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How to Get Published: A Guide to Human Rights and Social Justice Journals: IV. Mechanics of the Submissions Process and Peer Review

General Overview

This section provides information on what to expect with regards to the submission process and peer review. Publications may differ in the software they use to manage their submissions process and how they conduct peer review, so it is worth researching the particularities of the publication of choice.

Tailoring Your Paper

  • If the paper draft is not entirely finished, but you have identified where you would like to publish it, it is worth considering how you could improve your paper so that it becomes an ideal candidate for submission.
  • Suggestions here include not only modifying the content of the paper so that it fits the publication’s scope and aims, but also making sure that the paper uses the reference style and preferred citation style of the publication of choice.

Understanding Peer Review

  • The peer review process is time-consuming. Peer reviewers are generally unpaid for the work they perform and turnaround times can be long. Journals with unusually quick peer review may be "predatory” and should be viewed with caution.
  • Typically peer reviewers will be appointed by the journal, but some journals invite the authors of the paper to suggest appropriate figures in their field who would be able to act as a peer reviewer.
  • There are different ways in which journals conduct their peer review process.
    • Some journals make the identity of the reviewers unknown to the author, but the reviewers know who the author is (single blind process).
    • Other journals make both the identity of the author and the identity of the reviewer unknown to one another (double blind process).
    • Other journals make the identities known to all parties involved (open peer review).
  • Reviewers will provide a range of feedback, from suggestions about article layout/structure to more substantive comments on methodology or argument strengths and weaknesses.
  • When responding to the peer review process, authors should respond to every comment, question or suggestion. When resubmitting, authors typically include a response letter explaining how they addressed peer review feedback.
  • Additional resources on peer review:

Submissions Process Summary

Preparing the Abstract and Cover Letter

A poorly written abstract can be detrimental to your chances of being accepted into a publication. At minimum, the abstract should state your bottom-line findings, your methodology, what is distinctive about your own theory or intellectual approach and the value-added of your work within the field.

Cover letters are an opportunity to highlight to the journal editor what makes your work perfect for their journal and why it will be of interest to the journal’s readers. Similar to the abstract, a well-written cover letter can help your paper reach the next stage of the manuscript submission process – peer review.

At minimum, the cover letter should include:

  • editors’ names (you can find this usually on the page of the publication);
  • your manuscript title and the name of the journal you are submitting to;
  • a statement that your paper has not been previously published and that it is not currently under consideration by another journal
  • a brief description of your research, why it is important, and why the readers of the journal would find it interesting;
  • your contact information
  • confirmation that you have no conflicts of interest or competing interests to disclose.

Submissions Software

Different journals will use different software through which they accept new submissions. Authors should familiarize themselves with the journal's chosen submission management software of the journal and the technicalities of the submission process (file type, maximum file size, potential fees associated with file submissions etc.). Journal websites will typically have a page on submissions guidelines for new authors, which will contain this information.

A Note on Scholastica:

  • Scholastica is one of the most frequently used software to streamline the submissions process for many journals. Almost all Law Reviews use Scholastica. While Scholastica makes it seamless to send your manuscript to many journals, such practice is not only discouraged, but can also be costly for the author. Scholastica charges a fee per submission, which can add up significantly if the manuscript is submitted to many journals. Student authors and professors may be able to cover these costs through their department, but recent alumni should confirm whether financial support for submission charges is available through their alma mater institution. 

Retaining the Copyright to Your Work

  • Once a publication has accepted the manuscript and all peer review feedback has been addressed, authors should review and sign an author or copyright agreement with the publication.
    • This author agreement will define the extent of the author's copyright to the article, anticipated uses and rights, and whether some or all of these exclusive rights will be transferred to the journal.
  • Certain journals may require the author to transfer the copyright to the journal’s publisher via author assignment agreements. Other journals may allow for author licensing agreements by which the author retains the copyright to their article and licenses its non-exclusive use to the journal’s publisher.
    • In some cases it may be necessary to negotiate with a publisher in order to retain rights that are not expressly noted by the publisher on the journal website or the copyright agreement form.
  • For more, see Berkeley Law's Author Copyright Agreements guide.