Fourteen Lessons: Initiating and Editing an Online Professional Refereed Journal
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For many years we have been working to advance women's prominence in their professions, particularly in educational administration. We have mentored, promoted, and sponsored women in their careers; we have researched career advancement issues with women, and written and presented extensively in this field of study. Because publishing is critical to tenure, promotion, merit, and post-tenure review in the educational arena, particularly in higher education, we initiated a biannual peer-reviewed book series for the Texas Council of Women School Executives that gave women throughout the country an opportunity to build their publishing records. As we worked on the books, we realized that there was a great need for a journal for women in professional leadership positions. We thought that a journal would allow experienced women leaders to share their stories, their perspectives, and their research with young women who were beginning their administrative careers. We also recognized the importance of providing a forum for women to publish their research, as numbers of them had informed us that their research — particularly their qualitative studies and those regarding women's or gender issues — was difficult to get published. We presented another proposal to the Texas Council of Women School Executives, this time to develop a refereed professional journal focused on women's leadership issues. While there was great support for the concept, the proposal was denied for lack of funding.
We continued to ponder these ideas, and in 1995 began to think of the possibilities of an online publication. Scholarly work was beginning to be presented on the Internet, where it was widely accessible and offered at a low cost (Burbules & Bruce, 1995). According to Burbules (1997), many people were beginning to actively use the Internet for various reasons, and an increasing number of academics were publishing in online journals or reading online articles to further their knowledge. Online scholarly publications were beginning to be recognized for tenure and promotion (Creamer, 1998).
There are many advantages of online publications, whether in addition to paper publications or exclusively electronic formats (Burbules, 1997). First, online articles are easily revised. Older versions can be replaced by new versions as many times as necessary. This allows authors to correct errors, to adjust articles as their thinking evolves, and to update past articles by adding new research studies into the bibliography. Second, online publishing has the potential to reach a far greater audience than printed material, and at little or no additional cost to the author. Once the article or journal is published on line, it remains there for millions of possible readers, as long as they have access to a computer and the Internet.
We initiated an online refereed professional journal for women. This article details how we came to recognize the importance of and the need for this journal, and how we overcame the challenges of the first and subsequent journal issues. We also make recommendations to editors of other online journals by sharing fourteen lessons that we learned through the process of initiating and editing the journal.
Back in 1995 there were a number of Web sites that provided information exclusively for women. Virtually all women's sites on the Net supported "Take Your Daughter to Work Day," and many displayed a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness, according to Glasscock (1998). But some went much further, creating communities. Site by site these women's communities formed a nucleus of a women's support structure on the Web, not just to address a single issue, but to support women in all their multifaceted challenges, which are quite different than the challenges men confront.
At the time, however, we found no refereed online journals for professional women. We believed that a refereed journal for professional women would not only give women a place to publish and a place to find quality material, but it would address two critical concerns of professional women internationally: 1) the need for women to have interconnectedness and support (Irby & Brown, 1998), and 2) the need to provide access to an alternative professional media source for women's voices.
In our research we found a stellar site, Advancing Women. Advancing Women fuses the power of the Net, as a communication, networking, and information tool, with the compelling agenda of women seeking the most effective means of advancing their personal and career goals, qualities that Glasscock (1998) identified as important. We began to consider the feasibility of publishing our nascent journal on this site.
Advancing Women is based on the premise that women need to network in order to gain equal access to jobs and advancement in the workplace. Although 50 percent of the work force is women, only 5 percent make it to upper management; women still earn less than men, are stuck in middle management, and ghettoized into "women's" areas of business (Glasscock, 1998).
We found that the publisher of Advancing Women, Gretchen Glasscock, was in Texas — only three hours away from us. We met in San Antonio to negotiate putting a professional journal on the site. We discussed possibilities, parameters, logistics, and responsibilities and walked away with an agreement. No money was involved in this agreement; the journal was to be free to anyone who had access to the Internet. Glasscock's work was to be gratis, as would ours as co-editors. We agreed that our first journal issue would coincide with the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in Chicago, March, 1997.
Thus was born the Advancing Women in Leadership Journal, the first international online journal for professional women.
