ISQ’s Notes for the Conditional Acceptance

Because of various issues with ISQ‘s legacy site, I’m posting this here for easy access.

Some months ago, we changed “minor revisions” to “conditional accept.” I want to say a few words about what we use the majority of “conditional accepts” for and what this means for the review process.

In brief, the major component of most conditional acceptances concerns asking authors to bring their articles into conformance with our style-and-presentation guidelines. As we put them there:

— Favor short, declarative sentences. If it is possible to break up a sentence into constituent clauses, then you most likely should do so.
— Avoid unnecessary jargon. Define, either explicitly or contextually, necessary jargon.
— Use acronyms sparingly. In general, restrict yourself to widely understood acronyms, such as “NATO,” “WTO,” and “UN.” Only in the face of inordinately lengthy, technical, and frequently repeated phrases should authors resort to neologistic acronyms.
— We recommend paying particular attention to abstracts and introductions. Both should include a clear statement of the manuscript’s scope, central argument(s), findings, and wider significance. […]
— Even when attached to paraphrased material, citations should usually include references to specific pages or locations in a text. For example, “Spruyt (1994) argues that variation in the nature of trade helps account for the emergence of different political units in late medieval Europe” should read “Spruyt (1994:63-7) argues that variation in the nature of trade helps account for the emergence of different political units in late medieval Europe.”

At some point or another, we usually put language in our letters or correspondence that stresses reducing reliance on the verb “to be” and related constructions in favor of so-called “action verbs.” Note that we don’t mean active voice per se. We mean, for example, lots of sentences using “was” and “is.” We also prefer that articles utilize the simple present and past. Make sure that your abstracts and introductions quickly articulate your argument, avoid repeating “our findings” over and over again the conclusion, and so on.

Conditional accepts also often involve reiterating the importance of language that we place in all revise-and-resubmit letters:

Note in particular the importance of (1) tapping into other debates in the field and (2) writing the article in as clear and engaging a style as possible. Note also that International Studies Quarterly is committed to ensuring that scholars receive appropriate intellectual acknowledgement regardless of race, gender, class, professional standing, or other categorical attributes. Please pay particular attention to this issue when revising your citations for overlooked authors and literatures.

Because ISQ publishes for a broad and fragmented audience, authors are not always aware of that their manuscripts implicate debates outside of their specific area of expertise. Once a manuscript gets into our revision pipeline, however, we want authors and reviewers to think hard about how they might reach out to these debates. We try to help in our editorial letters, but given how many manuscripts we process we frequently fail.

The same goes for addressing “citation gap” considerations. Now, the “citation gap” raises a whole host of concerns. Rather than address them here, let me point to a recent symposium at The Monkey Cage and a short post I wrote on how simple mindfulness allows for better representation without intellectual costs. I’m sure that we’ll address this issue more comprehensively over the coming years.

Regardless, we will hold manuscripts at the conditional-accept phase until authors bring them into satisfactory conformity with our guidelines. Some journals employ dedicated and skilled copyeditors. We lack the resources to do so. I am currently working my way through older manuscripts and let me make clear that I don’t enjoy extensively line-editing accepted manuscripts. It also delays getting them into final production and “online first” status. So, when you revise your manuscript, invest some real time into your style-and-presentation editing. If you need it, get help and advice from friends and colleagues. And feel free to email us with any questions.