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Introduction to article preparation
In this section you can find all the information that you will need when you are writing your article and preparing to submit it to one of our journals.
... The preparation and submission sections were very comprehensive and easy to navigate through."
There is information on how to choose a journal in your subject area, and how to find out about the submission requirements for each of our journals.
We offer you guidance on what to include in your abstract and how to choose keywords to help readers find your article. We explain how to prepare your manuscript so that it can be anonymously reviewed, and there is information and help on formatting and checking your references and using our journal styles and templates.
You can also find our authors' resources here - use these if you need help with editing, translation, artwork, mathematics, etc.
If you have any suggestions for other useful information we could provide, please contact our Author Services department at firstname.lastname@example.org
Writing your article: guidance notes
Read the Notes for Contributors or Instructions for Authors for the journal you are submitting to carefully. These are available from a link on each journal homepage.
Ensure your article title reflects what your paper is about. Try to avoid the "quirky" title. If you feel unable to do this, please add a sub-title, e.g. "Can't see the wood for the trees? An analysis of education policy initiatives, 1997-2005".
Ensure that your article is correctly formatted and referenced. Some of our journals provide Word or LaTeX templates to help you.
- Read our instructions on how a manuscript should be prepared for peer review
- Make sure you include abstract, keywords, or bibliographical details if these are required. Abstracts of not more than 200 words are normally required. Please check the instructions for the journal.
- If the journal requires a specific set of headings (e.g. "Materials and Methods", "Conclusions") make sure that you follow this style. If there are no specific guidelines for headings, it is still recommended that you use headings to separate major ideas in your article.
- All references cited in the text must appear in the bibliography. If possible, use automated reference and/or article formatting tools (e.g. EndNote®, Reference Manager®, ProCite®, Biblioscape, PAPYRUS®).
- Expand any acronyms. Remember that your audience is international.
- For all manuscripts non-discriminatory language is mandatory. Sexist or racist terms should not be used.
- Check spelling and grammar. Pay special attention to whether the journal you are writing for specifically requests "American" or "English" spelling.
- Check that all figures, tables, and appendices are present, and that they are referred to in the text of your paper. Please see our guidance on how to submit artwork
- Ensure that you have the correct copyright clearance for any material in your paper that is already © to a third party, e.g. pictures.
- Ask a colleague to read your paper prior to submission.
- Look at previous papers to get a feel for what is accepted by the journal.
- Check the aims and scope statement again.
- Take note of the maximum extent (word count) of the submission.
- Quote from previous papers (show awareness of the literature).
Our journals consider all manuscripts on the strict condition that they have been submitted only to that journal and that they have not been published already. They must not be under consideration for publication or in press elsewhere.
The impact of all scientific papers, and the effectiveness of the search-and-retrieval capabilities offered by their electronic publication, will depend upon the care used by authors in preparing their manuscripts. It is essential that authors prepare manuscripts according to each journal's established format and style specifications.
Prospective contributors are required to read through the specifications carefully before preparing a manuscript for submission, and to check the manuscript for compliance with these specifications before submitting it for consideration for peer review.
Further information about the journal, including links to the online sample copy and contents pages, can be found on the journal homepage. Please see the Instructions for Authors for the journal you wish to submit to. If you have a question about the journal style, please email us at email@example.com (please mention the journal title in your email).
Why articles may be rejected
Professor David Phillips (University of Oxford), former Editor of the Oxford Review of Education, has offered the following explanations of why articles are rejected:
- The article is not ready; it is only a draft.
- The article is too parochial (it will not appeal to a wider, international audience).
- The article is written in poor English (if English is not your first language, seek help).
- The manuscript is poorly prepared.
- The article is too short or too long (check the article length specified in author guidelines).
- The article has been submitted to the wrong journal (the material will not be relevant to the readers - check the aims and scope of a journal before submitting to it).
- Nothing new is stated or found.
- The article is under-theorized.
- The article is under-contextualized.
- It is not properly a journal article and would be better suited to another form of publication.
Our journal editors point out some common mistakes.
Advice from Professor John Evans, Editor of Sport, Education and Society:
"The most common mistake is not to have looked at the journal, not to have appreciated, I think, what it is about. Essentially, it is a journal which is informed by sociology and educational theory and therefore submitting your work if it's got none of those things, it might be very good, but it just doesn't fit the remit. I think that the journal is very encouraging of different styles of writing, different forms of presentation, but even when those occur they need to be still rigorous and scholarly ... It's encouraging of different ways of writing, different ways of thinking. But it's a social science-based journal and that's what I think I would emphasize in considering whether your paper is for this journal or another."
