The Path to Publication, Part Two: Revising Your Paper for Submission

https://unsplash.com/photos/BVyNlchWqzsThe following is the second in a three-part series on the publication of an academic article. As my field, English, is in the humanities, this will necessarily shape my narration, though many of these steps transcend most disciplinary boundaries. When they don’t, I will add links to STEM-specific advice. The previous post focused on selecting an appropriate journal. This post focuses on revising your paper for submission.

Once you’ve selected a journal, you will likely have to make cuts to your article; it is one of the peculiarities of our business that journals often publish material that is much shorter than the typical dissertation or book chapter. The PMLA, one of the leading journals in English, asks for essays between 6,000 and 9,000 words, while the Journal of Service Research accepts any submission of up to fifty pages. Still, this is not always the case: The Philosophical Review puts no word or page limits on submissions. So you will need to check your journal’s “Information for Authors” or “Submission Guidelines,” where you will find instructions not only on length restrictions but on formatting and accepted file types.

After you’ve made the appropriate changes, here are some good practices for revision:

  • Contextualize your argument within a larger scholarly conversation—an editor once told me, “It is not at all clear from this essay just what your intervention is here.”
  • Consider your audience, as common knowledge in your subfield may not be so in the broader discipline. A reader for the D.H. Lawrence Review, for example, will probably know that Edward Garnett was an early mentor of Lawrence’s—but a reader of the PMLA may not.
  • If your article is adapted from a dissertation chapter, you will probably have to cobble together paragraphs from other chapters to clarify your argument.
  • If you are one of several authors, agree on an order before you submit your article for consideration. STEM students will also want to consult this guide on ordering author names.

One last clarification: an abstract summarizes your argument, while a cover letter makes the case for the value of your argument.

Once you’re ready to submit, remove your name and any other identifying information from your article. You will soon receive a manuscript number, and from then on, you should use this to refer to your paper when corresponding with the journal. Finally, wait at least six months before writing to inquire about the status of your manuscript.

The next post in this series will discuss revising and resubmitting.