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Run a successful journal

In this section, find out how the publishing process works, including special issues, submissions and peer review, and the tools and systems that drive it.

Infographic showing the journal publishing process

Journal publishing process

While most journals follow a similar publication workflow, the steps involved may differ per publisher.

We developed the infographic, featured here, to help authors understand the route their manuscript follows once it has been submitted.

The timeframe from acceptance to EarlyCite has been given as 32 days; this is because the infographic details the publishing process for a journal that has adopted article level publishing (ALP).

Download our publishing process infographic

What is article level publishing?

Traditionally, an article only appeared online when the issue it was assigned to was nearing publication. For authors, this has often meant a wait of several months following acceptance.  

Article level publishing (ALP) allows an article to be typeset, proofed and published online in its final and citable form within an average of 32 business days of acceptance. This offers several key benefits:

  • We can meet the needs of researchers who are increasingly discovering journal content at an article level, rather than browsing online or print issues.
  • Readers can access new findings and ideas faster than ever before.
  • ALP greatly improves our service to authors, who tell us that speed of publication is an important factor in deciding where to publish.
  • Articles can start gathering citations and downloads at a much earlier stage; a great way to improve journal visibility.

Offering authors choice with the article transfer service

A growing number of our journals offer an article transfer service. If your journal is already part of this cascading model, then you can benefit in one of two ways:

  1. As the cascading editor: If you receive a manuscript you feel is more relevant to another journal, you can offer the author the opportunity to transfer it to that publication. This can be done either before or after peer review. If you cascade after peer review, the review reports will be transferred to the new journal along with the manuscript.

    While the author has the option to reject your cascade suggestion, it’s a great way to support them to get published. And, it’s a helpful time-saver for authors as their manuscript is automatically transferred to the new journal’s ScholarOne site.

  2. As the receiving editor: If the author accepts the offer to transfer their manuscript to your journal, you are under no obligation to review or publish it. However, the cascading editor will be familiar with your title’s aims and scope and is likely to only cascade high quality, relevant articles that are a strong fit with your journal.

We will continue to add new titles to the article transfer service. If your journal isn’t already part of a cascading group but you would like to explore the options, please contact your publisher.

Using the online editorial systems

ScholarOne Manuscripts is the online system used to manage the submission and peer review process for our journals. As well as managing workflows, it also generates reports on submissions, peer review progress, and editorial and reviewer performance.  

Each journal has its own individual site on ScholarOne that has been tailored to meet your title’s needs. Authors can access your journal’s ScholarOne site via your journal landing page. They will also find instructions for the submission process in the author guidelines on that page.

Because each ScholarOne journal site is unique, the set up for each title varies. Your journal content editor will be happy to help if you have any queries about how the system works for your journal. You can find their contact details on the 'Editorial team' tab of your journal landing page.

Find a journal

If you are receiving ScholarOne queries from your authors, you can encourage them to review the help documents, video tutorials and FAQs on the Clarivate ScholarOne author support site. They will also find contact details for the Clarivate support experts, including an instant chat option. 

Attracting journal submissions

The actions outlined in our journal promotion and improving the reputation of your journal pages can all help attract the authors you are seeking. But, we have a few extra suggestions you might find useful.

  • Work with your publisher to identify centres of excellence in your field and send them targeted calls for papers.
  • Consider the geographic locations where the topics you cover are experiencing growth – there are likely to be up-and-coming authors looking for a home for their work.
  • Scanning other journals will help you keep on top of the hot topics in your field, and you might spot an author you’d like to invite to submit.
  • Tight on time? Could the task be shared with your editorial advisory board members or any fellow editors?
  • Conferences are a great source of opportunity: Like one of the presentations? Invite that author to submit. Conferences can also provide good ideas for special issues.
  • You could also try a meet the editor session or running an author workshop, during which you can help attendees develop future submissions.
  • If too few articles are coming in, consider featuring more case studies, or special issues, to attract new authors.
  • Talk with your publisher about using metrics provided by Kudos (the free web-based service we partner with to help authors explain and share their work). They can help you identify high-performing authors and emerging hot topics.
  • Ask your publisher to provide you with a list of highly-cited articles and approach their authors.

