Thinking about a journal article? Tips from an editor.

Categories: Focus Series, MentorSpace, Other, Publishing, Writing and Editing

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MethodSpace button-acwrimoIt is Academic Writing Month at SAGE MethodSpace, and in 2018 we are looking at ways researchers develop a holistic publication strategyPeer-reviewed articles in scholarly journals are central to many academics’ publication strategies because they are typically required for tenure and promotion. Because they are so important, writers face steep competition for gettingManagement Learning articles published.

I asked Todd Bridgman, Management Learning co-editor, to offer advice for new writers. I’ve inserted screenshots from the journal’s home page to show where you might look to learn more about the journal of interest.

Important factors writers should keep in mind when submitting manuscripts to scholarly journals:

TB Ensuring that the manuscript is a good fit with the aims and scope of the journal.


Janet Salmons

JS Think like a contributor to see whether your writing fits the journal. Be as objective as you can and keep in mind that you will save your own time, as well as editors’ and reviewers’ time, by selecting the journal that will best showcase your work.

The first place to look is the journal’s home page. Even if we are regular readers of the journal, we need to look more closely at the thinking behind the pages. We’ll want to read the basic description, such as this one: About This Journal. 

Sometimes editorials reveal priorities for the journal. If you don’t see this kind of “who are we?” editorial on the journal’s home page, search the issue archive for “editorials” and look for any that discuss the overarching purpose and direction of the journal during the current editors’ term.

After reading the broader mission-oriented material, we’ll look at specifics related to your topic and research approach. Let’s say I have a potential article about collaboration, based on a qualitative study. I will look for signs that my topic and research approach will fit by searching within the journal. In this search, I narrowed the time frame in order to see what has been published recently. The search yielded 57 articles that relate to collaboration in some way. It might also be useful to see whether these 57 hits are for research articles, book reviews, or editorials. I would look to see that the topic is appropriate in a research context, if I want to submit an article.

In addition to searching for the term “qualitative” within the journal, I can also look at the details in the About This Journal section, which state:

We encourage submissions from a variety of theoretical perspectives including critical, poststructuralist, feminist, interpretive, phenomenological, discursive, semiotic and aesthetic perspectives.

The study on collaboration was phenomenological. I might look at other phenomenological studies in the journal, so see what I can learn about the ways methodologies and methods are treated.

Now that I am assured that my article is potentially within the realm of the journal’s focus areas, I am ready to look more closely.

TB Connecting with relevant discussions/debates that have been ongoing in the journal.


Janet Salmons

JS Finding relevant discussions takes some digging and reading. Browse the journal archives and look for other perspectives on your topic, or follow-up posts Special issuemade to advance or refute previous articles. Look at the topics for special issues and editorials.

TB Keeping in mind your readership – who are likely familiar with the kind of work published in the journal (i.e. research that is consistent with the aims and scope) but are likely not expert in the topic of the manuscript. In other words, they are a lay audience to an extent – in my view some writers tend assume they are writing for experts in the topic, which is probably only a small proportion of the potential readership.

Janet Salmons

JS What kinds of articles do the journal readers prefer? Understanding the editors’ perspectives gives us one angle, and understanding readers gives us other points to consider when shaping the manuscript. Are readers looking for theory and research, or for findings? Are readers looking for articles to assign to student readers? Are readers professionals in the field who are looking for research-based innovations they can use at work?

On SAGE Journals’ home pages you can find some useful information about the most read, and most cited articles. By reviewing the top articles, you can see what topics and methods are of interest to the journal’s readers. You can also see the styles used, and the degree to which they focus on the research process or what was learned.

Management Learning screenshot 1

What do we learn by tracing the path of the most cited articles?

We can see who cited the article, in what context. The blue circle with a number in it refers to Altmetrics score. The article’s metrics help see citations very quickly. If you click through you can find details about what kinds of people accessed and shared the article, on what platform, from what part of the world.

Another option is to enter most-read or most-cited article titles into Google Scholar, which also allows you to see a list of publications that referenced the source.

No one has time to do a complete content analysis of a journal before submitting an article. However, online tools now available on most journals’ home pages allow you to do due diligence before you submit a manuscript. Feel free to add your own tips in the comment area, as well as any resources that would help new writers.

More about submitting your articleWhat do journal editors want?


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