For this series, we solicited blogposts from La Trobe's experienced academic editors, and asked them to share their perspectives and experiences with us. We're often told about impact factors and citation metrics but it's harder to get to know how journals actually work and what editors look for in paper submissions.
In this second entry, Professor Sue Grieshaber gives us some great insight into the life and priorities of a journal co-editor, as well as top tips for researchers and future paper authors. Sue is the founder and co-editor of Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood (CIEC). CIEC is a peer-reviewed international research journal focused on research addressing new and alternative perspectives on working with young children and their families.
Founding a new journal
One of my mentors inspired me to be the founding co-editor of the journal Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood.
She made the suggestion and we had lots of discussion about it before writing a proposal that we could pitch to publishers.
The key motivating factor was that other journals in the field of early childhood education published research informed by child development theories. A growing number of early childhood academics and PhD students globally were drawing on theories from outside child development such as critical theory, poststructuralism, feminism, postcolonial theory, and various combinations of these. I completed my PhD in the early 1990s and it drew on feminist poststructuralism, so I had experienced first-hand the challenges of trying to publish in journals that were focused primarily on child development theories and associated methodologies.
There was a need for alternative places for publishing work from different theoretical perspectives and methodologies, and our pitch was to fill this niche.
We investigated several publishers and at the time (1998-9) they all wanted either solely paper-based or a combination of paper and electronic publication. There was only one publisher who was prepared to support a fully online journal: it must have been deemed too risky by other publishers to be fully online at that time. So, we embarked on a fully online approach to publish research, policy and conceptual pieces that were informed by theories outside traditional child development, and achieved our goal of providing a place for researchers and scholars to do this.
Co-editing a journal
Co-editing a journal is time consuming, like a lot of things in the academy!
For some years, we employed an editorial assistant for the administrative tasks of communicating by email with authors and reviewers, and managing processes such as submissions, revisions, final copies and so forth. A couple of years ago, our original publisher sold the journal to SAGE, and now all processes are undertaken using a computer program that many other journals also use.
With both systems, the co-editors of our journal make all decisions. For example, the co-editors read all submissions and then decide whether they will be sent for review or declined. If a submission is sent for review, we select reviewers carefully, trying to match the content of the article with the expertise of the reviewers. The co-editors consider all reviewer comments and make decisions about the changes that authors are asked to make; or indicate that the paper has been declined after peer reviewing.
As co-editors we also make decisions about when an article is ready for publication, which can include several cycles of revision. One of my colleagues has never let me forget that her first article was published in Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, but only after she completed four or five sets of revisions!
Managing the workload
Making the time to co-edit a journal can be a challenge. I have used different approaches over the years and it depends on how many articles are submitted, and how many are in the process of review and/or revision; and on the other work that I have at the time (such as how many research projects I am involved with and timelines for my own publications).
Sometimes, I deal with the work on a weekly basis and at other times it is a daily occurrence, fitting it in when I can. For instance, reading an article and deciding whether it will be sent for review, and selecting reviewers usually takes between one and 1.5 hours. I agonise over whether to send something for review at times, and this takes longer. I may leave it until the next day and decide then. If I decline, often I write suggestions for authors to explain why.
Mostly, the co-editing work takes about a full day’s work per week.
What I love to see in a submission
The journal I co-edit provides a forum for researchers and professionals who are exploring new and alternative perspectives in their work with young children (from birth to eight years of age) and their families. I like articles that:
- Focus on emerging issues and possibilities from non-traditional perspectives.
- Highlight ways in which the boundaries of the field are expanding.
- Are at the forefront of pioneering thinking and practice.
- Are interdisciplinary.
- Are theoretically, methodologically and conceptually strong.
- Engage with difference and diversity using innovative thinking and practice.
- Are well written and engaging.
Things I’d rather not see in a submission
If you’re submitting to a journal, here are things to avoid:
- Underdone research design, methods, and analysis
- Missing references
- Submitting an article with track changes and comments on it
- Lack of structure and headings in the article
- Leaving your name on an article that is to be blind peer-reviewed
- Poor sentence and paragraph structure; poor punctuation.
My tips for submitting an article to an academic journal:
- The content of the article should reflect the aims and scope of the journal you are interested in publishing in.
- Browse through what the journal has published for the past year to check suitability of what you intend to write/submit.
- Adhere to the selected journal style guide and submission advice.
- If submitting an empirical article, be sure the research design and methods are explained in the detail required by the journal.
- Ask critical friends to provide feedback as part of the process before submitting.
- If your university has a list of journals in which you are encouraged to publish, consult it before you start writing.
Her research interests are informed by a range of critical, feminist, and feminist poststructural theories that address social justice and equity, and include women in higher education; qualitative and post-qualitative research approaches; and early childhood curriculum, policy, pedagogies and families.
In addition to being founding co-editor of Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, Sue has published widely and worked in universities in Australia and Hong Kong.