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Thanks Helen, for these useful reflections. Your last comment leads me to a question: What exactly is the point of publishing in a diverse array of jounrals (which seems to be the goal of the bingo strategy)? I work in a specialized field and I care most about what other people in my field think about my work, therefore I almost exclusively try to publish in specialized journals. That's where people look for, if they care about this field. I don't see what would be gained by publishing in a general journal, no matter how "top" it would be. I'm here to do philosophy, not to be in a popularity contest.

Helen De Cruz

Hi Anon - I'm not sure what the rationale of the Bingo strategy is, only that many people seem to think it looks good to have a smorgasbord of publication venues in one's CV. It's easier to do that if you work either in a broad field like epistemology or have several fields of specialization. Fortunately, I don't think that it's a necessary condition for a good CV and the discipline still recognizes specialists whose work does not fit in a wide array of journals.
There seem to be several motivations why people send to top journals, among others:
1. Belief that one needs top publications to get a tenure track job. Even before I had a TT job, I didn't send to top journals except a few times. It just doesn't seem to be the case - and Carolyn Dicey Jenning's work confirms this - that one needs to have such papers to be hired.
2. Wanting to be perceived as a leader in the field. I fear that it is increasingly the case that if you want to be perceived as a research star (not just land a TT and get tenure), publication in such journals *is* important, which is problematic for some fields. For instance, there's very few papers in philosophy of race, feminism, philosophy of religion, aesthetics etc etc in such journals.


There is one good reason to publish in general philosophy journals. Philosophers who work in one area, like philosophy of science, can sometimes seem to be doing something that is not perceived as philosophy by other philosophers (that is, by those working outside of philosophy of science). Search committees can then wonder, where is the philosophy here? But when one publishes in a general journal (especially a highly regarded one), then one is perceived by non-specialists to be a philosopher. Remember that many search committees in the US at small colleges (and there are many of these) will not include someone who specializes in one's area. That is the reason they are looking for someone in your area. A friend of mine who works in philosophy of biology had a challenging time getting a job, until he framed his work in more general philosophical terms, relating, for example, the species debate to the general question about kinds/classes, etc., a more standard metaphysical issue.

Sam Duncan

I just want to put in a good word for the new open access journal Ergo here. Even though they've rejected both things I've sent them my experience with them has been great, and I think that their review practices ought to be a model for the profession. (It's triple blind and the initial review is done by section editors who are specialists in the paper's area.) They aim to be a generalist journal and the founders expressly cite the relatively small number of papers in non-LEMMing areas in specialist journals as one of the reasons for the journal's existence. Their review times are excellent, though they do make a very liberal use of desk rejections.

Also, Andrew Cullison's journal survey page is one of the most useful things out there for deciding where to submit. I never submit anything anywhere without getting a feel for review times there.

Helen De Cruz

Hi Specialist: I think your reasoning is correct - being in a general philosophy helps you to "pass" as a philosopher even if your work is rather unconventional. But I think it does highlight some very problematic aspect of our profession, namely that some fields of philosophy are regarded as inherently less philosophical (Kristie Dotson has an excellent musing on this in Hypatia), and thus the perceived need for passing, by placing one's work in a journal that is regarded as having a high standard of excellence.

Mark Silcox

Yeah, this pretty much mirrors my experience. The main problem seems to me to be that the status of generalist journals within the profession doesn't change nearly quickly enough based on their treatment of the review process. Everyone I've ever spoken to who has been rejected by Mind, The Canadian J for P, or the new APA journal has a tale of horror and arbitrariness to tell, but somehow they still regularly get ranked just as high as heroically equitable publications like Phil Studies and Phil Quarterly.

Scott Clifton

I'd like to echo Sam Duncan's plug for Ergo. It's a common sense setup that works very well. Too bad that its review process is an exception, rather than the rule.

Shane Wilkins

I wanted to register my own anecdotal experience with the new JAPA, because it was quite different than the experiences Mark Silcox reports.

My impression was very positive. Heil and crew were very quick, (initial decision after about a month) and they gave me two sets of really terrific comments. They did eventually take my paper, so perhaps my vision's a little rosy here. But, JAPA is definitely going to be one of the first places I think of when sending stuff to a general journal.


