So you want to write for Contexts?

Photo by Matt Hampel from Flickr Creative Commons.
Photo by Matt Hampel from Flickr Creative Commons.

So you want to write for Contexts, the sociology mag for the masses? Excellent! We would like that also. You’ve read our submission guidelines? Great! But before you send us proposals, there is something you should know.

We edit a lot. Really. A whole lot. That’s unusual for an academic publication. If you’ve written for a journal, you get reviewer comments on content, sometimes suggestions from the editor, then you rewrite. At the end you may or may not have a professional copy editor or proofreader come in. Then you’re done.

Here’s how we do it. For our peer-reviewed features, the first step is you send us a short proposal. We might ask you to make changes so we know what to expect. Then if we think there’s potential for it to be a Contexts piece, we ask you to send a full manuscript. We might ask you to make changes to that before we send it out for review. If it doesn’t look like it’s going to make a good Contexts piece, we sometimes will reject it before sending it out for review.

After the reviews come in, we might just reject it. If they’re positive, we’ll give you a revise and resubmit. We give a lot of revise and resubmits. There is a trend in sociology toward outright acceptance or rejection, as our friends at Sociological Science do, and we wholeheartedly agree with that, for scholarly journals. But we’re not a scholarly journal. We’re a magazine, and our goal is to present a nuanced, scholarly argument that is interesting to the lay reader. So after our reviewers evaluate the scholarly content, we do revise and resubmits more to develop the depth and clarity of ideas and make the article read better. Sometimes we get articles that are quite fine scholarship but just aren’t that interesting. We pass on those. And sometimes we get articles that are well-written, but just don’t have enough empirical and analytical depth. And sometimes pieces we would like to publish aren’t timely, or they’re redundant with something that was in Contexts recently. We pass on those, too. It can be tough to balance writing, scholarship, and reader appeal. And if doesn’t work, it doesn’t make it to Contexts. If it does though, it can be powerful.

Once you get to the revise and resubmit stage, we will then filter and condense the reviewers’ comments, and add our own, and ask you to rewrite. So unlike with many journals, you will not have to respond to reviewers’ requests that are contradictory, or that we feel are unnecessary. Sometimes the article gets successfully rewritten in the first go. Sometimes we ask for another round – but we don’t send your paper back to reviewers. We try to be polite and respectful of your expertise. Still, you may get annoyed after a few rounds and start thinking, “Hey, wtf?” But we want the same thing you do, for your paper to be badass. So be prepared to go through multiple rounds of edits.

At some point Syed or Philip will say this is looking pretty damn-tastic. Now it’s time for Letta Page to come in. Letta is our senior managing editor, an actual professional editor. She will polish your article to a sweet looking spit shine. Your prose will be beautiful – clear, concise, and elegant. Your argument will shine through. Your friends and family will actually read it and be proud.

That’s a lot of editing! Yes. But know this – some of our strongest papers are the ones that went through the heaviest editing. (The same goes for the non-peer-reviewed sections, too.) So don’t fear it. Embrace it. You may never get another opportunity to work this closely with editors again. You should especially relish working with Letta. People in our business don’t often get to work with a pro.

Comments 4

So you want to write for Contexts? - Treat Them Better

January 16, 2015

[…] So you want to write for Contexts? […]


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February 18, 2015

[…] The one time I met him, he was polite and collegial. In addition, Syed has posted a nice essay on the Contexts website explaining what kinds of writing the magazine is interested in, so that […]


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