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Running a successful journal
– your practical guide

In this section, we take a closer look at the nuts and bolts of journal production and the day to day management of your editorial office.

We explain how the publishing process works, as well as the tools and systems that drive it.

Understanding the publishing process

While most journals follow a similar publication workflow, the steps involved may differ per publisher. The infographic below was developed to help authors understand the route their manuscript follows once it has been submitted to Emerald. We've added a timeline, so that they are aware of the likely wait between submission and your decision.

Journal Publishing Process

Click on the image above to view the infographic in PDF

You'll see the timeframe from acceptance to EarlyCite has been given as 32 days; this is because the infographic details the publishing process for a journal that has adopted article level publishing (ALP). We are in the process of rolling out this new publishing format to all suitable Emerald titles.

Traditionally, an article only appeared online when the issue it was assigned to was nearing publication. For authors, this has often meant a wait of several months following acceptance.

Article level publishing (ALP) allows an article to be typeset, proofed and published online in its final and citable form within an average of 32 business days of acceptance. This offers several key benefits:

  • We can meet the needs of researchers who are increasingly discovering journal content at an article level, rather than browsing online or print issues.

  • Readers can access new findings and ideas faster than ever before.

  • ALP greatly improves our service to authors, who tell us that speed of publication is an important factor in deciding where to publish.

  • Articles can start gathering citations and downloads at a much earlier stage; a great way to improve journal visibility.

We aim to have the majority of titles on board by the end of 2018. Once a date has been tentatively identified for your journal, we will contact you a few weeks in advance to discuss any questions you might have.

A growing number of our journals offer an article transfer service. If your journal is already part of this cascading model, then you can benefit in one of two ways:

As the cascading editor: If you receive a manuscript you feel is more relevant to another journal, you can offer the paper's author the opportunity to transfer it to that publication. This can be done either before or after peer review. If you cascade post-peer review, the review reports will be transferred to the new journal along with the manuscript. While the author has the option to reject your cascade suggestion, it's a great way to support them to get published. And, it's a helpful time saver for authors as their manuscript is automatically transferred to the new journal's ScholarOne site.

As the receiving editor: If the author accepts the offer to transfer their manuscript to your journal, you are under no obligation to review or publish it. However, the cascading editor will be familiar with your title's aims and scope and is likely to only cascade high quality, relevant articles that are a strong fit with your journal.

We will continue to add new titles to the article transfer service. If your journal isn't already part of a cascading group but you would like to explore the options, please contact your Publisher.

Using the online editorial systems

ScholarOne Manuscripts is the online system used to manage the submission and peer review process for the majority of our journals.

As well as managing workflows, it also generates reports on submissions, peer review progress and editorial and reviewer performance.  

Each journal has its own individual site on ScholarOne that has been tailored to meet your title's needs. You can access your journal's ScholarOne site via your journal landing page on this website. You will also find instructions for the submission process in the author guidelines on that page.

Because each ScholarOne journal site is unique, the set up for each title varies. Your journal Content Editor will be happy to help if you have any queries about how the system works for your journal.  Not sure who your Content Editor is? You can find out by clicking on the Editorial Team tab on your journal landing page.

If you are receiving ScholarOne queries from your authors, please do encourage them to review the help documents, video tutorials and FAQs on the Clarivate ScholarOne author support site. They will also find contact details for the Clarivate support experts, including an instant chat option.

A small proportion of Emerald journals use Editorial Manager, a cloud-based manuscript submission and peer-review tracking system. If your title is one of these, you can find support on the Editorial Manager help system or your Content Editor can answer any questions.

Attracting journal submissions

The actions outlined in our Journal promotion and Improving the reputation of your journal pages can help to attract the authors you are seeking. But, we have a few extra suggestions you might find useful.

  • Work with your Publisher to identify the centres of excellence in your field and send them targeted calls for papers.

  • Don't forget to consider the geographic locations where the topics you cover are experiencing growth – there are likely to be up-and-coming authors looking for a home for their work.

  • Scan other journals. Not only does this help you keep on top of the hot topics in your field, you might spot an author you'd like to invite to submit. Tight on time? Could the task be shared with your Editorial Advisory Board members or any fellow editors?

  • Conferences are a great source of opportunity: Like one of the presentations? Invite that author to submit. Or what about the posters? Conferences can also provide good ideas for special issues. You could also try staging a Meet the editor session or run an author workshop, during which you can help attendees develop future submissions.

