As much as I try to keep my blog writing in a plain and reader-friendly fashion, there is certain lingo in the world of peer-reviewed publications that we have to encounter—well, sooner or later. I listed 10 key terms here to provide a general picture of what authors need to know. This is by no means an exhaustive list. For example, I did not include any manuscript elements (e.g., title page, abstract, background) in the list.
Ready or not—here we go!
1. Peer Review: Peer review is a process in which articles are evaluated and critiqued by researchers and experts in the same field before the article is published. Journals usually use double-blind review so reviewers and authors remain anonymous to one another. Some journals use single-blind review—reviewers are anonymous, but they know who the authors are.
2. Impact Factor (IF). It is a measure to assess the frequency with which an “average article” in a journal has been cited during a particular year or period. It is a commonly used quantitative measure to evaluate a journal, as the term itself indicated –how much impact the publication has within in a field. The impact factor is updated each year.
You can find the IF from the journal’s website or the website of Journal Citation Reports, which requires institution subscription.
An alternative of measure of Journal impact/rank Is Scimago Journal & Country Rank, which looks at both the number of citations received by a journal and the importance of the journal where the citation was published. You can search the journal ranking by subject category from their website.
3. Target Journal. It is not really a standard term, but people use it all the time to refer to the peer-reviewed journal that they select for their manuscript submission. The target journal is usually selected based on the journal’s aim and scope, target audience, impact factor, etc.
4. Open Access. Increasing number of peer-reviewed journals are making their articles available to the public online without any charge of subscription. It provides free and convenient access to readers.
Authors, however, may be required to pay for publication and production for open-access publications. Examples of open access journals are PLOS (Public Library of Science) and BioMed Central.
5. Instruction to Authors. There is a section on the journal website that provides instructions on how to write and submit your manuscript and lists all the required documents. It is super important because if your submission is not following the instruction, it may result in quick rejection or give a bad impression to the editor that you do not read the guideline carefully.
6. Online Submission. Almost all journals require authors to submit their work online. I guess the days when I needed to mail out 5 hard copies of my paper are gone! The system requires you to create an account and follow steps to enter required information and upload documents. The link to online submission should be available on the journal’s website.
7. Conflict of Interest: Journals ask authors to report potential conflicts of interest to ensure transparency of their manuscript. These conflict of interest may include financial (e.g., employment, consultation) and personal relationships, and/or other conflicts. Authors can disclose those in their cover letter and/or on the manuscript submission form. Even if there is no conflict of interest, it needs to be clearly stated on these documents.
8. Copyright Transfer: After the manuscript is accepted by a journal, authors are required to submit the copyright transfer form. By signing the form, each author agrees to transfer all copyrights of the work to the journal.
9. Proof: After the manuscript is accepted, authors will receive a PDF version of the article proof before it is sent for final production. Authors are usually given a few days to proofread the article and make notes on minor editing (e.g., deleting/changing a few words; correcting typos).
Usually, at this stage, you are not allowed to make significant changes in results or major content of the article. The editor may also have a query sheet (at the end of the article) that lists a few things that he/she would authors to address (e.g., double-check whether a reference is correct).
10. In Press: Articles in Press means manuscripts have been accepted for publication but have not yet been assigned to a journal issue. They are also called “forthcoming articles.” Once your paper is accepted, you can change its status from “under review” to “in press” on your CV and other documents.
Hope you find the description of these terms is helpful. Even if you are not sure you’ve totally understood the meaning of them, no worries. We will get back to them later.