How to Manage a Peer-Reviewed Journal
[At one time I thought I might publish a book on this topic. The audience is too small to make that worthwhile, however, so I decided to post the draft of my book on the topic here. It is now outdated, but some nuggets of wisdom may still be found.]
The number of academic journals—electronic and print—has exploded over the last decade, yet instruction on how to run an academic journal is virtually nonexistent. Of course, most journals are launched by academics but run by larger publishers, such as SAGE or Duke. But, what if you want to run one yourself, out of your department or university? Run correctly, journals can earn quite a bit of money for your department or association.
I used to teach workshops to graduate students, faculty members, and university staff on all aspects of publishing the academic journal, but I don’t anymore. So, I decided to put the notes from the lectures I used to give on the topic. At one point I thought I would write a book on the topic, but I haven’t gotten around to that.
The goal of the information below was to aid editors in improving their journals financially, technically, and academically.
There are many processes involved in publishing a peer-reviewed journal.
The first is the set up process, in which you make a variety of decisions about your new journal, such as its name; who will be the faculty editor, managing editor, copyeditor, layout artist, designer, and board members; what style manual you will use; and what the scope of your content shall be. You will also need to identify a good printer or web hoster, set up a subscription database, and design the general layout of the journal.
Next is the production process, the actual physical task of putting a journal together. This process starts as soon as you have accepted an article for publication. It consists of preparing illustrations, copyediting manuscripts, insuring authors see corrections to their articles, typesetting all corrections, scanning illustrations, laying out the journal (either for print or electronically), proofreading, insuring authors see the proofs, typesetting all corrections, sending electronic copy to the printer or webmaster, setting the correct front and back matter, and reviewing bluelines or the web page.
If yours is a print journal with paid subscribers, you then begin the distribution process. Distribution consists of printing subscriber labels, placing journals in mailers, and shipping journals to subscribers. Another is the subscription management process, a much neglected and essential task for print journals. This consists of maintaining and updating a subscriber list. Most of all, you make sure that address changes are entered, payments are recorded, checks processed, unpaid subscribers nagged, and renewal forms are sent to all subscribers once a year.
The final one is the marketing process, which consists of creating ads, suggesting exchange ads, setting up a web page, and sending out e-mail announcements of new issues to listservs.
Other than these technical processes, you have the intellectual tasks of the running the peer-review process of a journal: establishing standards, maintaining a fair peer review process, accepting and rejecting manuscripts, working with authors to improve their manuscripts, and so on.
Steps in the Set-up Process
Let’s assume that you are starting from absolute scratch. What are the steps?
- Mandate—what is the purpose of the journal, who is the audience, do any competitors exist, how will you do things better
- Funders—who will provide start-up costs, office space
- Name of journal—most are going toward very descriptive, losing the creative first part
- Editors—who is what, important to get this down in writing, prevents problems later, make sure at least one person assigned to copyediting, layout, and subscription management
- Format—How often, how long, what sections?
- Design—cover, text, etc.
- Peer review process—what kind?
- Space—where will the office be?
- Management—how will the print and electronic files be set up, making sure to set them up, what software for subscription database
- 1Freelancers and Printing—who will do design, layout, copyediting, printing?
Steps in the Production Process
The production and distribution of peer-reviewed journals starts as soon as you have accepted an article for publication. Such tasks typically fall to the journal’s managing editor. It is important, when hiring a freelancer to work on the design or production of your journal, to find someone with experience in journals or books. For instance, many graphic designers do not know how to lay out a book or journal, which is quite different from laying out an advertisement, brochure, or magazine. You will often do better with freelancers who are typesetters or book producers than with graphic designers. The same is true for copyeditors. It is best to hire someone familiar with copyediting books or journals rather than newspapers or newsletters.
- Get final electronic copy of manuscript. Important to keep track of. Set up files on computer for tracking.
- Copyedit it (see below for instructions)
- Make sure you have a good electronic copy of all images
- Ask other journals for exchange ads
- Send copyedit to author electronically
- Nag author to get back to you with changes
- Enter changes
- Ask for bids from printers and pick cheapest one
- Lay out in desk-top publishing program
- Send proofs to author electronically
- Nag author to get back to you with changes
- Enter changes
- Send files to printer
- Make sure subscription database is up to date (addresses, payments, checks processed, renewals sent)
- Send e-mail to listserv reminding people to subscribe
- Review bluelines or website posting of journal
- Print labels and mail issues to subscribers
- Place table of contents of new issue on web page
- Store remainder of print issues
It is very important to receive all illustrations (photos, maps, cartoons, etc.) in good shape. Unfortunately, although many people know how to scan images, few know how to scan them properly for print production. It is best to talk to your printer about what they need, but in general scanned images should be grayscale TIFF or EPS, 300 dpi, at 100%. Also, you cannot print any illustration from a book without asking permission of the publisher. Be careful with music as well, as it often has quite fierce copyright protection. Authors are supposed to get permissions for their articles, but they often have to be reminded.
It is very important that you get signed copyright agreements from all your contributors. Although academics are unlikely to sue you for misusing their materials, there are many reasons to have everything squared away legally. For instance, if the journal should be successful and someone wants to buy the journal and put the back issues on-line, you will need to have signed copyright agreements from all the contributors before this deal can go through. Save time later by doing this right now. The best thing you can do for your journal is get your contributors to sign over all the rights in their essay. Although this sounds draconian, it protects the journal best and ensures that the article will be as widely disseminated as possible. Since academics are not used to retaining the rights to their work, they usually don’t complain. I’m writing this with my editor hat on. As an author, I would scream on reading these words, as academic authors need to do a lot more to protect their intellectual property.
Steps in the Financial Process
This is the most difficult area of journal management.
One of the easiest ways to advertise your journal is to do exchange ads. Almost anyone will do this with you and it costs you nothing. The other is to have an e-mail listserv, works the best. Have a good web page. Don’t spend any money on advertising.
You must have a database of subscribers. it’s the hardest and most boring part of running a journal and the most important. Without it you are printing issues for no readers.
Regarding distribution, you can often have the printer send journals, often the best, easiest.
