Author Guidelines (updated October 2014)

Contexts is a general interest sociology magazine. 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.

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: How did Dubai go from a sleepy trading post to global city? What does it mean for young adults in America to “grow up” today? Why is social integration so hard for educated, professional second-generation immigrants in France [PDF]? What’s so bad about fair trade coffee [PDF]?

Proposal and Review Process for Feature Articles

  1. Send editors@contexts.org a 2-page proposal 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
  2. The editorial team will review your proposal, typically within 2-3 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.
  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.
  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.
  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 even 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).
  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.
  7. Upon publication, SAGE, our publisher, will send PDF copies of the magazine to all authors, 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.

Departments

Our departments are made up of non-peer-review pieces of varying lengths. Each department has a section editor who will select manuscripts and edit the manuscript with the authors directly (this may take a couple of rounds of editing). The accepted manuscripts will then come to our “home office” and go through a final stylistic edit with our senior managing editor. As with feature articles, you will see your piece in layout after the first round of design and layout, but at that point the only changes that can be made are those that are typos or true errors of fact.

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.

In Pictures

Nuanced, visual explorations of sociological themes, submissions should have 8-10 images (high-resolution jpeg files) and accompanying captions, along with a 750-word introductory essay. You needn’t send high-res images with your submission, but you must have them in order for us to publish. 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 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 Andrew Lindner at 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 Kristen Barber at culture@contexts.org.

Teaching and Learning

Sociological reflections on K-12 and higher education, including educational trends and techniques. Submissions should be 1,300-1,500 words. Send a 2-3 paragraph summary/proposal to Nathan Palmer at classroom@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 Books style.) 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 Szonja Ivester at books@contexts.org.

Back Page

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. Send a 1-2 paragraph summary/proposal to editors@contexts.org.