Publishing research in international English-language academic journals

The examination of the challenges and needs in English Academic Writing (AWE) of early-career scholars in Social Sciences and Humanities in Poland

The motivation for the research project

Polish scholars in the social sciences and humanities (SSH) publish fewer research articles in English than scholars working in other Central and Eastern European countries (Kulczycki et al., 2018). More recent research suggests that approximately 48.3% of Polish scholars in SSH publish their research only in the local language – Polish (Kulczycki et al., 2020).  As our language is not widely spoken in the world, a significant part of research in the social sciences and humanities conducted by Polish scholars is not accessible to a wider international audience. This creates a gap in communicating the invaluable scientific and humanistic contributions of Polish scholars. There are systemic, historical, and policy-driven reasons for scholars in Poland to prefer the local language in their publications (Kwiek, 2014;). However, these reasons might not account for the difference in publication patterns of Polish SSH scholars. An important and understudied problem in the publication practices of Polish scholars remains the examination of their education in writing skills in a foreign language.

Since the late 1980s, there has been growing research on the challenges of non-native English speakers writing in English for academic purposes (Leki, Cumming, Silva, 2008). Most often these analyses have focused on international scholars in their writing development at universities located in the USA. However, there has not been less research on academic writing development of European academics, especially Polish scholars. This project intends to fill in this gap, by examining the challenges and needs faced by early-career SSH scholars in Poland when writing for English academic outlets, specifically composing research articles.

There are no large-scale studies of early-career SSH scholars’ current practices in academic writing in English in Poland, especially in publishing in peer-reviewed outlets. The current research on early-career SSH scholars in terms of their writing process, linguistic repertoire, and genre knowledge, will assist in assessing how their skills support them or impede their attempts to publish in English in top-tier journals. As this group will have the most substantial impact on the future of SSH in the international academic landscape, analyzing their needs at this career stage can provide important information on what can be done to better support this group in their publishing endeavors. The project will also explore how the local academic communities and academic infrastructures enable or impede the writing of research articles in English for international audiences.

Research design

This study will investigate the needs and skills of early-career scholars in SSH in terms of academic writing in English (AWE) using a mixed-methods design: a quantitative study using a questionnaire as a tool, which will be followed by a qualitative study.  The second component, a corpus-based study, will provide a broader context for discussing AWE practices of Polish SSH scholars.

The participants in the study are defined as doctoral students and scholars up to 3 years after graduation. There are three broad dimension of research problem that will be explored using sociocultural theoretical framework:

  • Individual: perception of AWE skills (including genre knowledge and language proficiency), the motivation to write and publish articles written for an international audience, etc.
  • Social: support from advisors, peers, international collaborators, etc.
  • Structural: institutional support and education structures.

The scholars investigated in this research will belong to one of four academic disciplines: philosophy, history, applied linguistics, and political science.

 This research project will provide a crucial piece of evidence on the challenges these early-career SSH scholars face in entering the international academic writing communities. The results of my research project can aid in providing needs analysis and evidence for creating policies and programs to better support Polish early-career scholars in their attempts to disseminate social science and humanities knowledge internationally.


Kulczycki E., Guns R., Pölönen J., Engels T.C.E., Rozkosz E.A., Zuccala A.A., Bruun K., Eskola O., Istenič Starčič A., Petr M., Sivertsen G.: Multilingual Publishing in the Social Sciences and Humanities: A Seven‐Country European Study. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. 2020, p. 1-15, doi 10.1002/asi.24336

Kulczycki E., Engels T.C.E, Pölönen J., Bruun K., Dušková M., Guns E., Nowotniak R., Petr M., Sivertsen G., Starčič A.I., Zuccala A.: Publication patterns in the social sciences and humanities: evidence from eight European countries. Scientometrics. 2018, doi 10.1007/s11192-018-2711-0

Kwiek, M. (2014). Structural changes in the Polish higher education system (1990–2010): A synthetic view. European Journal of Higher Education4(3), 266-280.

Leki, I., Cumming, A., & Silva, T. (2010). A synthesis of research on second language writing in English. Routledge.

The project is financed by the National Science Centre in Poland. Aleksandra Swatek is the Principal Investigator.

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