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Submitting an Article to an Academic Journal, Part One

Posted May 9th, 2015

So you’ve decided your work is ready for public scrutiny, but you’d like some insight into the peer review and publication process before submitting your article to your journal of choice. Until you have gone through the process or you know someone who can walk you through it, pushing the send button can feel like throwing your work into a black hole. The following information will help keep you grounded during the process.

First thing’s first: each journal has its own style guide for text and document formatting that will likely cover everything from font size and margin width to citation style. If the individual journal does not have a style guide, the journal’s publisher probably does. Locate it and follow it as closely as possible. Investing the time now to ensure that your article conforms to style requirements will save you work later and the journal’s editor(s) will thank you! I can tell you from personal experience that receiving an article from an author who has ignored the style guide is incredibly frustrating. If the citations are improperly formatted you will most likely be asked to redo them after your article has been accepted, so cultivate goodwill and show off your professionalism by polishing them up ahead of time!

Once your article is formatted correctly, prepare to submit it following the directions provided by the journal. This process involves creating a version of your document from which you have removed any references to yourself to facilitate the double-blind peer review process. Make sure to check the body of the article, the footnotes or endnotes, and any other material you have been asked to include, like an abstract or cover sheet. The version of your article from which references to yourself have been removed will be sent out to reviewers, ensuring that they cannot determine your identity.

Once you have submitted your article, the editor will read it to verify that your work fits within the scope of the journal. If the editor determines that your article is not a good fit, you will be notified that it has been rejected/returned. The editor will likely provide suggestions of other journals that would be a better match for your work.

If the editor finds that the subject of your article fits within the scope of the journal, she will begin contacting potential reviewers. Depending on the topic of your work, how specialized it is, and how many other scholars are engaged in the same area of study, it may be easy to locate reviewers, or it may be difficult. An editor may have to query several reviewers before enough people agree to look at your article (generally the editor will require two to four reviews). Ideally, reviewers will be located quickly and they will send their reviews to the editor on time. In this case, you can expect to wait approximately three months for the reviewers’ reports and the editor’s decision. Unfortunately, if the editor has had little luck locating reviewers with the time or expertise to read your article, this stage may take longer, but it is not a reflection on your work. When they arrive, the reviewers’ reports will include a critique of your work with suggestions for improvements and edits. Crucially, the reports will also include each reviewer’s recommendation to the editor about the readiness of your work for publication.

The editor may then:

  • Accept your article for publication- Congratulations! This doesn’t happen very often.
  • Accept your article with conditions- Congratulations! This also doesn’t happen very often. Some minor changes must be made before a full acceptance can be offered.
  • Offer you a chance to revise and resubmit your article- This is a very common response and indicates that although your work is not ready for publication, the editor is interested in it. You may also find this response termed a rejection with an invitation to resubmit.
  • Reject your article- Your article may be rejected/returned for many reasons, which the editor will explain. Submitting to another journal is an option.


Stay tuned for the second part of this guide!

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