Monday, December 5, 2016

Seven Steps to your First Article Submission to an Academic Journal

If you are on the brink of submitting your first article to an academic journal, congratulations! This is an exciting step in your career. In this post, I will go through the steps of submitting your first article.

  1. Find a suitable journal. This is the most important step and one you should seek advice on from knowledgeable experts. Ask at least one person who has read the latest version of your manuscript if the journal you have selected is appropriate. If you are still unsure, you can send a brief (two or three sentence) query letter to the journal editor to inquire about fit.
  2. Follow the submission instructions. Once you have selected your target journal, go to their webpage and look for instructions on how to submit. That page will have specific guidelines you must follow. These guidelines range from font to format to references to length. Follow all of the guidelines exactly. If the website has a document that says “Guidelines for authors,” read it.
  3. Get your article in the best shape you can. Review your article several times to make sure that there are no errors. Double check all in-text citations to make sure they are properly cited in the reference section. Make sure you have spelled all proper nouns (author and university names) properly. (Check out this post for a description of ‘rookie mistakes’ and how to avoid them.)
  4. De-identify yourself in the manuscript. Most journals prefer that if you cite yourself, you don’t name yourself. Instead, you will write (Author 2012) and omit that entry from the bibliography during the submission process.
  5. Write a brief and courteous cover letter. Your cover letter should be on letterhead. Address the Editor by name. (You can find their name on the website.) Provide the title of the article, the word count, and a brief statement of fit with the journal. Thank the Editor for their consideration.
  6. Submit your article to the journal and wait for a response.
  7. Wait some more. Journal review processes take time. You should be able to find out the norms in your discipline. In my discipline, after three months, it is acceptable to send a brief inquiry to the managing editor to inquire about the status of the manuscript. If you submit this inquiry, be polite.
When you finally receive a response, it will usually fall in one of four categories:
  • Accept. A straightforward accept is highly unusual and even more so for an early-career scholar. But, it does happen sometimes.
  • Conditional accept. Some journals will issue a conditional acceptance where they ask you to make specific revisions prior to publication. This is a very favorable outcome, although also fairly uncommon on a first submission. Once you make those revisions, the editor will review the manuscript in-house and publish the article if your revisions are satisfactory.
  • Revise and resubmit. This is a great outcome and has given you a real shot at publication. I have a detailed post explaining how to respond to this kind of response. I suggest you check it out.
  • Reject. Rejections, unfortunately, are very common in academia. So, hopefully, this won’t be your last rejection. The more rejections you get, the more you are submitting. There are two kinds of rejections – a desk reject and a rejection after review. If you get a desk reject, it is likely either because the article is not ready to be submitted or because you sent it to the wrong journal. The editor’s letter should indicate whether it is a question of quality or fit. A rejection after review takes longer, but often comes with helpful reviews. If you get one of these, I suggest following many of the steps that I suggest in the Revise and Resubmit post before submitting to another journal.

Publishing is the main currency of academia. It is not easy, but it is the singular most important thing you can do, especially as an early career academic. So, don’t give up!

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