contexts: rigorous. relevant. readable. rad.

Contexts is a quarterly magazine that makes cutting-edge social research accessible to general readers. As a flagship journal of the American Sociological Association, it’s also the public face of the discipline. We aim to talk about society with society.

The editorial team is helmed by Amin Ghaziani and Seth Abrutyn, both sociologists at the University of British Columbia, along with senior managing editor Letta Page and graduate assistants Sophie Liu, Parker Muzzerall, and Colter Uscola.

Contexts is full of crisp, jargon-free writing and engaging stories, as well as artwork and photography that brings it all to life. Just imagine—an academically rigorous journal that your friends and family will enjoy as much as scholars and policy professionals! Our issues are at their best when they’re dog-eared and worn, passed along to students, referenced by members of the media, and shared as coffee table reading.

We welcome contributions from social scientists, journalists, K-12 teachers, and anyone else who writes incisively, thinks sociologically, and has a dynamite analysis, dataset, or takeaway point that simply must be shared. Please see below for our author guidelines, noting that the proposal and submission process is different for pieces intended for our peer-reviewed features section and for the magazine’s other departments. For notes on style, please jump to the end of this piece.

feature articles (3,000 words maximum)

Our feature articles are cleanly and clearly written for a broad audience, with no jargon, footnotes, or formal citations. They have much in common with the best of long-form journalism: They’re empirically and theoretically driven, teach readers new stuff, and help us think differently about why the world is the way it is (and how it got that way). Before submitting, look over some recent Contexts features: 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? How did algorithms spur the rise of America’s “alt-right”? Learn more below about the proposal and development process and the production process.

feature articles: proposal and development

All Contexts features start as a “pitch.”  If we like it, we’ll greenlight your pitch, inviting you to develop it into a full, 3,000-word feature essay. All pitches are now submitted online through ScholarOne. If you want to send us an idea for a feature, please follow this link: https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/contexts.

Feature pitches should be no more than two pages long, and they must include all of the following:

  1. A 50-word summary of your main argument (*not* an abstract). Tell us the big picture story, the data you employ, and your impactful takeaway.
  2. Your lede and first 3-5 stylish, persuasive, and clear paragraphs meant to entice readers. People your narrative to show us that you understand who we are: a magazine that platforms the best sociological work for public audiences. Avoid jargon!
  3. Five recommended resources (*not* a bibliography) to help interested, non-academic readers learn more about your topic.
  4. Don’t forget your bio! Our readers want to know who you are (see examples below in the notes on style section).
  5. Up to 5 keywords for your piece.

The editorial team will review your pitch. If we like it, we will send you a “greenlight” memo, inviting you to submit a full manuscript, usually within 30 days. This will occasionally include notes on the directions we think would be most exciting or help your article to fit with the rest of the content we are developing. All these interactions, including the submission of your full essay, will happen on ScholarOne.

Here’s what happens after we receive your full manuscript: First, we will review it in-house. If it’s not quite there yet, we will either decline the article or ask you to revise. If we decide it’s ready for prime time, we will send it out for external review. Next, based on the reviews and our own assessment, we will determine whether to reject, accept, or ask for revisions. We are generally loath to subject our features to multiple rounds of reviews and revisions, but sometimes, that’s what an article needs to make good on its promise and potential.

feature articles: production process

Contexts is an official publication of the American Sociological Association, but our production process is unique. For instance, even after we accept a feature essay, it will still go through a professional, line-by-line, magazine-style polish by our senior managing editor and one of our co-editors. It is a delicate, collaborative process in which we work to harmonize your voice with the tone of our magazine.

After all that editing is finished, and once you have signed off on the piece, your manuscript will go into design and layout. This is an exciting stage! As a magazine, Contexts is beautifully full of striking photographs and images. While we will attempt to license and use any images that our authors suggest, the final choice is entirely at the discretion of our editorial and design teams. We run all images in grayscale, both in the pages of our magazine and online.

You will review a PDF of your article once it’s laid out. Please give your proofs a careful, character-for-character reading, with an eye toward correcting only sneaky little typos or errors of fact (this is not the time to rewrite). You do not need to write an abstract; we use the copy from the issue’s table of contents in place of a traditional abstract.

