Policy & Politics at the Political Studies Association conference talking about how to get published

Sarah Ayres
Sarah Ayres

by Sarah Ayres, Co-editor, Policy & Politics

At Policy & Politics, we are passionate about ensuring that all of our published research is accessible, relevant and interesting for a broad range of readers worldwide. We are painfully aware of the huge proportion of research in general that is published in obscure outlets and read by very few people. This is why we invest heavily in promoting our content via our blog, our associates at Discover Society, LSE Public Policy and The Conversation and our social media channels. We’re so serious about this that we now have more twitter followers than any other international journal in the discipline!

In this blogpost, I’ve drawn on my experience of editing Policy & Politics for the last 4 years to set out a few golden rules to remember when submitting, although some of my points are relevant to getting published in academic journals more broadly. I should say these have been arrived at by looking at some of the most common reasons for rejection recently and by contrast, some of the papers which received most media and public attention.

Here are my 6 best tips:

  1. Choose your destination journal even before you start to write. Make sure that
    1. your paper fits within the aims and scope of the journal and the debates it engages with. If there is any ambiguity, contact the editors to ask their view before submitting. We are vigilant about ensuring that policy theories and the elucidation of the policy process are at the heart of everything we do. If your article doesn’t speak to that agenda, it’s unlikely to be accepted.
    2. you draw on academic debates and literature previously published in the journal, making your contribution clear and distinctive. Hint: if you don’t recognise anyone on the editorial board or authors recently published, it is unlikely to be the right target journal.
  2. Ask yourself ‘so what?’ Ensure that your article explicitly foregrounds how your research progresses or challenges existing literature in the field. We receive many well-crafted articles from authors who become so involved in the actual detail of their research that they are unable to step back to clearly state how it advances the debate or why it’s important.
  3. Write simply and concisely. The best articles are those which communicate complex ideas in a clear, logical and straightforward way. Don’t use flowery language or convoluted structures. Always apply the acid test of asking a non-academic, non-specialist to read it as they should be able to understand your central arguments.
  4. Ensure that your article will be relevant to readers from anywhere in the world. All too often, authors unwittingly include ideas with culturally specific meanings which will not translate to other cultures. Most importantly ensure that you clarify what the implications of your findings are for researchers in other countries. Our readers are drawn from 52 different countries, so we will only accept papers whose content will translate internationally.
  5. Avoid conjecture by substantiating your arguments with supporting evidence. It’s a constant surprise to us how many articles make assertions without substance and of course these simply won’t get through the reviews so we have no choice but to reject them.
  6. It’s a boring point but…read the journal’s guidance for authors and use it. Having spent months, if not years crafting your research into an article of beauty, do you want to fall at the first hurdle simply by ignoring our house style?

In summary, target your article well and aim for clarity, brevity and accessibility in your writing, and impact will follow. We’ll look forward to reading your next submission!

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