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Preparing for Publication

for Undergraduate Students

There are increasing opportunities for humanities and social science undergraduate students to begin professionalizing their academic writing and publishing careers in their fields. This guide collates information from humanities and social science professors to introduce students to the ins and outs of academic publishing.

The below is a general introduction to undergraduate publishing. 

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Step 1

Revise & Expand Course Papers

Articles for publication are generally 6,000 – 10,000 words counting footnotes and bibliography. With an article, you’re shooting for about 20-pages, double-spaced, Times New Roman, of polished prose. The journey to produce this kind of professional-quality paper—from researching and drafting to revising—takes time. Crafting a journal-quality paper may take anywhere from six months to three years.

You should not submit papers ‘as is’ from completed courses. Course papers have different goals from journals. Whereas the purpose of a course paper is to satisfy the objectives of the course and demonstrate mastery of disciplinary content and methods, journal articles aim to share research and arguments that help to add, refine, or rethink current knowledge in the field. While a well-written course paper may provide a solid foundation for further developing your work, your research and writing does not end with the course paper. Course papers are the beginning of a research project aimed towards journal publication.

Step 2

Attend Conferences

To begin preparing for academic publication, you should take your work, i.e. course papers or other research projects, to conferences. When you present at conferences, there are several benefits:

  • Conferences give a tangible goal to which you may hold yourself accountable, i.e. to complete versions of your project by deadlines

  • Feedback from other professionals in the field may help you to identify the successes, gaps, and opportunities for further research in your argument

  • Hearing others’ presentations will help you to stay updated and informed about new theories, discoveries, and research occurring in your field, and this context will also help you to knowledgably frame your article.

When identifying potential conferences, aim to bring your work to the experts in your field. You might start with a conference hosted at your university or a local university. From here, you should seek to present at a respected regional or national conference, where you may interact with a broader range of established experts in your field.

Once you have identified your target conference, you will need to submit an abstract proposal. Explore guidelines and tips for writing conference abstracts using our Abstract Writing Workshop Handout.

Funding for travel expenses is available to Department of Humanities & Politics students through the DHP Scholar Fund. All NSU students may also apply for funding through the Undergraduate Student Government Association Professional Development Grants.


Below is specific information from your professors on how to find relevant conference "call for papers," or CFPs, in your field. For more on preparing for conferences, see the Style Us webpages on conference etiquette and conventions:

Step 3

Model Articles after Target Journals

Once you have decided that you would like to write for journal publications, you should identify target journals. Target journals may help you to identify writing styles and conventions upheld in your field. Learning the conventions of academic writing in your field is massively assisted by reading the journal articles published in your field. To this end, you can identify a few respected journals in your field and begin looking to their articles to model your own work.

Since different journals have slightly different aims, you should also identify the specific journal to which you intend to submit your article. Studying the style and conventions of articles in that journal will help to give you tangible examples of what your paper might look like. It is important that your writing goals and style be consistent with the goals and aims of the journal in which you’d like to publish. You may find descriptions of a journal’s mission and scope on their website.

Below is specific information from your professors on the top journals in your field as well as options for undergraduate journals, or journals that focus specifically on publishing undergraduate work.


There are also methods you can use to identify journals on your own. As a general rule of thumb, when you are looking for a journal to publish in, you should look for one that:

  • is peer-reviewed

  • is published or distributed by a respected publisher, university press, or editors

  • has a reasonable ratio of acceptances

Tip: To identify known publishers, university presses, and editors, make a list of those that recur in your own research bibliographies.

Tip: You may also look to a journal’s acceptance rates as another kind of indication for a journal’s quality. Generally speaking, a journal with 50% acceptance rates or higher indicate a less than desirable quality while journals with a 5% acceptance rate indicate high exclusivity. However, consider this information with discretion. It is possible that a journal with an extremely niche or avant-garde focus, and thus smaller population of scholars, may tend to have a higher acceptance rate, and journals with extremely exclusive acceptance rates do not necessarily imply works of greater intelligence or labor. That said, journals with around 25%-33% acceptance rates are typically appropriate targets for early scholars.

Tip: Detailed information about any properly registered journal can be found in a directory of periodicals. A directory of periodicals can tell you: who publishes the journal; who the editors are; where the journal is published; when the journal began publishing; how often they publish; whether they are open access or require subscriptions; how long it takes to review submissions; how many authors submit articles per year versus how many articles are published per year; and more. Below is specific information from your professors on how to find the directory of periodicals relevant to your field.

Step 4

Submit an Article

Once you have submitted an article to a journal for consideration, it will take time to hear back.