Upon publication, you will receive a PDF of your article, and we will work to publicize your piece. And, of course, you will receive an almost embarrassing amount of adulation from the sociology community (not that you don’t already)!

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

That’s it! Or maybe you find yourself thinking, “That’s a lot!” Either way, we promise that you will love the final product.

departments

in brief

These short, sociological takes on recently published research are primarily written by Contexts’ graduate assistants. External authors may pitch 200-400-word in briefs about others’ new work; to write about your own work, please consider another section or a blog post proposal. Send proposals to editors@contexts.org.

in pictures

Nuanced, visual explorations of sociological themes, these 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. Send proposals or drafts to Ryan Centner at R.O.Centner@lse.ac.uk.

trends

Data-driven pieces of 1,300-1,500 words and 2-3 charts or graphs, trends articles contextualize the numbers to tell a perspective-shifting story. Send a 2-3 paragraph proposal to trends@contexts.org.

culture

Making meaning of people making meaning, this section deals with, well, culture. That’s really broad, and for good reason. 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 proposal to culture@contexts.org and Jooyoung Lee at jooy.lee@utoronto.ca.

policy brief

Sociological—and actionable—reflections regarding policy effects, recommendations, and initiatives, submissions for the policy brief should be 1,300-1,500 words, sent to policybrief@contexts.org.

books

We’re mainly interested in reviews that place two or more recent books in conversation with each other and in specifically sociological reviews of books not typically considered “sociology texts” (these could be novels, memoirs, or trade books). Send your topic suggestion and a 2-3 paragraph proposal to books@contexts.org.

one thing i know

Social analysis from a personal angle, One Thing I Know pieces are similar to op-eds, but aim to answer the question, “What’s one thing, given all my research and experience, that I know about the social world?” Wow us with 750 words that can truly anchor a full issue of a quarterly magazine. Send a 1-2 paragraph proposal to editors@contexts.org.

blogs

In addition to our quarterly journal issues, we feature posts at contexts.org that address timely social issues. These blogs should provide informed social commentary, rooted in existing sociological research and literature. Send a 750 word (max) draft to our blog editor Elena van Stee at blog@contexts.org

notes on style

Contexts is largely formatted in ASA style, with a few particularities. For instance, you’re encouraged to write in a more conversational tone (you can even use contractions!) and to “fold in” rather than formally cite your sources. Below, some tips and definitions to help you along the way.

racial categories: Contexts capitalizes racial categories, including Black and White, in order to highlight the fact that they are all socially constructed and carry real-world impacts.

commas: We’re all about the Oxford comma! For reader clarity, we use what is also called the serial comma, including a comma before the final item in a series.

citations: We do not use full, formal citations, but instead “fold” citation information into the text of each piece. Aim to include at least two identifying pieces of information so that the interested reader can easily search out the source.

Example: In Amin Ghaziani’s book Sex Cultures, the author argues…

Example: In their 2020 article “Grief, Care, and Play,” sociologists Seth Abrutyn and Omar Lizardo write…

recommended resources: Rather than a bibliography or reference list, we ask features authors to include a set of up to 5 recommended resources along with a one-sentence descriptor for each. That descriptor should briefly explain why the resource is a good one for the interested reader who wants to learn more. Note: We privilege books, articles, and non-paywalled websites, but podcasts, archives, and other resources are acceptable, too.

author bio: Contexts bios follow a simple formula and aim to downplay professional hierarchies. We ask for affiliation (university and department, company, agency, etc.), as well as either one book or up to three research interests (you can list your own book in the bio or the recommended resources, but not both). A two-sentence bio should be provided for each author.

Example (book): Seth Abrutyn is in the sociology department at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Revisiting Institutionalism in Sociology.

Example (research interests): Amin Ghaziani is in the sociology department at the University of British Columbia. He studies culture and urban sexualities.

Example (graduate student): Jane Doe is in the sociology program at Unicorn University. They study social class, culture, and education.

titles: Short, snappy titles aren’t usually associated with academia, but they are key to the magazine-inspired look and feel of Contexts. We suggest aiming for five or six words, no colons, and a bit of intrigue! And yes, we’ll always help out with suggested titles.

questions 

All questions related to pitches, submissions, and the editorial process can be directed to editors@contexts.org or to our senior managing editor directly at letta@contexts.org.

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