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Library Research Guides

Graduate Student's Guide to Publishing

Tips on how to get your work published in a variety of formats.

Peer Review Process for Scholarly Articles

Diagram of the Peer Review Workflow

While the peer review process for journals can vary, it typically follows the pattern described below.

  1. Author submits article to a journal.
  2. Managing editor determines if it is suitable for review. If not, the submission is immediately rejected without being sent out to peer reviewers. If it is suitable for review, managing editor sends the submission to reviewers.
  3. Peer reviewers recommend one of the following:
    1. Accept without revisions
    2. Accept pending revisions
    3. Reject
  4. If revisions are required, the author submits the revised article to the managing editor.
  5. Managing editor and/or peer reviewers determine if revisions are sufficient.

Very few articles are accepted without revisions. Being asked to revise your work is a foundational practice in scholarly publishing, and often results in the work being stronger after it has undergone review.

Finding Journals in Your Field

You’ve written an article, and now you need to find a home for it. Understanding the publishing landscape of an academic field can be challenging for scholars who do not have established professional networks, for those who are seeking to publish in different venues than their mentors and advisors have used in the past, and for those whose work crosses disciplinary boundaries. The following questions can help you to identify appropriate journals in your field:

  • What is the audience for my article? Where does that audience go when they want to read something new in their field?
  • Are there professional societies or organizations for my field? Or perhaps conferences, annual meetings, or other events?
  • Where was the material I cited in my article published?
  • If I wanted to read articles on a similar topic, where would I find them?

Choosing a Journal for Your Work

After you have identified some appropriate journals in your field, you'll want to narrow down your options to select the best place to submit your article. For each possible journal, consider the following:

  • Look at the journal's editorial board. Are any of its members in your sub-field?
  • Look at a few issues of the journal and the information provided on the journal’s webpage. Does your article fit within the journal’s typical subject areas and scope? 
  • Does the methodology of your work fit what this journal typically publishes? (e.g. quantitative, qualitative, case study, survey, meta-analysis, etc.) 
  • Be realistic about your journal selection (don’t aim too high or too low), and don't let fear of rejection guide your choice. 
  • Ask colleagues in your research area where they have submitted work. 
  • Are bibliometrics like impact factors or Eigenfactors important in your discipline? If so, find out the relevant metrics for journals you are considering. If your field doesn't use formal bibliometrics, consider these other possible measures of "impact":
    • Who is on the journal's editorial board? Are they recognized scholars in your field?
    • Who is publishing in that journal? Are they also recognized scholars in your field?
    • Examine Google Scholar Metrics or Google Scholar Citations, if available.
    • Is the journal indexed in databases relevant to your field? (e.g. JSTOR, Web of Science, MLA, etc.)
    • Is the journal affiliated with a professional organization, scholarly society, or conference relevant to your subject area?
    • If you are unsure of how to do this, contact a librarian for your subject area.

Once you have decided to submit your work to a particular journal, make sure your submission meets its basic requirements. Nearly all journals include instructions for authors. Read them carefully and follow specific instructions such as word limits, preferred citation styles, document formatting, file types, etc. If you're not certain where you'd like to submit but you have a target publication in mind, start working from their requirements in order to prevent headaches later on.

In addition, have friends and colleagues read your work and provide feedback before you submit. A fresh pair of eyes can be incredibly helpful for spotting mistakes and areas in need of improvement.

Responding to Reviewers' Feedback

Below are resources that provide suggestions and guidelines for responding to reviewer feedback: