Publishing Tips for New Engineering Students

Victoria Nneji
Victoria Nneji is a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.

Guest post by Sarah Park, Librarian for Engineering and Computer Science, and Ciara Healy, Librarian for Psychology & Neuroscience, Mathematics, and Physics.

This spring, the Duke Libraries’ Natural Science and Engineering Group worked with the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering to invite Ruth Wolfish to give a presentation for Duke students. Wolfish is a trainer from IEEE, the world’s largest professional association in Electrical Engineering, Electronics, and Computer Engineering. Her presentation was titled, “How to Write a Technical Paper for Publication with IEEE.” The event aimed to answer questions such as:

  • How to select an appropriate IEEE periodical or conference, organize your manuscript, and work through peer review
  • How to structure quality work to improve their chances of being accepted
  • How to avoid common mistakes and ethical lapse that will prevent your manuscript from being accepted

The information was eye-opening for many of the students in attendance. Ms. Wolfish offered tips on how to scope a research paper submission, as well as emphasizing how to demonstrate “significant difference” between posters, conference papers, and journal articles. Students and faculty engaged in lively discussions and shared their own research publishing experiences.

Following the events, we visited workshop attendee Victoria Nneji, a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. Victoria is a Durham native and was a member of the Duke Libraries Graduate Student Advisory Board. She graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham and finished her undergraduate work at Columbia University in New York City before earning her masters degrees and joining Duke’s Ph.D. program. During our tour of the Duke Robotics Lab, Victoria talked about her life-long love of libraries. Libraries have also been instrumental to her research accomplishments.

Speaking of her own publishing experience, Victoria explained that her first manuscript to an IEEE journal took over a year from the submission to acceptance. Victoria emphasizes the need for reaching out and proactively communicating with the journal and incorporating reviewer comments.

We asked if she had advice for incoming engineering graduate students, and she did. Here’s what Victoria advised: work with a team to publish; connect with your research advisor, a postdoc or a professor and learn to collaborate by writing drafts; and receive feedback and take ownership of your work. Given that faculty and postdocs are often busy and have little time for carrying the paper forward, students should expect to take the initiative, even following up with your contact at the journal.

In addition, Victoria suggests:

  • Learn how to receive feedback (maybe come back to it in a day or two) and integrate the reviewer’s comments to improve revisions.
  • Communicate in a way that is accessible to those who are not as close to your research as you are — this grows your potential audience of people from different fields around the world.
  • Publish early and often — this gives you a sense of how your research fits into the broader, ever-developing science community. It also helps others develop their research.

Victoria successfully defended her dissertation and is graduating this May. She will stay connected to Duke Libraries as an alum and is looking forward to the Durham Public Library’s downtown branch, where she began volunteering in 2002, reopening in the summer of 2020.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *