A version of this post appeared in the monthly newsletter of the International Communication Association, as the Student Board Member Column (March 2014).
What should graduate students take into account, when selecting an outlet for their research? To me, 3 main aspects stand out: researching the characteristics of potential journal outlets, finding out more about the editorial board, and keeping abreast of “calls for papers” via online listservs.
The selection of a journal outlet requires a fair amount of background research. Consider the many options: do you go “regional” or “national” or “international”? Do you go for a topic-focused journal (e.g., a rhetoric journal for a rhetorical criticism piece) or a “general” communication journal? Is a particular journal known for rejecting (or accepting) theory-driven pieces, or empirical pieces, or literature reviews? What role does methodology play—does journal A favor quantitative methods over qualitative? What about page limits and word count? And the list goes on…
Long story short, selecting a journal requires close attention to each of these details, and more. For instance, will you need to change the format of your paper from APA to MLA or something else, to fit the requirements of a particular journal—and if so, can you fit that time-consuming task in your schedule? Several journals also require particular sections, not asked for by other journals—for instance, Journal of Applied Communication Research stipulates a separate section in the closing “discussion” detailing “practical implications” of your study—so that you should ensure that your manuscript satisfies these and other requirements before you hit submit.
Editorial Board Makeup
Graduate students should also check out the editorial board of a journal, together with its stated “aims and scope” before selecting an outlet. Editorial commitments and epistemologies sometimes drastically transform the nature of a journal, and the kind of manuscripts it publishes. Moreover, scanning the board makeup will let you know who might be likely to review your paper, potentially of use as you build your argument. For instance, if your article extends (or critiques) Theory X by Person A, and you find that A is on the board of your intended outlet, or perhaps Person B who trained with A, then you might want to frame your manuscript’s argument that does not give the impression you are devaluing A’s work. Finding out more about the editor, and the rest of the board, is thus a good idea.
Online Opportunities via Listservs
Finally, subscribe to online listservs that keep you abreast of all those opportunities for submitting chapters for edited books, and articles for “special issues” of refereed journals. With all the journals and edited books out there, there’s no way you can keep track of everything without signing onto some of these listservs, whether it is CRTNET, the ECREA list, or ICA division mailing lists. If you do interdisciplinary work, you should also subscribe to listservs of other professional associations; for instance, I receive emails from the Academy of Management and the International Environmental Communication Association, which lets me know when a book or journal special issue is in the works that I might submit one of my manuscripts to. Keep in mind that journal special issues count just the same as regular issues do, so the old rules apply here (e.g., check out what the journal has published in the past, style and word count stipulations, editorial board makeup). Most notices for book chapters via listservs mean that your submitted manuscript will be competitively selected, or even peer-reviewed, so that these publications will still be useful on your CV when you apply for an academic job. So, don’t discount them. Again, be aware of the book editor’s research background, word count stipulations, and precise “call for papers” to ensure that your manuscript fits the broader collection.