Publishing During Your Doctoral Studies

Professional Development Article by Dr. Kevin W.H. Tai, Honorary Postdoctoral Research Fellow, UCL Institute of Education, University College London

In September 2021, I completed my PhD in Applied Linguistics at the UCL Institute of Education, University College London. My studies were fully funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Throughout my doctoral journey, I was successful in publishing a lot of my doctoral research findings long before my viva. As a result, I often get asked questions such as:​​

  • How do you publish peer-reviewed journal articles during your PhD?

  • Do you have any tips on publishing for other PhD students?

  • What kind of challenges have you faced in publishing as a PhD student?

  • What strategies could other PhD students adopt to improve their chances of getting published?

In this article, I aim to offer some tips about publishing research papers in international peer-reviewed journals since it is very difficult for many graduate students to navigate the publishing field. Before I do that, however, it is important to introduce my research interests and empirical studies that were part of my PhD.


Research Interests and Doctoral Work


My research interests include: language education policy, classroom discourse, translanguaging in multilingual contexts and qualitative research methods (particularly Multimodal Conversation Analysis, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis and Linguistic Ethnography). My doctoral project consisted of a linguistic ethnographic investigation in Hong Kong (HK) English Medium Instruction (EMI) secondary mathematics and history classrooms. Methodologically, this study integrated Multimodal Conversation Analysis with Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. This unique combination involved observing participant’s pedagogical practices over time as well as understanding the teachers’ reflections on classroom practices. The classroom interactional data were analysed using Multimodal Conversation Analysis, looking at not only different languages (Cantonese, Mandarin and English in this case) but also spatial repertoire, objects and other facilities in the classrooms. The findings offer an empirical basis for developing translanguaging as an alternative approach to current EMI policy and practice. They also help to discover the classroom conditions required for translanguaging practices to succeed. This allows teachers to employ translanguaging to achieve their pedagogical goals, bridge communication gaps and empower learners.


Publishing and Editorial Experience


In terms of publishing experience, I have a successful track record of original research. My first academic publication was a paper based on my undergraduate BA Honours thesis which I co-authored with my supervisor, Dr Adam Brandt (Tai and Brandt, 2018). I then disseminated two research papers from my MSc thesis with one of my supervisors, Dr Nahal Khabbazbashi. I addressed my research questions separately in two different papers (Tai and Khabbazbashi, 2019a; 2019b) so that each paper has a unique argument. 

With my PhD findings, I published four research articles during my studies with my principal supervisor, Professor Li Wei. The papers are based on the themes of my PhD data analysis chapters: translanguaging space for playful talk (Tai and Li Wei, 2021a), translanguaging space for bringing outside knowledge into the classroom (Tai and Li Wei, 2020), translanguaging space for co-learning (Tai and Li Wei, 2021b) and technological-mediated translanguaging space (Tai and Li Wei, 2021c). I have also conducted collaborative projects with some of my colleagues, which were disseminated in academic journals (e.g. Ho and Tai, 2019). Currently, I am preparing to publish several more research articles from my PhD thesis. I am also writing a research methodology book on Multimodal Conversation Analysis and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.

In addition to my studies, I have worked (and continue to work) as an Editorial Board Member and Editorial Assistant for the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism and The Language Learning Journal. My main responsibility is to nominate and invite potential peer reviewers to review manuscripts. I have to be open to new perspectives when evaluating manuscripts, and this has helped with my own research writing.


Based on my experiences in publishing empirical research and acting as an editorial board member of leading journals in applied linguistics, I would like to share three tips for publishing during your PhD.

Tips for Publishing


  1. Have a strong argument for your paper. You need to think about: Why is it important for the reader to read your paper? What can the reader learn from your paper? How do the findings of your research offer implications for policymaking or educational practice?

  2. Consider co-authoring research papers with your PhD supervisor(s). Ideally, your supervisor(s) will be willing to support you and reframe your arguments so that they are good enough to be published in high impact journals.

  3. Look for the right journal for your paper. The first thing that you can do is to look at your reference list and see what journals you have cited. That will be a good indication of what journals will be relevant to your research topic and, thus, more likely to accept your paper. Journal editors will be interested to see whether your paper has referenced papers that are published in their journals.

The main challenge that I have encountered in publishing during my PhD is dealing with the peer reviewers’ ruthless comments. It can be really discouraging, and I sometimes question myself: Why do I have to go through such a process? I have come to feel that the more comments that I read, the more it prepares me to deal with these comments calmly and professionally. Regarding responding to the harsh or negative reviewer comments, I think we should deal with them as we would deal with any other comment: Give a point-by-point response to the comments, mentioning whether you agree or disagree with them. If you disagree with some of the comments, provide your reasons for doing so.

Finally, it’s very important for PhD candidates to build a support network of other people that they can bounce ideas off of and get feedback from. You can talk to your supervisor; they know you, they know about your project, and they may know about relevant research or teaching opportunities. Furthermore, you can talk to other PhD students; they will know exactly what you’re going through and will be able to offer different insights into the PhD. As early career academics, we are operating within an increasingly challenging environment. There are expectations for us to develop our teaching repertoire and our research publication records during our doctoral studies. It can be frustrating at times, but it is also a privilege to be able to create new knowledge and immerse ourselves in the theoretical questions that interest us. Enjoy the doctoral journey and make the most out of it while you can.


  • Ho, W. Y. J. & Tai, K. W. H. (2020). Doing expertise multilingually and multimodally in online English teaching videos. System 94, 1-12.

  • Tai, K. W. H. & Brandt, A. (2018). Creating an imaginary context: Teacher’s use of embodied enactments in addressing a learner’s initiatives in a beginner-level adult ESOL classroom. Classroom Discourse 9(3), 244-266.

  • Tai, K. W. H. & Khabbazbashi, N. (2019a). The mediation and organisation of gestures in vocabulary instructions: A microgenetic analysis of interactions in a beginning-level adult ESOL classroom. Language and Education 33(5), 445-468.

  • Tai, K. W. H. & Khabbazbashi, N.(2019b). Vocabulary explanations in beginning-level adult ESOL classroom interactions: A conversation analysis perspective. Linguistics and Education 52, 61-77.

  • Tai, K. W. H. & Li, W. (2020). Bringing the outside in: Connecting students’ out-of-school knowledge and experience through translanguaging in Hong Kong English medium instruction mathematics classes. System 95, 1-32.

  • Tai, K. W. H. & Li, W. (2021a). Constructing playful talk through translanguaging in the English medium instruction mathematics classroom. Applied Linguistics 42(4) 607-640.

  • Tai, K. W. H. & Li, W. (2021b). Co-learning in Hong Kong English medium instruction mathematics secondary classrooms: A translanguaging perspective. Language and Education 35(3), 241-267.

  • Tai, K. W. H. & Li, W. (2021c). The affordances of iPad for constructing a technology-mediated space in Hong Kong English medium instruction secondary classrooms: A translanguaging view. Language Teaching Research. Epub ahead of Print.


Kevin Tai.jpg

Dr. Kevin W. H. Tai is an Honorary Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the UCL Institute of Education, University College London (UCL). Additionally, Kevin is also an Editorial Board Member and Editorial Assistant for the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (SSCI; Routledge) and The Language Learning Journal (ECIS; Routledge).