The increasing pressure on young academics to publish in order to enhance their careers has led to the exploitation of the system by some publishers. These publishers do not conduct proper peer review processes or offer customer service and have been named by Bealle (Richtig et al, 2018, p. 1441). Beall (2016) outlines 27 criteria to determine if a journal is a “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publisher” that covers issues such as editor and staff, business management, integrity and journal standards. While the list is not exhaustive and has faced many criticisms (see Olivarez et al, 2018), it is widely used to assess the quality of journals. Predatory journals are a threat to academic integrity because their poor standards are seen to allow “infected” knowledge into the scientific archive. This has implications for future research. In addition, if your work is published in a predatory journal, it might be dismissed by graduate schools, universities and employers as invalid. After all the hard work you have put into your project, it would be painful to have your labour invalidated by a compromised peer review process. Hence, it is important that you check to ensure that the journal to which you intend to submit your paper is not classified as a “predatory publisher”. You can check Bealls list at https://beallslist.net/.
Another consideration in the publishing landscape is whether to publish open access. Traditionally, journals are subscription based, that is, they charge subscription fees from users (mostly large institutions). Recently, they have faced pressures from Open Access journals, which make articles readily available online without restrictions. Instead of users paying subscription fees, open access journals usually charge the authors a fee to publish (called article processing charge, APC). Many predatory journals exploit this model to gain fees from authors, but many open-access journals uphold excellent peer-review standards. In fact, many mainstream journals now offer open-access options for authors who want their work to reach a larger audience and to be unrestricted. If you choose to publish open access, be mindful of the APC and be sure to check that the journal is not a predatory journal (Beall, 2016).
Writing a cover letter
Many journals recommend writing a cover letter to accompany your manuscript. Cover letters introduce your paper and highlight the importance. You can also make suggestions for possible peer reviewers (which some journals require). If the journal to which you are submitting your manuscript recommends it, you should write a cover letter. This is because the editors/administrators will likely use it as part of the screening process (i.e., to help determine which article should proceed to peer review). Hence, you must ensure that you treat it as important. Most journal publishers provide templates and guidance on how to write a cover letter. Please observe the directions carefully. In general, a good cover letter to a manuscript has the following components:
- Personal salutation: You should research who the editor is and offer personal salutations.
- The title of your manuscript and the name of the journal to which you are submitting the article
- A summary of your paper, and outline its importance to the field and to its audience. Outline who would benefit from the manuscript (e.g., students, practitioners, policy makers, academics etc).
- Confirmation that the paper is not under consideration elsewhere and disclosure of any conflicts of interest, fundings (or the lack thereof).
- If required, suggestions of the names of potential peer-reviewers (these must be scholars in the field to whom you have no personal connection or relationship).
Overall, it is important to view the cover letter template of the publisher to which you wish to submit (if it is provided). If no template is provided, adhere to the components discussed above. However, please be guided by the following additional considerations:
- Do not let your cover page exceed a page
- Utilize institutional letterhead (if you are able to obtain it) but provide your personal contact information.
- Your summary is different from your abstract. Instead of replicating your abstract, focus on why your manuscript is significant and how it fits within the journal (refer to the aims and scope).
- Keep your language clear and simple.
|Table 13.1 - Links to Selected Cover Letter Templates and Guidance
|Taylor and Francis
|American Psychological Association (APA)
Beall, J. (2016). Criteria for Determining Predatory Open-Access Publishers. https://beallslist.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/criteria-2015.pdf
Olivarez, J. D., Bales, S., & Sare, L. (2018). Format aside: applying Beall’s criteria to assess the predatory nature of both OA and non-OA library and information science journals. College and Research Libraries, 79(1).
Richtig, G., Berger, M., Lange‐Asschenfeldt, B., Aberer, W., & Richtig, E. (2018). Problems and challenges of predatory journals. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 32(9), 1441-1449
Exploitative academic publishing business models that involve charging fees to authors while failing to perform rigorous review to uphold quality and integrity of scholarship.