This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar, on advice for getting published in an academic publication, like a peer-review venue-specific journal.

With the semester in full swing, I (like you) have been actively engaged in writing for publication. There’s an increased emphasis in higher education on publishing in well-respected peer-review venue-specific journals, so journals have seen a continuous increase of submitted manuscripts. 

While I, and many others before me, have talked about the technical aspect of writing for publication venues, I believe it is valuable to give you some insight from the editor’s perspective on the publishing process. Thus, as the current editor of the Journal of African American Males in Education—a journal devoted to advancing scholarship and practice on African American males in education—I would like to put my editor’s hat on for this piece and provide some insights for you on how to work with editors in getting your research published.

Review the aims and scope of journal before submission

Since most journals have an online submission process, information about each journal is readily available to you as an author. Thus, before you submit your paper to a journal, I would advise you to read the aims and scope of the journal to make sure your paper is a fit. This may seem like simple and self-explanatory advice, but given my experience as an editor of a journal that specifically focuses on Black males in education, you would be surprised at how many submissions we receive that do not exclusively focus on that topic. 

My advice here is that when in doubt, ask a trusted colleague in your discipline, and if for some reason you do not have that network, reach out to the editor to make sure your paper is the right topic for the journal. There is no need to waste your time or the time of the editor on a manuscript that is not the right fit. 

Put together a high-quality paper to limit desk rejects

At this point in time, you have reviewed the aims and scope of the journals and you’ve found one that is a fit. Now, it is critical that you put together a high-quality paper. To speed up the process for papers that are on-topic, journal editors will look to “desk reject” articles quickly that are not high quality (even though they will not tell you this). My goal is for you to never experience this!

I have received many papers over the years, in particular from graduate students, who in many cases were told by their professors that they should submit their paper for publication. However, in many of these instances, papers written for the class were not assigned with the intention to be published. If possible, I would advise graduate students to consult with their professor about ways to ensure their paper is ready for publication in a specific venue. 

Speaking as an editor, journals can get inundated with these types of “class written” papers and with papers from established writers who quickly threw together an article. Rushed papers or those written for the wrong reasons can cause a bottleneck during the review process. 

As I tell writers who I work with via my Done Dissertation Coaching Program, the goal when submitting your journal article is to put together a high-quality paper that can at least survive the review process (even if eventually rejected). Having feedback on your work gets you one step closer to your paper getting published.

The imbalance of submissions versus reviewers with niche expertise

While browsing Twitter, I have seen several threads that have shared unfortunate horror stories of a journal review process taking 2 years. I have experienced this first hand in my career. As an editor, the wait time between submission and publication is somewhat complicated. 

In particular, there can often be an imbalance of submissions versus reviewers, especially those with the time and expertise (content and methodological) to review papers. There have been several instances where I could not find a reviewer who had expertise on a particular methodology to review a paper, which dramatically slows down the publishing process. Additionally, editors can get reviews back that are not helpful to the author, and so we may send the paper back out for another review, which can slow things down again. 

I hope that editors are upfront about with you about this process if you send an email asking on your article status. If they are not forthcoming, know that the delay in the process is not a personal issue with you, but an unfortunate reality of the publication process, relying on the free labor of reviewers. 

Getting angry with the editor never works

Editors, like authors, want to have successful and smooth publication processes. Given the issues that impact the publication process noted above, we certainly understand your frustration when an article you need published in this venue for tenure and promotion is significantly delayed. However, there is a diplomatic way to go about inquiring about the status of your manuscript. And more importantly, if you want your piece to be published, it is in your best interest to be polite to an editor. 

So what should you do? I suggest that after you send an inquiry to the editor about your manuscript and receive a response, you can then determine if you would like to continue the submission process with the journal. If you decide to remove your manuscript from consideration, send a cordial email to the editor letting them know you have decided to move your paper to another publication. Again, this is certainly not personal against an editor and they will certainly understand your decision.

For the readers that are journal editors, what other advice would you have for authors who submit their work to your journal? For the readers who have written for publication, what advice would you give to authors on working with editors? Feel free to share your thoughts with me via Twitter!

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. Dr. Goings is also the founder of The Done Dissertation Coaching Program which provides individual and group dissertation coaching for doctoral students. For more information about Dr. Goings’ research please visit his website and follow him on Twitter (@ramongoings) and for more information about The Done Dissertation Coaching Program visit