Peer review is a critical part of publication that requires careful consideration. There are full volumes dedicated to the role of peer review (see, for instance, Peer Review in an Era of Evaluation Understanding the Practice of Gatekeeping in Academia or Designing an Open Peer Review Process for Open Access Guides). While you may decide your publication needs only to pass review of the internal journal board, most publications rely on peer review to assess the integrity of the research presented.
There are different types of peer review, mostly defined by degrees of author and reviewer anonymity:
Journals tend to include their review policy on their websites and refer to these policies in calls for papers.
While there are systems that support some aspects of the review process (Submittable is a paid option, OJS has some mechanisms), it is most important that your journal set reasonable expectations for reviewers and communicate those expectations. Whether you have a standing review board committed to a certain number of reviews a year or you create an ad hoc review issue to issue, you need to identify your review criteria and the categories of evaluation you wish your reviewers to assess.
During this process, it will be helpful to look at journals in your area to see how they have crafted their peer review policies. When creating your own, you do not need to predict every possible scenario that may occur, but it is essential to write a policy that broadly outlines how decisions will be made and what avenues are available for recourse. For example, can authors request an appeal to a rejection notice? How will that decision be made?
Once the editorial policy is in place, the next step is to create some materials to help your reviewers complete their work. Reviewers have many competing demands on their time, so it is worthwhile to streamline their work. A checklist should define what exactly you are asking them to do and how they should compile and submit their review. Many journals post their checklists online, so start by taking a look at journals in your area. Here are some additional resources:
Journal articles typically go through many rounds of edits before the final version is published. Think about how authors and reviewers should track these changes. For example, Microsoft Word has a track changes feature and Google Docs allows suggestions and commenting. Either of these options are sufficient for most journal editing purposes.
As revisions to the content are made, editors must also ensure that journal styles are applied consistently. A stylesheet (see Layout below) should also indicate what citation style the journal uses, whether Chicago Manual of Style, APA, MLA, or another system, along with any stylistic or formatting quirks specific to your subject area. You will also want your articles to conform to a consistent style for notes (footnote or endnote) and bibliography.
Many journals perform copy editing prior to publication to correct any last errors and to ensure that the journal’s editorial guidelines are consistently applied. You may want to consider hiring a detail oriented staff or student worker to do this work, or pay for these services from a third party.
In addition to editing the text, remember that you will want to build accessibility into your process. For instance, it is important to ask authors for alt-text for any images within the editing process.
While software can alleviate some of the work of publication (see Platforms section), you will still need to decide how to organize your content and who will perform which tasks of organization and digital preparation. Making and applying design choices as well as proofing your work should be built into your journal schedule. If your journal involves media components, you will need to arrange not only appropriate media storage, but also a regular way of incorporating these objects.
Journals can follow or disregard conventions (title, author(s), abstract, keywords), but developing your preferred layout will help your readers, editors, and authors understand your intentions and mission. Creating documentation about these decisions will help your current journal staff and any new contributors.
Basic understanding of semantic markup will go a long way. Scribe, an editorial company, offers a free XML download of their Well Formed Document Workflow which provides standard tags that can be adapted for your journal. They offer various paid services, as well.
Once the article manuscripts have been copy edited, you need to prepare them for digital publication. If you have built your own WordPress site, for example, you will need to input content into the backend and apply any semantic markup (headers and classes). Some publication platforms offer document preparation services at sliding cost (PubPub Community Services are $4,000-5,000 for ~10 articles per year to $20,000 for 50+ articles per year). Others provide training at cost or DIY guides (see Manifold Digital Services menu or Manifold Walkthroughs).
Once your materials are available for public viewing, it’s important to announce the release. Increasing fanfare will hopefully increase readership. We offer more tips for promoting your launch below in the Outreach section.