Getting published as built environment proffessionals

INTRODUCTION T he Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers (ZIE) continues to receive dozens of manuscripts for possible publication in the ZIE Journal of Science, Engineering and Technology and the Zimbabwe Engineer. Receipt of the manuscripts is a welcome move in the Institution’s quest to fulfil its mandate of continuous professional development initiatives and knowledge sharing. Nonetheless, on face value, a significant proportion of the manuscripts require further investment.

This has seen the ZIE Editorial Committee rejecting more than 40% of the submitted papers, particularly for the peer reviewed ZIE Journal, prior to the requisite review. Consequently, prospective authors are advised to continue to practice the art of writing to publish. It should be every writer’s effort to eliminate obvious inadequacies from their submissions and deliberately develop the skills on how to best improve on shortcomings. In view of the fore stated, it is the purpose of this instalment to share information on how to get published, lest we remain incapacitated.

The most popular way of sharing knowledge is through journal publication, particularly for those in academia who are guided by the principle of failure to publish you perish. However, in the wake of unprecedented use of the internet, people end up publishing their noble ideas everywhere online, hence emphasis to publish on journals of repute. Regrettably, roughly 35% of manuscripts submitted to most candidate journals are rejected before peer review. The rejection is attributed to failure by most authors to adhere to the specified guidelines to authors, missing the target audience and gross violation of publication ethics (Webster and Watson, 2002).

Assuming all the overarching manuscript submission guidelines have been followed, it is paramount that a prospective author revises one’s work prior to submission. Where necessary, ask a native English speaker or use reputable language editing service to improve your paper prior to submission. More often than not, poor English makes it difficult for the editors and reviewers to understand your work and might lead to rejection of the paper. Authors are reminded to take note of the following common errors: Improper sentence construction, use of incorrect tenses, use of inaccurate grammar and mixing of languages.

Zimbabweans are often accused of derailing into the use now coined ShoEnglish. Where English language is used, it should be used throughout the manuscript, including figures, charts, graphs and photos. Avoid mixture of different versions of the English language. Overall, reviewers and publishers should not labour on correcting language. This should be the author’s responsibility.

QUALITIES OF A GOOD MANUSCRIPT Outlined below are three overarching determinants of a good manuscript. Prospective authors should intentionally ensure that their manuscripts:

1.…are in scope All candidate journals have a specific purpose. There is need to check on each journal’s: Aims and scope, accepted types of articles, readership/primary audience and current hot topics. This may be achieved by going through the abstracts of recent publications.

2….adhere to publication ethics Avoid plagiarism of others’ work or your own work; Avoid multiple publication of the same work; Never submit your manuscript to more than one journal at a time; Cite and acknowledge others’ work appropriately, Only list co-authors who made major contributions (Shewan and Coats, 2010), and Make your article as concise as possible

3….follow the guide for authors Stick to the guide for authors in your manuscript. Editors do not like wasting time on poorly prepared manuscripts. As a matter of emphasis, take note of the following exhortation: Illustrations are critical but should be concise; Figures and tables should be efficiently used to show research results; Figures and tables should be self-explanatory; Captions and legends must be detailed and avoid duplication of results.

PAPER SUBMISSION PREPAREDNESS Authors are advised to submit manuscripts only when they are satisfied that the work is worth publishing. They should desist from the habit of throwing around premature manuscripts, banking on some divine intervention. Outlined below is a quick checklist on overarching questions every author needs to objectively consider: Is your work of interest to the journal’s audience? Is your manuscript structured properly? Do your findings advance understanding in a specific research field? Are your conclusions justified by your results? Are your references internationally accessible? Did you format your figures and tables properly? Did you correct all grammatical and spelling mistakes?

MANUSCRIPT STRUCTURE This is always journal specific. Ensure that you are quite conversant with specifications for the journal of your choice. Generally, the following structure takes precedence, where there are no specifications: Title: This should be original, concise and enshrining the gist of the research project. The title should convey the area and scope of the project. Abstract: It is preceded by list of authors. The name of the principal investigator comes first where applicable. The name(s) are followed by the Institution(s) of affiliation, in the numbered order. The body of the abstract is the executive summary of the research. It concisely summarises the project report. The reader should be able to pick up what theproject entailed, how it was undertaken and an indication of what was found out. However, the abstract should not review the report, but should rather act as a sampler of the contents of the project. It should briefly (150-500 words) depict the background of the investigation, objectives, research paradigm/methods, results and conclusions. Where applicable, submit recommendations.

Ordinarily, the abstract comes as a single paragraph. Key words: These are words that characterise the study. They should be arranged alphabetically. Half a dozen words are the generic maximum. Outlined below is an abstract sample by Barnes (2010), on the title ‘Interferometric measurements of the length of a piece of wood and discrepancies with previous spectroscopic measurements’ The length of a piece of wood was measured using an interferometric technique. Results gave a length shorter by 1.5% than that found by Hamel et al who used a spectroscopic technique. However, project measurements suffered from a large random error (2%), which was attributed to the use of a lamp as the source of light. An alternative interferometric measurement strategy employing a laser is suggested that should overcome this problem.


