contacting journal editors: six dos, a maybe and a don’t

Journal editors can be contacted. The trick is to contact them at the appropriate time about the right things.

DO contact the journal editor if you’re not sure whether the journal might be interested in the article you want to write. However, do some homework to make sure that you’re not asking something you could have found out for yourself if you’d taken the time to have a quick look at back copies.

DO contact the journal editor if you’re thinking about a special issue. They will be able to tell you whether they take special issues at all, if they already have enough proposals, and if they are interested, how long it might be before you will see an issue in print, and of course, how to put together a proposal that the Editorial Board can respond to.

DO contact the Editor if you haven’t heard anything about your article for six months or so. A polite note is the best way to get an immediate response.

DO contact the journal Editor if you want to referee articles. They may ask you to register by filling out a form, or they may just take your details and then try you out to see what kind of reviews you write.

DON’T contact the Editor if you only submitted the article a little while ago. A journal Editor I know was recently contacted by someone who was tracking the progress of their article online and wanted to know why it hadn’t been sent out for review: they had submitted it just two weeks earlier. The Editor was furious. So…

DO understand that Editors can’t always do things as quickly as you might want, and that it’s often hard to get referees (it can take three for four invitations to review before someone accepts and this probably means a minimum of a month to sort out, sometimes much longer).

DO remember that journal Editors are volunteers. Editing a journal is not their full time job; they already have one of those and Editing is extra. Don’t treat them like the help.

MAYBE contact the Editor if you want to know the waiting list of articles – if you want to find out how long it might be from acceptance to publication. They may not be able to tell you accurately, or they may not want to. However most of them won’t mind you asking.

Coming next: Some dos and don’ts for journal editors?

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About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
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4 Responses to contacting journal editors: six dos, a maybe and a don’t

  1. Alex White says:

    Sounds like journal editors should acknowledge receipt of articles and give authors a timeline of how long things take… I’ve read a fair few articles about the frustrations of how slow these things are, so a pro-forma email to someone who’s just sent in an article saying “thanks for the submission, it takes about 3-4 months to respond properly and we’ll get back to you then” would solve a lot of frustrations all-round.

  2. Gareth Maybury says:

    I would emphasise the point about not contacting journal editors to chase them on a review. In the vast majority of cases where a review is delayed it’s the fault of someone other than the journal editor. It’s caused by them receiving rejections (or no response) from potential reviewers or sending it out to a reviewer and them flaking out/taking too long to review it. They absolutely don’t need you sending an e-mail complaining about something that isn’t their fault.

    If it’s got to a ridiculous length of time (6 months is a good cut off point) then maybe you could ask what’s happening as it’s possible it could have been lost somewhere along the line. Anything below 4 months, though, and it’s likely just taking a while so you have to be patient.

    • I agree that you should not contact the editor too early, but also not too late. Contacting the editor sometimes seems to miraculously speed up the review. Even if there is naturally no counter factual.

  3. Lola says:

    If the journal website says that the review process takes 6-10 weeks I think it is fair enough to contact an editor after this point (I recently contacted an editor at 21 weeks, it is now 23 weeks and I still don’t have a response. I don’t think I’ll submit there again!)

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