This is the second installment in a 5-part series outlining the process of submitting a paper to an academic journal. Part 1 can be found here.
Choosing a journal
There are a number of factors to be considered when choosing which journal to submit to: namely, ranking, policy, and editors.
A journal’s ranking is simply the standing it has with the field and the wider academic community. The higher the journal’s ranking, the greater the readership and citablitiy, and thus the greater the impact your paper is likely to have. This also means that the journal is likely to have a larger number of submissions and a higher degree of rigourousness regarding the review process, and so rejection is more likely and the whole process will certainly take longer. In other words, if you aim to publish quickly, try a smaller journal; if you want impact, be prepared to wait.
Different journals have differing policies in regards to what they wish to publish. Some may have a methodological agenda, while others may be more interested in more specific studies. The journal will likely favour certain approaches, such as sociological, historical, philosophical or quantitative. They will also have an editorial policy, stated on the inside front page of the hard copy, and on the journal’s website. It is no use sending a piece on Wicca to the Journal of Early Christian Studies.
The big question in terms of editors, outside of the policy concerns outlined above, is “who are they?” In other words, are any of them friends, or even friends of friends? Things can speed up considerably if one of the team regards your work as strong a priori. Similarly, if you’ve fallen out with the editor, or perhaps been over-critical of their last book, another journal might prove a better option.
In my case, after seeking the advice of my most trusted contacts, I have decided to submit to the Journal of Contemporary Religion. I had intended to submit to Religion, probably the highest-ranked journal in the field, but after being warned about the highly methodological angle of the journal by one of the editorial board, I balked. What’s more, JoCR not only has a policy of seeking innovative work, which I believe my paper to be, but has also published papers in similar area in the past. My one concern, however, is that my paper is a little long. They ask for a maximum of 7000, while mine is approx 7500, although this is within the 10% margin generally followed in academic matters. We shall see.
This having been decided, there is the not inconsiderable matter of formatting your paper to suit the journal’s preferences. This can be a considerable task. In my case, I had to reformat the text, convert all footnotes to endnotes, change electronic references from footnotes to bibliography and change all inline and bibliography references to MLA. Using software such as Endnote would be helpful here, though I’m still not convinced that entering all the references into it in the first instance isn’t just as much work as manually reformatting. I also needed to add a title page with biographical details. Then the whole thing has to be converted to a pdf.
These details will be found on the journal’s website on the “information for authors” page. A useful guide to citation styles may be found here.
This process is deadly dull, of course, and many will consider it a waste of time, and a million miles from the creative acts of writing or theorising. But I stress, as I have before, that it is a necessary evil. You are in essence “playing the game”. The less work the journal editor has to do on formatting your paper and correcting your spelling, the less likely they are to reject it.
Finally, the formatted paper must be submitted to the journal you have chosen. Again, this will be different in each case, and details can be found on the website. Many of the bigger journals use specialist secure sites for electronic submission, but the JoCR is rather more old-fashioned, requiring an electronic version to be attached to an email and a physical copy to be sent to the editor. I shall be doing that tomorrow.