Getting your work published in a (reputable, peer-reviewed) academic journal is the first step on the ladder of an academic career. But you’re more likely to get rejected than accepted, so what can you do to make sure that your writing makes the cut?
(1) Check you know what the journal is actually about, and that you are submitting an article that is relevant to its remit.
A cautionary tale: there are two academic journals called Speculum. One is a medieval studies journal that takes its name from the Latin word for ‘mirror’. The other one is a medical journal specialising in gynaecology. Best not to get the two confused.
(2) Read the kind of articles that the journal routinely publishes.
Even if the subject area is right, the approach might be at odds with the methodological background of the journal. You can find more blurb online for most journals, but really the only foolproof way to make sure you’re aiming at the right target is to read some of the introductions to articles the journal is currently publishing to check that you’re a good fit.
(3) Check that you are eligible to submit.
Some journals require you to be a member of a particular society and to have paid a subscription. Some journals are graduate student only – when I edited one of these, about a quarter of all of the rejections were sent out to much more senior academics who hadn’t read the remit.
(4) Don’t send an unedited conference paper.
Although many journals publish conference proceedings as special editions, you’re not going to win any friends by sending your script unedited. It’s a different kind of writing for a different kind of audience, and it’s unlikely to be accepted if it’s not tailored properly to the journal mode.
(5) Don’t send an unedited chunk of your thesis.
Also alarmingly common. The big giveaway is the footnote that says ‘See Chapter 2, p. 138’ when you’ve sent us a twelve-page document. The likelihood with these, also, is that you’re dropping the reader in the deep end and going into too much detail. A thesis necessarily breaks things down to the minutiae; while an article needs some of that, there also needs to be a take-home point.
(6) Make sure your introduction is strong.
It should tell us exactly what we are going to be learning from your article. This is your moment to “sell” what new knowledge you’re giving us with this article and let us know why we should publish.
Stay tuned for more tips from the inside of academic publishing! I’ll be back with more in the next week or two.
In the meantime, happy editing!