For most people, writing is
very hard work
Many people find publishing to be
the most intimidating part of
Argyris – 500 words a day
Starbuck – staying at home
Before word processors, rewriting the same
Many people procrastinate
Why is writing so hard?
Writers have to convert complex
ideas into simple, linear text.
Writers and readers see text quite
Success depends on being able to
deal with editors and reviewers.
You must satisfy reviewers who do
not know more than you do but who
seem to act as if they do know more.
Research on reviewers
Some trends in journal
How authors see it
How authors should deal with
editors and reviewers
Writing introductions and
"Louis Pasteur's theory of
germs is ridiculous
Pierre Pachet, Professor of
Physiology at Toulouse, 1872
Research about reviewers1
Reviewers tend to agree about the
criteria for judging manuscripts.
But they agree much more weakly about
the qualities of specific manuscripts.
Evaluators’ judgments of manuscripts’
quality correlate only 0.24 with citations
to the published papers.
Reviewers’ judgments of papers’ quality
correlate only around 0.25 to 0.3 with
manuscripts’ true value. (Starbuck, 2005)
Research about reviewers2
Reviewers give positive ratings to
papers that support their beliefs
and vice versa (Mahoney, 1977).
When they reject papers that do
not support their beliefs, reviewers
attribute the discrepant findings to
Journals are very likely to reject
papers they have already
published. (Peters & Ceci, 1982)
Research about reviewers3
Because each reviewer makes unreliable
judgments, pairs of reviewers disagree
with each other.
Reviewers’ judgments correlate between
0.1 and 0.4.
Because reviewers say “Reject” over half of
the time, they are much more likely to
agree to reject than to agree to accept.
Although some journals publish more top-
quality articles, the differences between
journals are unclear and gradual.
A correlation of 0.25
Manuscripts Accepted after Reviews by Journals in Different Strata When Rho = 0.30
Percent of Manuscripts
First quintile, 43% in highest-value
20% of manuscripts
Second-third quintiles, 29% in highest-
value 20% of manuscripts
Fourth-fifth quintiles, 13% in highest-
0.4% value 20% of manuscripts
-4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4
Log of True Value of Manuscript
Changes in academic
publishing from 1980 to 2006
900 libraries would buy any book.
Sale of 1200 copies could be
Between 1980 and 2006
Many new journals appeared.
Libraries reduced their purchases of
books to buy journals.
Changes in academic
publishing from 1980 to 2006
600 libraries buy any book.
Breakeven sales volume can be
around 600, depending on typesetting
Additional copies can be printed in
lots of 20.
Figure 2 Ratios of Impact Factors: Ratio of Top Quintile to Fourth-Fifth Quintiles and
Ratio of Second-Third Quintiles to Fourth-Fifth Quintiles
Top management, Mean = 6.2
Ratio of Average Impact Factors
Top economics, Mean = 5.6
Top psychology, Mean = 8.6
8 Top sociology, Mean = 4.2
Second-third management, Mean = 2.7
6 Second-third economics, Mean = 2.1
Second-third psychology, Mean = 3.0
4 Second-third sociology, Mean = 2.1
“It is commonly known and a constant
course of frustration that even well-
known refereed journals contain a large
fraction of bad articles which are boring,
repetitive, incorrect, redundant, and
harmful to science in general. What is
perhaps even worse, the same journals
also stubbornly reject some brilliant and
insightful articles (i. e., your own) for no
good reason. . . . bad papers are
submitted in such vast quantities . . . the
small fraction of them that gets accepted
may outnumber the good ones.”
How authors see it1
Some reviewers are insulting.
Some are ignorant.
Reviewers make inconsistent
Reviewers are biased.
How authors see it2
BUT authors must communicate
with and satisfy these rude,
biased, ignorant clods who
disagree with each other.
To gain discretion, authors can
seek loopholes in reviewers’
comments and juxtapose their
How authors see it3
To “submit” a manuscript has a
Authors must thank even the
reviewers they despise. Since
thanks is mandated by asymmetric
power, it is probably false.
Repeated revision can create
Choosing a journal1
Proceedings give little visibility.
Articles are more useful than books
for younger researchers because of
speed and circulation.
