For Authors: Generating Multiple Articles from a Data Set
Content adapted from the June 2010 Journal of Extension Editor’s Page.
The purpose of this document is to explain how to get the maximum out of your research—maximum number of articles, maximum credit and recognition, maximum circulation of your information—and get it legitimately and ethically. The problematic practice of duplicate publication is not necessarily about addressing the same data in multiple articles—it’s about submitting multiple articles that address the data in the same way. So how do you get the maximum out of your research while staying on the ethical high road? Submit articles that address the same data but in very different ways.
Say that, through hard work and/or diligent research, you have accumulated a data set or developed material, and you want to publish. The manuscript you would submit to a discipline- or program-specific journal would be technical and specific to the discipline or program. You would cite previous scholarly works specific to the discipline or program and draw inferences or conclusions specific to the discipline or program and its practitioners. In other words, you would write a manuscript for the audience of the journal to which you would be submitting.
But the same data or material can have different implications for different audiences and mean different things in different contexts. The manuscript you would submit the Journal of Extension (JOE), for instance, which is not discipline- or program-specific, would be broader in nature. You would cite different or additional scholarly work and draw inferences and conclusions for a broader audience. For example, in a manuscript submitted to JOE, you would certainly report your data on water quality, but you would not focus on those data. Your focus would perhaps be on how Extension professionals could use the data in their work with clients or how the data address a controversy or how the data contradict conventional wisdom on a subject. In a manuscript submitted to JOE, you would certainly describe the 4-H material you developed, but your focus would be on how the material could be useful in other Extension programs or how the development process could be emulated to develop other materials or how fellow educational outreach professionals could learn from your successes and failures.
Another way of getting more articles from the same work, again using JOE as an example, would be by submitting a manuscript in the Feature or Research in Brief category and a companion Commentary addressing the challenges presented by your work. Still another would be by submitting different manuscripts focusing on different subsets of your full data set. Yet another would be by submitting a manuscript in the Ideas at Work category at one stage of your work and another manuscript in the Research in Brief or Feature category after the final stage.
Of course, in all cases, you must be clear about the multiple ways in which you have addressed your data, such as by citing another article you’ve published using the same data or acknowledging that a manuscript is based on a presentation you delivered. But the bottom line is that there are lots of possibilities for getting the maximum out of your research. They all involve producing a new written document and, inevitably, doing more work, but the benefit is likely worth the extra effort.