Avoiding the pitfall of being incremental

In the academic world, the peer review process is extremely strict. 

Submissions must meet the high quality standards that have been established by the journal in order to be approved for publication. 

According to a professor friend of mine, one of the most challenging guidelines for writers is to make sure their work isn’t incremental. That’s the classification academia uses to describe any work that fails to convincingly add new and important results to the field. The paper is incremental. It’s is merely a small extension of a different one. The findings are archival, boring, uninteresting, of marginal interest and not significant enough to publish. 

In short, they don’t challenge any new assumptions. They’re merely incremental. 

A harsh word, perhaps. That rejection letter probably stings like poison. Especially if you’re a broke, unemployed doctoral candidate who’s been slaving away over their research for months or even years. 

But the intense scrutiny of the process is precisely what makes the work better. It’s the tide that raises all boats. 

There’s an insightful interview with the editor of a popular chemistry publication, whose advice to contributors is as follows. 

Avoid the pitfall of being incremental. You’ll save reviewers, editors and staff time and frustration, and ensure that your work is judged by its scientific merit, not its mistakes. 

That’s not only good advice for writers, but for anybody who’s in the business of communicating their ideas. Which is all of us. 

In a world where people create as much information in two days as they did in the first two thousand years of civilization, nobody can afford to be incremental. Not anymore.

Take chances with your own opinions. Be ready to fully invest in your unique point of view. 

Make your ideas publish worthy. 


What sloppy mistakes are in your work that makes rejecting you easy?

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Scott Ginsberg

That Guy with the Nametag

Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.  



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