Pick a journal before you start to
write, then match its style:
Tables? Statistical tests?
Quantitative versus qualitative?
Propositions? Flow diagrams?
Density of references?
Choosing a journal2
Does your paper cite several
articles that were published in the
Citation frequencies indicate
Citation frequencies are on my web
Choosing a journal3
Are multiple submissions OK?
More than one manuscript - yes.
The same manuscript - never.
As with any investment situation, a
diversified portfolio reduces risk.
The tradeoff is weak between
high prestige and probability of
Choosing a journal4
Should you send a manuscript to a
newly launched journal?
Yes if you are old and famous and you
want to help the journal
Yes if you have written many papers
Yes if you are feeling insecure
No if you are young and unknown
No if you have written only a few papers
No if you are confident
Address your letter to the correct
person and use the correct name of
Your manuscript should be tidy,
with no typographic errors and no
spelling errors. Check the
Do not signal carelessness.
Perhaps, hire an editor. (Ming Jer)
Wait three months, then if you
have heard nothing, make an
Telephone may be better than a
Journals often have poorly organized
Electronic services are changing this.
Getting a response1
“No reviewer is ever wrong.”
React as coolly as you can.
Wait at least two weeks before you
do anything . . . better six weeks.
Getting a response2
Regard reviewers’ comments as
data about (a) your writing and (b)
how readers are likely to react to
Reviewers’ comments are NOT
judgments about the quality of your
Getting a response3
If the reviewers misunderstand
you, write it more clearly.
If they suggest you are ignorant,
show your knowledge.
But you might really be ignorant!
If they say you used the wrong
methods, explain why you used the
methods you did.
But the reviewers might know better
Good data about readers are hard
to get. Colleagues are too
supportive, too tactful.
Reviewers think they are saying
If they appear to be stupid, they may
have stated their concerns poorly, or
you may not be interpreting their
Make SOME change(s) in response
to every comment of every
But, do not do everything they ask.
Eric’s three revisions, twice
Usually, send it back to the
Repeated revision can create a
With your revision, send an
explanation of how you dealt with
each comment by each reviewer.
The editor will send this
explanation to the reviewers
Usually, send it back to the
You can argue with the reviewers
but do so tactfully.
Look for loopholes in their
comments. Juxtapose their
Everything I could say is on-line:
The most important parts of
an article are the introduction
These should --
entice readers to read the article,
convince readers that the author
summarize the main conclusions
of the article, and
persuade readers that they are
happy to have read the article.
Why introductions and
conclusions are important
People are most likely to
remember what they learned last.
They are next most likely to
remember what they learned first.
They are least likely to remember
what they learned in the middle of
Tell a story.
Defend an implausible statement.
Contradict an authority.
Contradict common sense.
For example, Daft and Weick began
"Organizations as interpretation
systems" (AMR, 1984) by saying
"Consider the game of 20 questions.
Normally in this game one person. . . .
Organizations play 20 questions."
Also start by showing
Why should readers read what YOU
have to say?
You cannot report your qualifications,
You can exhibit command of the
You may be able to reframe the
literature to show a novel and
Give a brief road map of
Readers do not know the paper’s
structure. They may find themselves
wondering why they are reading what
they are reading.
State the main thrust of your argument.
First tell them what you are going to say
Then say it
Then tell them what you said
Explain the outline of the paper.
Although this seems mechanical to you, it
can be brief and it seems less mechanical to
Just before you end
Summarize the main arguments
and main conclusions
One to two pages
Essentially, a long abstract
Assume that readers have not read
any of the preceding parts of the
Do not end depressingly
Do not point out that this paper does not
answer all questions or that more research
is needed. These are clichés.
Do not end by emphasizing the deficiencies
of your paper, thus making readers regret
having read it.
Point out a few practical implications.
Tell a story.
Spring a surprise.
Give your findings an ironic twist. (Univ of
Synthesize conflicting positions.
Introduction + Conclusion
Together, the introduction and
conclusion should tell readers
everything they need to take away from
Someone who reads ONLY the
introduction and conclusion should be
able to state what the paper
Exercise: Give someone only the
introduction and the conclusion.