try an alternative

Try an alternative

This time we are taking another look at what is involved in communicating about your manuscript to a journal. You might remember that I have written about getting published in high impact journals and turning your thesis into journal articles. Rather than submitting the whole manuscript, what about sending an introductory email? This might be a worthwhile step if you are looking to try an alternative to what you have already been doing.

Many times I have been approached for advice following a review process and it is pretty clear that some reviewers spend more time engaging wholeheartedly with the spirit of the research than others. In fact, some seem to miss the point of the research and expect it to have been about something else entirely. This disappointment can then translate into the attitude that the paper is not worth publishing, at least “not in its present form”. 

The policy of most journals is that if there are only two reviewers and one rejects the paper and the other does not, then the paper is rejected. In any case, don’t be disheartened if this happens to you. There might be some valid reasons (and some quite invalid ones) among the feedback. There is always the chance of publishing elsewhere once you have taken another look at how you have presented the research and addressed some of the points in the review comments.

There are also some common misconceptions about what reviewers do. They do not necessarily arrive at a consensus, though they may raise some similar points where your paper can be improved. They do not necessarily even offer constructive criticism, although this is what they are supposed to do. So if you find some comments which you do not see as constructive, you might just consider ignoring them. However if, for example, one reviewer states your paper “lacks focus” or “moves off topic” (not so constructive), it might be a good idea to look at what positive suggestions have been made by any of the reviewers to explain your topic and its impact. Check that you have introduced the theme and followed through in a consistent way, even if this seems a bit repetitive.

Usually reviewers are given some kind of criteria-based scoring tool which they work through when giving comments. They look at the significance of the research, its overall quality (literature review, methodology and reporting). Do the results give enough grounds for the conclusions you draw? If you have applied some theory, have you done this adequately? They also look at how the research is presented and whether the parts fit together well. Have you made any implications for practice and do these seem justified?

While opinions differ, Jalongo and Saracho (2016) suggest that instead of sending the whole manuscript once you have completed it, as a first step you could send an email of enquiry. They state that this should be concise and cover the following points:

• a descriptive title for a completed manuscript

• a short explanation of its purpose (taken from one of your early paragraphs)

• some reason why you think the paper fits with the publication and its audience

• a statement that the manuscript is not currently under review with any other publisher

• a confirmation that this is your original work

I have written about open access elsewhere in this series. Is it worth publishing on an open access platform? There are different versions of what open access actually means. In many cases, if you do not belong to an institution which pays for your publication to be open access, you may be asked to pay so that others can read it for free. Sometimes the fees can amount to as much as US $1,000. This is definitely worth avoiding. One place to start looking if you want to avoid predatory publisher is Beall’s list. This list is, of course, controversial and I mention here just as a rough guide. So while so many of us are staying at home rather more than we would like to, this could be a good time to send out some ideas to publishers about what you have been working on, to test the water.