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Publishing Your Scholarly Output: Getting through Submission and Peer Review

Resources and support for scholars who have an article to publish.

The Submission and Review Process

First the author submits the author. Second, the journal does a preliminary review, and either rejects it, or sends it on for peer/editorial review. Third is the peer/editorial review process, and they decide whether to reject it, or publish it. They can decide to publish it without changes, or send it back for changes and publish it once the changes have been made. Finally, if it has made it through these stages, it is published.

Things to note:

  • Peer reviewers may ask for changes as simple as making a diagram more legible, or as involved as pulling in more sources, rethinking an argument, redoing part of the research, or trying another statistical method. 
  • You can refuse to make the changes and withdraw your submission if you choose. 
  • Being rejected does not necessarily mean anything was wrong with your article! If you are confident in your work, definitely submit it to another journal. 

Know What You're Signing Up For

After determining that a scholarly journal is sufficiently high quality, reputable, and on topic for you, the next step is to look at its submissions and peer review process. You will always be able to find that kind of information on the journal's public website. 

Make note of:

  • periods when they are accepting or not accepting submissions
  • required technical format
  • required document formatting and citation style
  • additional materials you must submit (for example, your human or animal subjects review approvals, consent documents and privacy releases from human participants)
  • requirements for the abstract, keywords, subject headings
  • guidelines on images and diagrams (size, quality, format, etc.)
  • whether a cover letter is required, and what it should include
  • ethical guidelines and restrictions
  • approximately when you can expect to be notified at different stages
  • what sort of review process the journal uses (double blind or single blind peer review, editorial review...
  • miscellaneous factors that differ by discipline and even from journal to journal

Increasing Your Chances of Success

  • Without being overly perfectionistic, prepare to submit what you consider to be a final, polished, publishable draft. 
  • Have your best grammar maven, spelling champion friend look it over and find all the errors that familiarity has made invisible to you.
  • Enlist trusted colleagues with the right expertise to critique your research methods, statistics, and literature review. 
  • Find out the style guide the journal uses, and follow it to the letter. If they write web-site, use find and replace and change all your websites to web-sites. 
  • Find out what citation style the journal uses and convert your citations. This is where a citation manager like Zotero or Mendley becomes useful. Also make sure that you have cited everything you needed to, and have it correct. The citation managers can handle the presentation of the information, but the information itself has to come from you. Your peer reviewers are very unlikely to catch your errors here, but the authors of the works you cited are almost guaranteed to. Accidental plagiarism is still plagiarism and can hurt your career badly, so this is where you can let your inner perfectionist have their way. If you do not have an inner perfectionist, you must pretend. I really can't overstate how important it is to credit everyone accurately. 
  • If there are joint authors, sort out the name order and, if necessary, who are authors and who are co-authors/contributors. It is important for everyone to agree on this before publication, because only authors have a claim to the copyright; co-authors/contributors do not. (Don't worry if somebody says "co-author" in a casual context; most people mean "my fellow author." But in the context of publishing, be sure to use joint authorship if you intend to share credit and copyright.)