Choosing Suitable Outlets - From a Research Project to a Journal Article - Conference Proposals and Article Types

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Choosing Suitable Outlets
From a Research Project to a Journal Article
Conference Proposals and Article Types

Far too often, authors orchestrate failure by neglecting to carefully select a suitable outlet for their work. The same manuscript that will be rejected without review by one journal can be warmly received by another. For example, consider this description from The Journal of Research in Childhood Education:

The Journal of Research in Childhood Education, a publication of the Association for Childhood Education International, features articles that advance knowledge and theory of the education of children, infancy through early adolescence. Consideration is given to reports of empirical research, theoretical articles, ethnographic and case studies, participant observation studies, and studies deriving data collected from naturalistic settings. The journal includes cross-cultural studies and those addressing international concerns.

Important to the purpose of this journal is interest in research designs that are integral to the research questions posed, as well as research designs endorsed by the scientific community. Further, the Journal seeks to stimulate the exchange of research ideas by publication of small-scale studies carried out in a variety of settings (homes, centers, classrooms, hospitals, and other community environments), and whose results are reported where appropriate with the inclusion of effect size information.

First of all, you know that they will consider quantitative research. Secondly, you know that they have an international audience. Finally, it is clear that their emphasis is on the education of children. So, not matter how wonderful your study of graduate students in your state might be, it will not be considered.

Before submitting a manuscript to a journal, try the following strategy:

· confirm that their manuscript is appropriate for the selected journal

· review the journal website to learn more about the outlet’s mission, readership, and requirements

· study the journal’s guidelines for submission

· peruse manuscripts previously published in the outlet

· proofread the manuscript to make sure that the journal is appropriate for the manuscript and meets the journal’s expectations.

An editor asked a group of authors “What would you guess as the top reasons for manuscript rejection?” The audience mentioned several possibilities, all having to do with writing quality. “Actually, it is simpler than that. First, I read the title. If it is outside the scope of our publication, it is rejected. For example, the journal focuses on leadership, specifically the leadership of school principals. If the title has nothing to do with that, we’re not interested. The second thing that I look at is the length. I will not impose on my all-volunteer reviewers by sending them a fifty page manuscript to review. If the author has not followed the guidelines, the manuscript is returned to them—either as ’revise before review’ or as an outright rejection.” The journal’s website offers researchers manuscript specifications, requirements, and guidelines (Albers, Floyd, Fuhrmann, & Martínez, 2011; Floyd et al., 2011; Nihalani & Mayrath, 2008a, 2008b), which are also found in the hard copy of the journal in a section titled, “Instructions for Authors.” These instructions offer authors guidelines to follow in preparing their manuscript. For instance, it indicates the length in words, main parts, referencing style, and how to set up tables, figures, and other illustrations. Authors who disregard the journal’s guidelines dramatically decrease their chances for acceptance of the manuscript (Dixon, 2011). One journal editor estimated that she receives, on average, 15 manuscripts every week of the year. With this number of submissions, it is easy to see why those that do not conform to the guidelines would be rejected.

Manuscript Submission

Authors can also use the journal’s website to electronically submit their manuscripts. They follow the directions for submission that are prompted in its website. Most journals also require authors to submit a cover letter that verifies that the manuscript is the author’s own work and that it is only being submitted to the selected journal. Manuscripts are submitted to one journal at a time and can only be submitted to another journal when the journal editor where the manuscript was first submitted declines to publish it.

When authors submit a manuscript to a journal, the editor or editorial assistant acknowledges the receipt of the manuscript, assigns it a number, and checks to see if the manuscript is appropriate for the journal. The editors may determine that the manuscript is unsuitable and reject it without sending it out for review. Another common decision is “revise before review”. This means that the author must modify the manuscript before the editor will send it out to reviewers (Albers et al., 2011; Floyd et al., 2011).

Peer-Review Process

For more than two centuries peer review has been used, because it is considered the seal of reliable science. Editors use the peer review process to select the best papers for their journal. Since experts lack expertise in all areas, reviewers with the appropriate knowledge assist editors in identifying the appropriateness of the manuscript for their journal. Basically, the review process is about a community of researchers who assess the value of the manuscript and provide useful and constructive comments to improve the manuscript (Udani et al., 2007).

The submission of a manuscript to a journal starts the peer-review process to determine the quality of the manuscript, its contribution to the field, and its applicability to the journal (APA, 2010). After the editors decide that the manuscript is suitable for the journal, they assign it to an editor to send a blind copy (no author identification to make it anonymous review) to reviewers (typically three) who know the area to assess the manuscript. When the peer-review process is completed, which usually takes approximately 2—4 months, the editor decides the manuscript’s disposition (Floyd et al., 2011), summarizes the reviewers’ commentaries with recommendations, communicates the information to the author, and lets the author know the decision to “accept, revise and resubmit,” or “reject” the manuscript. Authors who revise and resubmit a manuscript write to the action editor a letter addressing the revisions based on the reviewers’ comments. The editor’s reasons for rejecting a manuscript can be to modify the manuscript and submit it to a different but appropriate journal (Martínez, Floyd, & Erichsen 2011). The peer-review process can be discouraging, annoying, irritating, and time-consuming, but it is thought to be a valid and scientific practice (Albers et al., 2011). The peer-review process is a cooperative undertaking, because an intelligent and forthcoming review can considerably enhance the clarity of the submitted manuscript, which makes it essential to scientific publications.

Ultimately, the decisions that a researcher makes about all of the issues in this chapter will expand or limit opportunities to share work with others and make an enduring contribution to the field. A very common mistake is to assume that the truly important part of quantitative research is all about statistics and that “writing it up” is just a formality. Nothing could be further from the truth. The way the work is presented is just as important as the work itself. If the ideas are muddled, the writing is awkward, or the requirements of the journal are flagrantly disregarded, all of the work invested in conducting a rigorous research project will go unrecognized. Stated bluntly, research outcomes become meaningful when they are published. Benjamin Franklin once observed that there is no higher honor than to have one’s work “respectfully cited” by respected peers and this is no less true in higher education. In fact, peer review is a cornerstone of Academia and earning the approval of fellow experts is an important part of the scholar’s life. While the increase in the number of researchers within various disciplines has enhanced scholarly publications and communication among scientists, it also has intensified competition for the few available slots for publication of quantitative research. As one small illustration, a quarterly research journal publishes, on average, ten manuscripts per issue. This means that, all year long, just 40 manuscripts from among those submitted will be accepted and disseminated. The editor estimates that over 400 manuscripts are submitted each year, which means that about 10 % find a place of publication in this outlet. Understanding this common scenario suggests several important takeaway messages from this chapter on quantitative manuscripts.