What do journal editors want?

When a manuscript is rejected by a journal editor, it is easy to feel discouraged, and even give up on a manuscript altogether. Don’t despair! Another question to ask is:  what is it that journal editors want? In fact, rather than being a mystery, there is much insight into what journal editors want to be found in both journals and publishing houses. Here are some useful resources to check out before you submit your next article for review.

In a recent editorial in the journal Action Research, the editors (Friedman, Gray, & Aragón, 2018) outline explicitly what they want from authors submitting manuscripts to this particular journal. They synthesize their recommendations for what they want into five ideas that they see as “critical for writing” that “do justice” to action research approaches:

  1. Adding value;
  2. Showing, not just telling;
  3. Making clear what we have learned that is new;
  4. Making critical reflection on participation central; and
  5. Challenging the standard academic paper format.

This particular journal also provides an overview of the criteria by which quality is judged,  along with a manifesto for action research that outlines the centrality of partnership and participation, action, reflexivity and significance for action research. Of course, what these journal editors want will not be the same for other journals or disciplines.

Although there are some common things that any journal editor wants (e.g., submitting a well-edited manuscript in the format outlined for a particular journal),  lots of information for authors across disciplines and research approaches is to be found. Here are a few resources to check.

Elsevier authors’ guide 

Sage authors’ guide 

Springer authors’ guide 

Taylor and Francis authors’ guide 

Biomedical Central writing resources 

Authors have also written articles on what journal editors want. For one example on publishing in the health sciences, see

Muir-Cochrane, E. (2013). What do journal editors want? … and everything you wanted to know about the peer review process for journal publication. Nursing & Health Sciences15(3), 263–4. doi:10.1111/nhs.12092

Best wishes with getting your article submission accepted!

Kathy Roulston 


Friedman, V. J., Gray, P., & Aragón, A. O. (2018). From doing to writing action research: A plea to ARJ authors. Action Research, 16(1), 3-6. doi:10.1177/1476750318763041



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