The increased pressures for high-volume, high-impact publications in English language and the high rejection rates of submitted manuscripts for publications present an often unsurpassable obstacle for (early career) researchers. At the same time, register variation of peer-reviewed journals—that can contribute to whether a paper is accepted for publication—has received little attention. This paper redresses this gap, by investigating the register (especially discourse moves and lexical choices) in 60 published, original-research articles on wastewater treatment published in four Chemical Engineering journals, with impact factor (IF) above 2. Our survey shows that chemical engineering research publications tend to comply with a set of requirements: multidisciplinarity, brevity, co-authorship, focus on the description of practical results (rather than methods), and awareness of non-specialised audiences. Lexical choices were analysed through frequency tables, phrase nets and word trees produced by data visualisation software (ManyEyes). It was found that less discipline-specific vocabulary is used in higher IF journals and this is interpreted within the current context of manuscript publication and consumption. This study concludes that data visualisation can provide an efficient and effective tool for prospective authors that wish to gauge telling details of the sub-register of a specific journal.
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