Notes from An Editor: How to Get Your Academic Article Published Part 3

Notes from An Editor: How to Get Your Academic Article Published Part 3 January 31, 2020

This is part 3 of an ongoing series. (Part 2; Part 1)

“Know the Scholarship”

When you try to publish an academic article, it is imperative that you demonstrate knowledge and critical engagement with the most respected and most relevant scholarship. Now, this might seem obvious, who wouldn’t do this? But I would say about 50% of the time, when I see an article rejected, a reviewer has commented that the author failed to engage with key scholarship. Sometimes this is, perhaps, an oversight. Sometimes the author is branching out of their normal expertise to make a fresh contribution in a new area. For whatever reason, oversights and gaps happen and can weaken the article in the eyes of reviewers.

So, what to do?

Check the editorial board

As you write your article, look at the editorial board of the journal(s) you want to submit to, and see which scholars fit your topic. This might guide you a bit in determining which scholars to engage with. That does not mean you flatter those scholars in your article. No, it just means you get a grasp for the academic conversations that they would expect you to engage with.

Ask for help outside of your normal circles

Ask an academic friend or colleague to read your draft article, preferably someone outside of your normal circles. They might detect scholarship blind spots.

Take reviewer feedback seriously

If it happens that your article gets rejected, the reviewer(s) may have supplied feedback about gaps in the scholarship discussion. You may agree or disagree, but such feedback can be helpful moving forward.

And, as always, “try, try again”!

 

NB: For more advice on academic publishing, see Prepare, Succeed, Advance (Cascade, 2nd ed)

 


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  • Richard Fellows

    Thanks, Nijay,

    Yes, reviewers often ask for more engagement with scholarship, but (in my experience) they never say which scholarship needs to be engaged with and why. I have never had a reviewer say something like “your argument needs to address an objection raised by so-and-so”. Come to think of it, I have never had a reviewer offer any counter argument to my thesis. This is very disappointing. It all makes me think that reviewers are more interested in whether an author has demonstrated familiarity with the work of other scholars than whether her/his thesis is true. Papers should not be rejected for their lack of engagement with scholarship, unless a reviewer can point to a piece of scholarship that weakens the thesis (in which case they should mention it). Surely, the criteria for acceptance should be whether the thesis is true, new, and important. Period.

    Often, when writing a paper, I have added references to works that are irrelevant to my thesis (but deal with the same passages) simply to satisfy reviewers. I should not have to do that.

    Any idea how many hours (minutes?) each reviewer spends with a submitted article? Do they simply not have the time to figure out whether a thesis is true, so make their recommendation on superficial criteria like number of citations and whether the author uses long words and technical vocabulary? Is that the dirty little secret of journals?

    I have a related question for you. If I am submitting a paper that builds on the work of a published article, can I assume that the reviewers will take the time to read that published article, or do I need to summarize that published article in my submitted paper?

  • I’d add that given the sheer volume of articles and books on (m)any given subject(s) these days, it is quite possible that an author simply hasn’t come across certain articles or books, or had time to read them, or even been able to afford them or found a way to access them.