2015 Who gets published? Comparative Education 51(3): 303-304.
Phillips present a list of common reasons for the rejection of manuscripts from journals in the field of education research:
- · wrong journal;
- · too long/short;
- · journalism;
- · extract from report/dissertation unadapted;
- · no clear topic;
- too little context;
- · too little theory;
- · clear gaps in literature;
- · polemical;
- · research not fully explained;
- · failure to relate findings/conclusions to aims/theory/literature;
- · language/style not checked;
- · text not proofread;
- · not ‘situated’ in comparative education [or in the appropriate discipline]
- · plagiarism/legal issues.
So, why are MY papers being rejected these days? Not counting rejections from Science or Nature (see discussion here), I have have a bunch of rejections over the past 3 years, compared to only a single rejection (that I can recall) in the rest of my career. I don't think the quality of my work has declined. A major reason for the rejections is that the work is interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary. My colleague Sander Van Der Leeuw warned that as I got into transdisciplinary research, I might have trouble getting papers published. Most journals are disciplinary in focus, an orientation that is reinforced by the reviewers they use. The metaphorical disciplinary silos are alive and well in the world of academic journals.
I had two papers rejected by American Anthropologist. In both cases I was using methods and concepts from one or more (non-anthropological) disciplines, and made the point that perhaps anthropologists might want to pay attention to these other fields. Well, maybe not..... (click here for my intellectual dissatisfaction with the discipline of anthropology). One paper was resubmitted to the top journal in the field of Urban Studies (with a higher impact factor than AA. Ha!), and it is now published. The other is still being revised. An interdisciplinary paper that I think is important and exciting has now been rejected by three journals. Maybe fourth time around is the charm.
While I hate to admit this, the lesson here may be that younger scholars should refrain from publishing transdisciplinary papers. It's much easier to get a straight archaeology paper published than a paper that mixes archaeology with disciplines that might seem unlikely (e.g., economics, political science, sociology). Some of my recent (published) transdisciplinary papers have had graduate student co-authors, though, so perhaps the lesson is for younger scholars to avoid transdisciplinary single-author papers. Think about getting a senior co-author for anything out of the ordinary. I do make a bigger effort to get rejected papers with student co-authors into print elsewhere right away; I have less urgency for papers with faculty co-authors (yes, I feel very guilty about one particular paper..... Sorry!).
BUT, you can't get a paper accepted OR rejected if you don't submit it. If you are a graduate student in archaeology and you haven't published a paper yet, what are you waiting for?