Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy

Writing for Publication: Tips and Reflections for Busy Therapists

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy

Writing for Publication: Tips and Reflections for Busy Therapists

Article excerpt


To assist New Zealand occupational therapists to develop skills in writing for publication, a focused search of the literature was conducted to identify key information. The literature search process is outlined and the advice gleaned is collated with the authors' personal experience. Writing for publication is presented as an occupation that is achievable through planned marshalling of resources, setting short-term goals, and envisaging oneself as a writer while having realistic expectations of skill development and the time that must be committed. The process of manuscript review and strategies to support skill development are also outlined.

Key words

Writing skills, publishing, professional practice, novice author

Hocking, C. & Wright-St. Clair, V. (2007). Writing for publication: Tips and reflections for busy therapists. New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy, 54(1), 26-32


In September 2004 and again in August 2005 we ran workshops designed to help occupational therapists write 'something' to submit for publication. That something might range from a letter to the editor or an item for Insight, to a fully-fledged article reporting knowledge gained from practice, research or reading the professional literature. Most participants reported leaving the workshops feeling their ideas warranted publication. They felt inspired to write and had crystallised what they wanted to say. Many had identified the journal, newsletter or magazine they hoped to publish in and a timeframe. However, feedback from participants, colleagues and the referees of an earlier article reporting workshop findings (Wright-St. Clair & Hocking, 2005) indicated that occupational therapists in New Zealand also feel the need for guidance about how to prepare their work for submission and what publishing involves. This article is a response to that feedback. Its purpose is to provide practical guidance for prospective authors by outlining what professional writing skills are, ways to acquire those skills and what happens after manuscript submission.

The article begins by describing how we approached the task of distilling sensible advice, including the assumptions we made, the basis for those assumptions and what we did. The literature search process is recounted in some detail. One reason for doing so is that it is good practice for authors to inform readers about where they looked for literature to inform their discussion, and how it was selected for inclusion (Siwek, Gourlay, Slawson, & Shaughnessy, 2002). The goal is to enable readers to judge the trustworthiness of the information given and conclusions drawn, based on their evaluation of the adequacy of the search. Our second rationale for providing information about our search process is that we wanted it to serve as an example of tailoring search strategies to the topic and the intended outcome.

The article goes on to address the occupation of writing for publication. It emphasises that conveying information in writing is part of occupational therapists' professional role, and describes ways of preparing oneself and developing the skills to take writing to the next level; writing for publication. Finally, the process of manuscript review is outlined and suggestions are given for collaborative action to establish collegial support in the endeavour to write for publication.

Searching for literature

Volumes have been written on professional writing and publishing. People intent on sharing knowledge, however, may not welcome the thought of reading swathes of articles or entire volumes before committing their own ideas to paper (or Word file). More specifically, we thought that prospective authors would be concentrating on reading material relevant to their topic or argument, rather than the process of constructing it. With this in mind, we determined that we would approach the task of locating information to guide the process of writing, as far as we could, from the perspective of a busy therapist, manager or educator. …

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