Selecting the right journal for your article

Among the many challenges facing young scholars seeking to publish is a basic question: where to submit your work?

This can be especially difficult for scholars whose work is interdisciplinary or spans multiple fields within the same discipline. To take myself as an example, I work in the history of women and gender, history of medicine, and U.S. history in transnational perspective. Any one of my dissertation chapters will likely touch on two or three of those subfields, at the very least.

On the one hand, this is a very good thing from a publications standpoint. There are a lot of journals potentially interested in publishing my work. But conversely, figuring out which journal to target becomes all the more complicated. I’ve learned a few things to simplify the process. The first and most important guideline in choosing a journal is to forget about what subjects your article is about, at least temporarily. Interesting and original research often covers many subjects. So what an article is about in and of itself can’t determine where you submit an article.

Consider the larger intellectual debates to which your work contributes. Try to identify a distinctive cohort of scholars that may find your work significant. Does this group contain scholars of numerous disciplines? Are all of these interested readers in the same general subfield, or might the article attract wider interest across an entire discipline? What kinds of methodological approaches does this group tend to favor?

Once you have a candidate, read the journal’s “about” section carefully. Look through recent issues to get a sense for what debates the journal considers important. Try to read or at least skim a few articles. Note that while an unusual topic is not necessarily a death sentence to your article’s chances, as some journals may welcome the opportunity to publish material related to an underrepresented subject, you do need to make sure that there are, at the very least, thematic or methodological connections.

After you’ve decided on a journal where you will submit your work, write and revise with that journal and its aims specifically in mind. These are some general questions to help you focus:

-Who is the audience of this journal?

-What issue of broad concern to this audience am I writing about?

-What can my work contribute to scholars’ understanding of this issue?

You might even want to write out your answers to these questions. Print it out and place it by your workspace. When you find yourself lost or on a tangent, reread what you wrote to get yourself back on track.

Knowing and practicing these principles should make the publication process, if not quite felicitous, then at the very least less headache-inducing.

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