7 Tips on Publishing Your Bioethics Article

How do you get a Bioethics article published in a prestigious newspaper, magazine, or academic journal? That's what this panel of experts sought to answer at a panel called “How to Publish in Bioethics." Speakers included Bioethics alumna and the Executive Managing Editor of the American Journal of Bioethics Bela Fishbeyn, Bioethics director Dr. Robert Klitzman, faculty member Arthur Kuflik, and Prof. James Cosgrove.

Robert Klitzman moderated the discussion. He urged Bioethics students to seek opportunities to publish their research, not only to build their portfolios but to connect with and influence the wider Bioethics community. He said, “You actually can help change policy, you can make patients lives better, you can make the healthcare system work better. We [professors] see ourselves as training you to make an impact in the world – and one way to do that is through publishing.”

Below are the top five tips that our experts shared on publishing your work in mainstream and academic publications.

1. Offer a new perspective on a hot topic.

It's easy to get caught up in trending topics. However, our experts cautioned, in order to stand out among submissions, writers must say something that no one else has said before. Present a fresh angle or a different perspective in order to add something unique and valuable to the conversation.

Klitzman said that, for mainstream publications such as The Huffington Post or The New York Times, it's imperative to have a "hook" for your article.

2. Be concise.

Brevity is important in both academic and mainstream publications. Whether you're writing a pitch or the article that you'd like to submit, less is more, said Klitzman.

“If you’re writing an op-ed for The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal or even The Huffington Post [your word count should be] 800 words,” said Klitzman. “For academic journals, often it’s 1200 words, sometimes 3500 words.”

Take an editor's feedback as a sign of attentiveness.

3. Revise and resubmit.

Whether writing for a mainstream or academic publication, the revision process may be extensive. Our experts cautioned, don’t mistake an editor’s requests as an insult to your work. Instead, take an editor's feedback as a sign of attentiveness.

According to the panelists, writers should rejoice in receiving feedback. If editors truly do not like a writer’s work, they will simply reject the submission.

4. Who, what, why, and where?

James Colgrove of the Mailman School of Public Health advised that writers begin with the question, “Who do I want to reach with this article?”

Decide if the article is targeting clinicians, researchers, patients, or another audience entirely. If you keep your audience in mind, then it becomes easier to determine whose readership would be most interested in the piece and where to send it.

Colgrove suggests writing an elevator pitch. It forces you to clarify who you're trying to reach, what you're trying to say, and why the reader should care.

Colgrove suggests writing an elevator pitch. It forces you to clarify who you're trying to reach, what you're trying to say, and why the reader should care.

5. Show your expertise.

Publishing a bioethics article requires familiarity with the topic as well as what has already been written about it. Fishbeyn suggests searching for and reading the most referenced articles on the subject matter. If a writer can't refer to commonly mentioned sources, editors may think that the article is poorly researched.

6. Think beyond academic journals.

Bioethics articles need not be published only in niche journals. The best writers are thinking about which publications will allow them to distribute their ideas to a broader audience. For instance, there may be an opportunity to reach a mainstream audience by tying the issue to a pop culture phenomenon.

7. Co-author with faculty members.

Lastly, students should consider co-publishing. Getting a faculty member to co-author an article helps with the division of labor. More importantly, the name recognition of the professor improves the odds that a piece will land in a top tier journal.

Learn more about the M.S. in Bioethics program.

Bioethics: How to publish in bioethics from Columbia Professional Studies on Vimeo.