SPR Q&A: How can I turn my term paper into a publishable article for SPR?

This blog post from SPR Editor Stacey M. Johnson outlines some of the major considerations for graduate students interested in turning their term papers into publishable articles. If you have more questions, check out our blog for more Q&A that may help you as you prepare your SPR submission.

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Let’s start with a paper you’ve already written. You had a good idea, a fresh analysis, some interesting data. You have fleshed that idea out as part of a class you are taking in your graduate program or perhaps as part of a pilot study for your dissertation research. Your manuscript has been turned in as a term paper or approved by your committee as part of your dissertation proposal. Maybe you got really good feedback on your idea and perhaps even the suggestion that it could be publishable. Now what can you do with it?

Preparing an article for publication is no small feat. For most of us who write for academic publication, the process of researching and writing an article takes many months of hard work. Often, once we get to the end of that creative process, it is hard to envision what else might need to be done in order for the work to successfully land in a journal for publication. Before we hand off our work to editors and peer reviewers, it is essential that we take any and every step we can to ensure that our work gets the best possible chance for publication. From my perspective as editor, here is a list of things your paper will need prior to submission. Taking this list seriously will give your paper the best chance at making it through the peer review process.

1) Consider audience

When you originally wrote your paper, the audience was your professor or your committee. They are no longer the audience for the paper, and the work needs to be revised with that in mind. Your new audience includes the editors and peer reviewers for SPR and graduate students in Spanish and Portuguese around the world who are SPR readers. How will you need to revise your ideas so they make sense to this audience? How will you change the ways you communicate your ideas when speaking with your peers rather than with your professor?

Considering your audience also implies that you have read SPR and are familiar with our past issues. Has the journal published on this or a similar topic before? How are you putting your ideas in conversation with past issues of SPR? How are you demonstrating that you see the how your work expands SPR in new directions? If you haven’t actually read past issues of SPR and do not cite previous work in the journal that relates to yours, that will be obvious to the editors.

Know your audience, understand who will be reading your work, and demonstrate that you are writing for *this* audience and *this* journal.

2) Comply with our policies

Our policies for what kinds of submissions we will accept can all be found on the author guidelines page under the heading “General Submission Requirements”. I will list here a few of the policies that often trip up first time authors along with an explanation of how to meet the requirements, but make sure to visit the guidelines for a complete description.

Anonymity: No part of the paper you submit should reveal your identity. You should not include your name or any information about the university you attend as a header. If you reference your own previously published work, that information should be removed and replaced with XXX to deidentify it. Even the Word document itself should have the author information removed from the metadata of the document. This is standard practice when submitting work to any journal but can be counterintuitive for those used to submitting papers as course work.

Permissions: There are certain permissions that are required to publish your work in a journal. For example, if you conducted human subject research of any kind, you must have IRB approval from your institution, mention your IRB approval in the text, and also be able to produce evidence of IRB approval should your editors request it. Copyright is another set of policies that may be new to you if you are publishing in a journal for the first time. In a college classroom, the principle of “fair use” allows teachers and students extra latitude to bring in images, published books, and other copyrighted work in order to reach educational aims. Similarly, critique of published work also benefits from expanded access to copyrighted works. However, publishing in a journals brings an additional set of constraints. For instance, SPR will only publish images if you provide permission from the copyright holder. If you quote extensively from other works, we will questions if the quotes are appropriate and essential to your argument. The author guidelines give more direction here, but keep these issues in mind when deciding what to submit to SPR.

3) Obsess over MLA

SPR does not reject articles due to a failure to stick to MLA style. In the first round of peer review, articles are assessed on their merit and MLA considerations are enforced in the revisions and copyediting process. However, submitting a paper that is already in the most up-to-date MLA format ensure that a) your reviewers and editors are able to focus on your argument in their review rather than wasting time and energy pointing out MLA issues, and b) if your paper is accepted, you will have much less to do in subsequent rounds of revision.

If you have not already read the author guidelines carefully, please do so! We work to keep these as up-to-date as possible to ensure authors’ questions are answered. And if you do not already have your own copy of the most recent MLA style guide, this is the right time to pick one up.

Note: one way that SPR differs from typical MLA format is in how we publish empirical studies and works on topics of linguistics and pedagogy. For these works, we use a modified MLA style that more closely matches the APA format often required by linguistics and pedagogy journals. Since we are a hybrid journal encompassing all the disciplines that fall under Spanish and Portuguese, it makes sense that we would have some hybrid style guidelines as well. All of these can be found in our author guidelines.

4) Write towards one of our existing sections

SPR publishes traditional research articles, but we also seek articles for our other sections. On the author guidelines page under the heading “Types of Submissions”, you will find explanations of the different sections we publish along with examples from previous issues and from other journals. These sections all require a different kind of writing and serve different purposes. Read through this section carefully, spend time with the examples, and decide which section will best showcase your work. Then, rewrite your article with the specific section in mind. Most of our submissions are traditional research articles and this is also where there is most competition for limited spots in the issue. If your work can fit into a different section other than traditional articles, you might find better chances for publication.

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We hope this helps as you start the process of preparing your manuscript for submission to SPR! If you have comments or questions, feel free to post below or email us at spr@aatsp.org.

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