Publishing Articles

Suggested Reading:

MLA Directory of Periodicals: A Guide to Journals and Series in Languages and Literatures (MLA)

Handbook for Academic Authors (Cambridge UP) (chapters on journal articles, revising a dissertation, etc.)

The Academic’s Handbook (Duke UP) (chapters on important topics from publishing to job seeking)


-publish or perish?—publications are a measure of research activity; important in developing a scholarly profile

-you will be expected to publish and will be assessed on the results for hiring, tenure, promotion

-dangers of rushing into print–living with the longevity of published work

-explosion of publishing: it’s easier to publish articles and harder to get the first book published

-collections of essays are less “safe” for beginning publishers (they are not always contracted when the call for papers goes out; they take a long time to get into print)

-peer-reviewed journals are safest

Types of Journals:

-peer-reviewed journals are always preferable to non-peer-reviewed (check website)

-print and electronic have equal weight, if peer-reviewed

-generalist–often organs of professional associations

–e.g. PMLA (MLA)

-specialist–by period, author, genre, theoretical bent

-dissertation research will likely show you which are the important ones in your area;  consult with supervisor or someone in the field, if in doubt about appropriateness of paper to journal.

Selection Procedures:

-the journals you should apply to are “peer-reviewed”–i.e., assessed by experts

-blind-vetting (or anonymous submission) vs. named authorship

-assessors may or may not identify themselves

-written evaluations are usually passed on to author

-decision to publish or not rests with editor, and occasionally with an editorial board (PMLA)

-some journals have higher acceptance rates than others

-most difficult to get into are (1) the “closed shops” (talk to those working in the field; these are “in-group” efforts) (2) those that are most popular.

-read the journal’s definition of its aims and interests (usually printed in front or back of each issue or on-line) before submitting: be sure your paper is appropriate for that particular journal and is thus in the running for selection

How to Submit an Article for Consideration:

-be sure it IS an article, and not an un-revised course paper or dissertation chapter: it must read as a coherent unit on its own; it must have a “thesis”; it must be “contextualized” in the scholarship of the field; it must justify its existence (that is, it must explain why the issue or topic is important) without the context of the dissertation or the graduate seminar from which it may have sprung

-be certain that the scholarly underpinnings are solid and up to date (this is usually checked first by any reviewer); never stint on this end of things and never be cavalier about references

-if the original version of this article was written for oral delivery (conference paper, class presentation), be sure that the inevitably greater looseness of oral style and organization has been tightened up and that the tone is appropriate for written presentation

-check that the argument is as lucid and intelligible as it can be and that all technical terms are defined or clear in context

-select a journal that is appropriate to the subject, critical perspective, style of your article; specialist and generalist journals have different audiences and, therefore, different demands

-be careful that it is in the correct format for the journal selected  (PMLA format; Chicago Manual, etc.)

-proof-read carefully; double-check all references and citations

-never send anything that you think might not stand up to the most minute scrutiny by experts in the field; you don’t want to be embarrassed in the future by readers’ or editors’ memories of you in this context

-when ready, aim high: send to the best journal in the field, if appropriate.

-submit to only one journal at a time; no multiple submissions

-send a brief covering letter with the article (or with multiple copies–check each journal’s requirements)

-send stamped self-addressed envelope (or international postal reply coupons) for return of manuscript, if hard copy is required

-wait, seemingly forever, patiently: expert readers are usually busy people and often read for many journals; some are simply slow

-pray, if so inclined

-possible responses from the journal:

-accept without revisions (rare)–rejoice

*-accept with revisions (style, argument, etc.)–OK

*-revise and resubmit according to readers’ suggestions–OK–and MAKE the


-reject–don’t get discouraged: it happens to us all, often

-revise (if helpful readers’ reports exist)

-submit elsewhere (if no reports; if you honestly disagree with evaluations; if

journal was inappropriate for the approach or content of your article, etc.)

* = in both cases, you definitely should revise if encouraged to do so by the journal. Almost always, articles are better for the reworking and you get to benefit from the advice of experts in the field.  It is also my experience that readers (when asked to reread revised papers) feel they have a lot of “investment” in the changes (which they see as improvements, of course) and so tend to recommend publication in the end.  Occasionally either revision would mean writing another, utterly different paper or the particular suggestions go against what you feel the paper is doing.  In such cases, while avoiding being defensive, you can argue your point and defend not revising.  Whatever you do, don’t give up if the journal has shown any interest at all: your chances of acceptance are greater there than trying anew.

-two major irritants:

-even once accepted, an article can take 1-3 years to get into print; journal backlogs are often vast.  (This is why it is important to start early to think about publishing.  Once an article is being considered for publication by a journal, it can go on your c.v. in that category; once it is accepted, it can also be noted as such.)

-silence: after 3 months or so, a polite inquiry email asking about the submission’s status is not out of order; after 6 months, tell them you’d like to send it elsewhere if they aren’t interested (await their reply, and then submit elsewhere, if necessary).

Publishing the Dissertation as Articles:

-if you intend to publish it as a book too, be careful how much you publish in article form: some publishers are wary of pre-published material (and granting agencies draw the limit at 40%); conference papers are fine, though

-some dissertations are best published as a series of articles and not as a book at all

-in this case, follow the suggestions on publishing in journals (above)

Linda Hutcheon