Academic Writing: Contributing to a Journal

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There are many different ways to boost your CV by becoming involved with a journal. Here are some tips.


The most common method of using a journal to enhance your reputation is by publishing an article. In each field, journals are ranked by reputation. The most prestigious journals are very competitive and can be highly selective when choosing between submissions. Academics wishing to boost their CV and contribute to the forthcoming REF should consider only ‘peer reviewed’ journals as a home for their work.

Book Review:

Many scholars at the start of their career begin by writing book reviews. Book reviewers are often solicited by journals, for example on list-servs such as H-Net which acts as a bulletin board for the Humanities. You can also offer yourself unsolicited as a reviewer. One benefit of being a regular book reviewer is that you get free copies of books that you might not be able to afford. The other positive aspect to book reviewing is that most reviews are short and can be done alongside other, larger projects such as your PhD.

Reviews editor:

By networking with scholars in the field, you can acquire the position of reviews editorship of a journal. This job is unpaid, although you do get the pick of free books (a reviews editor can write reviews themselves, and in fact often has to when there are few other reviews to fill up an issue). The job is time consuming, mostly involving chasing authors whose deadlines for submission of reviews have passed, but it is also a rewarding one because it enables you to keep up with the latest publications in your field and allows you to get your name known by other scholars.

Peer reviewer:

Once you have become more established, and perhaps have been in an academic position for a few years, you may be invited to become a peer reviewer. The job involves reading through articles that have been submitted to the journal and judging their suitability for publication. Networking at conferences and other events is crucial in encouraging colleagues to consider you for the job. This post can also be acquired by offering your services unsolicited to the editor. The work will be very sporadic; you will only be asked to be a reviewer in cases where the submitted article is close to your area of interest, but even reviewing only occasionally will look very good on your CV.

Editorial Board

On some journals the editorial board performs the task of peer reviewer, while on others the board acts as a support for the journal editor and, for example, suggests possible topics and areas of interest. Most editorial boards rarely meet but instead conduct their business via email. Becoming a member of an editorial board is by invitation only and is usually reserved for more experienced scholars in a particular field, so if you are invited onto editorial boards, this means that someone thinks of you as eminent!


Being editor of a journal can vary from nearly being a full time job for the larger, more regular publications, to being a much smaller and easier job on minor publications. As editor you are ultimately responsible for the direction and the content of the journal and you work with authors and the publishers to produce each issue, probably with the support of an editorial board. Again, this is a job that is reserved for more advanced scholars who have a firm grasp of their field and several years experience of working with a range of contributors in their area.

Founding a journal:

If you feel that there is a significant gap for a journal in your field then it is possible to start your own. However, this is not a job to attempt single-handedly as it results in a huge amount of work. Also in today’s current publishing climate, publishers are very wary of supporting new ventures. If your area of interest is niche, then it is unlikely that you will find support. Vanity publishing or self-publishing via a university press are alternative options, but then you would be entirely responsible for the marketing and distribution yourself.

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