Steps in the Peer Review Process
Managing the editorial content of a peer-reviewed journal largely consists of reviewing and selecting articles to be published. Peer review is the essence of any good academic journal: the process during which peers evaluate submissions. The task of running this process typically falls to the journal’s editor and/or editorial board. They include notifying authors of the receipt of their submission, reviewing each submission for general suitability, selecting appropriate reviewers for each submission, asking potential reviewers if available to review, sending manuscripts to reviewers, nagging reviewers to return comments, collating reviewers’ recommendations, making final decisions about acceptance or rejection, writing a cover letter to authors notifying them of this decision and making recommendations for revision, and reviewing revisions when they are returned. An important part of a good peer review is carefully tracking each submission through every stage of this complicated process. Only if you record and file all correspondence regarding the submission can you be sure that you are dealing with authors fairly. A final part of the peer-review process is creating a copyright agreement, sending it to authors, and filing the returned agreements in a safe, easy-to-find place.
Tracking, reviewing, and selecting submissions is not easy. This is not just an intellectual task but an important administrative task. It is really important to have a careful tracking system for submissions. You should also take care of your authors; let them know you have received the manuscript and where it is in the process at each stage. With e-mail, and no cost, it is really an obligation. Always record the date when things happen to manuscripts. The steps in the peer review process are as follows:
- Submission comes in, sometimes solicited, sometimes not.
- Letter sent to author acknowledging receipt
- Editor reviews and decides if it meets certain basic criteria. If not, returned to the author with a note saying so. If it does,
- Editor identifies two or three peer reviewers. Usually someone from the editorial board and someone directly in your field
- Getting people to actually do reviews can be hard. If you are a graduate student journal, I recommend reading parties and schedule them for fall quarter. If you hold a reading party with pizza in fall quarter, not too late, you may get quite a few people to show up and get a lot of work done. Too much academic work is lonely, people don’t need anything else to go away and do on their own. Make your journal social and it will succeed. Remember that a journal is really an excuse to have conversations and so set it up to forward that.
- Editor asks potential reviewers if have time, if no, ask more. If yes,
- Editor sends submission to the reviewers along with a cover letter giving a deadline, from three weeks to three months, and a standard form
- Reviewers review and write up notes on review. Some just fill out the form. Some give one paragraph. Some give two pages of general comments. Some give pages with line by line notes, almost copyediting
- Editor nags reviewers to get reviews back, a big job.
- Reviewers send their comments.
- Editor reviews the reviews. If both accept or both reject, the editor’s job is straightforward. If one rejects and one accepts, must determine which way to go.
- Editor then communicates with authors. In best possible world, editor sends a letter incorporating the two reviews, explaining what he or she agrees with or doesn’t agree with. Pay attention to this, ignore that. Usually though, just get a brief cover letter and two attached reviews.
- Response by editor can be pure accept, accept pending minor revisions (some citations, some grammar, move sections), accept pending major revisions (add sections, change argument), reject but resubmit (same as accept pending major but changes required are very big, less confidence that can pull it off), reject and redirect (not right for us, but for someone else, should be in first stage not after review), and pure reject (when see the phrase best of luck).
- Author must decide how to proceed. Can do a workman-line revision or a serious one. Workmanlike, you say I should mention so-and-so, I put his name in a one-sentence footnote. Serious, do major new research.
- Author resubmits article. If accepted pending minor, just editor reviews. If accepted pending major, sometimes goes back to reviewers.
Steps in Writing Good Peer Reviews
- Before starting any reviewing, spend an afternoon in the library actually reading academic journals. Not the top ones in your field, but the average ones. Read for structure, prose, and argument. Notice how low the general level of writing and argument is and don’t hold your peers to standards only attained rarely at top-flight journals. Students rarely read average articles, they tend to read Jameson and Derrida, highly theoretical pieces that do not reflect average scholarship.
- Always start with the positive. Never leap right into the bad stuff. Good title, good structure, interesting idea, fascinating topic, so on.
- Be specific. Vague instructions to improve the structure somehow, to cite more people in the field, to improve the grammar are just frustrating and unhelpful. Say, I think your conclusion would serve better as your introduction, I think that you need to cite the five authors doing work on Latinas in Los Angeles, I think you should review this for passive sentences and alter many of them to active.
- Don’t overfocus on absences. This is a major problem of reviewing in general.
- Reviewers spend far too much time identifying obscure references that “should” be cited. Of the making of books there is no end. If a single book comes to you, write it down, but make sure it is actually directly on target. If they really don’t have a literature review, then this needs to be addressed, but this is easily stated as “you don’t have a literature review, please provide one.”
- Or insisting that a paper does not cover something they think it should cover. For instance, that a paper on the US situation should address the Latin American situation or that a paper on such and such an author cover his book on another topic. Essays are only twenty to thirty pages; respect the author’s decision on where to limit this. If you want to ask the author to explain the choice in a footnote, that’s fine, but to insist that the author add something they have chosen not to address is unfair. If you want an essay on Emerson not Thoreau, don’t punish the author.
- In summary, address the essay on its own terms. You can almost always find enough there to critique without having to fault them on everything they haven’t covered.
- Don’t get frustrated. If you are feeling frustrated with the author, it’s probably because you are feeling responsible for fixing the piece. You are not responsible for fixing it. You are responsible for identifying what is not working. If many things are not working about the essay, do not spend time fixing it up. This is the author’s responsibility. If for some reason you feel that the author has got hold of something important and needs help to articulate it, then feel free to spend some extra time, but it should only be out of that impulse. Don’t spend a lot of time on something you think is very poor. I will rarely be helpful to you or the author.
- Be respectful. In the end, it is their work, not yours.
- Focus your review first, second, and third on their argument. Do they have one, is it clear, is it a contribution to the field? Then focus on structure, how does the essay move, what are its sections, are these in correct order with solid transitions. Finally, look at style, how the sentences are constructed and whether they flow.
Steps in the Copyediting Process
Editors have two main tasks: copyediting and proofreading. Copyediting is correcting a manuscript from the author. Proofreading is correcting a print ready document from the publisher. The tasks of the copyeditor are more complicated than those of the proofreader.
