By Dr. Kathleen J. Tate
Professor and Program Director of Teaching, School of Education, American Public University, and Editor-in-Chief of the APUS/PSO Journal of Online Learning Research and Practice, formerly Internet Learning Journal
Planning and writing an article to be published by a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal can be a daunting task. As the editor of such a journal, I am happy to share that every article has a home.
Start a degree program at American Public University.
A former Auburn University colleague shared that advice with me early on in my academic career. That tip helped me get my scholarly articles published over time, and both emerging scholars and those who are seeking to increase their publishing success should keep that advice in mind.
Start with Searching for the Right Scholarly Journal
How do you find the right home for an article? First, search journal options that seem to initially align to your topic. With that topic in mind, be prepared to exercise some flexibility.
You may find that the topic you intend to write about is outdated or already amply covered in the current body of literature. You might discover that similar topics are covered in scholarly journals, but that there are some gaps. This is an opportunity to adjust your topic to fit that particular journal.
In your research, you may find that your topic does not fit at all with upcoming themes of various scholarly journals. If you cannot revise your topic to fit a specific journal issue, you may need to consider another topic entirely; or wait for an aligned thematic issue to emerge at a later date.
Read the References in Published Articles to Find Relevant Journals
Often, scholars get used to reading the same journals year after year, not realizing that there is an array of journals in a particular field. Other than typical web and library searches, another way to find relevant journals is to look closely at the references in published articles.
You might be surprised at the number of such journals of which you were formerly unaware. Be sure to thoroughly research those journals to see if they would be a suitable home for your article.
Look at the Online Work of Faculty Members
Another way to find scholarly journals is to review the work of established faculty members, which you can read online. Some professors publish articles, books and blogs, while other faculty members speak at conferences.
Search their public web biographies at their institutions; often, a list of publications and other work is provided. The publications of these established scholars can reveal academic journals that were previously unknown to you.
Study the Content of the Scholarly Journal
Second, once you find a scholarly journal that best fits your topic, make sure you know that journal well. If you do not already receive it, consider subscribing so you can closely study its particular trends, style and information.
It is important to understand the purposes and scope of the journal you are targeting before completing your written articles. Read back issues, but make sure to review current ones in case that journal has shifted its focus or format.
Journal websites typically have directions about their themes and the types of articles the publishers accept, so become familiar with journal themes and article categories. If there is still uncertainty about the fit of your topic or type of manuscript, email the editor to inquire for more information.
Journals have different procedures. Most publishers will automatically reject manuscripts that do not comply with the submission guidelines and expectations.
Every journal delineates its preferred format, style and steps for properly submitting a paper. This information is so important that you may want to print out online instructions and refer to them constantly throughout the writing, submitting, and revising processes.
Even quality manuscripts will never be published if the “Author Guidelines” or “Call for Papers” information is not followed. For example, if figures or tables are supposed to be saved and labeled in a separate document, then submit them in that format accordingly.
Journal editors must screen submissions before they can be sent to reviewers. Improperly configured papers will not make it past a journal editor. Once you have completed an article, check and double-check that it meets the submission requirements. Also, ask a colleague or mentor to review it to reveal any potential issues related to clarity of ideas, grammar and spelling errors, and writing style (e.g., APA) that you might have overlooked.
Be Patient and Willing to Revise Your Work
Third, once you research journals, target one, write an article and submit it. What are the next steps? Wait to hear from the editor. The review process takes many months – and sometimes longer – depending on the number of articles the editor receives, availability of reviewers, and frequency of publishing.
Once the editor collects blind peer reviews and input, he or she will decide whether you should:
- Revise and resubmit the article
- Complete minor revisions or edits
- Receive a rejection
Many manuscripts require more than minimal revisions. Do not take constructive criticism personally, but use the feedback you receive as an asset.
The editing process involves multiple professionals, including the editor and reviewers. The idea, like with dissertation review, is to guide the author’s work to become a more polished quality piece to add to the existing body of literature in your field.
Follow revision instructions from the editor closely. Many editors will ask that you address the reviewers’ comments and/or explain why you disagree with them.
You might be asked to use track changes or highlights in the revision process. Read and reread the guidance from the editor.
If you provide explanations to reviewers’ comments, be mindful of the feedback you received. Reviewers and editors already reviewed your work and do not want to embark on an unnecessarily time-consuming second review.
Also, do not change too much beyond reviewers’ comments and editor guidance. If you do, the article may then require too much re-review; in the short interval between issues, it could be pushed back and set aside.
Ask the editor for clarification, but refrain from over-communicating. Editors not only manage submissions and journal issues; they also work with reviewers, copy editors, formatters and managing editors. They are engaged in much activity behind the scenes, in addition to rereading your work during the process.
Editors are typically charged with promoting the scholarly journal, working with marketing teams and libraries, increasing readership, soliciting reviewers and authors, and much more. Research and effort on your part streamlines the phases from submission to publication.
Do Not Be Discouraged by Rejection from a Scholarly Journal and Do Your Due Diligence
Overall, the publication process can seem overwhelming. But approaching it in manageable chunks may lead to more success.
If you think you found a home for your manuscript but receive a rejection, do not be discouraged. It simply means that your article was not the right fit at the right time.
Try re-submitting the article to that journal at a later time. Another option is to find another scholarly journal and alter your paper to align to it.
There is no substitute for due diligence in getting published. Reach out to mentors, colleagues and editors for guidance along the way. Remember: every article has a home!
About the Author
Dr. Kathleen Tate is the Program Director of Teaching and Professor in the School of Education at American Public University. Her academic credentials include a B.A. in Soviet and East European Studies and an M.Ed. in Special Education from the University of Texas at Austin, as well as a Ph.D. in Elementary Education from Florida State University. Kathleen has published several scholarly journal articles, blog articles and a children’s book.
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