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Submitting Journal Articles

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This resource provides recommendations for selecting a journal to submit your article, important details about the submission proccess, as well as helpful information on special issues of journals.

Selecting the journal

One of the most important things you can do to expedite acceptance and publication in academic journals is to select journals where your work fits best. You can do this by researching the journal on their website, reading the last several years of the journal, and asking mentors in your field.

Check the policy statements of the journals and their tables of contents from recent issues to find out the exact scope of the journal and its specialization within the field. Examine the journal's website for information on restrictions by the journal, such as who may submit articles, what topics are most appropriate for the journal, what word maximums there may be for various types of manuscripts, and what style the journal uses. The journal's website will also provide you with information on the particular methodological approach preferred by the journal and the general audience to which it caters.

You should also learn about the time from submission to decision. Usually, submissions are heaviest around the beginnings and ends of semesters, so submitting in the middle of a semester can be a better bet for a quicker decision. If you suspect the journal already has some issues backlogged, you might want to contact the editor for further information, especially if time is a factor for you and the journal publishes few issues each year.

Submitting the journal article

Once you complete your abstract and manuscript, you might decide to reconsider your choice of target journal due to a slight change in focus. In that case, you might want to ask for suggestions from peers and mentors or address the journal editor directly. Virtually all editors will look at your abstract to make an initial judgment about whether it will fit the scope of their journal and might even be willing to skim your manuscript.

You will want to make sure that your manuscript and abstract are as error-free as possible, particularly in formatting issues such as page numbers, font size, alignment, and typographical errors. Each journal has its own specific guidelines for formatting and style. Find this information on their website. Pay particular attention to requests for blind submission and mask all references that would reveal your identity - this includes school references, geographic locations, and recognizable or unique organization names.

For example, to make an abstract anonymous, a researcher conducting a study at the Subaru plant here in Lafayette, Indiana, would have to use the following terminology: “Researchers used a case study approach to collect data on the impact of “lean production” techniques on workers at a small automotive production plant in the Midwest.”

Once your manuscript and abstract are submitted, the editor for the journal will review your work and decide whether it is a good fit for the journal. If not, or if the manuscript is deemed to be of poor quality, the editor might send you a "desk rejection," or a rejection from the editor's desk rather than from other reviewers. If the manuscript is a good fit for the journal, the editor will send it out to one or a few reviewers (other scholars in the field), who will give their feedback on the piece. The editor's ultimate decision on the manuscript, informed by the reviewers' feedback and recommendations, might be one of the following:

  1. Accepting the manuscript in its current form
  2. Accepted pending (usually minor) revisions
  3. Revising and resubmitting
  4. Rejection

Immediate acceptance is very rare. Accepted pending revisions or revising and resubmitting are the most common responses to submissions. Changes requested by an "accept with minor revisions" are fewer and less substantial than changes for a "revise and resubmit," in which case the manuscript is often sent back to the same reviewers. Unless you have a particular reason for not implementing one of those suggested changes and are willing to explain these in the letter to the editor, you should make each and every one of the suggested revisions.

Special Issues

Many journals run special issues one or more times per year. These special issues are usually focused on a particular topic that is growing in the field. In the past, articles in special issues have been less favorably viewed than articles published in regular runs of the journal, but this is changing in many fields since the peer review process for special issues is now often exactly the same as for regular runs.

Special issues are an especially helpful type of journal issue for graduate students, because they are typically produced on a specified timeline and because they tend to garner far fewer submissions than the journal gets day to day for all kinds of work. In other words, the odds of acceptance in a special issue tend to be higher than in regular runs, and special issue articles are more likely to be published in a timely manner.

To publish in special issues, researchers typically need to send a proposal, which will be either rejected or conditionally accepted. If the proposal is conditionally accepted, the researcher will be invited to submit a full article for the special issue, which will usually then be peer reviewed like any other journal article. These articles can still be rejected at this stage, like any other article, but it is less likely given the smaller pool.