What Editors look for

The first thing an editor will check for is that you (the author) have followed the instructions for Authors and the Submission Guidelines. There is no room for manoeuvre here, you must comply with these in order to be considered for publication. Make sure your submission matches the aims and scope of the target journal. A good indicator of the appropriate journal for your manuscript would be the sources of the literature cited.

Editors in general look for clarity of expression and appropriate style, but academic journal editors can be especially watchful.  Business models are rapidly changing, and scholarly publishers are acutely aware that viability depends upon the retention of readers and, in many cases, the probability of citations to drive up impact factor. 

Reliable content is, of course, crucial to a journal’s reputation and is gauged by the peer review process.  But first impressions are important.  The written quality of a submission can suggest the reliability of its content.  Carefully constructed text suggests to an editor that an article has been well conceived and warrants review.  The reviewer’s work is made more agreeable by ease of reading.  Finally, when an accepted article requires little copyediting, the path toward publication is smooth and rewarding for all concerned. 

Astute researchers will draft their submissions carefully.  Precision is a priority in scholarly writing because it is a requirement of scholarly reading.  So a working knowledge of the principles of grammar, syntax, and punctuation can be a definite asset.  Standard prose depends upon the observance of convention, and copy editors at many academic journals, especially ones managed from within universities, can be in short supply.  So authors should have carefully composed and proof read their work prior to submission.  Online resources for improving grammatical and syntactical accuracy are widely available.

Most journals, whether run by universities or publishing houses, will expect adherence to a style sheet.  The Chicago Manual of Style, The Harvard Referencing System, and the Modern Language Association Handbook, for example, are staples in some fields. 

Journal editors can request particular fonts, paragraph indicators, or header formats in keeping with adopted house practice.   Conformity inspires confidence.    

A detached, even tone is the norm in most academic journals.  It can be best achieved through limited self-reference (i.e. limited use of the pronoun ‘I’) and regular use of the active rather than the passive voice. 

Structurally, most journal articles include abstracts, a list of key words, introductions, and conclusions.  These will likely be the first sections editors read when considering whether to send an item out for review.  Imitation is recommended, with the current issue of any journal offering the most up-to-date examples. 

Editors may also look for a bibliography containing recently published references.   The incorporation of earlier findings, data, or insights indicates due diligence.  Certainly, strength of argument or of empirical assertions can depend upon prior research adequately detailed.  Proper attribution in the foot notes or endnotes is essential.

The title of an article is its encapsulation.  A great many journal articles have subtitles too.  Editors appreciate a clear summary of substance.  Authors may begin with a working title and arrive at a revised one.  This is research as it should be.  For it is the intellectual journey in between that makes academic publishing so vital for us all. 

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