5.7 -- Publishing a Paper


Memo from a Chinese Economic Journal:
We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard.

And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity.

When To Publish

A common progression:


Paul Halmos's Comments on What to Publish

From P. Halmos, Selecta: Expository Writing, Springer-Verlag, 1983, pp. 192-195.

What not to publish:

What to publish...

G. H. Hardy's criteria:

Newness might mean that your paper contains:

Example of new fact:

Answering an open problem definitively (e.g., mechanically prove that 22**7 +1 can be factored).

Example of new proof:

Do in one paragraph what previously others took many laborious pages.

Example of new method:

Proof a well known fact with the same length proof as previous authors, but use a new proof method that opens up a whole new approach to researchers.

Other constraints on what to publish...

You'd like to publish deep results, but it can be hard to judge when something is deep:

What people publish is often guided by which topics are "hot," which is guided by the current


Halmos's informal survey:

Publication Vehicles

Typical alternatives:

Unusual cases:

Choosing a Journal

Questions to Ask...

An Example...

Suppose you write a paper on a new parallel algorithm for searching. Consider the prestige/circulation/audience of:

More on choosing a journal...

Note on Special Issues: Special issues have a lower delay, possible more prestige (because they are selective), but are more competitive.

Submitting a Manuscript

Where to send the manuscript:

Look at the inside cover. Read the instructions for authors (usually in one issue each year).

For some journals, submit to the editor; for others, and area editor. Choose the area editor carefully (possibly consider sending e-mail if you are unsure of whether you've chosen the correct area editor).

Be sure to get the address from the most recent issue! Editors move, and new editors are appointed.

Cover letter:


Manuscript preparation:

Number of copies to send:

The instructions for authors will state the number of copies (4-10).

Keywords and Subject Classification:

Some journals require key words and subject classification. However, it is a good habit to put these on all papers. These may be used by the editor to assign the paper to an area editor, or to assign referees.

If your manuscript cites unpublished work:

You may consider enclosing copies of unpublished work that is critical to the submitted manuscript, or copies of omitted proofs (which are likely to be in technical reports).


Contact the editor if you do not receive an acknowledgement in a month.

The Refereeing Process

  1. If paper was submitted to editor-in-chief, editor assigns to area editor.

  2. Area editor assigns paper to two to five referees.

  3. Referees are asked to return paper in one month.

  4. Three to twelve months later, the area editor receives the reviews, recommends action (accept, accept with minor changes, ask author to prepare major revision, reject) to editor-in-chief.

  5. Editor-in-chief (but sometimes area editor) informs author.

  6. Author revises, if necessary. Returns manuscript (with original art work) as instructed in step 5. Include letter stating how referee comments were addressed. Possibly summarize differences between original and revised manuscript.

  7. Editor may review paper on his/her own, or asks referees to review.

  8. Repeat steps 4 and 5. Possible repeat steps 6 and 7.

Submitting a Revised Manuscript

This may be the last manuscript version you submit. Be sure that it is completely polished and error-free.

If you see a non-trivial error later (e.g., months later when you read the page proofs), you may not be able to correct it -- so proofread carefully!

Send the editor:

The Role of Copy Editor

After your manuscript is accepted for publication, it goes to the copy editor.

The copy editor will:

The copy editor tries to minimize the number of changes to preserve the author's style.

Typically you will receive the copy-marked manuscript when you are sent proofs of the paper.

Checking the Proofs

Months after your manuscript is accepted, you'll receive page or galley proofs showing your paper in typeset form.

Galley proofs: Sheets without page breaks
Page proofs: Sheets with page breaks (used with TeX)

You must return the proofs in 48 hours to 1 week, or the journal will postpone publication of your paper.

Often the copy-marked manuscript is enclosed.

You should

See [H] Figure 8.2 for a list of errors to check.

See [H] Figure 8.3 for list of standard proofreading symbols.

Publication Peculiarities

Greatest number of authors of a refereed paper:
P. Aarnio et al., Study of hadronic decays of the Z0 boson, Phys. Lett. B, 240 (1990), pp. 271-282.
This paper has 547 authors from 29 institutions. The list of authors and their addresses occupies three journal pages.

The shortest title:

Charles A. McCarthy, c_p, Israel J. Math, 5 (1967), pp. 249-271.