Three "Ps" of publishing in the JMHC: people, process, and product.
|Author:||Pearson, Quinn M.|
|Publication:||Name: Journal of Mental Health Counseling Publisher: American Mental Health Counselors Association Audience: Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 American Mental Health Counselors Association ISSN: 1040-2861|
|Issue:||Date: July, 2011 Source Volume: 33 Source Issue: 3|
Honoring the legacy of past editors, especially Kevin R. Kelly, M.
Carole Pistole, and James R. Rogers, whom I have had the pleasure of
working with, I have been reflecting on the elements that have enabled
the Journal of Mental Health Counseling (JMHC) to present established
knowledge, respond to current trends, and shape evolving practices, and
have reached the following conclusion: The caliber of the journal
depends on the collaborative efforts of authors, reviewers, and editors;
the integrity of the submission, review, and editing process; and the
quality of the final product. Thus, people, process, and product
organize my thoughts about the past, present, and future of the JMHC.
People are the engine of all human endeavors. With each issue of JMHC the collective expertise and collaborative efforts of authors, reviewers, editors, and publisher put ideas into print, a process that recycles every three months. Each role requires certain skills, entails specific responsibilities, and is subject to particular pressures.
Authors who publish in the JMHC ultimately are the driving force in determining the quality of what is printed. Being an author demands good writing skills, something that requires talent, time, energy, and multiple edits. Being an author for JMHC also requires expertise in mental health counseling and an ability to communicate ideas, practices, and findings in language that speaks to mental health counselors with a variety of educational backgrounds and clinical experiences. Finally, JMHC authors must have the background at a minimum to interpret existing research and at a maximum to design, conduct, and interpret their own research. The publishing process starts with you: your ideas, your sustained interest, your skills, your toil, and your courage in submitting your work to scrutiny. The JMHC can be only as good as its authors. You are the key ingredient. You are the coffee bean to the cup of coffee.
The roles of everyone else in the publishing process are to bring out the full flavor of the coffee beans, allowing for diverse growers, brews, and additives while ensuring that the final product is still coffee. After the authors, the next most important role in the process is filled by the reviewers, both members of the Editorial Board and ad hoc reviewers. Editorial Board members commit to a three-year term during which they review about 10 manuscripts a year, and many of them generously serve multiple terms. Board members and ad hoc reviewers have specialized areas of clinical expertise and research interests. Because of the diversity in their clinical and educational settings and their research interests, reviewers bring to the JMHC a broad range of mental health counseling experience. To borrow a phrase from Pistole (2005), the reviewers serve "evaluative and educative functions" (p. 107).
Indeed, reviewers do serve dual purposes. First, they evaluate whether manuscripts submitted meet or have the potential to meet JMHC standards. Second, they provide constructive feedback that guides authors and editors in the revision process. Thus, reviewers are at the frontline of the gatekeeping, consulting, and editing process; they are the initial inspectors and sorters of the coffee beans.
If the role of the reviewers is to do the initial inspection, the roles of the associate editor and the editor are to decide whether the beans will become coffee and to ensure that the brew is high quality; the roles of the production editor and the publisher are to put the finishing touches on the coffee and ensure that it reaches the market for consumption. The editors thus serve as a final gatekeeper, deciding whether to accept a manuscript, reject it, or engage the authors in a collaborative process for revising and editing their work. Success at this stage is contingent on the work of the authors, the feedback from reviewers, and the judgment and collaborative skills of the editors. The production editor is the final inspector, managing the endless details in an effort to catch mistakes that everyone else has missed. The publisher, the executive director of the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), is the business manager, who manages the resources and relationships necessary to bring the JMHC to its readers and the professional community.
Finally, the readers of the journal are the ultimate judges of whether the rest of us have done our jobs well. They decide whether to purchase the JMHC by joining the AMHCA, whether to read the articles, whether to use this information in their clinical and educational work, and whether to cite JMHC articles in their own manuscripts. Thus, they decide whether the coffee is appealing enough to taste, satisfying enough to savor, and consistent enough to share with others.