The name was built on the name of the site, and expressed both the idea of women going forth in leadership, and our philosophy and commitment to assist in the advancement of women already in positions of leadership by sponsoring their scholarship and by offering them quality online materials written by scholars. We decided to seek manuscripts that report, synthesize, review, or analyze scholarly inquiry that focuses on a broad range of women's-leadership and girls'-equity issues. We wanted authors from any professional field to submit manuscripts regarding women's professional issues for review for publication in the journal.
Challenges of the First Journal Issue
The first challenge was to determine how we would obtain six manuscripts to send out for review. At that point we decided that the initial issue would be an "invited issue," and several quality researchers graciously agreed to write for the first issue.
The second challenge was time: to get the manuscripts in, to edit them, to return them for revisions, and to get them to the publisher for uploading and HTML coding in order to have the first issue out on time. (Since 1997, new publishing and authoring programs have emerged; we are now using Dreamweaver to publish the articles on line).
The third challenge was to address with the publisher what the layout would entail, including the "front of the journal" components such as Preface and About the Journal, Manuscript Guidelines. All of them had to be written, and it was another task for the two of us. Additional items addressed with the publisher were whether we would allow advertising in the journal, how often and when the journal would be published, whether we would publish as manuscripts were approved or if we would have dated issues and archive old issues on the site, and whether manuscripts requested to be revised would be categorized as rejections or acceptances.
A fourth challenge was to establish a strong editorial advisory board and reviewers. We came up with thirty names of outstanding individuals from various professions and sent them a letter inviting them to serve. All agreed to serve.
A fifth challenge arose as we looked at the HTML version of the papers. As we edited the papers on line, we had to remove various symbols the computer had transferred in the coding and to deal with spacing and underlining problems (this challenge has since been resolved with the new commercial software for online publishing).
When we solved the problems unique to the first issue, we were not finished. The second and subsequent issues presented their own problems, not the least of which was to let people know about the first issue. "Getting the word out" about the journal had to be a major focus. With funds from a Texas Education Agency Career and Technology grant, we developed and mailed a color brochure that included a call for manuscripts to women who were members of the Research on Women and Education Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association and women who were members of the Texas Council of Women School Executives. Additionally, we distributed the brochure at a variety of conferences and seminars we attended, such as the American Educational Research Association, Texas Council of Women School Executives, American Counseling Association, and National Association of Bilingual Education. We selected those conferences because we thought they would attract scholars interested in diversity issues related to women and girls. Several women researcher friends across the country also assisted in this effort by distributing brochures at conferences they attended in their own states or regions.
"Hire a clerical or graduate assistant"
The editorial board did not review the first issue's manuscripts because they were strictly invited manuscripts. The second journal issue now presented the challenge of developing a review form for use by the editorial board. As we explained in the preview of the second journal issue, one of the editorial board members and her doctoral students, assisted by a colleague who is the editor of an established paper journal, developed and piloted the Manuscript Review Form. These same individuals served as guest editors for the second issue. Getting people to submit to the journal was still a challenge. A couple of manuscripts came in, but the remainder had to be solicited for that second issue.
Now in our sixth year of publication, we continue to solicit manuscripts because that first promotion was not enough. We have worked hard to get the journal mentioned in compilations of women's studies; we have handed out more brochures and paper copies of particularly relevant papers at numerous conferences; we have referenced articles in papers; and we have an e-mail list that promotes each journal issue to scholars. We are pleased that our continuing awareness campaign is paying off, and that we have approximately fifty manuscripts out for review during each year with approximately ten manuscripts from the previous year usually still in the cycle of revision and acceptance. We publish between twelve and fifteen articles per year. (This places the acceptance rate at around 20 percent.) One of the reasons for the low acceptance rate is that we do not consider an article accepted until it has been reviewed, revised, resubmitted, and accepted. A reason for the low number of actual publications is time. Some authors take more time in the revision process and, in our own case, we continue to edit the journal (with the help of a part-time student assistant) on top of our regular professional jobs. Time is always an issue.
Fourteen Recommendations to Editors of Online Refereed Journals
Our experiences have yielded fourteen lessons that should prove helpful to those who are anticipating beginning an online, refereed, professional journal:
- Lesson 1: Determine your journal's purpose and audience. We chose to publish quantitative and qualitative research reports about women in leadership positions and about girls'-equity issues for an audience of women in leadership positions. Because we are interested in bringing along women who hope to be leaders, we also chose to publish reflective essays such as "The Institutionalization of a Gender Biased Sport Value System" (about how historically and traditionally sport has evolved as a male domain, and it is clear that women and girls, as well as men and boys, have different sport participation roots), and "Paradigm Shift: A Perspective on Omani Women in Management in the Sultanate of Oman" (about how if Oman screens out the women, it will handicap its future).
