Editorial perspective on scientific writing: An interview with Dr. Renata Franc

The people with the most thorough and the most comprehensive insight into the world of scientific publishing in psychology are probably the editors of the many scientific journals.  These are the people involved in every part of the way of a manuscript becoming a published article. From the first technical review when a manuscript is received, through the peer-review and to the final touches in layout editing, the editors take part in the process. This is why we have decided to include  interviews with peer-reviewed journal editors to the JEPS Bulletin. The first in this series of interviews will be the one with Dr. Renata Franc, a researcher at the Ivo Pilar Institute for Social Sciences in Zagreb, who is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal for General Social Issues.

Dr. Franc offers comments and suggestions on how to write  compelling and top quality scientific papers, with this advice aimed especially for students who are usually new to the whole idea of publishing their work in journals. If you hope to someday publish a scientific article, or you wish to improve your writing, you will find the following interview with dr. Franc more than useful!

JEPS: What is the Journal for General Social Issues about?
Dr. Renata Franc: The literal translation of the journal name in Croatian (Društvena istraživanja) is ‘social research’. We publish original papers, commonly empirical articles in different social and humanistic disciplines (sociology, psychology, political science, history, law, economics, demography etc.). Still, authors of the majority of published papers in 2010 were psychologists (44%) and sociologists (27%).

JEPS: Is there a currently ‘hot’ subject in regards to psychology in your journal?
Dr. Renata Franc: We publish papers related to almost all topics in psychology. Still, we want to position ourselves as the Croatian leading journal of social sciences, and seek to increase our international impact and visibility. Therefore, we prefer papers, which have pronounced social aspect. Most often, we publish articles that connect contemporary scientific theory and methodology with some social issues or problems, such as topics of values, social relevant attitudes, in-group and intergroup process, organisational behavior, political attitudes and behavior, substance abuse, youth development, violence, education and so on. For example, this year we published two thematic issues, one related to sources, consequences and possible solution to problem of early school drop-out and second about Croatian social values based on data from European Values study. When talking about hot topics, I am glad that one of the thematic issues which be published in next year will be related to the field very popular and relevant today – behavioral economics.

JEPS: How do you decide if the topic of the manuscript is relevant for your journal?
Dr. Renata Franc: The most important criteria are the scientific relevance and the social relevance. Following that principle, we publish studies, which are theoretically and methodologically sound, socially applicable and in the same time not relevant only for Croatian readers but also for international scientific community.

JEPS: Does the journal accept manuscripts from students, and if it does, what is the biggest difference between the manuscripts sent by students and those sent by professionals? Is there a difference in quality, topics or something third?
Dr. Renata Franc: From time to time, we do receive manuscripts from students, primarily postgraduate or doctoral students. Although it is not a rule, students usually send manuscripts based on their thesis, or some written work originally done to fulfil some study requirements. As for most common shortcomings, I could bring out two: the too ‘schoolish‘ style of writing and the aim to cover too much content, ideas or hypothesis in one single manuscript. On a positive note, the topics of students’ manuscripts are generally related to contemporary topics in the field or problems in society.

JEPS: In your opinion, what makes a scientific manuscript brilliant?
Dr. Renata Franc: The excellence of a manuscript may stem from several sources. A new original approach, the courage in commenting previous literature or in formulating new hypothesis, a brilliant writing style, the clarity of ideas, simplicity of the procedure used can certainly be the traits of a notable paper. Although some of these characteristics could be result of a natural talent of the author, then in most cases hard work spent on reading, researching and writing several draft versions of the manuscript is needed to achieve good quality of the work.

JEPS: What are your recommendations for the students thinking about submitting their work to a scientific journal in psychology?
Dr. Renata Franc: Be familiar with most recent edition of the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (APA). Read a high number of articles published in contemporary leading psychology journals. Be self-confident; if you think that you have some relevant finding, do not hesitate to send your manuscript to some influential journal. Even if your manuscript will not be accepted for publication, you have a chance to receive very valuable feedback and specific review comments, which could be very useful in your future work.

JEPS: Thank you!



Ivan Flis is a graduate student of psychology at the Center for Croatian Studies at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of European Psychology Students (JEPS) and the Chair of the Right to Research Coalition Coordinating Committee for Africa, Europe and Middle East.

About the author

Ivan Flis Ivan Flis is a PhD student in History and Philosophy of Science at the Descartes Centre, Utrecht University; and has a degree in psychology from the University of Zagreb, Croatia. His research focuses on quantitative methodology in psychology, its history and application, and its relation to theory construction in psychological research. He had been an editor of JEPS for three years in the previous mandates.