Preparing Manuscripts for Publication in Psychology Journals: A Guide for New Authors

Introduction

This guide provides an overview of the process of preparing and submitting a scholarly manuscript for publication in a psychology journal. Drawing on the experiences of authors of scholarly writings, peer reviewers, and journal editors, we seek to demystify the publication process and to offer advice designed to improve a manuscript's prospects of publication.

To exemplify the process, we describe specific publication procedures for journals of the American Psychological Association.

As anyone planning to submit a manuscript for publication is well aware, the process of conceptualizing testable research questions, reviewing the literature, conducting experiments, performing analyses, interpreting results, and, finally, writing a paper that effectively describes the study and communicates the findings involves large investments of time and energy.

When one also considers the pressure to publish in academic settings; the high rejection rates of prestigious journals, APA journals being among these; and the waiting period for a publication decision, the stress that can accompany the process becomes readily understandable.

Yet, the rewards of discovery and contribution to the literature of psychological science are substantial. In the research and writing process, scholars are likely to meet exciting challenges in developing their intellectual and creative potential. Through publication, authors have a unique opportunity to build on previous discoveries and add to the lore of science.

We therefore encourage new authors to take heart, recognizing that, like any worthwhile endeavor, developing skills in conducting research and writing scholarly manuscripts is a learning process. Those embarking on this journey need not feel alone but rather are encouraged to seek mentors and colleagues to help guide them in the genre of psychological science.

It is in this spirit that the current guide was written.

We cover three areas of journal publication.

  1. We present an overview of the process, focusing on manuscript submission and peer review, affording readers a behind-the-scenes view of the ways in which a new manuscript might be approached by an editor or a reviewer.
  2. We provide a more detailed discussion of some characteristics of a strong manuscript, which are drawn alongside shortcomings that may detract from a manuscript's publication potential.
  3. Because a new scholar's initial manuscript submission is often developed from the dissertation, we offer some suggestions for converting a dissertation into a journal article.
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