Your Paper Has Been Accepted. Now What? (guest post)


A graduate student who had an article accepted for publication asked Jonathan Ichikawa, professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia, about the post-acceptance process.

He answered in a series of tweets, which someone suggested putting up as a guest post here, for those who don’t do Twitter. Dr. Ichikawa agreed, and so here it is, lightly edited. Discussion welcome.


Your Paper Has Been Accepted. Now What?
Jonathan Ichikawa

A philosophy grad student who got their first journal acceptance asked me how things works from there — what will happen next, can they put their draft online, etc. It occurred to me that there are probably more people out there who’d benefit from answers to those questions. (My intention is for this to just lay out some tacit knowledge that those of us who have been around a while already have; it’ll probably be boring to academic veterans, unless you think I’m wrong.)

So your paper’s been accepted. Congratulations! You have probably been invited to prepare the “final version”. This might be almost exactly the same as the version you submitted, or you might do some more editing at this stage.

Minimally, you’ll restore acknowledgements and other information that you left out for anonymous review. You may have comments from referees along with your acceptance. You can react to these at your discretion.

It is also OK, in my opinion, to make small changes you’ve thought of yourself — changing the wording, tightening the argument, adding another citations, etc. Little things, not big things. The boundary is fuzzy but but the basic idea is, these should be at most minor changes that it’d be hard to imagine editors or referees even possibly rejecting the paper over. Don’t make new arguments that haven’t gone through peer review.

So you submit the final version, probably along with some copyright transfer paperwork. Then you’ll forget about it for a while, until one day suddenly they send you proofs. Proofs are a PDF of your paper, typeset in the journal style. A copyediting process happened in between, so your prose might be slightly different at points. (Some journals check in with you between copyediting and proofs, but most don’t.) You’ll have a surprisingly short period of time — maybe a week — to look over the proofs and let them know if they’ve made mistakes. This process can vary a lot; sometimes it’s very smooth, and sometimes you’ll find they’ve made a bit of a mess of things. Anyway, you’ll send them a list of proof corrections (or tell them there are none). And then a little while later, the official published version of your paper will appear.

Can you share your unofficial version online? The official legal answer: it depends, but probably. The what is typically done and it is fine answer: yes. My sense is that most people post their own preprint online. This is probably that “final version” you sent in — typeset yourself by Word or LaTeX or whatever, not the journal style. But it includes everything that will be in the published paper, so someone can read your draft paper and get the full content, but can’t cite page numbers. Maybe some wording will change slightly due to copyediting. You’d typically include a note like “forthcoming in X, please cite published version” at the top. Again, I’m describing what I think most people do. Whether you’re technically officially allowed to do this depends on the fine print of the copyright transfer agreement you signed. Some officially let you do what I just described; some say you can only post the submitted version, prior to peer review; some say you can only post after a certain period of time after publication. My own sense is that most people usually ignore these rules. I have never heard of anyone getting in trouble for violating them by posting their own preprint versions online.

Anyway, that’s my post about what happens after you get an acceptance from a journal. I hope it was useful to at least some of you! Have a nice day!

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Postdoc
24 days ago

Just wanted to add something that may be obvious: don’t be afraid to do a bit of (reasonable, non-icky) self-promotion. You should be proud of your paper, and more people will read it if you tell them.Report

WiseGuy
WiseGuy
Reply to  Postdoc
24 days ago

Of course, don’t be obnoxious about it (or anything in life). But the point of publishing is to share your ideas with others. So all else being equal, it is strange to publish a paper and then feel guilty for telling friends and colleagues about it.Report

One more ec philosopher
One more ec philosopher
Reply to  Postdoc
24 days ago

This is exactly what I came here to say. Would be great to have a follow-up post explaining tacit norms around promoting one’s own publications. What are some effective, non-icky ways of doing that? What are no-nos that will strike others as obnoxious even if not intended so?Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  One more ec philosopher
23 days ago

I would guess that most people see nothing wrong with a Facebook post with a link to the paper saying “this paper came out” or the like. That’s no more obnoxious on their feed than the list of birthday wishes that comes up once a year.

If you publish a lot, or your best friend has been posting about their struggles with publishing, maybe don’t do it this time, but I think there’s nothing wrong with letting people know it exists.