Frequently, people without training use the word proofreading to refer to a light edit (correcting only basic errors) and copyediting to refer to a heavy edit (improving a manuscript’s clarity and logic). Although these are not the strict meaning of the terms, as noted above, it is true that proofreading is usually less intensive and takes less skill than copyediting. For instance, many beginners start as proofreaders and only later move on to copyediting.
Copyediting is a set of important, time-consuming, and difficult tasks. Not only must the editor catch every grammar and spelling error and standardize style and documentation, but he or she must also avoid introducing errors or changing the author’s meaning or style. Unlike almost anything else in modern life, no machine can perform this complicated combination of tasks. The software program has not been invented that can make the hundreds of decisions an editor makes every minute (although spell check has been a godsend). For this reason, copyediting will remain a portable and profitable profession for some time to come.
As a demonstration of the difficulties of copyediting, please count aloud how many F’s are in the following sentence (from Fundamentals of Proofreading). Count only once.
FROZEN FOODS ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF REFRIGERATION.
If you said four, you were three too few. Many readers miss the F’s in the “unimportant” of’s. That is because the good reader often is really skimming, working on quick general recognition. The good copyeditor must train her or himself out of this tendency to read for sense and must start to look at each and every letter in the manuscript.
In the past, all manuscripts were copyedited by hand; that is, with paper and pencil. Copyeditors used certain symbols to represent how they thought the manuscript should be changed. If they had any questions for the author, they put these questions on Post-Its folded over the relevant page. The author then reviewed these handwritten changes, accepted or rejected the changes in pen on the copyedited manuscript, and returned it to the editor. Now, copyeditors all work electronically and do not use copyediting symbols at all. The most common copyediting method now is to edit an electronic document in a word processing program like Word. The editor deletes errors and enters changes while leaving the tracking mechanism on. That is, the original document remains intact except that deletions and additions are represented with colors, shades of gray, and/or bubbles. If the editor has any questions for the author, these are put into electronic notes at the relevant place in the document. This document is then sent electronically to the author for review.
Types of Copyediting
Copyediting is not one task but a set of tasks. Some of these tasks are purely objective—one must correct certain kinds of common errors. Such corrections are so standard that the author need not be asked about such changes; the editor may just make them. Others are subjective—one works to improve a manuscript’s clarity and logic while yet retaining the author’s voice and meaning. Such changes are often flagged so that the author can carefully review them. I like to distinguish among these various tasks.
Technical editing involves correcting the matters where there is a strict right and wrong. This includes correcting errors in:
- Spelling (e.g., misspellings of authors’ names, British spellings, typos, missing or misplaced diacritical marks, letters that didn’t scan in properly)
- Verbs (e.g., problems with subject-verb agreement, incorrect verb tense)
- Punctuation (e.g., unnecessary or missing commas, misused semi-colons or colons, misplaced apostrophes in possessives and contractions, unmarked em-dashes and en-dashes)
- Modifiers (e.g., dangling or misplaced modifiers)
- Pronouns (e.g., problems with pronoun-antecedent agreement, unclear antecedents)
- Articles (e.g., misuse of articles by ESL authors)
- Word Choice (e.g., misused words like effect for affect)
- Sentence structure (e.g., split or fused sentences, sentence fragments)
- Parallelism (e.g., faulty attempts at parallel construction)
- Acronyms and Abbreviations (e.g., spelling out on first appearance)
- Mathematics (e.g., figures that don’t total in charts and tables)
- Facts (e.g., incorrect dates)
- Bibliographies (e.g., alphabetical order of authors)
- Miscellaneous (e.g., omitted words or repeated words that are remnants from previous drafts)
Style editing involves standardizing a text according to a particular style. There are four bibles of style: The Chicago Manual of Style (for most academic texts), the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (mostly for the social sciences), the Modern Language Association Style Manual (mostly for literary criticism), and the Associated Press Stylebook (for newspapers). See the following section for some highlights on one of these books, the Chicago Manual of Style. These manuals are used for guidance in matters where there is no right or wrong, but material must appear consistently. This includes standardizing:
- Capitalization (e.g., which words in heads, titles in bibliographies, and proper nouns should be capitalized?)
- Punctuation (e.g., when should you use single or double quote marks, where should you place colons and periods, should you use a serial comma?)
- Numbers (e.g., what numbers should appear as figures (11) or spelled out (eleven) and when?)
- Acronyms and Abbreviations (e.g., should acronyms with or without periods, how do you abbreviate state names?)
- Word division (e.g., which words appear as compound words (postwar), which appear with hyphens (fourteenth-century scholar), and which are open (African American)?)
- Quotations (e.g., how many lines must be quoted before the quote must be set aside in an extract, should a colon or comma appear before an extract)
- Italics (e.g., which titles call for italics and which for quotation marks, when should you use italics for emphasis or foreign words)
- Note numbers (e.g., should they appear indented, superscripted, or with a period?)
- Documentation style (e.g., should you cite sources in text and a works cited list or in footnotes and a bibliography?)
- Bibliographies and References (e.g., where should the date appear, should you use periods or commas to separate parts of the citation, what chronological order should be used within author’s works?)
- Illustrations (e.g., should captions appear with sources or without, what is their placement)
Correlation editing involves checking related parts of the manuscript against each other. This is an extremely important step in academic copyediting and a frequently overlooked one. You will always find errors here, particularly in names and dates, so perform this task carefully. Since novels or newspapers do not have related parts, copyeditors who work in these fields frequently do not learn this copyediting task. But copyeditors of academic articles or books, which have many related parts, must do crosschecks.
For instance, if the author refers the reader to page 56 to view a certain table, the editor must check to make sure that the table does indeed appear on page 56 and not 65 or 156. If the author gives an in-text citation to Hernandez 1987, the editor must check the Works Cited to see if the author’s name is spelled the same way (it could be Hernández or Hernandes) and if the date is the same (it could be 1978 or 1988).