What if manuscripts are not publication-ready?

Problems with the submission

If the research or case study is valid but the writing lets the manuscript down, you could refer the author to our manuscript support services website. Our partners, Editage, offer a range of services specially designed to help authors through every stage of their academic journey and offer assistance in language editing, translation, formatting and other services.

If the author has simply failed to follow style or formatting instructions in your journal author guide, return the manuscript to the author and ask them to correct the problem. You can do this by choosing 'Unsubmit' in ScholarOne.

Outside the scope of the journal

If you are sent a manuscript outside the remit of your journal, it’s not worth entering the submission for review; you can either desk reject the manuscript via ScholarOne or, if you have the option, transfer it to a more suitable journal.

Communicating with authors

It’s worth remembering that even if you don’t publish an author’s work, how you treat them today will shape their attitude to the journal long into the future. They are potential subscribers, readers and reviewers, so it’s important they walk away from every interaction feeling they’ve been treated with courtesy and respect. How? Here are some ideas:

  • Make it quick: While no author ever wants to hear their manuscript has been rejected or needs extensive revisions, waiting weeks or months to learn the news will only make the situation worse.
  • Educate where you can: Maybe their manuscript wasn’t quite right this time around but provide constructive feedback and you might help them get published in the future.
  • Share information: Peer review and article preparation takes time. If you are receiving regular queries about the progress of manuscripts, it could be because authors are unfamiliar with the steps involved – try sending them a link to our publishing process infographic
  • Monitor reviewers’ comments: You have the option to edit the comments to the author before committing to a decision in ScholarOne. If a reviewer’s remarks are unnecessarily harsh or offensive, consider removing them so they aren’t shared with the author.
  • Be nice: As a published author yourself, you’ll know a few kind words can go a long way…
Man leafing through book

Publishing special issues

Most scholarly journals publish special issues from time to time. Our titles tend to feature at least one every volume. A special issue allows the journal to focus on a topic – often in a new or emerging area – and explore it in-depth or provide alternative perspectives.

Special issues can also collate the best papers presented at a conference. They can even take an interdisciplinary approach, helping to bridge the gap between subject areas.

A special issue is edited by a guest editor, a subject expert appointed by you. You can find out more about their role and responsibilities in our section on your editorial team.

What makes a good special issue?

  • Originality – a new topic or a new approach to an existing theme.
  • A subject with wide appeal and relevance.
  • International content and/or readership.
  • Consistency in the papers. It could be that they share a common approach or theme, or they might offer comparative views on a single topic.

 

  • Authors who are active and important figures in the field.
  • A well-written guest editorial showing a real understanding of the value and import of the issue.
  • A guest editor(s) willing to invest the time required to commission and produce a strong issue. 
Student thinking

The peer review process

We understand that one size doesn’t fit all. The peer review process offered by your journal has been chosen with your discipline in mind. For most of our journals, this is double-blind, i.e. the author doesn’t know who the reviewer is, and the reviewer doesn’t know the author’s name.

For a smaller number of journals, double-blind is not the best fit. In our dedicated reviewer pages, you’ll find more information on this and other aspects of the peer review process, along with reviewer guidelines, which explain the role and responsibilities of a reviewer in detail.

The editor’s role in peer review

Taking the lead in the peer review process is important. This includes making it clear to reviewers what you want to see in their reports; the quality of their reviews has a big impact on the final quality of your journal.

When you invite a researcher or professional to review for your journal, there are a few key points to highlight:

  • Expected response times and deadlines.
  • When they should accept, ask to revise and resubmit (minor or major revisions) or reject (these requirements should mirror those listed in the author guidelines for your journal).
  • All feedback should be constructive and highlight the positive aspects of any paper.
  • Feedback should be detailed and clear – an author can only make revisions if they understand what is needed.