I think the trickier thing is figuring out when it’s appropriate, either in person or on social media, to insert yourself into a conversation to say “I actually have a paper on that”.Report

Matt L
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
23 days ago

I’d guess that my facebook “friends” are, at this point, about 40% academics, 40% people I know from whitewater kayaking, and 20% family members or old friends/acquaintances. When I’ve posted something on facebook about a new paper or something like that, I’ve found that the non-academics are often more interested and excited than the academics – it seems like a big deal to them! And, sometimes they are interested in engaging with the topic. (This can vary depending on your topic,of course.) But, don’t let the fact that you’re “friends” with a lot of non-academics stop you from noting a paper on facebook – it might actually be of interest to more people than you think. (I suppose something like this applies to twitter, too, but since I don’t have a twitter account I’m less sure there.)Report

Elizabeth Finneron-Burns
Elizabeth Finneron-Burns
Reply to  One more ec philosopher
23 days ago

It’s also totally legit to send it to your departmental website admin to post a blurb about on the website. They like having stuff to post!Report

Marc Bobro
24 days ago

Ichikawa writes: “It is also OK, in my opinion, to make small changes you’ve thought of yourself — changing the wording, tightening the argument, adding another citations, etc. Little things, not big things. The boundary is fuzzy but the basic idea is, these should be at most minor changes that it’d be hard to imagine editors or referees even possibly rejecting the paper over.”

I disagree. I am one of those referees who is against authors making any non-grammatical changes after acceptance. What you might think is a “small” change and you can’t “imagine” anyone fussing over could make the world of difference for another. What you might think tightens the argument just made it worse. Each and every word matters at philosophy journals with low acceptance rate. Small changes are probably fine with papers at journals that basically accept everything anyway. Or in other disciplines. But even here I think it’s bad form. After spending so much time refereeing a paper to find out that the author continued to “tweak” it after acceptance seems a bit disrespectful to the referee. Report

formergrad
Reply to  Marc Bobro
24 days ago

Oh no, Marc. I hope you never referee my papers :p

I think referees who fuss about one or two sentences have the wrong conception of their task. The philosophy referee is not deciding whether the paper meets the strict standards of a science. For the most part, I think, they are deciding whether the paper moves a conversation in an interesting direction or not. Usually, one or two small changes in a paper don’t affect those kind of qualities in a paper.

Of course, that might not apply to very technical papers or papers that rely on empirical data. But overall, just imagine this kind of strict policing of every sentence of every paper for all the historically signifiant works that have moved philosophical conversations in interesting directions…Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  formergrad
23 days ago

I think “the strict standards of a science” is a red herring here. I would bet that most science journals are far laxer about how the sentence is phrased, unless it’s the sentence that specifically describes the disagreements between the author’s research program and the referee’s, whereas philosophers will at least sometimes care about things that aren’t really central to anyone’s argument.

Still, unless it’s very central to the point of the paper, the phrasing of a couple sentences shouldn’t be the difference between an acceptance and another round of revisions, and that’s all that I think matters after final refereeing.Report

Marc Bobro
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
23 days ago

Then I would say let the editor know that you plan make a few minor changes. If the editor is fine with that, go ahead. The editor may contact the referee(s) or not. My point is that the revise-after-acceptance approach should not simply be up to the discretion of the original author. In comparison to the sciences, I agree that the top philosophy journals are stricter than science journals in terms of language. And tend to have much lower acceptance rates too.Report

Jonathan Ichikawa
Reply to  Marc Bobro
23 days ago

I am surprised at this reaction. In my experience, editors typically explicitly invite authors to make minor changes following peer review.

But yes, I am not suggesting trying to sneak anything past editors; when in doubt, checking with them is certainly prudent.Report

Marc Bobro
Reply to  formergrad
23 days ago

My point is simply that one or two sentences can substantially alter a paper. And it shouldn’t be the author alone who decides whether it does or not. So I hesitate at your description of referees, such as me, as being “fussy.”Report

