Navigating the Peer-Reviewed Publication Process
Publishing a scholarly article in a peer-reviewed journal can involve multiple edits, rejections, and submissions. As former editor of Psychology of Women Quarterly (2010-2015) and current editor of Sex Roles; A Journal of Research, Dr. Janice Yoder, research professor for the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences of the College of Public Health, suggests that editors look for four typical standards in submissions:
(1) The paper made a publication-worthy contribution to the field.
A somewhat subjective judgment about the importance of the paper's findings for the field, this factor is largely based on what expert reviewers say. Authors can help in this process by being clear about what gaps are filled by the findings in their studies or what important questions are raised by their findings that expand scholarly thinking. Authors should reflect who the reader is and why the material is interesting to that reader. Papers must have an engaging title, a compelling abstract, and interesting opening paragraphs to entice the reader to continue. The article should make a meaningful contribution to the field, and this should be clear to the reader from the beginning.
(2) The paper is appropriate for the journal to which it is submitted.
Journals reach different audiences so authors should think about the scholars and/or practitioners they want to address. Although no editor ethically can require an author to cite papers from their own journal, authors' works should draw on trends in that field (and likely that journal). Visit the website to understand the journal’s purview and frame your paper accordingly. For example, both journals I edit/ed self-describe as "feminist" so , explicitly or subtly taking a woman-blaming approach in an article is unlikely to pass the litmus test for appropriateness for either journal. (Note that this does not mean that ideology trumps methodological quality--see below).
(3) The paper's methodology is high quality.
Here the onus falls on the author not only to implement strong research design, data collection, and analysis but also to convey that they have done so. Editors and reviewers want to know the details of a study's methods and analysis, often seeing missing or unclear information as just as (or more) troublesome than presented information. Being clear about what was done and providing justifications for design choices (preferably by citing past practices or piloted data) demonstrates that an author did high quality work. Details and carefulness are important; if a reviewer or editor encounters sloppy presentation (e.g., missing references, ambiguous statements, overlooked information), it raises red flags that the design, data collection, and analysis may also have been sloppy.
(4) The paper's writing is high quality.
Good papers tell a story with clear objectives and focused and organized points. I find it very helpful to condense a paper to a handful of summarizing points to gauge both meaningfulness (see point #1) and how well the paper's "storytelling" stays on track. Strong papers, I think, pose intriguing questions, develop clear logical hypotheses or exploratory questions, make a case for having tested these hypotheses or questions capably, present defensible findings, and have implications for what we know as scholars/practitioners and what we might explore into the future.
Strong writers also carefully organize their points. For example, if four hypotheses are proposed, then the results parallel those hypotheses in order. Tables and figures map onto the text describing them, paralleling the order of findings. When I closely edit a paper, I literally use the split-screen view in Word so that I can track these parallels. Well-organized papers help scholars read and use them. Let's face it, editors' and authors' goals converge here: Both want their articles widely read, used, and cited.
Email Dr. Jan Yoder for questions related to her recommendations: firstname.lastname@example.org.