Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Journal Editor's Perspective - Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services

Guest post by Rebecca Donlan, Florida Gulf Coast University Library

As an editor of two rather different journals (one more theoretical, the other more practice-oriented), I have always been happy to work with authors who have something interesting to add to the scholarly conversation.  In my nine years as an editor-in-chief, I have received only two papers that needed little, if any, editing. (I ended up drafting the author of one of those papers to be my co-editor.)   I have also received plenty of papers that were completely out of a journal’s scope, or so tortuously written that I could make little sense of them.  The truth is that most papers need some work.  Librarians, as readers and researchers, have the foundation required for successful authorship.  I always find myself coming back to Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science. 
Books are for useRead current issues of the journal to which you plan to submit your manuscripts so you know the topics currently under discussion.  You certainly aren’t limited to them, but be sure you do not submit a manuscript that is completely out of the journal’s scope, or has already been covered in depth.  Get a feel for the average length of an article. 
Every reader his (or her) bookConduct a thorough and broad literature search.  Even a practice-based article needs grounding in the literature.  Maintain the citation list as you go, in the format required by your journal.  Using citation management software like EndNote or RefWorks makes it easy to change styles, in case you are not yet sure where you’ll submit. 
Every book its readerOnce you have completed the literature review and identified the gaps your work will address, it’s fine to send off a query to an editor to find out if they are interested in your work.   The editor may have more ideas for you to consider, or know others in the field you might want to talk to about your work.As you write your first draft, write to be understood.  I would far rather read a conversational first draft than wade through a tortured attempt at a formal tone.  If you have experienced colleagues, ask them to read your draft and listen to their feedback.    
Save the time of the readerRead the guidelines for authors before you contact the editor or submit your paper.  Editors are not favorably impressed by questions that didn’t need to be asked because the instructions were online.  Follow all the formatting guidelines--use the requested type font, size, and line spacing indicated (usually Times New Roman 12-point, double-spaced).   Submit illustrations, tables, and appendices as instructed.  If you don’t understand a requirement, ask the editor; we’d rather explain than re-format. 
The library is a growing organism
Writing is hard.  Getting that first draft out there can be daunting, but if you are willing to do the work and take constructive criticism, you will be a published author.   Editors do what they do because they want to add to the literature of our profession, and most of us will bend over backwards to help authors with something to say.   The thrill of seeing your first article in print is worth all the work!

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