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08/22/2022

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Michel

My advice: work on your cover letter.

Cover letters mostly don't matter much, but I think this kind of thing is exactly what they're best at addressing. Use the cover letter to (briefly!) tell the editors why this is an exciting paper/topic, what it's about, and how it fits with stuff recently published in their journal (or, if it's something novel, highlight that, and its potential to draw further contributions). If your paper is unusual in certain ways (e.g., it involves some original research in another academic field), then flag that for the editors, and explain why it's nevertheless a philosophy paper.

The goal of this short cover letter is to get the paper past the editor's desk, and to try to give the editor a sense of what kind of referee they need to find for it.

anon

If you are worried about the editor's knowledge of your affiliation playing a role, you can try focusing on triple-anon journals, for a somewhat out of date list see a paragraph within this post:

https://dailynous.com/2021/04/07/transitioning-a-journal-to-triple-anonymous-review/

Other than that, I think Michel's post is on the right track. Is there some sense in which your research doesn't fit into the normal narrative which is leading to the rejection? (Topic selection, figure on which you focus, something about your methodology...). Saying something about why the unusual aspect of your paper is good, either in the abstract or the cover letter, might help it avoid the desk rejection.

Matt Weiner

I'm going to go against Michel's advice here, at least at the journal I area edit at (Ergo). I'm the person who makes the decision whether to send a paper to reviewers, and I do not see the cover letter. So it literally can't make any difference to whether your paper gets sent to reviewers.

I think this is probably the case at any journal that describes its process as "triple-blind," which means that the managing editors send the paper to a supervising editor who doesn't know the author's identity (above the double-blindness of the author and reviewers not knowing each others' identity).

Maybe at other journals it could make a difference but honestly I think the job of explaining why the paper is exciting should be done in the abstract and introduction. That seems more likely to set the tone for whoever is looking at it and deciding whether to send it out.

Mostly I think: times are difficult for submissions. Journals are choked with submissions and can't send most of what they get out for review. I saw a stat that Phil Review desk-rejects something like 90% or 95% of submissions. So you should look and see if there are problems you need to address, but it may just be a lot of bad luck.

I'd be more concerned about the papers' getting rejected after R I think when a paper gets R&Red the editor and reviewers are usually trying to get to acceptance--if we R&R something we don't think has a strong possibility of getting accepted, we're committing ourselves to dealing with it again for no good reason, and we don't like making more work for ourselves for no good reason! The one issue where as a reviewer I'd recommend R&R where I thought the paper wouldn't get accepted would be if there was a hole in the argument that I thought the author might> be able to fill but I wasn't sure they could. So if your R&Rs are getting rejected, you might want to look at what you're doing to address referees' comments.

Don

Try changing the title and the abstract. They might be crap, even though the paper itself is good. Also, try sending it to more specialised journals.

Nicolas Delon

Sharpen the scope, weed out incidental discussions, improve fit (either by tailoring the paper to a journal or choosing the right journal for the paper). Make your contribution very clear in the abstract and first two pages.

second language speaker

My first advice would be to send it to Ergo or the Journal of the APA because these two journals are very good. My second advice would be to send it to AJP because AJP pretty much sends everything out for review. My third advice would be to try to make the paper look like something not written by a second language speaker. I am a second language speaker, and I feel (probably without overwhelming evidence) that this makes a difference in how good a paper is perceived by people making decisions under time pressure. Just speaking from my personal experience, my most cited paper was the one that received the most desk rejections. The only two times it went out for review it was R&R then reject, and R&R then accept.

Regarding how to make a paper look less like something written by a second language speaker, I think the basics include good proofreading. I typically beg my native speaker friends to do this. But I think the content and style of presentation matter too. There is so much discussion on how to make a paper enjoyable to read, and I saw the other day on the comment section of Daily Nous, that this possibly tracks how white-male the author is. So probably write like a white-male author. One rule of thumb, for example, I am seriously considering adopting, is never to mention examples from my home country. Just use the examples one finds in Western news or Western literature or Western entertainment. There is a sacrifice to this indeed, but I rather have a published paper that I feel alienated from than have a rejected paper I feel more affinity to.

ECR

If you have not already done so, I would suggest rewriting the abstract, introduction and perhaps also conclusion clearly specifying the scope of the paper, research gap, main competitors, implications for further research etc. It took me a while to appreciate how important these things are, and I was often surprised to have papers rejected because of the framing, without any disagreement about my arguments. I think that's a common problem for people just coming out of the PhD.

Cover letter might work

Did editors say some reasons for the desk rejections? I had desk rejection once (as long as I remember), and the editor said that the paper is not in the scope of the journal (which I think is wrong). To address this, in later submissions, I changed the title of the paper, and added a very brief cover letter explaining the scope of the paper and the potential readers. I don't know whether it helped, but the paper did get accepted this way.

very frustrated and sad

Dear all,

I would like to thank you for your advice! That's helpful!
Although there is nothing unusual about the methodology or the topics of my papers, there might be a problem with the title and introduction. I'm changing the titles of both papers to make them sound more "cool" and I'm writing an entirely new introduction and abstract to one of the papers (the existing intro is clearly too long).

The papers have been proofread, that's something I always do.

I always wonder why AJP is so highly regarded... I sent my paper there once and got desk rejected with some unpleasant comments...

And I also find it very weird that journals frequently reject papers because of the framing/storytelling. R&R would be a way more appropriate decision: a lot of time and effort on the side of authors and other journal editors and reviewers could be saved!

One more time: Thank's a lot!

Filippo Contesi

I would simply like to add that "second language speaker"'s description of the situation with 'top journals' in philosophy rings very true to my own experience and indeed to data about native Anglophones' influence in analytic philosophy (see e.g. https://doi.org/10.1080/05568641.2018.1464729 ). As to the normative advice, I should also say that complying with the status quo does not seem to be the only option available to us non-native Anglophone philosophers. Another option I have been advocating for a while is to question the benefits of the status quo to philosophical quality. The over-importance of language and style at the expense of content, the impoverishment of examples and voices in philosophy etc., all contribute to the declining quality of analytic philosophy. I encourage those who feel like me to consider signing and/or sharing this manifesto I wrote last year to address this situation: https://contesi.wordpress.com/bp/ .

Truthmaker

Following up on some of the above comments, I would attempt to mitigate the institutional and linguistic biases. It would be anything but surprising that these biases partially explain the streak of rejections. If I were you, I would attempt to find some reliable English native speakers that can be seriously proofread and make stylistic suggestions. I would also invest energy in creating an attractive abstract. If you have evidence that the philosophical content is solid, then you should attempt to improve the writing style, readability, and flow of the paper. As the comments above point out, these modifications might raise some normative worries. If you want to play this game, maybe they don't bother you that much.

anonymous faculty

I don't think the OP said that English wasn't their first language.

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