Historiann.com EXCLUSIVE! Ruth Karras answers your questions, dishes some more

Ruth Mazo Karras returns today to answer some of the questions left in the comments to her previous post about publishing in Gender and History, whose North American headquarters have recently moved to the History Department at the University of Minnesota.  Ruth is a distinguished medieval European historian who serves as one of three North American co-editors of Gender and History, along with Sarah Chambers (colonial Latin America) and Regina Kunzel (U.S. History).  Today she answers your questions and dishes some more:  about choosing the right venue for your work, and how to list articles not yet published on your C.V. with greater precision.

ruthkarras2Thanks for all your kind comments on my post about publishing in Gender and History.  I’m glad some of you found it useful advice for publishing in humanities journals in general, too.

Magistra wanted to know whether G & H has any statistics on how often different articles are read.  We do have stats on frequency of downloads.  Unfortunately I only have hardcopy, it’s in my office, and we’re on break.  I can tell you that there aren’t any medieval articles in the top 10.  There is one early American article near the top of the list that sticks in my mind:  Toby Ditz, “The New Men’s History and the Peculiar Absence of Gendered Power:  Some Remedies from Early American Gender History.”  Many of the most frequently downloaded articles are like Ditz’s in that they are very methodologically or theoretically oriented; the ones that focus more closely on research findings don’t appeal to as wide an audience, although that doesn’t mean we don’t publish them.

I agree with Bennett that it is important for scholars working on earlier periods to be part of the conversation in women’s and gender history (and history of sexuality, which strict Foucauldian constructionists will tell you didn’t exist before modernity).  True story:  when I became president of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, I had a long-time member tell me how glad she was that I was a medievalist, because the organization was originally supposed to be for all women historians but since the growth of the Big Berks triennial women’s history conference, the people who do women’s history were in control.  I told her that indeed, I was a medievalist, but also a historian of women and gender.  She was astonished that such a thing was possible.  This was in 2005.  I think it’s important that those of us who work in earlier periods make ourselves visible. 


This is a tool.

However, if we publish all our work on women and gender in G & H, Journal of Women’s History, etc., then there won’t be any work on women in the American Historical Review, William and Mary Quarterly, French Historical Studies, etc., and it’s important to be visible there too.  It can also be important to publish in journals that one’s departmental colleagues may recognize.  Will your colleagues be impressed with a piece in some journal named after a gynecological implement?   (Just kidding–although Bennett does have some interesting comments on the name of the journal of the Medieval Academy of America.) 

Here are some other questions about publishing in journals that you might be wondering about:

Do you publish work by graduate students?

Yes, of course.  The professional status of the author is irrelevant.  (Well, maybe not entirely.  If Natalie Zemon Davis were to submit an article, we probably wouldn’t read it all that critically before sending it for review.)  But most graduate seminar papers, even good ones, aren’t quite ready to be published articles.  Usually the ones that make it are drawn from MA theses or chapters of dissertations.  One semester is not usually time to start from scratch and thoroughly research, think through, and write a publishable article.  This is true of people who already have PhDs too-usually the articles that are the most successful are pieces of larger projects.  When you write a seminar paper, that paper is usually not the tip of a larger iceberg of research; everything you know is in the paper, and you are likely to have passed over important issues that you just couldn’t deal with in that amount of time or without access to archives.  Note my repeated use of the word “usually.”    This is not an absolute rule. 

How high should I aim when submitting an article? 

Not all your work will be equally paradigm-shattering, and not all your work will be equally interesting to all audiences.  The American Historical Review, or the flagship journal in any discipline, will be looking for articles that make a major statement.  If you think your work does that, great, but this isn’t like applying to grad school, where you can apply to your dream school and also to some more realistic options at the same time.  If your piece is really major, go for it!  The AHR and similar journals do publish work by people at all ranks of the profession.   Send it to the most prominent journal where you think you might have an actual chance of publication.  If you don’t feel you can make that judgment about your own work, ask a colleague or mentor to read it, someone whom you can trust to give you an honest assessment.  In fact, it’s always good to have someone read it in any case. 