If anything does not match, the editor must notify the author with a query. A query is a Post-It folded over the edge of the relevant page or an electronic Comment in the relevant sentence. You should flag the discrepancy in both places, with a page number reference to the other in each query. That way, it will be easy to return and correct all instances. Sometimes it will be clear which one is correct, and you may go ahead and correct the discrepancy. You should still flag it, however. If it is not clear, you may suggest a correction if one seems clear or ask the author to provide the correction.
Correlation editing includes:
- Checking the numbering of
- any page cross-references in the text (e.g., see below, on page 56 of this book)
- footnote or endnote reference numbers in text (unless electronically generated)
- footnotes or endnotes in the notes (unless electronically generated)
- tables or charts (e.g., is the numbering consecutive, is the numbering separate from the numbering of other illustrations?)
- maps (e.g., is the numbering consecutive, is the numbering separate from the numbering of other illustrations?)
- all other illustrations (e.g., is the numbering consecutive?)
- Checking the content of
- the illustrations against the captions (e.g., do the people mentioned in the caption actually appear in the illustration?)
- the illustrations against the references to them in the text (e.g., do the people mentioned in the text as appearing in the illustration actually appear in the illustration?)
- the list of illustrations against the illustrations (e.g., do the titles in the list match the titles actually below the illustrations?)
- the endnotes or footnotes against the text (e.g., are the note references correctly placed, does the content of the footnotes match the content of the text at the note reference?)
- the subheads against each other (e.g., do they all start with verbs or nouns, are they parallel).
- the running heads against the text (e.g., does the running author head list the actual author of the article, likewise with the title)
- Checking the consistency of (in the author-date documentation style):
- all citations in the text with those in the references (e.g., does the author’s name and the date of the title in the text citation match that listed in the references)
- all citations in the footnotes or endnotes with those in the references (e.g., does the author’s name and the date of the title in the notes match that listed in the references?)
- all citations mentioned in the text are actually listed in the bibliography. all citations mentioned in the bibliography are actually cited in the text. I usually put a check next to each bibliographic entry when it is cited and then query all those unchecked.
- It can also include, if you are editing chapters in a book or articles in a journal, checking:
- the table of contents against the manuscript (e.g., do the titles in the table match the titles actually appearing at the beginning of articles or chapters)
Substantive editing (sometimes called content editing) involves improving logic and clarity and addressing larger problems of structure and organization.
Since substantive editing is much more subjective than the other types of editing, it is often wise to communicate more with the author about your substantive changes. The most common way to communicate is through flags or electronic notes. Flags should appear in the right margin Authors, naturally, are bound up with their work and anything you can do to help them accept needed changes is to both your benefits. Do not use humor; it is bound to be misunderstood in this delicate situation. Never put notes in all caps, use insulting language, or add strings of exclamation marks. Make sure that your queries to the author are considerate and phrased as questions. Diplomacy here is key.
For instance, you can alert the author to a standard change (e.g., “I have changed fireman to firefighter throughout. OK?”) You can indicate that you are suggesting a change not imposing it (e.g., “See my suggestion for a transition sentence”). Some other queries are: Correct date? Paragraph redundant? Delete? Be careful to flag any changes to quotations and extracts, as the original spelling and grammar should be maintained.
Substantive editing includes addressing:
- Verbs (e.g., replacing passive voice with active voice, varying unintentionally repeated verbs)
- Punctuation (e.g., adding dashes or parentheses to clarify subordinate material)
- Modifiers (e.g., reducing strings of adjectives or doublings)
- Pronouns (e.g., replacing indefinite pronouns with clear noun subjects)
- Word Choice (e.g., reducing the use of an author’s pet work or phrase, changing words with racist and sexist connotations, defining special terms on first appearance)
- Sentence structure (e.g., cutting wordy sentences, making parallel ideas appear in parallel forms, straightening out logic and connections, noting awkward phrasing that could be improved)
- Essay structure (e.g., adding transitions to improve the flow of argument, deleting irrelevant material or putting it in the footnotes, moving incorrectly placed paragraphs, deleting repeated paragraphs, providing subheads, noting the absence of a real introduction or conclusion)
- Heads (e.g., lengthening or shortening titles for clarity, noting where title does not match content)
- Logic (e.g., noting where the argument is tangled or absent, where the argument could be made stronger with additional proofs)
- Documentation (e.g., cutting excessively long footnotes, noting citations without sources, suggesting areas for additional citation or research)
- Illustrations (e.g., suggesting additional illustrations)
Layout preparation editing involves marking or coding the manuscript for the layout artist, so that it is clear which parts are heads, tables, footnote references, etc., so they can be prepared for design. It is best to use Microsoft Word’s Style feature to code document electronically. This includes marking or coding
- all heads (and put in upper and lower case, not all capitals).
- the level of all subheads (1, 2, 3 and so on).
- prose extracts and poetry or song extracts.
- all dashes, both en and em.
- all ellipses.
- the placement of tables and illustrations
If the manuscript contains lengthy quotations from a published work that is still under copyright, the copyeditor is expected to remind the author to obtain permission to reprint the quotations. By US copyright law, permission must be asked to reprint any formerly published tables, graphs, maps, or illustrations. Also, authors must ask permission to reprint a significant proportion of any written work. If citing a paragraph from a book-length text (with a reference to the original, of course), authors do not need to ask permission. But, if citing most of an article, authors do need to ask permission because they are reprinting a significant proportion of the work. Special rules pertain to the reproduction of unpublished materials (e.g., diaries, letters).
Authors are responsible for obtaining permission to reprint illustrations or texts from books, journals, or the web, and for paying any royalty fees. It is wise to tell them to start applying for permission to reprint as soon as they send the submission to the journal. Do not publish any article with images for which you do not have written permission to reprint.
The most common copyediting method now is to edit an electronic document in a word processing program like Word with the Track Changes option on. This allows the copyeditor and the author to easily see the changes that have been made to the document through the use of color or bubbles. If the editor has any questions for the author, these are put into electronic notes at the relevant place in the document. This document is then sent electronically to the author for review.
Sometimes the electronic marks are a little more confusing for authors to read. To solve this problem, publishers can send one copy of the document with all the changes incorporated and invisible and another with all the changes visible. The author can compare the two, which makes reviewing a little easier.
