From conference paper to journal article


A few people I have spoken to have been interested in the process involved in turning a conference paper into a journal article so I thought i’d write a blog about how my recent paper came into existence. Publishing as a doctoral student is in some ways a daunting thing to do but hopefully this blog will show some of the ways in which it can be useful to understanding your own research differently and as a way to improve your writing.

At the start of my doctorate, I was trying to get to grips with what exactly my research was about. In this process, I examined the work of one university’s widening participation programme to try and understand what might be different in an elite university opposed to a post-92 university. In doing so, I noticed that the way their work was framed and who was targeted may be a barrier. As it happened, I was planning to attend the BSA conference, I decided to submit an abstract, this was not accepted but I resubmitted it for the European Sociological Association conference in Prague, where it was accepted.

Having presented my paper, I was pleased with some of the comments and feedback but still felt that the scope was too limited to expand further into a journal article, so filed it away in case it may be useful in writing the thesis later. In the mean time, I noticed a call for papers for a special issue of Perspectives: Policy and practice in Higher Education. This issue focused on Access to Higher Education and was looking for submissions around 3,500 words that examine practical issues around policy implementation. As such I sent a speculative email to the editor and following a short dialogue and was requested to submit a full paper.

This paper then went off for review and came back for two rounds of revisions, one major, one minor. Both times, the comments were fair and useful. This process took several months but was very helpful in terms of creating a much stronger paper. I have heard of peer review horror stories but throughout the editor was encouraging and supportive. This was not the end of the journey, however, It then took around 6 weeks to be copy edited and to be published online. Hopefully this will demystify some of the process around publishing a first article and will encourage some of you to give it a shot.

Rainford, J. (2016). Targeting of widening participation measures by elite institutions: widening access or simply aiding recruitment?, Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education