The main purpose of the specialist journals is to consolidate the dominance of LEM subfields. A paper on a narrow debate between three or four metaphysicians (who referee each other's papers more often than not) can be published in Nous, whereas a similar paper in, say, aesthetics will be desk-rejected as too narrow. And this is why it's a coup for a non-LEMming to publish in the Healy Four.


I enjoy the anecdotes as much as anyone else. But they're not a basis on which to choose journals. First, the reports are likely to be biased. People recall and are more likely to report experiences that are unusual in some way. Second, just think about how big an effect size would need to be for the sampling strategy like that of submitting papers to journals to detect it.

My own strategy reflects considerations that are probably irrelevant to most readers. Both the British REF and the Australian ERA are supposed to assess paper quality, independent of venue. But I'm willing to bet that venue makes a difference. Since assessors are relatively unlikely to share one's philosophical prejudices, that speaks in favor of the highest prestige journal, and makes generalist journals preferable to specialist (though prestige trumps generality).

Axel Gelfert

Thanks for this post, Helen. My strategy mirrors yours very closely. Ever since getting a tenure-track job in 2008, I think I only once submitted something to the 'top 10' (Phil Review, JPhil, Nous, Mind, PPR, Ethics, Phil Studies, AJP, Phil Imprint, Analysis) and while the paper eventually got published in a 2nd-tier journal, I had to resubmit it five times. As a postdoc, I was eager to get out a few articles in generalist journals (with a bit of luck, I got into Ratio and Synthese at the first or second attempt), for the reasons others have mentioned in their comments. But, like you, I have found publishing in specialist journals a far more satisfying experience: one actually gets knowledgeable referees' reports, editors who want to publish relevant work (rather than looking for reasons to reject a piece), and quicker turnaround and publication times. In my experience, articles in (good) specialist journals also garner at least the same level of attention -- and often more citations.

Recent PhD

Does it look bad to have a lot of papers in the same few journals? What if these same journals are top 20 general journals?

The reason I ask is that there are a few general journals I like dealing with. Most I don't. Any reason not to just send everything to these few journals?

I don't work in an area where specialist journals are really thing so much.

Master Planner

I tend to send papers in the first instance to the Philosophical Review, and if they are not accepted there, I then attempt Mind. And if the paper is still not accepted, then out of self-respect and maintaining a sense of dignity, I do not try a third time, but rather, put the written manuscript in a large wooden box. The shoebox is in my attic. My long-term goal here is to leave a mark as a legend: my papers will either be found in Phil Review or Mind, or they will be discovered posthumously in the wooden box. Since my only published papers will be Phil Review or Mind, people will think (after finding my wooden box after death) that the entirety of my work is of that calibre. There are only two potential worries with my strategy which I see: firstly, my papers might be a bit out of date when they are found, though I try to write about timeless topics, and secondly, if there is a house fire, then my life's work would might go unnoticed. (This is why I have also backed all of these documents on a USB drive which I have given to one trusted individual in case of a house/attic fire. But if this person betrays me or loses the USB drive, all is over--though I think all in all this is an acceptable risk to potentially be remembered through posterity as a great thinker.


hahah, Master Planner, thanks for making my day with that.

I know this thread is old but two qs: first, how long to wait til contacting a publisher about the status of paper when you've heard nothing (is 3 months too soon, for a journal that has a reputation for quick turn-arounds?)

Second, which journals take 2, 3, or more months just to *desk reject*? This is a feature it might be cool for Cullison's surveys to include (I don't *think* they currently do). I'm fine waiting a few or more months for referee reports. But I don't want to submit somewhere where it'll take that long just to get a desk rejection. Referee reports give me data and help me improve the paper, but the desk rejection tells me very little.



I'd like to ask you whether you think there is any hope in hell of my publishing my masters thesis on free will which I wrote in 2004. It is 20,000 words long which I anticipate will be an issue, but mostly I'm worried because it is obviously devoid of any references to any progress in the debate since 2004. I think it was at the time a very strong piece of writing, but I'm afraid that it will be rejected because it ignores anything after 2004. What do you think?


I think you misunderstand the nature of scholarly publication. It is intended to be up to date and original. Think of the model of publishing in the sciences. If you were to try to publish something that did not acknowledge the scholarship of the last 12 years, in all likelihood, your paper would not constitute a contribution to the field (not even a small one, as most contributions are). Clearly, physics, for example, has moved ahead in the last 12 years. I do not work on free will but I suspect that the issue is being discussed in different ways now than it was discussed in 2004.

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