Chapter 6: Journal Peer Review Process
Manuscripts submitted for publication in Social Work, Health & Social Work, Children & Schools, and Social Work Research are unsolicited and are subject to peer review. The editorial boards of all four journals use the following policies and procedures in reviewing, rating, and selecting manuscripts for publication.
New manuscripts are recorded and acknowledged in writing to the author. The acknowledgment states NASW Press policy that the manuscript must neither have been published elsewhere nor be under review for publication in any other journal or format, either in part or in its entirety.
The manuscript is then screened to make sure that it meets basic submission criteria. It is important to note that manuscripts that contain author self-identification will be returned without review.
After the preliminary screening, manuscripts that meet submission criteria are assigned to three reviewers according to procedures set by each journal. Manuscripts are assigned to reviewers on the basis of their self-reported areas of expertise and the number of manuscripts already assigned to them. All manuscripts, except letters and some columns, are reviewed anonymously. See the “Columns” section under each specific journal in chapter 4 for details on writing for a specific column.
Editorial board members and consulting editors act as reviewers for each journal. Their names appear on the journal masthead and, although the author can assume that the reviewers of his or her work are among those people listed on the masthead, specific reviewers remain anonymous.
Editorial board members are appointed by the president of NASW. Appointees must be NASW members in good standing and must be published authors who can be expected to exhibit independence in editorial judgment. Other considerations for appointment are areas of practice, skills, and knowledge to fill gaps in the existing board; geographic location; and representations of women and people of color in accordance with NASW’s affirmative action program.
Editors-in-chief of each journal appoint consulting editors to act as reviewers to assure that manuscripts are reviewed in a timely manner and to cover required areas of expertise. Consulting editors must meet the same criteria as editorial board members. From time to time, other reviewers may be consulted for their expertise in specific subjects.
In general, the editor-in-chief and three other reviewers read every manuscript and rate each one based on the following factors:
- contribution to social work knowledge
- clarity of presentation
- utility and relevance to social work practice
- appropriateness for the journal
- adequate documentation
- style and readability.
Reviewers recommend whether to accept or reject a manuscript. In addition, they write comments that help authors improve their writing. These comments are forwarded to the author with the decision letter, except in cases in which the manuscript is accepted outright. All information related to the review of manuscripts is confidential, with the exception of comments to the author.
Editorial boards seek original manuscripts that will stimulate professional dialogue. A manuscript will not be rejected for publication because it is controversial or presents an unpopular stance or position other than the prevailing view.
The editor-in-chief of each journal makes the final decision on whether to publish a manuscript on the basis of the reviewers’ ratings, the balance of the subject matter, articles on similar topics already accepted or in the literature, and other similar editorial considerations. Decisions on manuscripts are released only to the authors and reviewers.
The decision process generally takes a minimum of three to four months. Authors should be aware that reviewers volunteer their time and that the process may be slower during certain times of the year. An author may inquire about the status of his or her manuscript at any time during the review and decision process. However, the decision on a manuscript will only be released in writing. The decision will be one of the following.
- Accept for Publication. If a manuscript is accepted for publication, the author will receive a letter of acceptance with an agreement form. The form should be returned with the necessary signatures and information as quickly as possible.
The Press edits all manuscripts according to NASW house style. In addition, editorial boards reserve the right to make other changes, subject to the author’s approval. Authors receive a copy of the edited manuscript for review. They also may be asked to update or clarify references. In the final stages of production, changes may be made to the manuscript to conform to the format and space requirements of the journal. This can include requesting the author to reduce the page count to meet the required guidelines. Although galley proofs are not generally provided, courtesy galleys may be mailed to authors if time permits when such changes are made.
Upon publication, the author receives five complimentary copies of the journal issue in which the article appears. The author also receives a form that he or she may use to order article reprints.
- Reject, Request Minor Changes. The editorial board may be interested in accepting a manuscript provided that minor changes are made. In this case, the author receives comments from the reviewers specifying the changes to be made. The decision indicates a strong interest in accepting the submitted manuscript but does not assure final acceptance.
When the author resubmits the manuscript, the changes that have been made should be specified on a separate, unsigned cover sheet. In addition, the first page of the revised manuscript should be marked with the word “Revision” and be dated with the date the revision is submitted. Five copies of the cover sheet and revised manuscript should be resubmitted. The author may also use the cover sheet to indicate why recommended changes were not made.
If the editor-in-chief accepts the revised manuscript, the author will receive an acceptance letter and an agreement form. Standard editing procedures, as discussed in “Accept for Publication” above, will then be followed.
- Reject, Encourage Revisions. This decision is made when a manuscript holds promise but needs considerable work. It means that the editor-in-chief has determined that there is interest in reviewing a revised manuscript. Reviewer comments specifying the changes that should be made are included with the decision letter.
When an author decides to resubmit a manuscript, the first page of the revised manuscript should be marked with the word “Revision” and be dated with the date that the revision is submitted. Five copies of the cover sheet and revised manuscript should be resubmitted. If the author chooses to revise and resubmit his or her manuscript, it must be returned to NASW Press within 90 days or the manuscript must be resubmitted as a new manuscript.
When the Press receives a revised manuscript, it is sent to the original reviewers (if they are available to complete a review) with a copy of the reviewer comments provided to the author. If the editor-in-chief accepts the revised manuscript, the author will receive an acceptance letter and an agreement form. Standard editing procedures, as discussed in “Accept for Publication” above, will then be followed.
- Reject. Editorial boards have the prerogative to reject any manuscript submitted for publication. The Press will forward copies of reviewer comments to the author with the decision letter.
Authors who receive rejection letters should be aware that editorial boards are very selective in their decision process to maintain the high editorial quality and citation rate of NASW Press journals. As a result, acceptance rates are low. Editors hope that authors will find the reviewers’ comments helpful and will consider using them to revise and submit their manuscript to another journal for publication.
The editorial board of each journal evaluates manuscripts independently. Although an editorial board will not initiate referral a manuscript to another journal, individual reviewers may suggest in their comments to the author that the manuscript may be more appropriate for another journal. A manuscript that is rejected by one NASW Press journal may be submitted to another Press journal. However, the manuscript will be treated as a new submission and will be subject to the same review process with the same options for decision. Therefore, the Press recommends that the author use the reviewers’ comments to revise the rejected manuscript before it is submitted to another journal.