- Lesson 2: Develop a strong review board; solicit individuals who are recognized by the audience and who can be depended upon to give thought and effort to quality reviewing in a timely manner. To develop this strong review board, we first thought of women writers and scholars whose work we had read in a variety of fields. We also drew upon our own network of women scholars across the country. We took recommendations from professors outside of educational leadership with whom we had worked and considered their nominees to the board. We chose people who had national name recognition in terms of publications and work in gender-equity or women's issues, who had served on other editorial boards, and who would be attending a variety of meetings around the country that would provide a strong base of new manuscript submissions to the journal. We looked for people who were published authors and knew the importance of quick turnaround times for manuscript reviews. To prevent late reviews, we send an e-mail reminder or phone the reviewer shortly before the deadline. If the reviewer is busy or out of town, we provide a short extension for the review. Additionally, we do not have to use a reviewer more than twice a year, because we now have forty-two people on our editorial review board. We have the option of calling on other scholars in other leadership fields if we do not have someone on the board who represents the particular leadership area of the author. We periodically assess a group of reviewer forms to determine the types of comments that are being forwarded to the authors and compare those to our comments as well. If we determine that a reviewer is not providing appropriate and detailed feedback to the author, then that reviewer is rarely called upon to review in the future. (We have had very few occasions when we have had to do this.)
- Lesson 3: Hire a clerical or graduate assistant to help with editorial duties such as mailing or e-mailing letters and manuscripts, making telephone calls, and corresponding with authors.
- Lesson 4: Be aware that this endeavor is labor and time intensive. Set aside time for brainstorming, soliciting manuscripts, consulting with reviewers and authors, and editing. As our journal issues do not have themes, we do not have to spend time deciding on themes. At times it is necessary to consult with reviewers regarding a comment or a particular aspect of their reviews. Frequent communication with authors on revisions and their timelines requires time as well.
- Lesson 5: Clarify the expectations of scholarship with the publisher and determine the layout with these expectations in mind. The journal must look professional and scholarly. Unlike trade publications, professional paper journals that include refereed or juried manuscripts have certain appearances that suggest scholarship. For example, they have no sidebars and no advertisements, and they have a consistent font and a specified writing style. We did not want to give the impression that this was a "trade Web journal" because that type of journal would not have been accepted in the academic community. Therefore, it was critical that the publisher, who was from the technology side of the business, understand the type of journal we were seeking to produce. We shared several paper journals from the fields of business management and educational leadership with the publisher so that she could get the feel for what our journal could be.
- Lesson 6: Determine whether you will allow advertising. Some Web site owners may expect you to advertise in your journal. Based on the fact that we were trying to produce a scholarly journal, we decided not to allow paid advertising; however, we did decide to allow selected nonprofit organizations — e.g., college funds and Girl Scouts — space for sharing or advertising their information.
- Lesson 7: Determine criteria for manuscript selection and develop a review sheet for the editorial board. We solicited assistance from doctoral students in educational leadership who 1) researched and analyzed other scholarly journal's review sheets, 2) considered our purpose and audience, and 3) assisted in developing the review criteria for the manuscripts submitted to the Advancing Women in Leadership Journal.
- Lesson 8: Have someone to call upon to assist with the technology. The publisher is not always available and may be halfway around the world. Fortunately, we have the university computer-services staff to assist in major challenges. We learned more computer skills, including how to use Fetch, a Macintosh computer utility that allows us to find, upload, and download documents to the Advancing Women site. Technological problems arose with the uploading process, as there were strange symbols that had to be removed, underlining that disappeared, and spacing that was not correct. We use the Web-publishing software, Dreamweaver, to create the journal. Dreamweaver, an easy program to learn (within a week), is a licensed software purchased and owned by our university, and the software is available on the general server; however, a single copy of Dreamweaver was purchased prior to the university's purchase for about $100; at the time of this article, the market price is $399.
