Submitting journal articles

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Submitting articles to academic journals can be a daunting task for neophyte scholars. Below are some general descriptions and tips for the process.

1 Preliminary considerations

Be sure to make sure that your article is appropriate for the journal, and that the journal is the most appropriate one for your article. Be sure that you are familiar with the journal and the kinds of articles that it publishes; don’t just accept suggestions from colleagues about which journal to submit a paper to. Take a careful look at several journals, even many journals, and the types of articles that are published there, to see if your article would be a good fit. If your article is not terribly ground-breaking, a top-tier journal might not be the best choice. Submitting to an inappropriate journal is a mistake made by younger scholars.

Make sure your paper is focused and concise, and of truly professional quality that is appropriate to the particular journal. Eliminate or revise any weak elements or less relevant contents. Try not to cover too much in one paper.

Avoid recycling the same material, data or results in multiple articles, presenting them as new contents in successive papers – that is known as self-plagiarism. Do not submit the same or similar articles to more than one journal, as this can disqualify your articles.

Most of all, don't go it alone. Have some colleagues or professors read and critique your article for feedback. Have a more experienced scholar or researcher guide you in the process, and it may be helpful to recruit such a person as a co-author to help make your article more publishable.

2 Abstract and keywords

Make sure you have an informative, concise abstract that clearly tells editors and readers why your paper would be interesting, including significant contributions and findings. Most readers will quickly read the abstract to see if they want the whole article, so a clear abstract is vital for reaching the right audience. The type of research and methodology used should also be clear. List the most appropriate keywords that would be relevant to others searching for papers like yours, e.g., the kinds of keywords that one could enter in a search engine to find your paper.

3 Document formatting

Make sure you have followed the journal’s style sheet and/or submission guidelines in exacting detail. The journal may require a standard document format like APA, MLA, CBE, IEEE, or others, or its own in-house style, which is likely its own adaptation of one of these well-known formats. This includes not only format for citations and references, but also for page layout, font, headers, graphics, and many other matters. Also, follow their instructions for hard copy or online submission, including required file formats (e.g., Word [.doc], OpenDocument [.odt], or Latex [.tex] formats) and formats for graphics. Also follow any requirements about blind submissions – some journals do not want author names anywhere within the paper.

4 Cover letter

Many journals expect a cover letter (or an email with the attached file) that identifies the paper title, authors, and a very brief summary of the paper’s main contributions to the field. You could also indicate reviewers – experts in the field – whom you would consider preferred or non-preferred reviewers, e.g., those who would be appropriately knowledgeable of your research area, or those who might be biased against your theory, methods, or results. In your email or cover letter, be sure to provide your full contact information.

Dear Editor:

Please find enclosed our manuscript entitled “A linguistic analysis of definite articles in second language writer’s texts” by K. Alan and B. Zantium. In this manuscript we present a novel approach to analyzing L2 article errors by using cognitive semantic categories for subtypes of nouns, which allows for a more precise analysis of error patterns, and the semantic and pragmatic factors involved in article errors among Korean learners of English. This in turn sheds some light on the pragmatics of the English article system as well. We undertook a fairly novel approach, using logistic regression analysis to compare article patterns between L1 and L2 writer texts. The statistical results accord well with some of the cognitive semantic categories proposed in our paper. These results will be of interest to those in cognitive linguistics, pragmatics, and language teaching.

Regards, K. Alan

5 Conference paper adaptations

If your paper is based on work presented earlier in a conference paper, be sure to mention this (at least a disclaimer in a footnote) and cite the conference paper in your journal article. Some journals expect a summary of changes for this along with the article submission. Conference papers often present preliminary findings, while the journal article represents a more complete analysis and discussion, possibly with significant changes. These changes may have to be detailed in a summary of changes document, usually one page or less. For example, you can explain how the experiment or analysis was altered or expanded, problems in the earlier version that were addressed, other important issues and applications added in the later version, or differences in the results or discussion between the conference version and the journal version. This document should be fairly concise, and differences should not be exaggerated.

6 Proofreading

Make sure your article, cover letter, and any other documents or important correspondence have been appropriately proofread and revised. It should be checked for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and word choice; clarity of expression, overall coherence, and readability; how well your ideas are developed, explained and defended; proper format; and consistency in labels, references and formatting. Have a colleague as well as a good proofreader check your work.

7 Review process

The editor will look at your document and send it to reviewers for their comments and evaluation. This process can take some time, especially for top-tier journals. If you have not heard anything after a few months (for smaller journals) or a year (top-tier journals), it may help to contact the editor to ask about the status of your submission. For more competitive journals, reviewers may not read submission until the summer or winter breaks. When inquiring about the status of your submission, be sure to mention the title and authors’ names.

The reviewers will make helpful suggestions, or occasionally, non-helpful or arbitrary suggestions. When you submit a revised version, it is common to include a document explaining the changes you made to the editor, and how you addressed specific suggestions or comments from the reviewers. Have an open mind to suggestions. If you chose not to follow a particular suggestion from a reviewer, be sure to provide a convincing rationale for your decision; explain nicely and persuasively why you disagree with the reviewer’s comments.