We begin this contribution by proudly confirming that the South African Journal of Psychology (SAJP) had a particularly impressive year and expressing our sincere appreciation and admiration for Prof. Anthony Pillay, Anne Kramers-Olen, the deputy editors, as well as the rest of the Editorial Board (see the relevant section elsewhere in this PsyTalk). On the recommendation of Prof. Pillay, the SAJP Publications Standing Committee convened a symposium titled “Writing for academic journals: Best Practice Guidelines” with presentations by Professors Sumaya Laher, Anthony Pillay, Kobus Maree (widely recognised for their research and publishing experience), and Anne Kramers-Olen. The symposium, which was aimed at emerging scholars and those inexperienced in scholarly publishing, drew a large attendance and resulted in much positive feedback. The symposium addressed the difficulties encountered by new researchers and emerging scholars who are trying to publish their work in academic journals. The presenters focused on the major problem areas, helping new researchers understand manuscript submission processes and etiquette, journal requirements, and the overall scholarly process of peer-review. They addressed the specific content issues including constructing a critical literature review, relating the method employed, reporting research results for qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies, and how to engage in a thoughtful discussion of the findings. The symposium produced lively interaction and debate with the audience and presenters discussing the merits and demerits of a commercialized publishing industry. Participants often put presenters on the spot with questions relating to the challenges they have faced in their research writing and publication experiences but the presenters rose to the occasion resulting in an intellectually stimulating session.
The symposium opened with Anne Kramers-Olen presenting on the pitfalls and possibilities of the critical literature review. According to Kramers-Olen a literature review lays the foundation for rigorous scholarly work, and provides the reader with a critical analysis of published work in a particular field through comparison and evaluation of current thinking. The literature review provides a broad understanding of the theory and key concepts, and elucidates disparities and gaps in the scholarly area, while building a foundation for the research paper. The presentation highlighted common errors as well as suggestions and best practice in the context of critical literature reviews. Kramers-Olen drew on her vast experiences as Associate Editor of the South African Journal of Psychology (SAJP) to reflect on online submission processes for publication of scholarly work, as well as tips on integrating reviewer feedback. This was followed by an insightful presentation by Prof. Kobus Maree, editor of First Steps in Research, on reporting qualitative and mixed methods results. First, Maree dealt with the manner in which qualitative and mixed methods are described and how the results are presented. This was followed by an elaboration of aspects to include in the Discussion section. Maree recommended that the discussion should commence with a restatement of the research questions (and hypotheses, in the case of a mixed study). This should be followed by objectively assessing and critiquing the results, using the following four-fold lens: (1) Do previous findings concur with the findings of my study? (2) Which of the findings do not concur with previous findings? (3) Are there findings in my study that have never been reported before? (4) Did specific trends emerge from the findings of my study? Addressing these questions should form bulk of the discussion. Maree emphasized the need for appropriate integration of sections and subsections at various levels as well as separating the Findings section from the Discussion section. Prof. Laher, one of the editors of Transforming Research in the Social Sciences, discussed reporting results from a quantitative perspective. According to Laher, publishing articles are much easier if the basic building blocks of a manuscript are adhered to. Using the hourglass approach to manuscript writing, she presented on core issues to be considered in writing up quantitative research. Laher emphasized issues linked to describing the methods used in quantitative research as well as conventions re: data analysis and reporting. Often authors assume a need to report methods and results as per the Masters or PhD theses. However, Laher advised against this recommending that authors write per idea or research question choosing the most interesting or significant results from a thesis. The symposium concluded with insights from Prof Anthony Pillay, the current editor of the South African Journal of Psychology. Prof. Pillay addressed broader issues relating to journal article writing that are often overlooked, but which have a serious influence on acceptability. These included developing a scholarly way of thinking and approaching academic writing. Amongst the areas of focus were understanding the manuscript submission and peer-review process, learning about journal requirements and preferences, developing academic writing skills, and writing for peer-review. Formatting issues relating to article construction and referencing were also addressed.
We are proud to announce that Prof. Laher (Past President of PsySSA) is the Editor-in-Chief of the African Journal of Psychological Assessment (AJOPA), which was launched during our annual PsySSA Congress in September. AJOPA will be published by AOSIS and will cater for authors interested in the field of psychological testing/assessment. Judging by the reaction and comments of those who attended this milestone event, the journal should not find it difficult to solicit avant garde manuscripts and fill the existing publication void in the field of psychological assessment. Visit ajopa.org for further information.