Step 1: Preparation
- Gather any required style sheets, correspondences about the manuscript, the editor’s instructions to the author, the reviewer’s reports. Read them for editing information.
- Get out your copy of the appropriate style manual, a dictionary, and a thesaurus.
- Prepare an electronic file for your style sheet; where you will keep track of special words to be capitalized, odd spellings, compound words with or without hyphens.
Step 2: Basic Edits
Since there is some editing that the author need never see, I recommend you do some extremely basic electronic edits before turning on the Track Changes option. Do not be tempted to correct anything else; the author has a right to see more complicated edits.
- Save an original version of the manuscript and work on the copy.
- Make sure that the document has no conversion problems, like long sections in italic or garbage.
- Make sure that the diacritical marks have come through properly. If not, correct them. You can often do this through find and replace.
- If the document is scanned, make sure that all the letters have come through properly. For instance, in scanning, é is often rendered as 6.
- If you are working with a text imported from the body of an e-mail, construct and run a macro to alter font name and size as well as deleting extra paragraph marks.
- Delete all headers and footers.
- Place the beginning of the document in correct order, first the title and then the authors. Delete affiliations and titles.
- Do a spell check. Add all proper nouns to a custom dictionary. Be careful not to replace British spellings in quotations, the original spelling should be maintained. Then check the custom dictionary to make sure that author’s names have not been spelled in different ways in different places. Be sure to check the footnotes and bibliography, as they frequently have spelling errors.
- Delete all double spaces or replace them with tabs where appropriate. Carefully check all extracts for false spacing.
- Make sure heads are in upper and lower case, not all capitals.
- Replace all dashes created with hyphens with real dashes (symbol).
- Replace all ellipses created with periods with real ellipses (symbol).
- Replace hyphens indicating ranges with en-dashes (symbol).
- Replace all straight apostrophes with curly apostrophes and straight quotation marks with curly quotation marks. (Make sure Tools Autocorrect as You Type has “straight quotes to smart quotes” checked before doing find and replace.)
- Make sure that the endnote or footnote references are produced electronically. If they are not, check that the numbers are consecutive. This can be done automatically by performing a Find for superscript.
- Make sure that the bibliography is in alpha order by author and within author from oldest to newest work.
Step 3: Copyediting
Perform technical, style, correlation, substantive, and layout edits.
- Go into on Tools, Track Changes, Highlight Changes, and click Track Changes While Editing. This will make all your changes visible, through color and/or bubbles.
- Run grammar check. Grammar check can be helpful at catching problems with subject-verb agreement, which/that, passive voice, sentence fragments, long sentences, misused words, and accidentally repeated words. Of course, you must also check just with your eye.
- Standardize in text citations using find and replace. For instance, find and replace “, 19” with “ 19”.
- Search for numbers 1 through 9 to make sure they are spelled out where appropriate.
- Replace underline with italics.
- Do a find for all tables or charts to make sure the numbering is consecutive.
- Insert Comments to ask authors to add any missing information, to approve your suggested changes, and to improve sections you cannot.
Step 4: Layout Coding
Layout preparation involves coding the manuscript for the layout artist, so that it is clear which parts are heads, tables, footnote references, etc. so they can be prepared for design.
- Under Tools, attach the correct template to the document.
- Code all text as heads, subheads, body text, indented body text, extracts, footnotes, bibliography, etc. Make sure you get the level of subheads correct. Make sure you do not incorporate extracts into the body, as they are easily lost in the coding process.
Step 5: Wrapping Up
- Provide a running head for the manuscript (an abbreviation of the title that gives the most pertinent information). Do not create and insert a header or footer to do this.
- Clean up and then save your style sheet.
Step 6: Contacting the Author
- Write a cover letter (see below) to the author explaining what you have done and giving reasons, including noting any consistent changes or questions. Instruct the author on their tasks now. Warn them that this is the last time to make changes and give them a date to return the manuscript. Make sure you have the author’s address.
- Prepare the electronic file (in either Word or PDF) in two versions: one with the changes visible (through color) and one with the changes invisible (all incorporated). In the cover letter, instruct the author to read the incorporated version first. If the authors see any problems, they can refer to the version with the changes made visible to check how the manuscript has been changed. Authors should make any corrections by sending them to you by email, making sure to note the page number where the error took place.
- Send the cover letter and the edited manuscript to the author Electronically
- When you get the manuscript back, go into Tools, Track Changes, Accept or Reject Changes, and use dialog box to address changes.
If your authors have not worked with Track Changes, an option for making changes visible in Microsoft Word’s Tools, you will have to give them instructions. Although this kind of electronic copyediting may seem intimidating to authors at first, it can be learned. Since more and more journals are using Track Changes at the copyediting stage, it is a good skill to learn. Here are author instructions:
Print: The first step is to print out a hard copy of the article. Some errors are easier to catch on paper than on the screen. Read the article carefully with an eye for any errors in dates or facts. This is your last chance to make any changes, so make sure that everything in the article is accurate.
Open: Open the electronic document and find the Comments. Comments are electronic notes from the copyeditor questioning text that is not clear or asking for data that is missing. Comments do not appear in the body of your text. They appear at the bottom of the page in a reviewing pane or in balloons along the right hand side of the page. In older versions, if you put your cursor where a Comment has been made, they pop up in little yellow boxes, just like electronic footnotes do. To get into the Comment, you can usually click on it. In earlier versions of Word, you have to place your cursor in yellow highlighted text and over the bracketed initials [cs] or [wb] and click twice to get to the Comments. If you are on a MAC, you may have to right click to get into them. If you do not see the Comments right away, please email the managing editor and she will give you instructions on how to find them.
Comments: Starting at the beginning of the article, respond to each Comment by typing directly into the comment field. If the copyeditor asks you for a date, for instance, type the date at the end of the Comment. If she asks you for the correct spelling of an author’s name, provide it at the end of the Comment. If she has asked for a correction in the text, correct the text and then note that you have done so in the comment. You MUST respond to all Comments in the Comment box, even if it is just to say “okay.” If you are asked to supply missing information, you must provide it.