"I guess the second thing is to persevere. I'm sure there are people much younger than I who look to the journal and see articles that certainly take my breath away, they're fantastic, there's some brilliant writing in the journal and they might think 'I can't do that' but I'd say you are looking at the finished article. It's gone through a process and it wasn't in that pristine condition to begin with. So, perseverance is actually a very important part of publication and it means taking some knock backs ... So it's perseverance and taking advice from those around you. Our editorial team are part of the process so they respond as productively as they can and, you know, we want to see things published rather than want to reject papers for the journal."
Advice from Professor David Gillborn, Editor of Race Ethnicity and Education:
"We really need the author to know what their point is. In lots of papers it's like the author hasn't really made their mind up, they've got three, sometimes four ideas and they're not quite sure whether the paper's about all of them or none of them. I think the strongest papers usually have one point to make and they make that point powerfully, with evidence, and they locate it within the field. Very often I'll get really interesting papers but they're not quite sure what they're saying and often those things just need to be started again because they're so disorganised that it's difficult to give clear advice on how you can change that. You know, you really need to sit down and work out what it is you're trying to say."
Advice from Professor Michael Reiss, Editor of Sex Education:
"There's no doubt that as an Editor, when you first get a submission, what you're doing is two things: at one level you're simply filtering so, a fairly small proportion, we're probably only talking about twenty, twenty-five percent, do not get sent out by me for review, that's because they fall into one of a number of categories. Sometimes they simply fall outside the scope of the journal."
"Another possibility is, that we will occasionally get papers, and this is very common for many journal editors, that as yet are not ready for submission to the journal but will be. And half the time you think this is just a couple of chapters from somebody's PhD or from a very long research report and then you write them an encouraging short note, gently explaining why as yet it wouldn't be worthwhile sending out to review, but you hope they'll submit it. You might offer to send them an example of a paper if they haven't already downloaded it, point them to the website so they can look at a couple of papers and so on."
"Occasionally you just get stuff where I'm afraid it's very obvious it's not ever going to be an academic paper. ... The paper either makes no claim to make an advance in knowledge, or if it claims to make an advance in knowledge and to contribute value to the field, it fails in that claim, and that's obvious on a twenty-minute skim-read which is all I give it."
"There is a huge amount of advice, and I benefitted when I started my writing career in being given advice, otherwise you just learn by almost everything getting rejected, which is a bit soul-destroying after a while. The most obvious advice, that journal editors are always absolutely amazed at the fact that only about half of all submissions manage to take account of it, is to follow precisely the journal guidelines. Human nature being what it is, one is just more predisposed to view favourably something which comes in which is about the right length, which is reasonably in the format of the journal, and which connects pretty closely with the journal's aims, where there is an abstract, where there is a title, etc., etc. Again, human nature being what it is when you do get things, and one does, which lack a title, which lack an abstract, which have margins which are about a tenth of an inch, your heart sinks. Now in fact, one tries to put that to one side and still look at the core of it. But there's that sort of presentational thing."
Advice from Professor Len Barton, Editor of Disability and Society:
"Too often authors try to cover too many questions and issues in a single paper and they sacrifice depth of analysis for a more generalised, often unsupported set of statements, propositions or arguments. And it is important, people do need to give time and thought to careful consideration of the coherence and the integration of their arguments and particularly, I would also say, in thinking about a careful conclusion to a paper. We've had a number of papers recently where the conclusions have been, to say the least, brief and abrupt, and again, people need to think about that in terms of production of an acceptable paper."
Advice from Professor Stephen Ball, Editor of Journal of Education Policy:
"I feel I'm having my time wasted when people send papers to the journal which patently don't fit in the journal at all. And they're wasting their own time because then they have to wait for us to read the paper and look at it and send it back to them and then they have to go through it again. I imagine there are some people who spend their life sending their papers to journals that don't want to publish them, not because they're not good papers but because they're just in the wrong place."
Advice from Professor Peter Jarvis, Co-editor of the International Journal of Lifelong Education:
"I've been accused, on occasions, as an Editor, of not wanting to reject papers and so when we have these surveys about what your rejection rate is, I find that very hard to answer because I will send back - and I have sent back - papers three times because I've wanted to see that author publish it, you know! ... And so I have never ever countenanced the idea of seeing the Editor's role as just the gatekeeper. I'm the gate-opener as well and, in a sense, if we can encourage people to publish and we can give people the confidence, and I actually say to people when they say, 'What about rejections?' I say, 'Well I still get rejections!' It's part of the game. But if they feel that I'm still getting rejections then I hope that helps them to say 'well if he still gets them then if I get a rejection so what?'"
"The thing that irritates me ... is not doing their homework properly. You know, it's like the Europeans will say, well, the first universities were in Italy in the tenth and eleventh century. They forget that in the ninth century there were Arabic universities in Spain. So it's the imprecision of people who don't take ... their homework seriously."
