Guide on “Writing in African Studies Journals”

There is a 2015 new edition of this blog post! The final update was on 1st July 2013. Please do refer to the new guide.

This guide puts together some information of ECAS panels called “Writing in African Studies Journals: what, how, and where?” taking place 2013 in Lisbon and 2011 in Uppsala (see Credits below).

HandyFotoCollageJournalCoverIMG_20150702_120343Main points of requirements

  • originality = based on originaly data, fieldwork or offering at least a new view on a country
  • clear structure = making one argument
  • significance = relevance of the contribution
  • (a research article should be around 8.000 words sticking to the author guidelines of the respective journal)

How to write an exiting article

  • make people want to read your article = tell something interesting
  • gap filling is not enough, it should be an original contribution with empiric data  and a fresh way of using the data
  • give readers a nice journey, make it readable in style and structure; transitions between chapters should be smooth, guide the reader through
  • a literature review is not enough, wait until your work is done
  • avoid too much of disciplinary jargon, other people must can understand it as well
  • one article should present only one idea/argument (not two or three)
  • cite only literature which is used and is necessary for the argument (not too much)
  • not too much quotes, even if they are exiting, and any quote has to be interpreted
  • the exiting argument should not be presented at the end of the article

How to choose the right journal

  • consider the covered region
  • consider the covered disciplines
  • consider the general focus
  • consider the to publish in a disciplinary journal, not an African Studies journal
  • consider the turnover time between submission and publishing
  • have a look at the journals website, its mission statement and to some of the already published articles to get a feeling of the targeted audiences, the style, the way arguments are made and the profile

Some examples (with links to their guidelines for authors)

  • African Affairs: focus on contemporary Africa, political events; social sciences; case studies have to have wide implications; no special issues; attached to ASA UK
  • Africa (IAI): all regions and disciplines covered; articles need a broad “ethnographic approach”, with experience on the ground, must affect people; have a new strand publishing articles from ‘African local intellectuals’; articles can be submitted in French and Portuguese as well but will be published in English
  • Africa Spectrum: Open Access; focus on social sciences, but all disciplines are covered; all English policy
  • Afrika Focus: Open Access; multidisciplinary; special issues; promote young African scholars; have also reports; publish in English and French; all submitted content (e.g. photos) should be available for open access.
  • The Journal of African History: eminent on all periods of history
  • Critical African Studies: no regional or disciplinary boundaries; keen on critical debate, theoretical & empirical innovations, esp. coming from Africa-based scholars; some flexibility on article length beyond usual limits
  • Journal of Modern African Studies:  bias to politics but focus on longer term perspectives (not current affairs); papers should contribute to the understanding of modern Africa and be of interest in five years still; papers should be understandable by non-specialists
  • Journal of Southern African Studies: focus on long term impact; boundaries of “Southern Africa” are flexible; 4 issues with 11-15 articles (big); less keen on economics; each paper is discussed with the advisory board; sponsors conferences; work with authors very much (could this become a good paper?)
  • Nordic Journal of African Studies: Open Access, purely online; focus on language; will have a new editorial board soon
  • Politique Africaine: focus on the contemporary Africa and sociopolitical studies from below; mainly in French but also in English (papers can be submitted in other languages as well); has always a special issues (dossier); calls for papers on these special issues are announced on the website regularly
  • Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE): interdisciplinary, focus on radical perspectives/materialist analysis/struggles from below (against inequality, oppression, …)
  • African Studies Review: US based, closely related to ASA US; interdisciplinary

How the selection process works

  • After a paper is submitted to a journal, the editor will do an initial check: does the paper fits to the journal, to the basic standards (length, …) and has it the potential to become a good paper?
  • Then it is send to two plus x reviewers (can be from the board or external). They send in comments.
  • The editor makes a synthesis and send it to the author with a clear advice. A process of revision starts and at the end the article is published.
  • Note: 99% of the articles have to be revised according to the comments made by the reviewers.

Open Access & Self-archiving

  • Most of the journals are offering some Opess Access model,
    some like Africa Spectrum and Afrika Focus are Open Access without an author’s fee,
    others like JSAS offer the possibility to make articles Open Access paying an author’s fee once.
  • Most of the publishers allow the authors to make the article or a simpler text-version available on institutional repositories after a delay (e.g. African Affairs: 24 months after first online publication in the journal). See the  SHERPA/RoMEO list to find out, what the individual journal publishers conditions are.

Writing Workshops

  • Often writing workshops are offered at the conferences of African Studies Associations. E.g. at ECAS 2013 in Lisbon a workshop with the title “How to write, review and publish a scientific paper” was held by the editor of the Nordic Journal of African Studies.

More journals to think of

  • Beside the journals mentioned above exist a lot of more journals on African Studies world wide:
    see the list of African Studies Journals at ilissAfrica.

Credits

About ilissafrica
This is the blog of the internet library sub-saharan Africa (ilissAfrica).

6 Responses to Guide on “Writing in African Studies Journals”

  1. ilissafrica says:

    “EARLY CAREER SCHOLARS WRITING WORKSHOP” by The African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK) is inviting applications for a writing workshop to be held in Nairobi on 20th and 21st September 2013: http://www.biea.ac.uk/callforapplicationsasauk/

  2. Am highly impressed on the various ideas express as the guide lines.as an african social researcher and teacher,i apprecietes the contribution of the writers.

  3. ilissafrica says:

    In an LSE blogpost Patrick Dunleavy presents examples of frequently used useless titles and advises on using a full narrative title, one that makes completely clear your argument, conclusions or findings:
    http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2014/02/05/academics-choose-useless-titles/

  4. ilissafrica says:

    useful list of Open Access Journals that might better be avoided:
    http://scholarlyoa.com/2014/01/02/list-of-predatory-publishers-2014/

  5. As an amatuer interested in contributing towards writing local traditional African history in the Low Land region of the north-eastern part of the present Limpopo Province in South Africa, I very much appreciate your standards of the Guide on “Writing in African Studies Journal”.

    Lekgolo Lazarus Ramalepe.

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