For any graduate student, the need to be published can feel overwhelming at times. The College of Liberal Arts (CLA) recently held a panel to give students and faculty advice on getting published in peer reviewed journals.

The panel included six faculty members from the CLA:

  • Dr. Michael Carolan, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Affairs
  • Dr. Louann Reid, Chair Department of English
  • Dr. Greg Dickinson, Department of Communication Studies
  • Dr. Blythe Lagasse, School of Music, Theater, and Dance
  • Dr. Prabha Unnithan, Department of Sociology
  • Dr. Elissa Braunstein, Department of Economics

The event began with tips from each of the panelists.

  1. Do your research to make sure the journal publishes pieces like your own.

As Prabha Unnithan explains, the most important element is making sure that your paper fits the journal. Speaking from his past experience as editor of two sociological journals, Unnithan explained that his journal would read each submission from beginning to end. Most of the time, rejections don’t come from the poor quality of a paper. Instead, rejections might just mean that the piece isn’t the right fit for that specific journal. So do your research into different publications to find the one that best fits your paper.

  1. To be known, you must know your audience.

Louann Reid, Chair of our English department, broke down her advice into knowing the audience and being known. Unlike with creative writing submissions, journal submissions must be serial, meaning only submit your paper to one journal at a time instead of simultaneously. Building off Unnithan’s advice, this makes what journal you choose for your submission crucial. First, know your audience, the audience of the journal. Look at what kinds of papers those readers will be familiar with. Is the journal based on a membership, or available openly to readers online?

Second, in order to be known you must publish. So if you’re a young writer, look at the acceptance rate of the journal. It’s good to start with a journal that has a higher acceptance rate, and work your way up to those more esteemed journals later.

Reid continued, explaining that the cover letter for your submission is a perfect place to share with the journal why you think your piece is right for that specific journal. Read and re-read the submission requirements to make sure you don’t miss any of the small details for submitting.

Ultimately, go to conferences, make connections, and don’t be afraid to interact with the journal and its editors.

  1. Use your argument to engage with the ongoing conversations. Draw sources from the journal you’re submitting to.

Many academic writers strive to find something that hasn’t been talked about before. But that’s a hefty claim to make, especially if you’re just entering academic publishing. Odds are that someone has already written a paper about your topic.

Greg Dickinson spoke about the importance of a thesis, and making your unique argument clear. These could even be with the words “I will argue.”

In the first few pages, Dickinson looks for that argument, and a preview of the result for following this argument. This is how a journal will know if you’re a fit for that publication, and if you’re entering into the right conversation.

Show a familiarity with other scholars in the same field and if you get a “revise and resubmit,” then revise and resubmit. It means that the journal sees potential in your writing, and is willing to devote more time to make your paper a fit for that journal.

  1. Engage in your field.

Elissa Braunstein said that the first thing she does is check the reference page. Have you engaged with the journal’s field? Have you read the journal? Have you cited articles from the journal? This is another strong way to show how your paper fits into the conversation.

Also, make sure you read the editorial polices before submitting. Braunstein is an editor for the Feminist Economics journal. With the word “feminist” in the title, the journal will get papers about feminism, but they aren’t related to the field of economics. This reiterates the idea of familiarizing yourself with the focus of a journal, making sure your paper contributes to that specific field or area.

  1. If you get a revise and resubmit, address every comment.

Blythe Lagasse stressed the importance of following the suggestions from a “revise and resubmit.” Sometimes the comments from different reviewers might conflict, but that’s something to address in your cover letter. If there’s something you don’t want to change, also address that. Just make sure you’re not ignoring comments from reviewers.

Another way to make sure your paper makes sense is to have someone outside your field read it. This might help you find additional elements you could explain better in your paper.


Overall, this panel provided a glimpse at what editors look for with each journal submission. With each submission, find a journal that fits the conversation and space you’re trying to enter. Your paper doesn’t need to be unique, or start a new conversation. Instead, show that you’re aware of what other people are, or are not, saying about your topic, and demonstrate your paper makes a strong argument.