August 02, 2012

What happens after you send off your article?

Well, at first maybe nothing! You might have to wait a long time: each journal will have different procedures and timescales, and there will be some practices that are more prevalent in each discipline, but here is a little list of the basic next steps that authors might come across.

1) Desk rejection: this is when your article is rejected without being sent for peer review. More and more journals are bringing in this initial filtering stage as they are being inundated with articles for review, and the peer review system is under pressure. Three basic ways to avoid this kind of rejection are:

  • read the journal's instructions and advice for authors and follow them!
  • make sure your writing and language is correct (and follows the conventions and instructions of the journal you are submitting to.)
  • make sure that your article is within the scope of that journal's remit, i.e. your content matches their subject area. You do need to choose the right journal to submit your article to.

The Construction Management and Economics forum has 30 tips on how to avoid a desk rejection!

2) Your article is sent off to referees, for peer review. There are differences in peer review processes, such as the number of peer reviewers, blind or double-blind review, editor's right to final decision, etc. Practices vary by discipline, but the basic possibilities are:

  • Open: both authors and reviewers know each other.
  • Blind: author doesn’t know reviewer.
  • Double blind: neither author nor reviewer are known to each other.

After the peer review then you might get one of the following responses:

  1. Accepted unconditionally (rare!)
  2. Accepted in the event that you improve it in certain ways,
  3. Invited to revise and re-submit. This might feel like a rejection but it is an opportunity! Beware of journals' advertised rejection and acceptance rates, which are unlikely to count this response as a rejection.
  4. Rejected with comments. Use these to refine your article and then submit the article to a different journal. Sometimes a different journal from the same publishing house might be suggested.

When considering how to respond to the peer reviewer's comments, there are three golden rules:
(1) respond completely;
(2) respond politely; and
(3) respond with evidence.

These are described in: Williams, Hywel C. (2004) How to reply to referees’ comments when submitting manuscripts for publication. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 51 (1). pp. 79-83.

At this stage, you might be asked to pay an article processing charge and to sign an authors' agreement, although you might have had to deal with these parts of the process at the submission stage. Charges are sometimes made for colour illustrations, for more pages than their limit, and/or for Open Access availability.

When your article has been accepted then consider your publisher's policy on repository deposit, along with your repository's ability to handle embardo periods. You might be able to put an open access version into your institutional repository.

3) Expect more waiting for your article proofs. When you get these, keep an eye on the deadline date for you to respond. If you have co-authors then you should share these with them, and perhaps give them a deadline too. Proofing corrections might be done on the manuscript itself, or in a separate document which refers to page and line numbers. Your proof reading is not just of your text, but of titles, figures, references, etc.

Sometimes the proof comes along with editorial queries for you to respond to: use these to make corrections. Note that proofing corrections should be minor.

4) After proofing and corrections, your publisher might make your article available online on their website.

5) Your article appears in the journal issue.

6) Marketing of your work: this is something you can do, as well as the activity that a publisher will do to market and sell their journal titles.

7) We hope that this won't happen, but there can also be subsequent procedures:

  • Erratum: production errors in your article that the journal publisher will issue a correction for.
  • Corrections: part of your article is flawed and the article is corrected.
  • Retractions: Serious flaws, ethical problems or erroneous data might lead to this. So might "redundant publication" where the publisher discovers that the author has published the same research findings elsewhere.

8) Someone cites your article! If you want to track these and the journal you have published with is indexed by Web of Knowledge, then investigate citation alert tracking on WoK. You can track citations on Google Scholar.


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