  • Not enough articles coming in? Consider changing the make-up of your journal, for example, featuring more case studies. Again, special issues can play a role here as they are often a good way to attract new authors to the journal.

  • Talk with your Publisher about using metrics provided by Kudos (the free web-based service we partner with to help authors explain and share their work). They can help you identify high-performing authors and emerging hot topics.

  • Ask your Publisher to provide you with a list of highly-cited articles and approach their authors.

  • Don't forget to tap into the networks of your Editorial Advisory or Review Board members… They will probably have some good suggestions.

Handling journal submissions

As a journal editor, your goal is to publish high-quality papers that contribute to the body of knowledge in your field. The first step is to ensure you have a steady flow of manuscripts – we have some useful tips in our attracting journal submissions section to help you with this.  But what do you do when the manuscripts you receive are far from publication-ready?

If you feel the research or case study is valid but the writing lets the manuscript down, you could refer the author to our Author services website.  Run by our partner Peerwith, this site connects authors with experts in language editing, translation, visuals, and other services designed to get their research submission-ready.  

Maybe the author has just failed to follow style or formatting instructions in your journal author guide. If that's the case, return the manuscript to the author and ask them to correct the problem. You can do this by choosing the Unsubmit function in ScholarOne.

Sometimes over-eager authors skim read the aims and scope and send you a manuscript outside your journal's remit. In cases like these, it's not worth entering the submission for review; you can either desk reject the manuscript via ScholarOne or, if you have the option, transfer it to a more suitable journal.

It's worth remembering that even if you don't publish an author's work, how you treat them today will shape their attitude to the journal long into the future. They are potential subscribers, readers and reviewers, so it's important they walk away from every interaction feeling they've been treated with courtesy and respect. How? Here are some ideas:

  • Make it quick: While no author ever wants to hear their manuscript has been rejected or needs extensive revisions, waiting weeks or months to learn the news will only make the situation worse.

  • Educate where you can: Maybe their manuscript wasn't quite right this time around but provide constructive feedback and you might help them get published in the future.

  • Share information: Peer review and article preparation takes time. If you are receiving regular queries about the progress of manuscripts, it could be because authors are unfamiliar with the steps involved – try sending them a link to our publishing process infographic.

  • Monitor reviewers' comments: You have the option to edit the comments to the author before committing to a decision in ScholarOne. If a reviewer's remarks are unnecessarily harsh or offensive, consider removing them so they aren't shared with the author.

  • Be nice: As a published author yourself, you'll know that a few kind words can go a long way…

Publishing special issues

Most scholarly journals publish special issues from time to time; Emerald titles tend to feature at least one every volume. A special issue allows the journal to focus on a topic – often in a new or emerging area –  and explore it in depth or provide alternative perspectives. Special issues can also collate the best papers presented at a conference. They can even take an interdisciplinary approach, helping to bridge the gap between subject areas.

A special issue is edited by a guest editor, a subject expert appointed by you. You can find out more about their role and responsibilities in our The editorial team section.

  • Originality: A new topic or a new approach to an existing theme.

  • A subject with wide appeal and relevance.

  • International content and/or readership.

  • Consistency in the papers: It could be that they share a common approach or theme, or they might offer comparative views on a single topic.

  • Authors who are active and important figures in the field.

  • A well-written guest editorial showing a real understanding of the value and import of the issue.

  • A guest editor(s) willing to invest the time required to commission and produce a strong issue.

For more information, see our Guide to publishing a special issue.

The peer review process

We understand that one size doesn't fit all. The peer review process offered by your journal has been chosen with your discipline in mind. For most Emerald journals, this is double blind, i.e. the author doesn't know who the reviewer is, and the reviewer doesn't know the author's name.

For a smaller number of journals, double blind is not the best fit. In our dedicated reviewer pages, you'll find more information on this and other aspects of the peer review process, along with reviewer guidelines, which explain the role and responsibilities of a reviewer in detail.

It's important you take the lead in the peer review process. This includes making it clear to reviewers what you want to see in their reports; after all, the quality of their reviews has a big impact on the final quality of your journal.

When you invite a researcher or professional to review for your journal, there are a few key points to highlight:

  • Expected response times and deadlines.

