Advice for authors – of abstracts and coping with rejection

Submitting articles can be daunting. To help with this, Sikina Jinnah of the Environmental Politics editorial team answers some questions about the “to do” and “to avoid” aspects of submitting articles…

1. Beyond straightforward “hygiene” issues – length, clarity of abstract, spelling etc – what are the top things someone submitting an article to EP should consider?

The first thing editors do when looking at a new manuscript is read the abstract. Spending time to ensure the abstract is well written, and clearly articulates your core argument (don’t bury the lead!), methods and the importance of the study is crucial. We evaluate so many articles, so giving us a clear sense of where the article is going and why is it important before we start reading it goes a long way. The second thing we do is look at the references. This is to see what types of debates the paper engages with and who might be good reviewers for the piece. Are the debates relevant to ongoing conversations in the journal? Are the debates timely? Is the most recent and important literature engaged?

It is also critically important to ensure that the study contributes to broad theoretical debates in environmental politics. This is especially true for case study analyses. Case studies are great. However, be sure that when submitting a case study you make clear how your specific case helps us to understand environmental politics more broadly, such as beyond the bounds of a particular geographic place. This doesn’t mean that all studies must produce generalizable results, but they do need to contribute to theoretical debates that have broad relevance to the field.

2. In your experience as an editor, what are the most common reasons for you to recommend that an article be rejected?

This is pretty closely related to your first question. First, the article must make an original contribution to how we understand environmental politics (broadly defined). I’d emphasize the importance of developing the article’s contribution to our understanding of politics, here. We sometimes receive papers that offer skillful analyses of environmental impact, ending by making a recommendation for a new policy. Or others that posit that everything is political, so their research is about environmental politics by default. In both cases, the article might be a better fit for a different journal.

Most often the contribution to our understanding of environmental politics comes in the form of a new theoretical insight, challenge, or extension. However, the novel contribution can also be methodological or empirical. Second, the article must situate itself well within the surrounding literature. How is the current study in conversation with prior studies on related topics? Why is the current study important in extending our understanding of these topics? It’s worth underscoring that communicating these contributions clearly is vitally important. As editors of a highly multi-disciplinary journal, we’re often stretching beyond our core expertise to evaluate manuscripts. Our readership is similarly highly multi-disciplinary. Papers that fit best at Environmental Politics are those that make sophisticated arguments in ways that are interesting and accessible to out very broad readership.

3. As an author, how have you coped with inevitable rejection of articles?  Any top tips?

Rejections are always disappointing. I’ve even had an article rejected from Environmental Politics! However, rejections can also be a signal that you’re stretching to reach new audiences and develop new ideas and concepts, which is a good thing and pushes us all forward as thinkers and scholars. The reviews that come along with rejections can also be really helpful for improving the piece. I like to do a quick read as soon as I get disappointing news, but then wait a few days or even weeks to process the material before really diving into it and thinking about how to make it better. In short, if you’re never getting rejected you’re probably not pushing the boundaries of creativity and thinking as much as you could, and reviews that candidly but professionally give you suggestions for improvement are a gift.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

I would just highlight that the editorial team at Environmental Politics is very interested in expanding our scope to include more contributions from parts of world that have been historically underrepresented in the field. When the journal started out it had a focus on industrialized countries. This is no longer the case, and we’re working very hard to shift that perception to be more inclusive and attract contributions that help develop our understanding of environmental politics in all parts of the world. Please consider submitting, especially if you can help us to grow in this way!

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