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I am about to submit my first article to a peer-reviewed journal. I have basically already decided which one, but I have a shortlist and am still in principle considering my options. One of the questions I have is about the timetable for eventual publication. What should I expect? (In the long run, it probably won't make a large difference, but for me, right now, it would be nice to get something out the door this side of New Year if it is at all possible.)

I am puzzled by the lack of information about timetables and deadlines on the sites of these journals. I have looked at journals from related fields in the past and they all seem to be very secretive (or undecided?) about these things. Is this on purpose?

I guess I can infer something from previous publication dates -- a biannual which was last published in May might be slated for a next issue in November and probably have a deadline several weeks before that, which I probably won't make (it is now late August and the review process would apparently take several months). But why don't they simply put a date up front so authors won't have to fret?

Would it be out of line to email the editor of the journal and ask about the planned deadlines for the next couple of issues?

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    Trivia: if you were in the Italian system, it would be wise to do the opposite and look for a journal that will not publish your first paper before the end of the year. Indeed, some performance metrics are rescaled based on "years since your first publication". (I know, it's stupid, but that's how it works). – Federico Poloni Aug 28 '14 at 8:11
  • @FedericoPoloni: Thanks for the tip, any pointers for more information? I'm in Finland but I won't personally be eligible for anything relating to expedient completion of my degree (I have been working in industry for many years, and am returning to academia as a side project). – tripleee Aug 28 '14 at 8:24
  • I guess it won't matter much to you then. As far as I know, this behavior of the Italian system is just an oddball. I can't find a reasonable link in English explaining the details of the system. – Federico Poloni Aug 28 '14 at 8:32
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    What field are you in? – Bitwise Aug 28 '14 at 14:53
  • For this publication, corpus linguistics. – tripleee Aug 28 '14 at 15:11
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In most fields and for most journals, there is no time-table because it takes as long as it takes.

This means that after they receive your paper, they will send it out to a few referees, which have to be found first. How long finding referees takes is not under the control of the journal editors - they have to ask people until three of them said "yes".

Then, the referees have to write the review. Typically, they have about 3 months of time for that, and a request for extension is almost always granted. So think of it more like 6 months. Exceptions apply here (e.g., for the journal "Science", who manage to enforce shorter reviewing times).

Then your paper maybe accepted only conditional to changes. You do the changes within a month or so, and then reviewing starts again. So there goes another 3-6 months in addition to the time that the editor needs for organizing the process.

This means that for most reputable journals, there is a long pipeline of papers in-progress and whenever they make a new issue that is not a special issue, they take some papers that already went through the process and publish them. There can be a substatial "out-queue" of these papers, which is why some publishers came up with the concept of already publishing "done" papers before the paper has a journal issue assigned (e.g., for Springer, this is called "Online First").

As an example, in computer science, an overall time span of 1-3 years is common.

As a bottom line, the time to publish can only be influenced by the journal editors up to a certain, small, degree, e.g., how swiftly the editor performs actions whenever there is something that she can do at the respective point in time. So publishing a time line would make little sense.

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    +1. Some journals/editors are faster than others. It would make sense for the OP to discuss this with his advisor, who likely has already published in journals the OP is considering. – S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica Aug 28 '14 at 8:34
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This will depend significantly on what your field is. For me, there would be no way anything other than a very short (and preferably very significant) paper would appear this year. For others a paper will be bordering on out-of-date by then (I'm told).

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I personally use the information given in published papers (i.e. Elsevier journals provide dates for submission/submission after revision/acceptance or publication ). This can be somehow indicative yet I've personally experienced both ends of the spectrum (later/earlier than the average turnaround).

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