- Lesson 9: Determine whether you will publish as manuscripts are accepted or establish a certain number of issues to be published at specified times throughout the year. Most scholarly journals publish on a schedule. We decided to follow suit, as scholarly writers are accustomed to deadlines for submissions. Although we do not have cutoff timelines for submission and the submission is an open submission, we do publish issues in winter, spring, and/or summer, allowing time for submissions to flow in and out of the review process. With a high rejection rate, it often takes several months to develop a particular issue. We wait until we have a sufficient number of manuscripts ready prior to publishing. We have discovered that editors must have at least ten to twenty manuscripts in the immediate hopper (that is, in final revision stages) to ensure that there are enough manuscripts for a single issue.
- Lesson 10: Determine how you will classify manuscripts with recommended revisions — as rejections or acceptances. We decided to treat manuscripts that need revisions as rejections until the manuscript has been revised, returned, and reviewed by the editors. If major revisions are needed, then a second rejection with revisions could apply. We consider the manuscript rejected until resubmitted with all revisions suggested. Actually, until the author completes the suggested revisions, the manuscript is not accepted for publication. At this point, our acceptance rate is around 20 percent. We receive around fifty manuscripts per year. A review takes approximately one month; of course, revisions take longer.
- Lesson 11: Remain flexible regarding how transactions will be conducted. For example, our editorial-board members are eminently productive in their fields, but a few of them prefer not to communicate electronically. To use the post office, we have to plan ahead and stay on a timeline. Sometimes we have to send or receive manuscripts by overnight services or fax. If a strict timeline and proper planning are respected, then whether transactions are via the Internet or via postal mail, there should be no problems.
- Lesson 12: Develop an extensive network of potential authors. Treat all individuals you meet as potential contributors to the journal. We are constantly on the lookout for women or men in a variety of professions, not just academia, who might be interested in submitting manuscripts. We solicit manuscripts at conferences or when we are at various meetings with colleagues and scholars; we request that other professors and our review board members share the call for manuscripts with their colleagues and acquaintances. We surf the Internet for authors of related topics; we review print journals and national and international conference programs for appropriate topics and authors; and we solicit manuscripts from all contacts. Once, on a plane, we were sitting beside a government official from an African country. He began to talk with us about the issues in his country, and we began to ask about relevant women's issues. As he talked, we were intrigued. We told him about Advancing Women in Leadership and asked him if he or someone from his office would be interested in writing about this topic. His manuscript is currently being edited. Also, every time we go to a conference we bring the conference program back to the office and have one of the graduate research assistants review it for presentations that could be turned into papers. We then contact the presenters and ask them if they would like to submit a manuscript. We have had great success with this method.
- Lesson 13: Promote the journal and create a system for disseminating information about it. Create an attractive and informative Web site for your journal and make certain that it is logged on search engines and electronic-journal listings. (To register a site to a search engine, you must go to the search engine site and add your URL, or you will need to hire a company to add it.) Design professional brochures that include the purpose of the journal, manuscript guidelines, and names of editorial and/or advisory board members. Distribute the brochures to potential authors in a variety of related fields and organizations as you attend conferences or meetings. Use appropriate Web sites and e-mail lists to disseminate your URL. We send requests for manuscripts on electronic mailing lists from organizations such as the American Educational Research Association; this organization has approximately twenty different electronic mailing lists.
- Lesson 14: Content-management pointers:
- Ensure that all manuscripts are reviewed by at least two editorial board members who are selected based on their expertise. Typically a board member does not review more than one manuscript per year.
- Maintain a tracking system of in/out manuscripts and review deadlines. Follow up as necessary. We track manuscripts manually using a spreadsheet of reviewer and manuscript codes. The spreadsheet and numbering system make it easy to keep track of who has reviewed and the status of the manuscript: under review and under revision. We considered an automated tracking system, but at this point the university does not have one on the main computer system; it would be cost prohibitive for us to have one programmed just for the journal.
- Develop a mail merge file of all authors, as well as of the editorial board. The mail merge file allows us to write letters to authors and the editorial board encouraging them to solicit manuscripts for us. It also allows us to send periodic "thank you" notes.
- Encourage reviewers to use computers when they review manuscripts. We suggest that our reviewers use Microsoft Word's "comments" feature. Have reviewers e-mail the reviews back to the editors. If a reviewer does not have MS Word, we ask that he or she send the review in text format (.txt), or we just continue working with the reviewer until we are able to find a common format.
- Once all reviewers' comments are returned, editors review the manuscript for final publication decisions. (This makes three reviews.) Final comments, along with all reviewers' suggestions, are then sent to the author for action.