Ronal Gripweister
Ronal Gripweister
Reply to  Marc Bobro
21 days ago

Definitely not all referees are arrogant enough to think that.Report

Adam Rigoni
Adam Rigoni
Reply to  Marc Bobro
23 days ago

As a reviewer, I wouldn’t care. As an author, I don’t change anything that isn’t a typo or bad grammar. I worry that what might seem like just a stylistic change to me could result in eliding some nuance that a reviewer felt was important or something similar to that. This tendency is encouraged by the fact that once the paper has reached the point I pretty much loathe the thing and I want to avoid working on it any further.Report

Jonathan Ichikawa
Reply to  Marc Bobro
23 days ago

So I obviously disagree with a lot of things in Marc Bobro’s comment here, but here’s one I’d like particularly to highlight: whether a referee is against authors making changes of this sort is not very relevant. A referee’s role is to provide advice to an editor, who then makes a decision about publication. It’s frankly none of the referee’s business whether an eventual published version is exactly like the version they read or not.

(So I disagree in particular with the idea that “[a]fter spending so much time refereeing a paper to find out that the author continued to “tweak” it after acceptance seems a bit disrespectful to the referee.”)Report

Marc Bobro
Reply to  Jonathan Ichikawa
22 days ago

This is quibbling. I referred to referees specifically, but my point applies to editors too. Let editors know if you plan to revise after acceptance.Report

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Marc Bobro
22 days ago

Given that Ichikawa wrote “at most minor changes that it’d be hard to imagine editors or referees even possibly rejecting the paper over”, I thought your comment was quibbling.Report

Marc Bobro
Reply to  Chris
22 days ago

Which was my point all along. What I call quibbling, you don’t! So the referee and/or editor need to be kept in the loop.Report

david
23 days ago

What should you do after your paper has been accepted?
Start the next one!Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  david
23 days ago

I’ve never understood people who can work on a single paper at a time, and move from one to the next after one is accepted – I work much better with 8 or 10 papers in progress at a time, even though it’s not uncommon that individual papers take 8 or 10 years as a result.Report

Elizabeth Finneron-Burns
Elizabeth Finneron-Burns
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
23 days ago

I work on, at most, 2 papers at a time. I need to focus my thinking to one and then my brain fries but can be rejuvenated for the second. But I could never jump back and forth between 8 at a time.Report

Robert A Gressis
23 days ago

Wait, philosophy papers can get *accepted*?!Report

Daniel Weltman
Reply to  Robert A Gressis
21 days ago

I think the idea of a paper getting accepted is being offered as one of those outlandish hypothetical possibilities that we philosophers love to ponder so much, not as a sort of practical reality one could reasonably expect to encounter in everyday life. It’s like the trolley problem, Thomson’s violinist, etc. Ridiculous as a live possibility but interesting to think about.Report

Kenny Easwaran
23 days ago

> You’ll have a surprisingly short period of time — maybe a week — to look over the proofs and let them know if they’ve made mistakes. 

In my experience they usually say 48 hours! I don’t think I’ve ever seen them say a week. I haven’t tried to test whether that “48 hours” really means a week.Report

Dmitri Gallow
Dmitri Gallow
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
23 days ago

The first time I had a paper accepted, I received the proofs on December 24th and was told I had 48 hours to look them over. They likely meant business days, but my grad school self was so nervous about the whole process that I did the corrections Christmas morning.Report

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
23 days ago

As far as I can tell, anything they say means however long you need. Like Dmitri, I didn’t know this when I got my first acceptance, and ended up spending a few hours of my honeymoon checking proofs. But at some point it occurred to me that, if a press can take several months to typeset something, I can take a week or two if they catch me at a bad time. So I always just reply to them and tell them how long it’s actually going to take me.

Nobody has even objected to my revisions of their deadlines yet–they just say it’s ok and usually thank me for letting them know.Report

Jonathan Ichikawa
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
23 days ago

My most recent set of proof corrections asked for them within five days. (I spent a few minutes searching my email for other recent ones but had trouble finding them.)Report

Matt L
23 days ago

I’d recommend looking at the proofs very carefully. (For me, this means printing them out if possible, as for whatever reason, I’m much better on paper than on a screen. This is probably not so for everyone.) You should certainly not assume that they have caught every typo, even if some suggestions or corrections are made, and certainly they are unlikely to notice if, say, you’ve put the wrong date for a publication you’re citing. I’ve felt sad later by accidentally letting some typos slip though. Avoid it if you can.Report

First acceptance with questions
23 days ago

Thanks for this post. It’s very helpful. I’ve had my first paper accepted on condition that I address reviewer comments, and I have a couple of ignorant followup questions.