Text changes: All changes to the text by the copyeditor should appear visibly different. That is, when you open the document you should immediately see some text in a color other than black, most often red but maybe blue or gray on your computer. Text that is in another color has been added by the copyeditor. Text that has been deleted is shown in balloons on the right or at the bottom of the page. In older versions of Microsoft Word, deleted text appears within the document but with a line through it. Review the changes made by the copyeditor. If you agree with the change, and you should agree with most of them, do nothing. I will assume that unmarked edits have been accepted.
Corrections: If you really disagree with a change by the copyeditor, and want the text to remain as you had it originally, or if you want to indicate new wording, select the changed portion with your mouse. Then, pull down the Insert menu and select Comment. Click on this and a Comment Box with your initials will pop up. Type here why you want to reject the edit or want to provide a third alternative. Also, correct any errors you found on your own while reading through the document again. Do this by going to the relevant section and typing the change there. Since Track Changes is turned on, your changes will appear in a different color. Please do not attempt to incorporate the copyeditor’s changes by deleting text or using the Track Changes accept option. We will incorporate all changes here. If you feel that the copyeditor has made some consistent error, please do not correct it but instead insert a Comment and describe what the problem is. (As a note regarding style matters that authors frequently query, Aztlán follows the Chicago Manual of Style in using a down style, that is, in minimizing the use of capital letters, especially in titles of people, regions, fields of inquiry, religious terms, and abbreviated references to organizations and events. We also follow Chicago in only italicizing foreign words on first appearance.
Save: Do not change the document name, but keep the name on the file as it came to you from the copyeditor.
Return: It is extremely important that you review and send the attached document back within one week. If we do not hear back from authors within one week, we reserve the right to accept all of the copyeditor’s changes. If the copyeditor found extensive problems, however, and we do not hear from you about how to solve these problems, failure to respond will delay or even jeopardize publication. We definitely want your review, since authors familiar with their own work are often better at catching certain kinds of errors than a copyeditor.
Example of Electronic Copyediting
Copyediting Marks and Symbols
Chicago Manual of Style tips
Design, Layout, and Printing
Unfortunately, not just books are judged by their covers. Journals are also judged by their attractiveness and the better looking your journal is, the more it will be trusted and bought. Academic journals have a particular challenge in often being very text-based and therefore dense. Making such journals easier to read is not easy.
For this reason, I recommend having a professional graphic designer artist design your journal. It is important, however, to find someone with experience in laying out books. Many graphic designers do not know how to lay out a book or journal, which is quite different from laying out an advertisement, brochure, or magazine. Such inexperienced graphic designers tend to overdesign academic journals—keep it simple.
Some well-designed academic journals I recommend you look at are Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies; Survival: The IISS Quarterly; Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society; and the American Indian Quarterly.
Layout is the process of placing text and images into a desk-top publishing program like Quark or PageMaker. In my experience, many graduate student journals spend more time on laying out their journals then any other stage, partly because they are unfamiliar with the software and it requires training to master
Again, if you have an extra $500, it is worth it to get a layout artist to lay out your journal for you. Not only will they save you time in layout, a good production person can save you expensive mistakes at the printers.
Again, find someone with experience in laying out a book or journal. You will often do better with freelancers who are typesetters or book producers than with graphic designers.
A freelance designer and layout artist whom I recommend highly is William Morosi at firstname.lastname@example.org, a graphic designer with long experience in designing and laying out academic journals, briefs, newsletters and so on. I have worked with him for a number of years and have always found him to have remarkable integrity and punctuality, as well as extremely fair rates.
It is very important to receive all illustrations (photos, maps, cartoons, etc.) in good shape. Unfortunately, although many people know how to scan images, few know how to scan them properly for print production.
The author should be held responsible for submitting artwork of professional quality. Poor scans, snapshots, photographs shot from books, or photocopied reproductions should not be accepted for publication. If the author is sending digital files, the original should be scanned as TIF files, at 300 DPI, grayscale, with auto contrast on, and at 100 percent, unless the original has very large dimensions.
Do not allow authors to insert any electronic images directly into the text document itself. Instead, have them send the images by email separately or by post on a Zip disk. Tell authors to note where in the text the illustration should appear and to label each image clearly on the reverse with the figure number, the author’s name, the artist’s name, the work’s title, the work’s date, and any credits or permissions. If the top of the image is unclear, have them indicate “top” at the appropriate edge. Images should be returned to authors after publication.
Always include captions for all photographs and artwork. This should include the illustration’s creator, title, the date, and any credits or permissions. Unless the image is an artwork, provide an explanation of the illustration as well (e.g., Fig. 6. Community garden preparation. La Cosecha Nuestra community, Escondido, California (2003). Photography by John Caldwell.).
It is very easy to pay too much for printing. If your journal is book-like, as many academic journals are, you must go to a printer with familiarity and skill in printing books. If you go to anyone else, they will not have the economies of scale to charge you a good rate.
Distribution, Marketing, and Subscription Management
Gaining and keeping subscriptions is the most difficult task for any journal and particularly for graduate student journals, which have high turnover rates. The only way a journal ever gets substantial subscriptions is by coming out on time.
An easy way to advertise your journal is to do exchange ads. Almost anyone will do this with you and it costs you nothing. The other is to have an e-mail listserv and have a good web page. Don’t pay anyone to place an advertisement for you; it isn’t worth it.
If you are going to run subscriptions yourself, you must maintain a database of subscribers. Then, you must send them renewal notices every year.
If you have substantial subscriptions, remember that printers can often send the journal directly to the subscribers from the plant.
It can sometimes pay to join the ranks of people annoying us with junk mail. You can buy mailing labels from such companies as Library Marketing (www.librarymarketinglist.com) which will send you already printed labels of all major libraries. Libraries are often journals main subscribers.
If you want to see some marketing materials, see the Aztlán brochure or our website at www.chicano.ucla.edu/press
Recommended Production Texts and Sites
Gary M. Smith. 1999. The Peer-Reviewed Journal: A Comprehensive Guide Through the Editorial Process: Includes Forms, Letters, & Faxes. Chatgris Press.