The Internet is the most powerful communication network in history, with over 35,000,000 people on the Net from all over the world (Cyberatlas, 1997; Glasscock, 1998). Odlyzko (1998) predicted that in the future scholarly work will be published primarily in electronic journals. We are hopeful that what we have learned from our experiences with the Advancing Women in Leadership Journal is beneficial to those interested in creating and promoting scholarly on-line publications.
Genevieve Brown is Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Her research and writing, focused on administrators career development, administrator evaluation and several other areas. She is coauthor of The Administrator Appraisal System, cofounder and coeditor of Advancing Women in Leadership Journal. She is also coeditor of numerous books on leadership, including Women in Leadership: Structure Success, Women as School Executives: A Powerful Paradigm, and Women as School Executives: Voices and Visions. She was recognized in Texas as Outstanding Instructional Leader and Outstanding Woman Educator and has received the Renaissance Group Research Fellow Award. You may reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beverly J. Irby is Professor and Director of the Center for Research and Doctoral Studies in the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. She is a member of the International Who's Who of Women and has received the Texas Council of Women School Educators' Outstanding Educator Award and the Renaissance Group Research Fellow Award. She is coauthor of the Administrator Appraisal System, cofounder and coeditor of Advancing Women in Leadership Journal, the first international, on-line refereed journal for professional women. She is also coeditor or coauthor of six books on women's issues including Women in Leadership: Structuring Success, Women as School Executives: A Powerful Paradigm, Women as School Executives: Voices and Visions. You may reach her by e-mail at email@example.com.
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Glasscock, G. (1998, Summer). "Putting the Web to work for women: A global electronic networking structure to support women." Advancing Women in Leadership Journal. Available on line: http://www.advancingwomen.com/awl/summer98/glass.html
Irby, B. J., & Brown, G. (1998). "Exploratory study regarding the status of women's educational administrative support organizations." Advancing Women in Leadership Journal, 1(2). Available on line: http://www.advancingwomen.com/awl/winter98/awlv2_irby6final.html
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Links from this article
Advancing Women in Leadership Journal, www.advancingwomen.com
American Counseling Association, http://www.counseling.org
American Educational Research Association, http://www.aera.net
Dreamweaver market price, https://www.adobe.com/products/dreamweaver/
"The Institutionalization of a Gender Biased Sport Value System," http://www.advancingwomen.com/awl/winter2001/everhart_pemberton.html
National Association for Bilingual Education, http://www.nabe.org
"Paradigm Shift: A Perspective on OmaniWomen in Management in the Sultanate of Oman," http://www.advancingwomen.com/awl/spring99/Al-Lamki/allamk.html
Preview of the second issue, Advancing Women in Leadership Journal, http://www.advancingwomen.com/awl/winter98/preview_2.html
Texas Council of Women School Executives, http://www.tcwse.org/
Texas Education Agency: Career and Technology Education, http://www.tea.state.tx.us/cte/index.html
SIDEBAR: Review Form for Advancing Women in Leadership Journal
Advancing Women in Leadership On-Line Journal
Manuscript Review Form
Reviewer Code # 0051 Manuscript #: PM-73
Due Date: August 13, 2001
*If you are unable to review the manuscript by this date, it is your responsibility to contact us.
This is a blind review where the author and the reviewer remain anonymous. Manuscripts need to be treated as confidential and as proprietary information (not to be cited, quoted, etc.). After review, the manuscript should be discarded unless you are returning it with comments. For your convenience, we have provided you with a postage paid envelope.
Part 1: General Criteria
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|Worst||1||2||3||4||5||Best||N/A||Insightfulness of Discussion|
|Worst||1||2||3||4||5||Best||N/A||Novelty of the Article|
|Worst||1||2||3||4||5||Best||N/A||Usefulness of the Program|
|Worst||1||2||3||4||5||Best||N/A||Topic Interest to the Readership|
|Worst||1||2||3||4||5||Best||N/A||Follows APA Style|
Part 2: Overall Recommendation
______ Accept "as is" or with minor revisions
______ Tentatively accept pending revisions reviewed by the editor
______ Encourage major revision with full review by the editor
______ Allow revision, require full review of the revision by the initial reviewer
______ More appropriate for another journal:__________________________ (suggested journal)