Firstly, I’ve taken the opportunity to make some additional changes to the paper, beyond what the reviewers suggested. I’m not sure whether I’ve crossed the boundary described in this post. My question is, what happens if I *have* crossed the boundary? Could I be putting my acceptance in jeopardy? Or will they just send me off with another round of revisions if I’ve done anything they don’t like?

My second question is, how important is it to spend time making sure my manuscript conforms to the journal’s style guidelines? My acceptance email said my final submission should conform to their guidelines, but judging by what I’ve picked up about academic culture, I could imagine this being one of those things that everybody’s expected to do but no one actually does. I’ve used a different referencing style than the journal prefers, so correcting it could take some time. If my submission doesn’t conform to house style, will I be asked to correct it, or would that all be done in the copyediting process? Would it be disrespectful not to correct the style, given that I’d be unnecessarily giving the journal editors extra work?

Thanks for any help.Report

Another first acceptance
Another first acceptance
Reply to  First acceptance with questions
22 days ago

I’m in a similar situation. I was told that my paper was conditionally accepted. So, I revised and resubmitted my paper. But then some time later, I received another referee report that was even longer than the first. The editor said that my paper was officially accepted, but that I should address those comments.

Since the referee sent me so many comments (some of them quite challenging), this led to a number of changes. But in the process, I made a few very minor changes of my own, such as adding a footnote or two, including some additional references that I forgot to include in the original, rewording certain points so that they are more precise or clearer – stuff like that. I assumed that these charges were so minor that they didn’t need to be mentioned. But maybe that was a mistake?

For what it’s worth, I put a considerable amount of work (probably too much work) into conforming my manuscript to the journal’s style guidelines. Since I use LaTeX, this was easy in some ways and extremely difficult in others. It seemed to me that this was the courteous thing to do, since it may make things easier on the production department. But given all the time it took to do that, which could have been used to get started on another (potential) publication, I’m not sure that was a sensible decision on my part!Report

Nick Wiltsher
Nick Wiltsher
Reply to  Another first acceptance
21 days ago

On the first q, nobody will care about that kind of minor change, but you might just include in your response letter or whatever a line like “I have also taken the opportunity to add some citations and clean up some phrasing”.

On the second thing, aye, you did have to do that for the final submission. So it was sensible. Think of all the tedious post-acceptance stuff—changing style, reading proofs, etc—as the publication gods’ way of ensuring that nobody gets too hubristic about their successes.Report

Nick Wiltsher
Nick Wiltsher
Reply to  First acceptance with questions
21 days ago

On the second q: with very few exceptions, journals don’t care whether your initial submission conforms to house style. With very few exceptions, journals care a lot whether your final submission after acceptance does so. So, yes, you should absolutely correct the referencing style. Tedious but necessary, I’m afraid.

On the first q: given a conditional acceptance, a reasonable editor will just ask you to revise any additional changes that they don’t like, unless you have absolutely taken the piss, which I’m sure you haven’t. And, happily, most editors are reasonable, despite also being overworked and harrassed.Report

Jonathan Ichikawa
Reply to  First acceptance with questions
20 days ago

“Conditionally Accepted” isn’t accepted — none of the advice of the OP applies in these cases.

I think what you did was completely appropriate. You have been given lots of feedback and invited to revise in response to it. You have also been given an indication that the editor is confident that your paper will be publishable once you have done these specific things. It is completely fine to make other changes at this point too. (Indeed, often the line between “changes in response to referees” and “new stuff I thought of” is itself quite vague.)

If your other new changes make the paper worse, it is possible that it will jeopardize your conditional acceptance, but this would be quite surprising (and presumably, the remedy would be the editor just making a new condition on acceptance: accept conditional on undoing that new stuff you just did that was bad).

With your new submission, you are asked to provide a summary of the changes you’ve made. I typically include a blanket “I have made some other stylistic changes and added a couple of new references” (rather than tediously listing each one of those; I’d specifically list more substantive things (“I included a new argument inspired by such and such in fn. 22.”) You’re not trying to sneak things by, you’re trying to send in the best version of your paper. That’s what the editor wants too.Report