American Psychological Association. 2001. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Gibaldi, Joseph. 2003. MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. 6th ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America.
University of Chicago Press. 2003. The Chicago Manual of Style. 15th ed. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
Tools and Resources for Online Journal Editing & Publishing
The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition
Advice on Journal Publishing
List of Copyediting Websites
List of Good Freelance Copyeditors and Graphic Designers
List of Cheap Printers
Academic Journal Content
Introduction to Content
The second section of this workbook is devoted to content. That is, the task of reviewing and selecting articles to be published. This process starts as soon as a manuscript is submitted to your journal. Academic journals have a rigorous and time-consuming process for selecting content, which is called peer review.
The peer review process consists of notifying authors of the receipt of their submission, reviewing each submission for general suitability, selecting appropriate reviewers for each submission, asking potential reviewers if available to review, sending manuscripts to reviewers, nagging reviewers to return comments, collating reviewers’ recommendations, making final decision about acceptance or rejection, writing a cover letter to authors notifying them of this decision and making recommendations for revision, and reviewing revisions when they are returned.
An important part of a good peer review is tracking each submission through every stage of this complicated process. Only if you record and file all correspondence regarding the submission can you be sure that you are dealing with authors fairly.
Another process is the copyright process, that is, sending authors a copyright agreement and filing the returned agreements in a safe, easy-to-find place. The agreement is usually sent to the authors along with their copyedited manuscript.
Your Mandate and Format
If you are starting a journal or reviving a journal or just trying to better manage your journal, it is best to write down the mandate and organization of the journal. What are your editors jobs and relationships to each other, is your journal peer-reviewed, how frequently does it comes out: these are just some of the questions you must address. The following is a worksheet to help you do this.
Journal Information Worksheet
Journal Title: ______________________________________________________________________
Managing Editor: ___________________________________________________________________
Book Review Editor: ____________________________________________________________
Editorial Board members: ____________________________________________________________
E-mail, phone, web ____________________________________________________________
Journal is peer-reviewed? Yes No
Languages? English Spanish Other______________________
Copyright policy? UC author
Frequency of publication: 4/year 3/year 2/year other _______________
Illustrations type and color: ___________________________________________________________
Endnotes or footnotes? ____________________________________________________________
Contributors: Frequently UCLA students Frequently outsiders
Circulation: < 50 100 200 other ______
Preferred ms length: ___________________________________________________________
Journal style manual: ___________________________________________________________
Journal content: __________________________________________________________________
Journal sections: __________________________________________________________________
Technical details of submission:
Number of copies to submit 1 2 3 5
Submit electronic version? Yes No
SASE? Yes No
E-mail submission OK? Yes No
How editor prefers to communicate e-mail letter phone
The person responsible for the content of the journal is usually called the Editor, but sometimes the Editor-in-Chief. The person responsible for the production of the journal is the Managing Editor or Executive Editor. People responsible for helping either the Editor or the Managing Editor are called Associate Editors, Assistant Editors, and Editorial Assistants, in that order of heirachy. Other possible positions at a journal are Book Review Editor, Copyeditor (if only one person does this), Peer Review Coordinator, Subscription Manager, and so on.
The people responsible for reviewing submissions and giving anonymous written critiques to the authors make up the editorial board. They are usually people with expertise in the journal’s field.
Editorial Process Summarized
Before addressing content management, let us review an ideal editorial process at a peer reviewed journal.
All research articles should go through an anonymous peer review process to aid authors in developing their ideas and to ensure the quality of the scholarship in the journal. During this process, authors should not be informed of the identity of those reviewing their work and referees should not be informed of the authors’ identity. Of course, if the article is eventually published, the referees will find out the identity of the author, but only the editor and the peer review coordinator should ever know who the referees are.
Upon receiving the initial submission, the peer review coordinator sends an email acknowledging receipt to the authors. The journal editor reviews the article to see if it meets minimum criteria for care, scholarliness, and topic suitability. If it does not, the editor notifies the author by email with a brief explanation. If it does meet minimum criteria, the peer review coordinator notifies the author by email that the article has met certain basic requirements and will now be sent to peer reviewers.
The editor then selects at least two specialist readers, one of whom is usually a member of the editorial board. These readers, or referees, are chosen for their knowledge in the relevant field and should be asked first if they have the time and interest to review an article for your journal. Should the answer be yes, the submission is posted to the reviewers, who may disqualify themselves at that time if they discover any conflicts of interest that could bias their opinions of the manuscript. Referees are asked to return a written report within one month of receipt of the article. In the report, they comment on whether the article is clear, relevant, well-referenced, and well-argued, and make suggestions for improvement. They also recommend whether the article should be published as is, with suggested revisions, or should not be published.
After reading the reports, the editor or editorial board makes the final decision about publication. This decision is based on the quality of the manuscript, reviewers’ recommendations, and the number of manuscripts already accepted. The editor then sends a letter by email to the author with the referee comments attached. In the letter, the editor explains the reasons for the decision either for or against the submission. It is not always easy for an author to know how to revise an essay in response to the reviewers. Sometimes the reviewers are in conflict; sometimes the author disagrees with the reviewers. Thus, we recommend that editors explain in a cover letter how to deal with the contradictory reports. If the manuscript needs improvements, these are detailed. Almost all articles accepted for publication require some rewriting.
It is extremely important to be very clear with authors about your editorial response to their articles. Many a blunder has been made in communicating this information to authors, often to the detriment of both the author and the journal. There are six basic responses, listed below from the most favorable to the least. Be sure to tell authors clearly what category their article falls into.
Accept. Most journals almost never stamp articles as pure accepts. They almost always find a few things they think should be changed. I can’t remember the last time an article was “accepted as is” at our journal.
Revise minor and resubmit. You accept the article conditionally pending minor revisions. That is, if the author makes the minor revisions the editor and the reviewers have specified, you will publish the article. When the revised manuscript is returned, only the editor reviews it to make sure the changes have been made. Peer reviewers do not see the manuscript again.
