who are we? 

Contexts is a quarterly magazine that makes cutting-edge social research accessible to general readers. We’re the public face of sociology. We are a publication of the American Sociological Association, edited by Rashawn Ray (University of Maryland, College Park) and Fabio Rojas (Indiana University). Paige Miller is our Correspondence Manager and Laura Wise is our Production Manager. 

The writing is crisp, the stories are engaging, and the magazine appeals to both sociologists and educated “lay” readers such as mothers-in-law, university students, policy professionals, activists, and anyone who’s interested in insightful social analysis.

We welcome contributions from social scientists, journalists, K-12 teachers, and anyone else who writes incisively and in an engaging style. We’re looking for insightful analyses. We welcome intellectual risk-takers. We publish longer, feature articles (that go through a peer-review process) and shorter “department” articles selected by section editors

Before you write up a proposal, please read these two short articles we wrote on writing for Contexts, and how we edit a lot.

 

sections/departments 

 

feature articles (3,000 words maximum)

Our feature articles are written for a broad audience and are cleanly and clearly written, with no jargon, footnotes, or citations. They have much in common with the best of long-form journalism: They’re empirically and theoretically driven storytelling, teach readers new stuff, and they help us think differently about the world. Basically, they make you go, “Huh. That’s pretty cool. I never really thought of that.”

Articles in Contexts look at why the world is the way it is and how it came to be that way. Before submitting, look over some recent Contexts articles: Why is the disparity between the average income of a one percent household and an average household in the 99% so stark? Are “hookup” apps leading, ironically, to a revival of dating culture on college campuses? And do universities really want black students?

 

proposal, review, acceptance, and editing process for feature articles:

    • Step 1: Send a 2-page word document proposal to editors@contexts.org that includes:
      1. A 50-word summary of the main argument.
      2. The first few paragraphs and, if appropriate, section headings (make sure you tell us here what your big picture story is).
      3. Five recommended resources (*not* a bibliography) and why you would direct the interested, non-academic reader to these sources to help round out their knowledge of the topic.
      4. Author bio (example below in the contexts editorial style section).
      5. Keywords (for SEO) that you would like to use if your article is selected and published.
    • Step 2: The editorial team will review your proposal, typically within 2-6 weeks, to determine if we are interested in pursuing it. If so, we’ll send you a “greenlight” memo, inviting you to submit a full manuscript. This will occasionally include notes on the directions we think would be most fruitful for your article to fit in with the rest of the content we are developing.
    • Step 3: When we receive your full manuscript, we will review it in-house to determine if it is ready for external review. If we think it is, we will send it out to a few experts in the field for a confidential review. If it is not yet ready, we will either decline the article or ask for a revision prior to review.
    • Step 4: Based on the reviews and our own assessment, we will determine whether to accept the manuscript. Those manuscripts that are determined to be a “revise and resubmit” may be sent for another round of external reviews, contingent on editorial discretion.
    • Step 5: You’re accepted! But you should absolutely know: all acceptances at Contexts are, in truth, conditional acceptances. The condition is that you will go through a professional, magazine-style edit. We take writing very seriously here at Contexts, and our team, which includes a professional editor alongside the faculty team, will work hard to help you hone your article into an enjoyable, readable, and well-illustrated piece. 

Our mantra is one our senior managing editor repeats to all her clients: “The best writers care more about the finished product than the first draft.” We will always work to retain your voice and the magazine’s tone. It’s a delicate, thoughtful process marked by mutual respect and the shared aim of a flagship publication worthy of the title. We’ll send you the edited copy and ask you to make any additional changes or corrections, then we’ll finalize the manuscript with your changes (or send questions).

    • Step 6: After editing is finished, your manuscript will go into design and layout. You will see a PDF of the article once it’s laid out, and at that point, you can correct any errors of fact or typos, but substantive edits need to take place in step 5.
    • Step 6: Upon publication, our production manager, Laura Wise, will send each author a PDF copy of his or her article, and, of course, you will receive nearly embarrassing adulation from the sociology community (not that you don’t already).

 

timeline: Our aim is to complete the external review process and issue a decision within three months of the original date of full manuscript submission. Accepted manuscripts will be edited and published within one year (usually much less), depending on the number and type of manuscripts in progress.

 

in brief

Sociological takes on recent news and research, these should use a recent article or study to give context to the headlines. Submissions should be 200-400 words and sent to editors@contexts.org. Please note: the pieces in our in brief section are, with few exceptions, written by our graduate editorial board. Outside submissions should be about others’ work, not your own, as published in recent sociological journals. If you’d like to write about your own work, please consider another section or a blog post proposal (which can also come to editors@contexts.org).

 

blogs

The contexts website considers blog posts for publication on our website that address timely social issues. These blogs should provide informed social commentary, and generally should root their discussion of social issues in existing sociological research, literature, and theory in some capacity. Blogs should be 500-1,000 words in length and full drafts must be submitted for consideration to editors@contexts.org. Please include a 1-2 sentence byline bio with your submission.

 

in pictures

Nuanced, visual explorations of sociological themes, submissions should have 8-10 images (high-resolution jpeg files, generally over 1MB per file) and accompanying captions, along with a 750-word introductory essay. Please submit high-res images with your submission, send to editors@contexts.org.

 

trends

Using data to show what’s trending over time or place in public opinion, culture, politics, demography, and beyond. The goal is to situate the numbers and help readers get a new perspective. Submissions should be 1,300-1,500 words and include 2-3 charts or graphs. Send a 2-3 paragraph summary/proposal to trends@contexts.org.

