Which Journal to Submit to?

One part of being an academic is (trying to) publish research in peer-reviewed journals (well, most do…). There are literally thousands of journals, so which one should we choose? There are different ways to approach this problem, but I’m afraid no easy answers.

Apparently there are scholars who undertake research with a particular journal in mind: the research design and writing process is geared towards this journal. This sounds great, but actually just shifts the problem. Moreover, what do you do when the targeted journal rejects the article?

An easier way is to look at your references. Which journals do you cite most often? Which debates do you relate to? I find this one of the most useful approaches, although one problem is that even simple and unexciting papers often refer to papers in top journals. The challenge is to distinguish between “referring to” a paper, and “engaging with” a paper or debate.

Perhaps easier still is asking a senior colleague in the field. This only works if you know what the contribution of the paper is (or what you want it to be), which usually means having a good abstract in hand. Knowledge of journals comes from reading these journals, but also from having submitted papers to journal. Sites like SciRev, laudable as they are by letting us review journals and the submission process, are, however, no substitute to knowledge of the field. And remember, apparently even the most seasoned academics sometimes get it wrong…

Rejected from a conference?

Rejections are a basic part of academic life, but being rejected from a conference (book project, special issue) can be particularly frustrating, especially if it wasn’t a top-notch conference. It might have been that your abstract wasn’t written well. Panel organizers at most conferences receive (many) more submissions than they accommodate, and often the abstract is the basis for a selection. It might have been that you misjudged or undersold the paper. In this case, the paper is unlikely to be rejected many times if you just submit it elsewhere.

Often, however, the reason papers are rejected from conferences is that they don’t quite fit. It can even happen that a paper fits quite well with the conference theme or the call for papers, but there is a set of paper that speak to each other in a way that creates coherence. It can happen that a paper is outstanding, but is the only one focusing on a particular aspect, while others focus on a different aspect. (These are the most difficult papers to reject.)

What do we take away from this? Just like with journal articles, a single rejection doesn’t tell you much about the quality of the paper. There might have been other reasons. Consistent rejections, however, are a cause of concern…