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08/16/2022

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Ian

In case the original question was intended to be a little more nitty-gritty, here's my mental checklist for the process of submitting a finished paper.

When you are sure you have a good paper that you want to try to publish, have a trusted alpha reader read it for structural problems and significant communicative lapses that might be obvious to them but not you. My sense is that the ideal alpha reader is someone who is philosophically skilled and interested in the topic of your paper, but does not have subject-matter expertise in the paper's area. You aren't looking for a pre-reviewer. You're looking for someone to make the paper more effectively communicative to the subject-matter experts who will review it. (The alpha reader stage should happen well before you start prepping to submit, because a good alpha reader will almost always have useful suggestions that take work to address.)

My checklist when I'm ready to submit:

- Double check section numbering and citation/references match-up. (It's really easy to mess up these details in a paper that's been through many drafts, but these mistakes can come off to reviewers as careless.)
- Write an abstract and key words. (Spend some time getting this version of the abstract right, as this is what potential reviewers will use to decide if they actually want the job. The audience for this version of the abstract is thus a little different than the audience for the final version. Do what you can to let them know what they're getting into.)
- Ask (or pay) a conscientious friend to do a laborious read of the abstract and first 2 - 3 pages, to make absolute sure there are no typos or other embarrassing mistakes right at the beginning. Careless errors won't make such a difference later in the paper, once you've built up some trust in the eyes of your reviewers.
- Anonymize the paper, including references, acknowledgments, running headers, and document metadata.
- Write a cover letter to the editor. If there's a special reason you've chosen the journal, explain that. But mostly, the cover letter should suggest a few reviewers and explain why they'd be good. (And if there are obvious candidates for reviewers who they shouldn't contact, explain that, too.)

I still struggle with the usual impostor feelings which can cause pointless delays while I hover over the submit button every day for a week or two. I've found this helps: pick the day you plan to submit and get everything loaded into the submission manager the day before. On the day, pour an irresponsibly large glass of wine and sip it while you do a final check that everything is in its right place. Submit when the glass is empty.

non-tt faculty

I change the font to something I normally wouldn't use, like comic sans, and read the paper again, preferably out loud. If I'm still happy with the paper, I change the font back to normal. I then zoom out, and make sure that the paper looks fine from afar, typically checking whether there are one or two sentence pages, or whether there are sections that start at the end of a page, and anything like weird layouts that would make the document feel distracting. (Sometimes journals require submissions in .docx, and I do this at the final stage of submission, when a proof before submission is generated.) I would also check whether there's anything in the paper that hints that I originated from a non-western country.

Really wish I had a full checklist on things that would prompt reviewers to reject papers due to psychological irrationalities though.

Prof L

It's great if you have a buddy (fellow grad student) who will read it over for you and let you know if there are bad mistakes or really confusing sentences etc. And you can reciprocate for them.

But I wouldn't stress too much before sending something out. Just send it out. A lot of the things we do right before submitting it have diminishing returns. Sure, proof-read it, but if you are proof-reading it for the third time, stop. It's unlikely that the two to four typos you catch this time will make or break the paper in the mind of the referee.

And yes, anonymize. But don't conform the paper to the style guidelines of the journal. Also, unlike Ian, I don't write cover letters. I just leave that blank, or I write: "Dear editor, I am submitting the paper 'Paper title' for your consideration." with a standard sign-off. It's never been a problem.

All in all, I spend an hour submitting after I deem the paper ready—I anonymize, and click through all those pages, make a title page if they ask for it, etc.

non-tt faculty

Just want to mention that typos do matter. Not sure whether this is a unique experience due to my linguistic background, but I had papers rejected where typos were among the reasons of rejection. Good that not all journals treat typos the same though.

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