Potential judging criteria:

  • Does the article contribute anything new to the body of knowledge?
  • Are the arguments employed valid?
  • Is the article easy to read?
  • Do the arguments flow logically?
  • Is the methodology sound?
  • Are there clear implications for practice or suggestions for future research?
  • Are the conclusions strong?
  • Does the paper pay due credit to previously published work in the field?

Reviewers are asked to complete a feedback form in ScholarOne – if you haven’t already developed your own version, this example reviewer report template will give you a good place to start. 

Finding & keeping reviewers

While peer review is a crucial part of the publication process, as an editor you’ll know that finding researchers or professionals with the time and expertise to review is no easy task.

In your editorial system, you have access to a database of reviewers containing useful information, e.g. the reviewer’s areas of expertise and their invitation and reviewing history.

If you need to source new reviewers, we have a few tips that might help you.

Ideas for finding reviewers

  • Reviewers often feel that the request they’ve received isn’t a good fit for their skills. Before you approach a potential reviewer, it’s worth checking they are an established figure in the field with a good knowledge of that topic.
  • Try authors who’ve recently published in your journal – they’ve just benefitted from the review process so might be more inclined to say yes. They are also active authors and are probably keen to progress in their careers.
  • Consider potential conflicts of interest – are they a former co-author of the submitting author? Are they at the same institution? If so, your potential reviewer will have to say no.
  • If a reviewer has to say no, ask them whether there is anyone else they would recommend. Even if they do say yes, this is a good question to ask as it can help build your pool for the future.
  • Who are the authors cited in the submission? They are clearly experts in the area so could be worth a try.
  • If you are really stuck, you could try the faculty pages of some key institutions in your field.
  • What about your editorial advisory board (ERB)? Are they reviewing regularly? Your content editor can run a report to help you understand their reviewing contribution. If some members aren’t accepting their share of reviews, is it time to replace them with someone new? If you don’t already have an ERB, you could consider establishing one. Your publisher can advise.
  • Use the alternate reviewer function in ScholarOne. This only invites another reviewer when the previous one has declined. This helps to avoid situations where reviewers say yes, or even complete a review, only to be told they aren’t needed after all…
  • Try a keyword search on Emerald Insight or other databases – you might discover new candidates and can ask them if they are happy to be added to your reviewer pool in ScholarOne.
  • Have you had a special issue? Perhaps your guest editor used some reviewers you might like to approach.

Once you’ve found a good reviewer, it's good practice to let them know how much you value them.

Ideas for keeping reviewers

  • Use reviewers sparingly. You don’t want to overload them and frighten them off for good. Try to space out your requests so they don’t get penalised for being helpful.
  • Don't trouble them with papers that are clearly not suitable for the journal. These should be rejected outright.
  • How they are approached can influence a reviewer's view of the journal. Take the time to provide clear and detailed communications so they can make an informed decision. It’s also worth letting them know that our reviewers receive free access to 40 Emerald journal articles (excluding Backfiles) for a three-month period following the submission of a review.
  • Give them a date you'd like to hear back from them by.  If the reviewer doesn’t respond to your request in time, always let them know you are going to approach someone else. That way, if they have been quietly getting on with the review in the background, they can let you know asap.
  • Help them understand what you want from a review by providing very clear guidelines.
  • Put yourself in their shoes – if they’ve invested time and effort in reviewing the paper, why not let them know what you eventually decided so they know their work had value? Add a personal thank you as everyone likes to be appreciated.
  • Could the review be better? Rather than not use that reviewer again, it might be worth giving them some helpful feedback. The investment of your time could be rewarded by a new reviewer to add to your pool.
  • Found a great reviewer? Why not nominate them for an Emerald Literati Award for Excellence? Each year, we invite editors to choose an outstanding reviewer on their journal who should receive this recognition.

Related topics

Develop and monitor your journal

Our practical guide looks at how the publishing process works, special issues, submissions, peer review, and more.

Develop your journal

Journal promotion

Explore the steps we take to promote your journal, as well as ideas and advice on how you can get involved. 

Promote your journal

Publishing ethics guidelines

Understand the ethics responsibilities of editors, authors and reviewers, and the steps you should take if an allegation of misconduct is made.

View our guidelines