Overall, a plausible research paper is expected to distinctly have the following broad categories: Introduction, Methodology, Results, Discussions (IMRAD) and Conclusions.

Introduction outlines the problem, problem background and focus of the discourse. To avoid reinventing the wheel, it is advisable to have both extensive and intensive review of contemporary literature, particularly, primary sources (Webster and Watson, 2002). Additionally, it is prudent to deliberately state the theory or theories upon which the investigation is based.

Methodology, on one hand, interrogates the adopted research paradigm and justification thereof. Describe the procedures used. An investigation whose results are not clearly delineated is surely a nullity. Research results should be outlined based on the solicited empirical evidence. Here authors should desist from results fabrication or sheer generalisations, based on laymen arguments. The results should be juxtaposed with what is obtaining elsewhere, evidenced by the reviewed literature, in discussion.

Last, in conclusion, one writes about what s/he wrote about. Just as introduction bridges readers from the known to the unknown, the conclusion bridge readers back to known. It is the paper section when authors stress on their word on the subject. They unequivocally state the position of the paper on issues raised and synthesized. It is the purpose of the conclusion to propel readers to a new view of the subject, in relationship to the old perceptions. Here authors underscore new insights and elaborate on the significance of their findings (University of North Carolina, 2018). Conclusion differs from the abstract in that it should be more informative because one devotes more words to it. It should include a concise version of the discussion, highlighting what was established, problems encountered, and what might be done in remediation. It is also prudent to indicate how the investigation could usefully be continued.

Cardiff University (2011) advises that an effective conclusion should not introduce new material. Instead it should briefly draw out, summarise, combine and reiterate the main points that have been made in the body of the project report and present opinions based on them.

Acknowledgements: Gratitude expression is a highly appreciated component of moral attributes and commended research ethics. Authors need to give credit to say mentors, funders and research sites. Such indebtedness maintains sound rapport amongst the diverse research stakeholders. Acknowledgements neglect is best done at own peril. Careful thought needs to be made on whom to acknowledge and in what order. Express your appreciation in a concise manner and avoid strong emotive language.

References: These should be internationally accessible, consistently following a particular reference style.Examples are American Psychological Association (APA), Oxford or Harvard. There should be one space between each reference. Avoid stating bibliography instead. Roig (2018) opines that researchers should attempt to make use of primary sources. Submissions in MS-word should have active source links.

A word of caution on web based information. Journal articles and most books are peer reviewed. This means that other experts in the field would have checked them for content accuracy. The same cannot be said of web site blogs where people seem to publish anything, including fake discourses. In that view, be careful in taking information from such sources. There may be need to verify all knowledge and its sources by checking in books and related primary sources. You should also read the web information critically to see that it makes sense to you. As an engineering professional, you should take pride in avoiding basing arguments on faulty information. Appendices or Supplementary Data: These should be attached only where they add value. NB: Make sure you invest considerably in revising your work. Reviewers will likely do the same but get so annoyed if they pick schoolboy errors or omissions.


All margins should be 1” on all sides, and all units should be SI units. Do not use tiny fonts, even if the call doesn’t have a low limit. 11 point (Arial or Times New Roman) is probably as low as you can go. Submit the articles only in MS-word 2003 or 2007/2010 format. No other format generally accepted. If equations were used they should be converted by using MS Office equation editor and pasted as images at proper places. The equations should be grouped or may be prepared using equation editor software. The file size should not be more than 10 MB size. Additionally, avoid the passive voice on telling your story (Cargill and O’Connor, 2013). All line spacing should be single throughout the article, unless guided to the contrary. Font requirements vary from one candidate journal to another. However, ZIE recommends use of Times New Roman with the following varying sizes: Main heading: 16 size – No italics – Title case bold; Section heading: 13 size – No italics – Title case bold. Full text: 11 or 12 size, do not bold anywhere except important content, no underline, no unwanted italics (except bio terms and other terms which need italics as standard pattern). Table name and figure name: 11 size, the word “Table” and “Figure” only should be bold, use colon after Table: and Figure:


As an author, report only what is real. Desist from use of fabricated or manipulated data. Additionally, ensure that work is original and manuscript should be submitted to one journal at a time, other than in oral, poster or abstract format (Shewan and Coats, 2010). Last, avoid plagiarism at all cost. Material copied from other sources should always be acknowledged and in some cases written permission obtained. Cross-check is software that alerts editors of any congruence amongst articles.

Comparison is made in relationship to a pool of millions of published articles in the CrossCheck database. This is all done to curb plagiarism that has become so rampant, particularly, in this digital age. Plagiarism is here perceived as the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, or words without giving appropriate credit, including those obtained through confidential review of others’ research proposals and manuscripts. It is the use of previously published work as one’s own. Exploit such software to be on guard, lest you face embarrassment.

By Dr Wilson Banda (PhD)

The Zimbabwe Institution of Engineer (Membership Services & Training Officer

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