Advice from Dr Stephanie James, Editor of Educational Psychology in Practice
"We reject outright very few articles and the ones we do reject are the ones that tend not to have any knowledge of the journal at all. If you picked up any volume of the journal you would see again the breadth of the topics covered and if you have something that you feel is going to complement that body of knowledge then we would be delighted to hear it. The other thing that leads to almost instant rejection is if there’s no practical application of the psychology, and that’s not because it is a bad article it’s just that it doesn’t fit in with our business which is the practice of educational psychology. So even if it is the most dry article, if there’s some practical application of it, that would I think be of great interest to us, far better if the author can ask perhaps a lay reader to proof read it and have a read of it for sense and for holding the attention of the reader and I think some of those issues of rejection would perhaps be overcome at that stage… . When we are considering articles that have been submitted it helps the reader … if … the most simple things like spellings, like grammar, are proof-read first by the author. I kind of feel it’s slightly disrespectful to submit what in essence is a very poorly finished article and expect the reviewers to spend the time critiquing it and so I suppose there is an irritation factor as well in that and it does lead the reviewers to think less kindly of an article. It’s not a big issue but I do think that is something that as a matter of courtesy one should try to avoid."
Publishing your Ph.D.
We get many questions from authors about publishing a Ph.D. There are several ways you can publish the findings of your Ph.D:
- as a book,
- as a journal article,
- as a series of journal articles,
- as a conference paper,
- as an internal university document, or
- as a specialist society publication.
Publishing your Ph.D. as a book
If you are thinking of publishing your Ph.D. as a book, there are several aspects to consider. You will need to tailor the research so that the story you are telling is in the foreground, with the research in the background. Readers will just want to see the key findings, not all the details that your supervisor needed. What was the real outcome of your research? Think about how time-sensitive your research is, and whether it is of specialist interest only. How international is the work and its audience?
When you are ready to choose a publisher, talk to colleagues and your supervisor, and also to others who have published in your field. What experience have they had with publishers? Which ones would they recommend? Can they give you contact names? Look at a publishing company's website to see what they publish. Does it look as though your book would fit within their portfolio? Do they have an appropriate book series that your book could be part of? Do you want your book to be marketed internationally? Consider the publisher's international sales network. Consult a guide in your library such as the Directory of Publishing (published annually by Continuum and the Publishers Association) or The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook (A & C Black).
Then, draw up a shortlist and prioritize. if you are going to send multiple copies out, tell the publisher (and please note that you are not allowed to do this with a journal article!). Send your proposal to a named individual – it may get lost otherwise. Please use email! Make it easy for the commissioning editor to contact you. A good proposal should be concise, to the point and consider who it's for as well as what it is. Remember that an editor will have other people within the business to persuade. Make it easy for them by being realistic and market-focused.
If you are thinking about publishing with Routledge, there is a wealth of information for authors here: www.routledge.com/info/authors/, covering how to submit your proposal, and what happens to it afterwards.
Here are our top tips:
- Be flexible;
- Take external reviewers' comments on board … if appropriate;
- Don't send a full manuscript or thesis asking for "any ideas or advice";
- Don't suggest the book "will appeal to everyone";
- Don't be afraid of being critical of other books on the topic;
- Be realistic.
And remember, if your book proposal is rejected, it doesn’t mean that the publisher will never consider another one from you.
Publishing your Ph.D. as a journal article
If you decide that your Ph.D will make a good journal article or series of articles, please start
with the advice for journal authors here:
Please let us know if you have any comments or questions about this topic, by contacting our Author Services Manager (Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org).
Frequently asked questions
What do I need to know about copyright, authors' rights, and permissions?
Please read the information on our Rights & copyright page
Where can I find the Instructions for Authors?
Please look for the Instructions for Authors link/tab on the journal homepage or on the alphabetical listings. If you can't find this, contact us at email@example.com (please tell us the full name of the journal).
Who should I contact about article length/word limits?
If the information is not covered in the Instructions for Authors, you can assume that there is no limit. You can also look at sample articles as a guide.
Where can I find style and reference formatting information?
This will be on each journal's Instructions for Authors page. If no font is specified, we recommend Times New Roman 12 point. If you still have a question, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org (please tell us the full name of the journal).
Where can I find information about the format of my article?
This will be on each journal's Instructions for Authors page. If you have read the information and still have a question, contact us at email@example.com (please tell us the full name of the journal).
Where can I find a Word template?
If there is a Word template, it will be available on the journal's Instructions for Authors page. If you are not able to use the template via the links or if you have any other queries about templates, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org (please tell us the full name of the journal).
I would like to publish an open-access journal. Where can I find the information?
Please see our 'Introduction to Article Submission' page.
Have you seen our "How to Get Published" video? This presentation is aimed at postgraduate students and academics new to the complex world of getting published in international peer-reviewed journals. Visit our Resources for Authors section for more information.