Salami slicing: Dividing and submitting your academic research into ‘least publishable units’


Everyone is familiar with the expression ‘publish or perish’. These days, all working academic researchers (and their institutions) are interested in three things:


          getting as many academic papers published as possible


          getting as many academic papers published in the best possible journals


          getting listed in key databases with high impact factors, as fast as possible.


Quality academic publications feed into impact, both academic and societal. Although it is clearly very important to write up your academic research and get it published in leading academic journals (our academic journal selector services can help), should you really be aiming to publish as much as possible? What constitutes a ‘good’ publication rate? Should you be aiming for quality or quantity?


There is no doubt that some academic authors are aiming for ‘as many academic papers as possible’. Indeed, recent surveys have shown that academic researchers who tend to publish more each year are also the academics with high impact outputs. So there appears to be a clear correlation between publication numbers and research quality. You do need to be careful though, especially at the start of your academic career. What’s the best approach?


One strategy is to slice research work down into what are called ‘least publishable units’ (LPUs). Some researchers are just motivated this way, like stamp collectors; they think, “I’ve published six academic papers this year", I’ll try to do eight next year”. Others want to leave a legacy for future generations, while others just want to advance their field and make a difference. Your motivations for publishing research will also change as your career develops; at early stages, it’s important to get your name known and your papers out there in good academic journals so you can advance more effectively to the next career stage, get that next postdoctoral position or first job and have a higher chance of winning your next grant. Once employed, your priorities change and it becomes more important to secure tenure (a permanent university position) or build a research team around you. At later career stages, academics tend to be looking for ‘legacy’ articles, key publications (perhaps reviews) that show they are at the top of the game and will be remembered into the future.


At Charlesworth Knowledge, we provide a range of face-to-face consultancy services and academic writing and publishing workshops that can help you to decide on the best publication strategy for your career. We can advise on research publishing; when to stop collecting data and write up your research and where to publish your articles. Our expert team of PhD-level editors provide a journal selection service, suggesting a range of suitable, high-profile outlets where you might consider submitting your work.


Early in your academic research career the best strategy you can adopt is one that ensures you develop a good reputation as a reliable and effective researcher in your field. Does this always depend on how many academic papers you publish? No. You should publish your work, aiming for the best international journals possible. Don’t always look for LPUs though, look for important, key questions that are of wide interest and appeal. It’s going to be better for your career to finish your PhD (or first postdoc) with one or two papers in journals with impact factors, say, greater than three. This shows potential employers that you are careful and reliable with your research and that you have clear potential.


Our academic writing and publishing training courses (booked via Institutions) are aimed at helping early career researchers maximise their potential when writing and publishing research work. We are particularly well positioned to help in areas like journal selection and effective publishing because our services are agnostic to publishing models. Why not get your writing edited and polished by one of our PhD-level specialists working in your research field? To find out more visit or sign up for one of our academic author workshops, or use our writing and publishing consultancy services.


Our academic writing and publishing training courses, online materials, and blog articles contain numerous tips and tricks to help you navigate academic writing and maximise your potential as a researcher.

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