First keep in mind that most journals require that you not submit your article elsewhere while it is under review. Submitting an article to multiple journals at a time is called a “simultaneous submission.” While some journals allow simultaneous submissions, most do not. Submitting simultaneously when a journal has asked contributors not to is considered unprofessional.

Journals typically provide feedback on your article anywhere from 3 months to one year after submission. A well-run journal will announce what their typical turnaround time is on their website. You should refrain from asking journal editors for updates within this timeframe.

Feedback from journals may take several forms. Journals may give you one of several responses, including:

  • “Rejected” – If your article has been rejected, you may request comments from the reviewers (if comments were not already included). Use these comments to consider further revisions on your paper. Then send your article out again to another journal. Rejections will happen. Articles may be rejected if they do not speak within the journal’s scope, do not adhere to submission guidelines, and/or require further research and revision.

  • “Rejected: Revise and Resubmit” – Journals may reject the article but invite authors to “revise and resubmit.” This means that the reviewers or editors found merit in the article but also determined that there are deficits in research, clarity, structure, style, etc. that are too weighty to be easily addressed in their editing process. You may choose to revise according to their notes and resubmit to the same journal or you may submit elsewhere.

  • “Accepted” – Articles that have been accepted will still go through a process of editing, sometimes through several rounds of review by the content, copy, and managing editors of the journal. However, the reviewers and editors have found merit in your article and determined that any necessary edits are manageable. Well-run journals will have quality editors that will help you to polish your article for publication.

You hold the copyrights to your work during the submission process. Once your article has been accepted, the journal will provide you with a publishing contract that will include their proposed agreement for copyright. In publishing through their journal, you must share certain rights. Some journals will allow you to freely republish the article from their journal (e.g. if you were to write a book and wanted to include the already published article as a chapter) while others will request some restrictions.


Edited Collections vs Journals

Other than journals, edited collections are also viable places to publish. There are differences between edited collections and journals in their review and publication processes.

  • Abstracts vs Articles: Whereas general issues of journals will require that you submit your completed article for consideration, edited collections frequently solicit chapter proposals before asking for completed chapters. That is, they will review and tentatively accept proposals (of generally 500 to 1000 words) before seeing the completed product (of 6,000 to 10,000 words). The benefit (and risk) is that you may be tentatively accepted for publication in the collection on the basis of your proposal.

  • Peer Review vs Editors: Proposals and abstracts for edited collections are reviewed by the collection editors, which may comprise of one to three scholars in the field. These scholars may be early scholars like yourself or experienced and well-known experts of the field. This differs from the peer review process in journals. A properly run journal will have a board of editors or list of external reviewers upon whom they may call to review article submissions, ensuring that someone with special expertise in the article’s area of focus will be able to properly assess the quality of the argument and research. For this reason, journal publications tend to be viewed as more rigorous than edited collections. However, this is not a hard and fast rule of judgment. A properly edited collection distributed by a respected publisher also carries weight.

  • Guarantees: Once you have been accepted to a journal for publication, it is generally assumed that your article will be published, even if the journal falls behind schedule. However, with edited collections, there is less of a guarantee of publication. There are several ways a chapter or book collection may fail to reach publication status. The collection editors, although they had accepted your proposal, may reject your article upon receiving it in its complete form. Writers who had originally agreed to contribute to the collection may pull out, making the collection no longer viable. The collection editors may decide to drop the project for personal or professional reasons. Finally, your chapter and the collection overall will need to pass through a series of editing processes with the publishing company, and a publisher may decide to ultimately reject the book collection.

In short...

1. Course Paper

Revise a course paper.

2. Conference

Share your ideas at a conference and gain feedback.

3. Submit

Identify an appropriate journal or essay collection for your field and expertise.

Discipline-Specific Tips

Click on the buttons below for discipline-specific tips.

Humanities and Social Science professors of NSU were asked:

  1. Identify at least one website/database/blog/listserv where scholars go to find call-for-papers for conferences and journals

  2. Identify the most well-known journal(s) in your area of study

  3. Identify undergraduate journals in your area of study

  4. Identify your area’s directory of periodicals

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Undergraduate Journals

Not sure what disciplinary area your study falls in?

Click below to explore a long list of journals that welcome undergraduate submissions.


Preparing for Conferences?
Click below for conference conventions and etiquette tips and exercises.

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Book Publishing

Ultimately, you may aim to publish a book. Book publishers will want to see a record of publications before they accept a book proposal. To see what other expectations publishers may have, see the below references:

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