From the editor's desk (Tanya Fitzgerald)

juggling 35 papers and articles while writing my lit. review
(Photo by Soren Mork Petersen |
Do you have an idea for a paper, a thesis chapter that you want wish to revise for a journal article, or have a paper completed that you now would like to have published?

This post helps you think about which journal to choose and what responsibilities you, as an author, might have. I'm not addressing the intellectual content of your paper, but providing insight into the mechanics of getting papers to the right journals and the often hidden ‘rules of the game’.

Why publish a journal article?

It’s important to publish your work; to get your ideas into the public domain and contribute to the intellectual conversations in your field or discipline.

Journals are useful outlets for your work; you will receive peer review on your manuscript that will enhance the quality of your work, journals have a wide international readership and are widely distributed across academic libraries, and the public dissemination of your work is important for the intellectual development of the field.

Getting published is a way for other like-minded people to know that you too are working in the field. Some of my published work has led to invitations for collaborations from across the world.

Where to publish?

It’s important to ask for advice from your supervisors and senior staff. Have a look, too. at where those authors you cite are publishing their work. That will give you some insight into the relevant journals in the field.

Spend time thinking about where your paper might have the greatest impact academically in terms of the readership as well as geographically. Editors generally expect authors to have targeted their journal for a reason so direct your paper to a journal that might be reasonably interested in publishing your work.

Journals do vary widely and each has their own set of aims and objectives. Look at recent issues of relevant journals (either paper copy or online). Start with scanning the inside cover and locate the journal's remit. Does this remit speak to your work? Who is on the editorial board? This can tell you about the scholarly field.

Now turn to the Table of Contents (present and past). Look at what has already been published. What debates or issues are in the journal? What is the tone or style of the papers? What conventions (format, length, terminology, referencing) are followed? Does the journal publish new scholars as well as established ones? Is there a niche or special interest journal in your field to target rather than a generic journal?

ALWAYS follow the ‘Instructions for Authors’ (see inside back cover of journal).

ONLY submit to one journal at a time. Wait for the response and, if it's a reject, then look to revising the paper and submitting elsewhere.

What happens once I have submitted?

Most papers are now submitted via an online process. The system sends an automatic response acknowledging receipt. Generally, the editor will read the paper first and decide if it is of the standard to send to referees.

Don’t expect an instant response. Most if not all referees undertake this work voluntarily and many have a number of papers at any one time they are refereeing. Unconditional acceptance of a paper is rare.

Expect to be asked to revise the paper, perhaps several times. Be patient with the process; it all takes time. If after about 8 weeks you have not heard anything, email the editor with a polite query.

Once you have had the article accepted, it could take up to 12 months or more before it appears in print. Ask if the journal provides advanced publication online.

If you get rejected, use the feedback as an opportunity to significantly revise the paper, and send it to another journal. We all get rejections as authors and while it might ‘sting’ particularly if it is one of your first attempts at publishing, take a deep breath and seek out a senior colleague or your supervisor to discuss the feedback with you.


It is important to be patient and persevere.

There is nothing like the excitement when you see your first article in print.

It does take resilience as well as courage to put your ideas out there. It all begins with you taking that first step and being confident that you can contribute to debates in your field or discipline.

Seek out mentors who can provide advice and guidance, make use of blogs and online forums to connect with others who may also be new to this ‘game’, and attend seminars and workshops that will get you started.

This builds up your own networks and hopefully takes away some of the loneliness we can all feel as scholars.

La Trobe Library has excellent LibGuides on Where to publish: Evaluating journals and Citation Analysis.

Tanya Fitzgerald is a Professor of Educational Leadership, Management and History at La Trobe University. Tanya's research interests span leadership and policy in higher education, the history of women's higher education, and the impact of state policy on teacher's lives and work. Tanya has been the Chief Editor of History of Education Review for ten years. Since 2007, she has been the co-editor of the Journal of Educational Administration and History. In 2012, Tanya was elected Vice President of the Australian and New Zealand History of Education Society.