the PhD research journey is an opportunity to contribute to this conversation. Whether it's through defining a unique research problem, conducting an in-depth literature review, developing novel methodologies, or interpreting data in a way that pushes the boundary of existing knowledge, every phase offers a chance to make a significant impact. Each of these contributions can be shared with the academic community through various forms of publication, thereby allowing others to build upon your work. This comprehensive overview of potential academic outputs at each stage should serve as a useful guide for any PhD student seeking to maximize the dissemination and influence of their research. It illustrates that the path to a PhD is more than just a sequence of tasks leading to a final dissertation; it's a rich, layered process full of opportunities to enrich the scientific community and beyond. 

 

Disclaimer: The information presented in this webpage is meant to provide general guidance on what students can focus on for writing and publishing during their PhD journey. The specific requirements, timelines, and publication strategies may vary depending on the individual's research topic, program, and supervisor's recommendations.

Aidi Ahmi

Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz School of Accountancy
Universiti Utara Malaysia
06010 UUM Sintok
Kedah, Malaysia
Tel: +6049287222
E-mail: aidi[at]uum.edu.my