 

culture

Making meaning of people making meaning, this section deals with, well, culture. That’s really broad. Food, media, technology, politics—it all fits. Submissions should be 1,300-1,500 words and should not include formal citations or a bibliography. Send a 2-3 paragraph summary/proposal to culture@contexts.org.

 

policy brief

Sociological reflections regarding policy, from the effects of current policy to proposals for future policymaker initiatives. Submissions should be 1,300-1,500 words. Send a 2-3 paragraph summary/proposal to editors@contexts.org.

 

books

We’re mainly interested in two types of reviews. The first takes a deep plunge and critically examines the specific arguments of a particular book. The second uses a book as a starting point for a reflective, analytic essay. (Think New York Review of Booksstyle.) We will, on occasion, accept reviews of multiple books, but we *strongly* prefer reviews of single books. We are especially interested in sociologists’ reviews of trade books and reviews by nonsociologists of books by sociologists. Submissions for Books are 1,300-1,500 words. Send a 2-3 paragraph summary/proposal to books@contexts.org.

 

one thing i know

Social analysis from a personal angle—wow us with 750 really interesting and fascinating words that can truly anchor a full issue of a quarterly magazine. The piece should loosely answer the question: “What’s one thing, given all your research and experience, that you know?” Send a 1-2 paragraph summary/proposal to editors@contexts.org.

 

contexts editorial style

Again, Contexts is formatted in magazine-style. We are the public face of sociology and our articles are meant to showcase sociological topics to the broader public. Articles should be scholarly, but should also help to breakdown sociological concepts for the everyday reader. Here are a few style notes that all contributors should adhere to when submitting your article to Contexts

  • Author Bio – Please feel free to include a short bio with your article including your university, your role, your area of focus, and any other pertinent information that relates to your work that you would like highlighted. If you don’t provide a bio, no worries, one will be written for you in Contexts style.   

Ex: Jennifer Lundquist is Senior Associate Dean in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst and Celeste Vaughan Curington is in the department of sociology at North Carolina State University. Lundquist studies the pathways through which racial, ethnic and gender inequalities are perpetuated and sometimes undone in various institutional settings, and Curington studies intersectional inequalities around race, class, gender and citizenship in the areas of care labor and migration, family, and interracial/intra-racial intimacy.

  • Foot Notes/ CitationsWe do not include footnotes or citations in articles. Please fold them in, or they will be folded in during the copyediting process. 
  • Graphs/Tables – Please send all data for graphs/tables in a separate excel document when you submit your final article for copy editing. 
  • Hyperlinks – Please do not include hyperlinks in final article submissions as they will not be accessible once the magazine goes to print. 
  • Recommending Reading – Although we know that you’ve drawn from many sources to pull together your article, we can only accept 5 recommended readings to accompany your article. Please note that your recommended reading sources are included in the final word count. 

 

word count

At Contexts, we take our word counts seriously. As a magazine, we are allotted a certain number of pages per year, therefore we must ask our authors to adhere to the word counts below to ensure that we don’t go over that page allotment. Please note, that word count does also include your (up to) five recommended readings. 

  • In Brief: 250
  • In Pictures: 8-10 pictures, 750 – 1000
  • Q&A: 1,000
  • Trends: 1,500
  • Culture: up to – 1,500
  • Features: 3000 (all articles that use data must include one sentence that explains if the data is available for replication, and if so, where can it be found.) 
  • Policy Briefs: 1,000
  • Books: 1,000
  • One thing I know: 750 

 

photo/images

Should an author want to publish an image they do not own, they will need to take on the task of contacting the owner and securing permission. 

Contexts aims to have visually pleasing articles, which often includes photographs and art. If you submit an image with your article, please note that we can’t publish any image until we obtain permission from the image’s owner. If you own the image, then you will be asked to sign a Contexts’ licensing form. If you do not own the image, then you will be responsible for contacting the owner to obtain permission. 

Sometimes, this is easy to do, but authors should know that this can be a cumbersome process in some cases. It may be challenging to clearly identify the owner of the image, the owner could refuse to respond to inquiries, or the image owner may want to be compensated at a very high level.

Due to limited resources, the Contexts editorial team can’t always track down an image owner, but we can provide advice on how to best proceed. Contexts is able to provide a modest level of compensation for photographs, but for very expensive photos/art, the author will need to seek a source of funding to have the photo/art included in the article.

Fortunately, there is a lot of photography and art that is available for free from websites like Pixaby and Flickr (which are the primary sources that we use to source images to accompany our articles). If an author can’t obtain photo permission, or can’t afford the reprint rights, there is often a very good substitute on such sites. Alternatively, graphic designers can be commissioned to produce art or illustration at modest cost.

 

photo size specifications 

If you are submitting your own photos and the file is smaller than 1 MB, it’s probably too small to use (under 1 MB means that the photo is smaller than 2 inches height or width). 

We need all photos to be at least 3.5” wide at 300 DPI in order to use in publication.

 

data accessibility

To encourage transparency in research, Contexts asks each author of articles that use data to write one sentence about whether third parties can access the data used in the article. This sentence will appear at the end of the article. Each author is free to respond to this request in the way they think is most appropriate for their type of research. 

 

questions 

If you have manuscript questions, please feel free to reach out to our editorial team at editors@contexts.org. For production related questions, please feel free to reach out to our Production Manager, Laura Wise at laura@contexts.org.