Getting started

What is a scholarly journal?

A scholarly journal publishes articles written by researchers and experts in a particular academic discipline. Before articles are accepted for publication, they are evaluated by editors and selected experts (peer review). Information about editorial board members is normally available on the journal website. Published articles always include the names and academic affiliations of the authors and the source of the information is provided in footnotes, references in the text or a bibliography at the end. The types of articles published by scholarly journals include:

  • Research articles: A description of a research project; including an analysis of the findings.
  • Systematic reviews: A literature review which appraises and synthesises existing high quality research evidence on the specific research question.
  • Book reviews: A critique of a recently published book on a topic relevant to the field of research.
  • Case studies: A discussion of the challenges, outcomes and implications of a specific situation (or case).

Authorship and writing for publication

According to the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (section 5), to be named as an author on a paper, a researcher must have made a substantial scholarly contribution to the work and be responsible for the part of the work they contributed. The contribution might be combination of:

  • conception and design of the project
  • analysis and interpretation of research data
  • drafting significant parts of the work or critically revising it so as to contribute to the interpretation

General tips for writing a journal article include:

  • Polish your argument until it is tight (get feedback from colleagues)
  • If possible, cite articles from the journals you are targeting
  • Never submit the same paper to more than one journal at a time

Manuscript submission:

  • Cite your QUT affiliation as 'Queensland University of Technology (QUT)'. See Authorship and the QUT Author Affiliation Guidelines (PDF, 51KB) for more information.
  • Cite your ORCID iD (as this will travel with the article metadata into the citation databases).
  • State why the paper will be of interest to the readers of the journal if there is an opportunity to do so.

Dealing with revision requests and rejections:

  • If your article is rejected by the editor in the first pass (before review), get feedback from a more experienced author on how it could be improved (or why the journal was perhaps not the best choice).
  • If you receive a 'revise and resubmit' response, see this as a positive! Create a feedback table and address all the points. If you rebut a suggested revision, frame your explanation in terms of how the paper was improved by doing something different.

For more information on writing for publication see Guide to Academic and Scientific Publication: How To Get Your Writing Published in Scholarly Journals. Written by academic author, editor and proof-reader Dr Lina Olson, this book provides practical, detailed advice on various aspects of planning, preparing, submitting and revising articles for publication in scholarly journals.

Peer review process

Peer review is the evaluation of scientific, academic, or professional work by others working in the same field. Scholarly journals use peer review as a quality-control mechanism. Consequently, articles published in a peer reviewed journal have higher status than articles published in journals which do not use peer review.

  • Editors normally screen submitted papers and those that do not meet the journal's basic criteria on subject (scope), length or formatting may be rejected without having been referred to peer reviewers. This information will be in the notes for contributors on the journal web page.
  • Papers which pass the initial screening stage will be sent to two or more reviewers for appraisal. Generally, the reviewers are selected by the editor based on their expertise or knowledge of the content area. The outcome of the review will be communicated to the author by the editor.
  • Based on the reviewer reports, the paper may be rejected (with feedback), provisionally accepted for publication (if suggested revisions are made) or accepted for publication without revision (which is rare).

If you are not sure if a journal is peer reviewed, look at the section of the journal web page where information for authors is provided. Alternatively, search the Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory database by the name of the journal. If there is a referee jersey symbol (Refereed) in the 'Refereed' column it means the journal is peer reviewed.

If you're interested in being a peer reviewer, see Publons' Peer Review Resources. By creating a Publons profile (e.g. Adrian Barnett's profile) you can get credit for the reviews you've completed and attract the attention of journal editors looking for reviewers.

Publishing agreements

When a paper is accepted for publication, the author will generally be asked to sign a publishing agreement which outlines the rights and responsibilities of both parties (author and publisher). Publishing agreement terms vary between publishers and will also vary depending on the type of work being published (e.g. conference paper, journal article, book chapter or whole book).

  • An agreement may involve granting the publisher a licence to publish or an assignment of copyright (which means the publisher owns the paper).
  • It will define the rights (if any) which are retained by the author.

TIP: Always read the publishing agreement carefully before signing it. Authors may be subject to pre-existing funding agency or employer obligations or policies which are not consistent with the terms of a specific journal's publishing agreement. When this is the case, the author should request amended terms (by attaching an addendum) or look for a journal whose terms support the obligations. For summaries of publisher policies on open access, search the SherpaRoMEO database by journal name.

For more information, see the Copyright Guide or contact the University Copyright Officer.