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How to get published as a graduate student

Nov 6, 2019

It is challenging enough to co-author a journal article as a graduate student, but it’s even more difficult – and impressive – to achieve first-author status while you’re still in school.

In this article, two rising academic stars in the graduate nursing program at McMaster share some of their recent experience and advice for students.

Carley Ouellette, MSc Student

Carley Ouellette


Ouellette C, Henry S, Turner A, Clyne W, Furze G, Bird M, Sanchez K, Watt-Watson J, Carroll SL, Devereaux PJ, McGillion M. (2019). The need for novel strategies to address postoperative pain associated with cardiac surgery: A commentary and introduction to “SMArTVIEW”. Canadian Journal of Pain. doi: 10.1080/24740527.2019.1603076.

From conception to publication, the process of publishing this took approximately 7 months. We had a fairly quick turn around on this paper.

This was very much a team process with great support from my MSc supervisor, Dr. McGillion, as well as my committee (Drs. Carroll and Marcucci). It was a great learning opportunity to take the lead on a manuscript for the first time. My article was accepted by the Canadian Journal of Pain, which was associated with the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care Graduate Scholarship I received last year.

I was impressed with some of the feedback I had received from the reviewers, namely that it was constructive and provided new insights on how to frame certain arguments within the piece. I also recognized, through this process, that it is important as a writer to not take negative feedback personally, which is a challenge I am working towards, and that negative feedback does not define you as a student, trainee, or researcher.

Carly Whitmore, PhD student

Carly Whitmore

Whitmore, C., Kaasalainen, S., Ploeg, J., Baxter, P. (2019). Transitioning to practice in long-term care: New graduate nurses’ experience of an accelerated transition to nurse leader. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 75(6), 1272-1283. doi: 10.1111/jan.13945.

By the end of this year, I will have published three papers out of my masters’ work. It took me two years to get these papers out. The first paper was a protocol paper that outlined the steps I would take to complete the study, the second paper represents the main findings, and the third paper (due to be published in November) presents more specific results.

One of the challenges of publishing thesis or dissertation work is how to effectively portion out components of the study (for example, specific findings related to one theme) to suit the needs of the journal, but to still uphold the cohesion of the work. To overcome this, my masters’ committee (Dr. Pamela Baxter, Dr. Jenny Ploeg, and Dr. Sharon Kaasalainen) encouraged me to look for journals that have published similar work. For me, it made sense to turn to the journal that published the original theory that I had used to guide my thesis project, especially as my findings had in some ways refuted that original work.

The first paper I submitted from my masters’ work received what is called a “desk rejection”.  That is where the editor rejects the paper before assigning it to a reviewer. Based on editor feedback, I remember thinking that maybe it would be best to scrap that paper and move on. However, I was fortunate to have my committee’s encouragement and was able to have that paper published.

It is very exciting to see a paper move through the publication process. Because of online submission, you can watch the paper move from being assigned to reviewers, to being reviewed, to ultimately getting a decision. And while the process is not always straightforward, from what I have observed from the faculty here in the School of Nursing, no matter what stage of your career you are at, the excitement about publication doesn't seem to fade.


Carley Ouellette wins award for pain research

Carly Whitmore Awarded a Vanier Scholarship


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