The Importance of Submission Guidelines

I received a suggestion to discuss following submission guidelines for journals. While it seems simple enough, I (as have other editors) have received submissions where it’s apparent guidelines were not thoroughly read. There are some flexibility and at times there are minor issues if not followed accurately, but it’s very helpful for editors when submissions adhere to the guidelines.

One of the most obvious, and the most challenging for both author and editor, is citations. Most journals use Chicago style, but library or other programs may use APA or MLA. The percentage of submissions I’ve received formatted in other than Chicago is small, luckily, but I have asked authors to redo citations. It is a tedious process to redo, and I’m sure not enjoyed by author nor editor. I’m most comfortable with Chicago style, as that’s what is used for Provenance, and what I used in my history PhD program. Even though I’ve been using it for years, I regularly use the quick guide to make sure formatting is correct. I know that authors will make errors and that’s okay, as long as overall it follows the appropriate style. Library or other programs may not use Chicago, so if an author is submitting a paper written for a class that creates extra work. It’s well worth investing the time. More about citations in a future post.

Because scholarly journals are peer-reviewed, it’s important that authors not include their name on the submission. This is something fairly easy for an editor to fix, but it is an extra step that can easily be alleviated. Margins, page numbering, type of document (such as Word), how to include illustrations, and length are all easy requirements to adhere to.

Authors have a responsibility to read the guidelines. To my knowledge, no article will be denied if it doesn’t adhere to guidelines, at least for Provenance. However, editors greatly appreciate it when authors follow instructions. My advice is for authors to read the guidelines multiple times as they work on submissions.

In return, journals have a responsibility to authors to provide clear guidelines. Provenance‘s guidelines are few and straightforward. American Archivist not only provides guidelines, but many tips on writing different types of submissions. I frequently refer authors to this site as I find it very helpful. Archival Issues has an extensive style guideJournal of Archival OrganizationArchivariaJournal of Western Archives, and other journals provide detailed guidelines.

A challenge for authors is that all journals have different requirements. In a quick review of the ones mentioned, all are very different. Provenance has few requirements, while Archival Issues has an extensive style guide. When in doubt, email the editor. I regularly answer questions prior to receiving a submission and I appreciate when authors take initiative to ensure it meets the requirements. These questions also help an editor clarify guidelines; if one person has a question, others probably do too. Previous Provenance guidelines mentioned “embedding” footnotes and I received numerous questions about this. It referenced formatting used long ago, and because of the questions I removed that stipulation. I want the guidelines to be helpful so questions and feedback will help strengthen them for future authors.

Guidelines exist to help both the author and editor. For the author, the help create a solid submission. For the editor, they help with putting the journal together. Authors that closely pay attention to the guidelines make editors happy. In my experience, most submissions have done well but I’ve heard from other editors who have had more challenges. It only takes a few minutes to read through them, especially if over time you submit to multiple journals. The editors will appreciate your efforts.

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