Can I submit to more than one journal at the same time?

No.  If the editors find out about it, they will be seriously annoyed.  (In fact, when you submit to G & H, you have to sign a statement saying that this article is not currently under consideration anywhere else.)   This is not the same as with book publishing, where double submission is OK under some circumstances. 

What should I do if I haven’t heard back in a reasonable amount of time?

If it’s been, say, four to six months and you are really concerned, you can e-mail the editorial office and ask.  They will likely not have any information for you:  if they had anything to tell you, they probably would have told you.  But they may at least be able to tell you why there is no information-have they not decided yet whether to send it for review, or are they waiting for the reviewer to get back to them, or what?  If there is a particular reason you need to know-“My tenure file must be complete by June and I would like to know by then whether I can list the article on my CV as ‘accepted'”-say so.  It might not make a difference, but it can’t hurt, and it might prod someone who is dragging his or her feet.   You don’t want to inquire so often that you become a nuisance, but every few months is fine.   If it’s been a really inordinate amount of time, and if they don’t answer your e-mails, you can always phone the journal. 

G & H uses editorial-management software (Manuscript Central) that allows you to go on line and check the status of your article, but the information there may not be very useful-it may say “Awaiting Reviewer Scores” or “Awaiting Editorial Decision” but it may also say something that doesn’t make much sense to you, because the way the software was designed is not really the way we work.  Other journals may use other software packages that let you do the same thing, but many still track submissions manually. 

How do I list an article on my CV if it hasn’t been published yet?

If you’ve submitted it to a journal, you can say “submitted” or “under review at . . . ”  If you’ve been asked to revise and resubmit, you can say “under revision for resubmission to . . . ”  If it has been accepted, but you are still working on final edits, you can say “accepted by . . . ”  If you have sent in the final version and it’s awaiting copy-editing etc, you can say “in press.” 

“Forthcoming” is a commonly used word that doesn’t mean very much on its own.  Some people list things on their CVs as “forthcoming” when they mean “some day, I hope it will come forth from my brain.”  Other people find this misleading.  “Forthcoming in Name of Journal” is used both for articles that have been accepted and articles that are in press, but I’ve also seen it used for articles that have been returned for revision and resubmission, and I find that misleading as well.   It’s better to be more specific.  And, of course, when you can say what volume and issue it’s scheduled to appear in, that is the most convincing of all.

Historiann here again–I want to thank Ruth so much for volunteering to write these guest posts, and for being so frank and generous with her advice.  I can attest to the value people see in her original post–it’s been picked up and linked to by several other blogs already.  If you have other questions for her, ask away in the thread below–she showed up in the previous thread to comment, so she may appear below again. 

I especially appreciated Ruth’s comments about publishing in women’s and gender history journals versus publishing in non-women’s and gender history journals.  My sense is that women’s and gender history articles are more segregated than they used to be, say, fifteen or twenty years ago.  In part this is because of journals like G & H, which have been successful at attracting top-notch women’s and gender historical scholarship.  But–I wonder if the existence of journals like G & H and the Journal of Women’s History make it easier for the non-women’s and gender journals to say no to feminist scholarship?  What are your experiences and impressions?  (This is of course not an argument that the women’s history journals are the problem, but rather a question about the inclinations of non-women’s history journals to publish women’s and gender history.)

Remember:  early American historians and other historians of the colonial Americas, there is a new prize in women’s and gender history for articles published in the William and Mary Quarterly, a clear signal that that journal would like to publish more women’s and gender history articles!  And if you just can’t get enough of our conversatin’ about women’s history, medieval European history, and the state of academic feminism and the historical profession in general, don’t forget that part 3 of our women’s history month book club will be meeting tomorrow over at Tenured Radical.  Stay tuned to this space for details tomorrow! 

0 thoughts on “Historiann.com EXCLUSIVE! Ruth Karras answers your questions, dishes some more

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