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So this is my first research paper, I just wanted to know whether these things are considered unethical or idk creepy way to lure your paper in or its totally okay and people do that.

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  • 1
    Do you know the editor? Do you mean like chatting with them in the hallway, or sending a cold email? Mar 21, 2021 at 22:34
  • Nope I was planning to send a cold mail tbh since the domain of the conference is slightly off than the topic we wrote the paper in
    – Sanx
    Mar 22, 2021 at 4:12
  • 2
    You asked about a journal - but your comment mentions a conference. Which one are you applying to? Mar 22, 2021 at 19:12

7 Answers 7

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To give you some context, out of my 13 journal papers I asked the editor twice. Once it was a regular issue, once it was a special issue. Once the paper in question was accepted afterwards, once it was rejected and landed elsewhere.

I wrote typically something along the lines of:

Dear %editor_name%,

I am considering to submit my paper "On the sepulation in the context of the Mars phase" for possible publication in your "International Journal of Highly Reputable Research". In this manuscript I exploit the stigma of sepulation in the context of the planetary movement. Specially, the Mars phases were never before regarded in this context.

The abstract of my paper is: %abstract in full%

My article contains 4123 words (including footnotes, references and figure captions). It contains 5 color figures and 23 references. I have never published this article before nor have I submitted it to any other journal or conference.

Would such an article be of interest for your journal? Please let me know if you feel that my focus on Mars phases would pose a problem for acceptance in your journal.

Thank you very much. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Hope this helps.

I have never perceived such queries as bad or damaging. But in most cases they are not needed, as you can tell the relation of your paper to the journal well enough from the aims and scope.

It's the intersection of the actual journal topic with something else, when you might want to ask the editor beforehand.

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    I have used a letter similar to this for general-audience prestige journals, omitting the length part and adding a research impact summary. So I would say this is a very useful, broadly applicable answer.
    – user133933
    Mar 22, 2021 at 15:29
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It is fine to do this although prior research is usually an implicit first step: if you request is not serious, you may not get an answer.

A good start is by looking at recent back issues to see if material on this general topic has been published in that journal. Another good sign is that some of the cited literature in your work was published in your target journal.

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First, you should check available materials on the scope of the publication. They might answer your question. But, you can ask, and it isn't creepy. But, if the editor is busy, or your email is too detailed, you might not get an answer. I suspect that editors get more of these requests than they'd like, actually. The editors of many (most, perhaps) journals are not paid employees and have other (usually academic) jobs.

But, submitting the paper will get you the same answer using normal practices. If your paper is clearly out of scope, then the editor will reject it rather than finding reviewers and you will learn just about as quickly as any other method.

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  • Thanks @buffy! That was very Helpful
    – Sanx
    Mar 22, 2021 at 4:14
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    If one submits a manuscript it needs to be formatted according to the specific journal guidelines. If one is unsure if it fits into the journal's scope, it can save substantial time to ask first.
    – user9482
    Mar 22, 2021 at 6:28
  • @Roland How necessary it is to format to the journal guidelines appears to vary by field. As a mathematician, I never worry about formatting in my initial submission and have never been pulled up on it. Mar 22, 2021 at 16:45
  • @ShaneORourke I use a broad definition of "formatting" here. In my field, that includes word limits, separate or combined Results and Discussion sections, highlights, graphical abstracts, ...
    – user9482
    Mar 22, 2021 at 16:55
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It's acceptable to ask, but make sure you have a concrete question that doesn't amount to "is our paper going to be accepted" (because answering that question entails the full peer-review process). For example some things you could ask about are whether your paper is within the scope of the journal, or whether the length is appropriate.

Do note that even if the answer is yes, it doesn't mean your paper is going to be accepted.

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I recently attended a seminar by an editor opening a new journal in an established (and high-profile) series of journals in my field. She highly encouraged authors to contact the editors of the journal before submission- the goal of the journal is to publish research that fits the scope of their journal- if you're not sure whether your paper is a good fit, it saves time on the part of the editor and the author to ask beforehand.

Instead of taking a lot of time to prepare your article for a specific journal, and the time of the editor to read through the whole paper and try to understand if it is a fit, a short email succinctly describing the paper can save both you and the editor time in the long run. The editor can see whether the content and novelty factor of the research is what they, as an editor, are looking for, and give you an early green or red light.

That being said- do your research. It won't be a good look if your paper is far off the mark for what the journal usually publishes. Where does your research group usually publish? Your colleagues? People working on the same kind of work as you?

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Absolutely!

The term you are looking for is "presubmission inquiry" and they are fairly common, even encouraged. For example, Current Biology writes:

The editors strongly encourage authors who are interested in submitting work for potential publication in Current Biology to send a presubmission inquiry prior to any formal manuscript submission. Presubmission inquiries should include a clear abstract and a cover note explaining the significance of the advance and the potential general interest to the broad readership of Current Biology.

The editor's response is not binding---how could it be, without seeing the whole paper---but can help avoid editorial rejections because the topic is a bad fit for the journal, or the result isn't glitzy enough for their "broad" readership. Occasionally, one even gets actual suggestions about how to frame the proposed manuscript. For example, one editor told me that he was a) generally interested in the topic but b) skeptical about it, and would therefore be expecting rigorous controls. This influenced how we structured the manuscript.

For a typical primary research article, presubmission inquiries are usually optional. If you feel confident that your manuscript is a good match, you can submit it directly. However, inquiries are more commonly expected for "exotic" manuscript formats. For example, Brain requires them for their Review and Update formats, but not for regular research reports.

Note that some journals have an established procedure for making one. Nature and Cell Reports have online submission systems. Other journals take them via email, but have specific requirements. Check the Author Guide carefully!

These posts from editors at PLOS Biology and Cell may be helpful for understanding them from an editor's perspective.

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Yes, of course. But before asking, make sure to thoroughly check their website to ensure they have not already answered your question; For example in the "Aims and Scope" or a similar section. Most journals have one. If even after reading this section you are not sure, ask them. I have done this several times. It will save you at least a couple of weeks because if you just send your article blindly, it may not be rejected immediately. The editors are always busy!

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