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 incoming 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 Rose Xueqing Zhang.

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 submission process is different for pieces intended for our peer-reviewed features section and for the magazine’s various 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”?

proposal and development process for feature articles:

All Contexts features start as “pitches.”  If we like your pitch, we’ll greenlight it for development into a full, 3,000-word feature. Feature pitches are now submitted online, through ScholarOne, at https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/contexts.

Feature pitches should be no more than two pages long and include:

  1. A 50-word summary of the main argument. Tell us the big picture story and your impactful takeaway.
  2. The first few paragraphs, demonstrating your lede and your writing style. Take your time with these paragraphs and make sure they clearly articulate your vision for the full article and compel the reader to want to read on.
  3. Five recommended resources (*not* a bibliography) to help the interested, non-academic reader round out their knowledge of the topic.
  4. Author bio (example below in the notes on style section).
  5. Up to 5 keywords for your piece.

The editorial team will review your pitch, typically within 2-6 weeks. If we are interested, we will 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 exciting or help your article to fit in with the rest of the content we are developing. You will return your submission via ScholarOne.

When we receive your full manuscript, we will review it in-house. If we decide it is ready for external review, we’ll let you know and send it out. If it is not yet ready, we will either decline the article or ask for a revision prior to review. Next, based on the reviews and our own assessment, we will determine whether to decline, accept, or ask for a revision of the manuscript. (“Revise and resubmit” articles may be sent for another round of external reviews, contingent on editorial discretion.)

Accepted articles for Contexts are, in truth, conditional acceptances. Our features all go through a professional, magazine-style edit. 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. After editing is finished, and you’ve signed off on the piece, 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.

Upon publication, you will receive both a PDF of your article and a hard copy of the full issue. And, of course, you will receive almost embarrassing 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.

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 editors@contexts.org.

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.

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 500-1,000-word draft to editors@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, White, and Brown, 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