Publishing in Top Academic Journals – Notes From the Masterclass With Claudia Aradau

Last week, the journal New Perspectives and the Centre for European Security of the Institute of International Relations had the pleasure to host two exiting events featuring Dr. Claudia Aradau, a Reader in International Politics in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London and the Editor of Security Dialogue. In the first of the new seminar series ‘New Perspectives on European Security’ Dr Aradau discussed her cutting edge work on the politics of research methods in Critical Security Studies – which will be discussed in a forthcoming blog post. In this post we are happy to share some of Claudia Aradau’s top tips on publishing, writing and editing.

Getting published in an academic journal

  • A key to get your paper published in an academic journal is to make sure that you really know the journal to which you want to submit –you should be clear about how your work can contribute to current and relevant academic debates in that journal. This is crucial also for the choice of the journal – perhaps the authors that you like publish there, or the journal is a key channel for the debate that you want to intervene in?
  • It is important to think about how the article moves this debate forward – you need to be clear about your contribution to the debate. What gap do you want to fill? What puzzle in the debate do you want to engage or explore?
  • Situating yourself within the field and demonstrating that you are aware of key debates and interventions – often achieved through a focused literature review in some form – is an essential part of the article. This demonstrates your knowledge of the field and sets the base for your argument as you show where is the gap in current knowledge or what is missing from the debate.
  • Stay focused on the debate and do not lose your point over the course of the article – always bear in mind your main argument and its relation to the debate.
  • Make sure to format the article in accordance with the journal’s guidelines – they are normally very clearly stated!
  • In case of a rejection, take the referees´ and editor´s comments seriously. Do not immediately send your article to another journal (the community is quite small, so you might get the same reviewers who would not appreciate reading the same article they already rejected). Revise your article and try to send it to another relevant journal of your choosing. It is often useful to put the article away for some time (at least few days or a week), then look at it with fresh eyes and then make necessary revisions.
  • Your revisions of the article shouldn’t take much longer than six months. When sending a revised article to the editor, always write a memo accompanying your revised texts so the editor and referees know what has been changed and how you reacted to their comments.
  • Bear in mind that if your article was rejected, it does not necessarily mean that it was a bad article that cannot be published anywhere! On the other hand, do take the reviews you got seriously and use them to improve your thinking on the issue you are engaging with.

Approaching the journal

  • Always write a memo accompanying your submission.
  • The memo should be about a page or a page and a half long and it should clearly explain why is your text important, why you chose the given journal (e.g. explain a link with some work it published) and your main findings.
  • It is always important to explicitly state with which academic debates your contribution engage and how!

Publishing in a top journal (e.g. Security Dialogue)

  • Criteria for Security Dialogue – your work needs to combine theoretical development & empirical insights in a novel and interesting way – simply applying an established theory to a case is not enough for this journal.
  • Security dialogue welcomes interdisciplinary articles and innovative pieces that push the boundaries of current understandings of security from a variety of perspectives.

Writing tips

  • “Writing is a way of thinking”, try to write and re-write as much as possible – it will help you to formulate your ideas better and actually think through the issues with which you are engaging.
  • Writing is a way of understanding and it is an essential part of doing the research, rather than something that comes afterwards  (Dr. Aradau noted that she usually writes at least ten drafts of the article)
  • “Try to write as a reader” – guide your readers through your text and make everything as clear as possible
  • Do not lose focus on your main argument(s) – make sure that each sentence and each paragraph contributes to making these arguments.

For Editors and reviewers

  • When you write the review, think about what kind of reviews you would like to get – read generously (although without reducing standards) and explain clearly what needs to be revised and improved – make the review as useful as possible.
  • Do not forget about editorial letter linking all the reviews and highlighting the crucial parts. The editor is the one who decides on the article and the reviews and if necessary needs to reconcile the opposing reviews.
  • Revised and resubmitted articles: It is often advisable to send the article to one new reviewer who can look at it with fresh eyes.

Do not forget that there is no better way how to improve your writing skills than by practice. If you have something to say about politics, societies or culture of Central and East Europe, do not hesitate to share your perspective and contribute to this blog!

Markéta Wittichová is an intern in the Centre for European Security of the Institute of International Relations and MA student in the University of Utrecht.