For academic journal articles, you usually have to convince academics who are expert management researchers of that what you have submitted is worthy of publication. Commonly, academic journal editors and the academic reviewers they ask to comment on your submission are the ‘gatekeepers’ who you must communicate with and convince of your argument. Editors generally make the decision whether to accept your submitted paper, invite you to revise and resubmit it, or reject it. But they will make this decision on the advice of academic reviewers. The editor will be especially conscious that your ultimate audience is the wider readership of the academic journal – typically, other academics interested in the field of enquiry that the journal covers.
You will need of course to have a good idea for a paper. It may include some fresh evidence you have gathered, say, as part of the project for your doctoral thesis. You will probably find it very easy to convince yourself that your paper is publishable. But this is not enough! You are not the person you need to convince. It is just as important to develop a strong sense of audience when writing for academic publication as when writing for assessment as a postgraduate or doctoral research student.
This time, you and the gatekeepers who represent your key audience are unlikely to know each other as individuals. The reviewing process is typically anonymous. In this case, although the editors know who you are (but will rarely have met you), the reviewers do not. You submit an anonymised version of your paper, with all references to the authors’ names removed. The editors send this version of your paper to two or more invited academic reviewers, who will know a lot about management research in general, and will be familiar with the field of enquiry to which your paper is contributing. But they will not necessarily be familiar with your topic in detail.
Many editors send their reviewers a form to be completed and returned. Reviewers may be asked to:
1. judge the quality of the paper overall
2. rate the paper according to each criterion for acceptance
3. make a recommendation to the editor whether to
- accept the paper
- invite the authors to revise and resubmit the paper with minor revisions
- invite the authors to revise and resubmit it with major revisions
- reject the paper
4. write anonymised, constructive feedback for the authors to help them improve their paper
When the editors have received the forms back from all the reviewers, they decide which recommendations from the reviewers to accept. They then write to you, letting you know the outcome of the reviewing process and usually including the anonymised feedback from the reviewers.
If you are invited to revise and resubmit the paper in the light of the reviewers’ feedback, you will have a further opportunity to improve the paper. But don’t think of your original submission as merely a draft. It’s got to be as good as you can make it! Otherwise you risk your paper being rejected.
So, if you want to write a paper for publication in an academic journal, you have to convince the editors and the reviewers, keeping in mind the wider readership of the journal (as the editor will certainly do). Check the journal’s guidance for authors to see what topics the journal covers, and whether the criteria for acceptance are published. If they are, work hard to meet these criteria in your writing, because the reviewers and editors will be basing their assessment on them.