  • When they should accept; ask to revise and resubmit (minor or major revisions); or reject. These criteria should mirror those listed in the author guidelines for your journal.

  • That all feedback should be constructive and highlight the positive aspects of any paper.

  • That feedback should be detailed and clear – an author can only make revisions if they understand what is required.

Usually, reviewers are asked to judge the paper against some or all of the following criteria:

  • Does the article contribute anything new to the body of knowledge?

  • Are the arguments employed valid?

  • Is the article easy to read?

  • Do the arguments flow logically?

  • Is the methodology sound?

  • Are there clear implications for practice or suggestions for future research?

  • Are the conclusions strong?

  • Does the paper pay due credit to previously published work in the field?

Reviewers are asked to complete a feedback form in ScholarOne – if you haven't already developed your own version, this sample reviewer report template is a good place to start. You'll see the online form usually contains tick boxes and an area for reviewers to make lengthier comments and highlight their recommendations.

While peer review is a crucial part of the publication process, as an editor you'll know that finding researchers or professionals with the time and expertise to review is no easy task.

In your editorial system, you have access to a database of reviewers containing useful information, e.g. the reviewer's areas of expertise and their invitation and reviewing history.

If you need to source new reviewers, we have a few tips that might help you.

  • Reviewers often feel that the request they've received isn't a good fit for their skills. Before you approach a potential reviewer, it's worth double checking they have a good knowledge of that topic. That also means the paper is more likely to interest them and they'll hopefully say yes.

  • Try authors who've recently published in your journal – they've just benefitted from the review process so might be more inclined to say yes. They are also active authors and are probably keen to progress in their careers.

  • Consider potential conflicts of interest – are they a former co-author of the submitting author? Are they at the same institution? Are there other factors at play? If there are, your potential reviewer will have to say no, and you'll be faced with starting the search process again.

  • If a reviewer has to say no on this occasion, ask them whether there is anyone else they would recommend? Perhaps one of their students or someone else in their lab? Even if they do say yes, this is a good question to ask as it can help to build your pool for the future.

  • Who are the authors cited on the submission? They are clearly experts in the area so could be worth a try.

  • If you are really stuck, what about trying the faculty pages of some key institutions in your field?

  • What about your Editorial Advisory Board? Are they reviewing regularly? Your Content Editor can run a report to help you understand their reviewing contribution. If some members aren't accepting their share of reviews, is it time to replace them with someone new? Again, your Content Editor can help here by identifying potential candidates, i.e. your journal's most active reviewers. If you don't already have an Editorial Review Board, should you consider establishing one? Your Publisher can advise.

  • Use the Alternate reviewer function in ScholarOne. This only invites another reviewer when the previous one has declined. This helps to avoid situations where reviewers say yes, or even complete a review, only to be told they aren't needed after all….
  • Try a keyword search on or other databases – you might discover new candidates and can ask them if they are happy to be added to your reviewer pool in ScholarOne.

  • Have you had a special issue? Perhaps your guest editor used some reviewers you could approach.

Once you've found a good reviewer, you will want to let them know how much you value them. We have a few suggestions.

  • Use reviewers sparingly. You don't want to overload them and frighten them off for good. Try to space out your requests so that they don't get penalised for being helpful.

  • Don't trouble them with papers that are clearly not suitable for the journal. These should be rejected outright.

  • We know that how they are approached can influence a reviewer's view of the journal. Take the time to provide clear and detailed communications so that they can make an informed decision. It's also worth letting them know that Emerald reviewers receive free access to up 40 Emerald journal articles (excluding Backfiles) for a three-month period following the submission of a review.

  • Give them a date you'd like to hear back from them by.  If the reviewer doesn't respond to your request in time, always let them know you are going to approach someone else. That way, if they have been quietly getting on with the review in the background, they can let you know asap.

  • Help them understand what you want from a review by providing very clear guidelines.

  • Put yourself in their shoes – if they've invested time and effort in reviewing the paper, why not let them know what you eventually decided so that they know their work had value? Add a personal thank you as everyone likes to be appreciated.

  • Could the review be better? Rather than avoiding that reviewer in the future, it might be worth giving them some helpful feedback. The investment of your time could be rewarded by a new reviewer to add to your pool.

  • Found a great reviewer? Why not nominate them for an Emerald Literati Award for Excellence? Each year, we invite editors to choose an outstanding reviewer on their journal to receive this recognition.