Academic journals

Yesterday I was explaining to my students the requirements for their research paper, namely that they have to use at least three peer-reviewed academic journal articles. I then proceeded to tell how such journals work. Academics write an article that they think is good. They send it to the chief editor of a journal they respect, who is generally knowledgeable about the field. He or she may immediately reject a submitted article because it is not relevant to the journal or for other technical reasons. But judging the content of the article is left to an outside reviewer who is more specialized in the subfield of the article.

I told my students I had been through this process. Sent in article, had the editor forward it to an outsider reviewer. Then I explained the role of the outside reviewer is to give the editor feedback about whether or not to accept an article, and that the feedback usually went something like: "If you rewrite the beginning and the end and take out the part in the middle that is wrong, this article might be fit for publication."

Some students looked shocked, others looked concerned, or confused. One student laughed.

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