Revise major and resubmit. You accept the article conditionally pending major revisions. That is, if the author makes the major revisions the editor and the reviewers have specified, you will publish the article. When the revised manuscript is returned, the manuscript must go through the peer review process again. It is a good idea to send the revision to the same reviewers if possible.
Reject and resubmit. You reject the article but suggest that if the article were revised as specified by the editor and the reviewers it would have a significantly improved chance of acceptance. In other words, this decision is almost exactly the same as in category number 3. What’s the difference? If you are confident that the author is willing and able to pull off a major revision, give the author a revise major and resubmit notice. If you are not confident that the author will be willing or able to pull off a major revision, give the author a reject and resubmit notice. This choice protects the journal a bit more. It is also a clearer signal to the author that you perceive significant problems with the manuscript.
Reject and redirect. You reject the article, but suggest another journal that might welcome it. This category is reserved for articles that are not suitable for your journal because of length, topic, approach, or genre. This is a nice rejection to give if you feel the piece was strong but not quite right for your journal.
Reject outright. You reject the article and wish the author best luck with it. This is for articles you feel have no redeeming value.
The editor can suggest a deadline for the revision. Once the revision is submitted, the editor should decide whether to approve the article for publication or to send it to one or both of the original reviewers for their follow-up evaluation and approval. If it is believed that the paper needs still more work before publication, it should be returned to the author with referees’ comments and an editor’s letter.
It is best to attempt to return decisions in no longer than six months and to publish within twelve months. The editor should not reveal any information about submissions (including their receipt, their content, their status in the reviewing process, their criticism by reviewers, or their ultimate fate) to anyone other than the author. Reviewers should be told that submissions sent to them for review are privileged communications and the private property of the authors that should not be publicly discussed or appropriated. Reviewers should be prohibited from making copies of the manuscript for their files or from keeping copies of rejected manuscripts.
Once a paper has been approved for publication, and the author has resubmitted it with all corrections, it goes through a set production process. First, a copyeditor with knowledge of the field should edit it electronically. This corrected manuscript should then be sent to the author for review. Authors should have one week to review the changes and suggest any alterations. Once the article is returned, the managing editor enters all the changes and the typesetter lays the article out in a desktop publishing program. Second, electronic versions of the typeset, edited version of the article, now called proofs or galleys should be sent to the author for final inspection and approval. After the journal is printed, you should file the original submission with the author-approved copyedit and proofs. These should be kept for one year.
Peer Review Coordination
It is vital that you run a confidential, timely, and polite peer review process. Nothing will make authors less likely to submit to your journal then to take forever in responding to them or suggesting that their work is not being protected. Be sure to file submissions in a safe place, to keep careful track of various versions of the same article, and to record authors’ email addresses correctly and contact them regularly. You can use the Journal Submission Log worksheet to keep track of submissions and their stage.
Editorial Board Process
Many graduate student journals run their peer review process by handing out each submission to three board members, having them read it, and then holding a meeting to discuss each article. You can use the Peer Review of Submissions worksheet and Typical Reasons Reviewers Reject Articles to aid this disucssion.
Journal Submission Log
|Date MS. Received|
|Date Receipt Acknowledged|
|Date Editor Reviewed MS.|
|Ms. to Peer Review?||Yes No|
|Date to Reviewer|
|Date Reviewer Returned|
|Date to Reviewer|
|Date Reviewer Returned|
|Date to Reviewer|
|Date Reviewer Returned|
|Date Author Notified of Status|
|Date Author Returns Revision|
|Date Receipt Acknowledged|
|Date Editor Reviewed Revision|
|Ms. to Peer Review Again?||Yes No|
|Date to Reviewer|
|Date Reviewer Returned|
|Date to Reviewer|
|Date Reviewer Returned|
|Date to Reviewer|
|Date Reviewer Returned|
|Date Author Notified of Status|
|Date Ms. to Copyeditor|
|Date Copyedit Returns|
|Date Copyedit to Author|
|Date Copyedit Returns|
|Date Proofs to Author|
|Date Proofs Return|
Peer Review of Submissions
- Is the article scholarly?
- Does it use discipline-related expertise? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Does it reference debates in the field? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Does it break new ground; is it innovative (new or improved evidence, methodology, analysis, theories)? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Does it have significance or impact? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Does it have many potential readers? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Is it well-researched?
- Is it timely? Have others replaced or gone beyond the research? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Has the article cited relevant sources? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Is it adequately documented? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Does the evidence support the thesis? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Is it well-written?
- Is the thesis clearly, convincingly argued? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Are the sentences clear and succinct? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Is the structure coherent? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Is the length appropriate to the topic? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Is it sound?
- Is the research design sound? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Is the methodology sound? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Are the results strong? YES NO UNSURE N/A
- Is the conceptual background sound? YES NO UNSURE N/A
Typical Reasons Why Reviewers Reject Articles
- Inappropriate topic for journal
- Inappropriate length for journal
- No argument
- Not sufficiently original
- Not significant
- Not scholarly
- Poorly structured
- Limited purpose and audience,
- Weak or wrong conceptual background, design, procedures, or results
- Defensive, excessive quotations and documentation
- Too narrow or too broad.
- Too many misspellings and grammatical errors.
- Too dogmatic, not well argued
It is very important that you get signed copyright agreements from all your contributors. Although academics are unlikely to sue you for misusing their materials, there are many reasons to have everything squared away legally. For instance, if the journal should be successful and someone wants to buy the journal and put the back issues on-line, you will need to have signed copyright agreements from all the contributors before this deal can go through. Save time later by doing this right now.
The best thing you can do for your journal is get your contributors to sign over all the rights in their essay. Although this sounds draconian, it protects the journal best and ensures that the article will be as widely disseminated as possible. Since academics are not used to retaining the rights to their work, they usually don’t complain.
Having a statement in the front matter of your journal stating that “on acceptance of a paper for publication it becomes the copyright of the journal” is a good idea but not sufficient.
Authors should be told that manuscripts are considered with the understanding that they have not been published previously in either print or electronic format and are not under consideration by another publication or electronic medium. If authors have published a manuscript with the same title, with the same opening paragraph, and/or with 25 percent or more of the same content, consider this a previous publication.
Examples of Copyright Agreements