Professor Helle Sjøvaag Shares Her Publishing Tips

The professor of journalism has been one of those who has published the most research articles at the University of Stavanger. Read how she keeps up with the pressure to publish.

– The main reason I have published so much is that I have been involved in a lot of project work. Once you have applied for and been granted research funding, you have a responsibility to turn them into publishable results, says Helle Sjøvaag.

From 2018 to 2020, Sjøvaag published nine articles in international peer-reviewed journals.

Peer review is quality assurance of research contributions, such as subject articles or books, in that experts within the subject critically evaluate the contribution before it is published.

If the research is published in approved channels – such as books published by approved publishers or as articles in approved journals – it provides publication points. Publication points in turn trigger funding for the research institution.

In 2021, Sjøvaag published five articles. In addition, she has published three chapters for encyclopedias and two books.

Find a common interest and write

Sjøvaag believes that project work brings several advantages on the publishing front. The continuous access to data within a theoretical framework provided by project work makes it easier to produce more.

– Then you do not have to read from scratch for each article, she states.

Over the years, Sjøvaag has received funding from the Research Council of Norway and various foundations. Nevertheless, she encourages researchers to take the initiative for local projects, based on their own interests.

– It does not have to cost anything. It is about finding common interests, obtaining data and printing it, encourages Sjøvaag.

Produce more by working with others

It has been many years since Sjøvaag published an article alone. Writing with others is her second piece of advice for managing to produce many articles.

– It is both smarter and easier to be productive when you are dependent on others and vice versa. It pushes you to progress and deliver, she says.

Sjøvaag sees writing together as a way to help each other.

– It’s nice to write together if you find someone you write well with, and if they are effective as well, it goes even faster, she affirms.

Book time with yourself

If you are part of a research project, you often have dedicated time to write. If you are not associated with a project, it can be an obstacle to the writing that the time is filled with other tasks.

That is why Sjøvaag believes it is important to incorporate good writing routines.

– People work differently, but I usually do it in such a way that I write in the morning – then my brain works best, Sjøvaag explains.

This means that she tries to schedule all meetings after 13.00.

– If I start the day with meetings, my brain is destroyed. Therefore, I try to make people understand that I cannot start the day with meetings – it is detrimental to the writing process, she explains.

And to keep the writing time sacred, Sjøvaag is happy to even book time in her calendar.

– Feel free to enter a code that only you understand or write that you are in a meeting, so that people do not disturb your time, she advises.

Write as much as possible

What motivates Sjøvaag to produce articles is her interest in continuously acquiring new knowledge.

– For me, it’s about the fact that I think it’s nice to learn new things. I think it’s boring to publish about the same thing all the time – so if you like reading and learning new theoretical frameworks, you have an advantage, she says.

The craft itself – the writing – must also be regularly practiced.

– The more you write, the better you will become. That’s how we train fellows. We teach them to write all the time. Some only write when they are motivated and inspired. I would say that if you write a little every day, it will be something in the end. Then you get into a writing habit, even though it can be just as difficult every time, explains Sjøvaag.

Sjøvaag points out that the process of peer review and publishing in journals does not necessarily get easier even if you have done it many times.

– You have to like it a bit too. There is a lot of pain involved in receiving peer reviews, and it does not get less painful even if you have been through it many times. The motivation lies a bit in the fact that you join the professional discussion when you publish something in a journal, she says.

This article was first produced by the University of Stavanger and published at, then translated and adapted for NordMedia Network.

Photo by Nick Morrison via Unsplash.