Publishing in academic journals – Bjorn Nordtveit

Reported by Eunice Kua


At the request of students, CIE faculty member Bjorn Nordtveit led a discussion at a Tuesday meeting on how the academic publishing process works and tips for submitting articles to academic journals.


Drawing on his expertise as chief editor of the Comparative Education Review (CER) and his personal experience as an author who has published articles in many different journals, Bjorn first described the review process using the CER as an example.


His first tip was to make sure that your article meets the basic criteria for that journal—number of words, format, reference styles, etc. Publication can be a lengthy process, and “you don’t want to get a paper back 6 months later with an request to fix the references!”


Once the article has passed the basic criteria check, usually by a managing editor, it goes to the journal’s editors. The editors read all the submissions and decide whether an article fits within the journal’s scope and interests.


Knowing the journal’s requirements in terms of content is also essential. CIE faculty member Cristine Smith, a co-editor on the CER, noted that she receives many manuscripts which do not employ a comparative perspective, even though that is clearly stated as one of the criteria for articles that they publish. Even a case study should have some indication of how it is situated within the field. When choosing a journal to submit to, “Pay attention to what they say they publish, what they want,” she advised.


At CER, the editors try to do an initial scanning process as quickly as possible, so that if an article does not fit the editorial policies of the journal, the author is told in a timely fashion and can revise or re-submit it to CER or to another journal. Bjorn encouraged CIE members not to despair if their initial submissions fail— “All of us get rejected. I get rejected.” Potential authors need to keep a positive attitude: “Fix it and re-submit.”


Articles that pass the initial scanning by editors are sent for peer review. Different journals use different types of peer review—single blind, double blind, open, and some are beginning to publish the review files alongside the articles. Authors should be aware of what a particular journal’s policies are and consider whether they feel comfortable with them.


Peer reviewers may recommend that an article be a) accepted with minor revisions (which is rare), b) recommended to be resubmitted after revisions, c) not accepted, but willing to read a re-written article, or d) rejected without further consideration.


Bjorn noted that reviewers may give conflicting feedback, so the editors must exercise judgement in many cases. He warned that getting from submission to publication is a lengthy process, with the quickest article he could remember taking one year. 


He concluded with concrete suggestions of what he looks for in articles, including ones that show the author has read and followed the instructions, articles that offer scholarship that situates the topic among broader debates within the field, and, at CER, ones that demonstrate some kind of originality or inspiration—though whether this is desirable or not may vary according to the journal.


The session concluded with some discussion of other journals in the field, e.g. the International Journal of Educational Development, International Review of Education (from UNESCO), International Journal of Higher Education, Compare (UK), Comparative Review (UK), and some of their preferences—whether for quantitative or qualitative research, innovative methods or more established processes, policy-related or other types of articles.