Process matters. Applied consistently, it provides predictability, credibility, and quality. To produce a journal that is credible and informative, integrity is necessary at each stage of the process, from conducting research and composing manuscripts to reviewing, accepting, editing, and publishing them. Topics matter, research designs matter, and writing matters.
The process begins with the creative ideas and interests of writers and researchers. As recommended by Prieto and Kress (2008), "Generally, authors should select a topic that is timely, is of interest to various counseling professionals, and addresses an issue that is relevant to this broad audience" (p. 100). Likewise, timeless topics have a place in the JMHC as well. Once a topic has been chosen, authors need to review the theories and findings in the literature and ask themselves, "How will my work contribute to the literature?"
Once a topic and purpose have been identified, consulting select resources is a key strategy for ultimate success. One of these resources is the Guidelines for Authors for publishing in the JMHC. Among other things, the guidelines describe the four sections of the journal and give information about the submission process. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA; APA, 2010) is another necessary resource. To borrow again from Prieto and Kress (2008), "Buy the APA manual, consult the APA manual, and write manuscripts exactly as the APA manual dictates" (p. 98). Blatant and numerous violations of APA standards lead reviewers and editors to question how careful authors are--and therefore to question the accuracy of other aspects of the manuscript.
If authors are conducting research, the importance of analyzing research design and statistics resources before conducting the study cannot be overstated (Hoffman, 2010; Prieto & Kress, 2008; Rogers, 2002). Hoffman (2010) and Rogers (2002) have provided excellent resources for both qualitative and quantitative research. Consulting with other researchers is also an excellent strategy (Prieto & Kress, 2008). Finally, consulting colleagues at various stages of the writing process--organizing ideas, reading drafts, and proofreading final manuscripts--increases the likelihood that the intended message is being communicated clearly and accurately.
Once a manuscript has been submitted, as editor ! review the manuscript to determine whether it fits within the scope of the JMHC. Next, I remove all information that identifies authors and institutional affiliations and send the manuscript for blind review to two reviewers, who are selected based on the relevance of their areas of expertise to the manuscript's theme. Reviewers rate the manuscripts in the following areas: nature (significance of topic, appropriateness for the journal, quality of ideas, usefulness, quality of discussion, and soundness of conclusions); writing and structure (clarity, concision, table and figure formats, overall style, and grammar and spelling); and research (literature review, design and methodology, implementation, and statistical analyses). They also check the abstract, references, use of APA format, and use of nonsexist language. Based on their evaluation, they recommend one of the following: accept, minor revision, major revision, reject, not suitable, or submit to a different journal, which is specified. The reviewers also offer constructive comments to authors that support their ratings and provide instructive feedback, and, if warranted, confidential comments to the editor. Depending on the number of manuscripts being reviewed and the reviewers available, this phase of the process is usually completed within six to eight weeks.
Next one of several steps may occur. As editor I may reject the manuscript, accept it, or provisionally accept it conditioned upon minor revisions. More often, if the manuscript deals with research I send blind copies (authors' names and institutional affiliations removed) to the associate editor of research, Rachel Hoffman. Based on her evaluation, reviewer ratings and comments, and comments from me, she makes a recommendation about acceptance, rejection, or an invitation to revise and resubmit. If the decision is to revise and resubmit, she composes a letter containing detailed suggestions about how authors might proceed. For theory, practice, and professional exchange manuscripts, I compose any revision and resubmission suggestions. Once a decision about acceptance, rejection, or revision has been made, I send the author an action letter, along with reviewer comments, l also send blind copies of action letters to the reviewers.
Although revised manuscripts are occasionally sent back to the associate editor and more rarely to the initial reviewers, typically as editor I make a decision about the final disposition of the manuscript or provide guidance and another invitation to authors to revise and resubmit. Once this collaborative process has been completed and a manuscript accepted for publication, authors send in personal information and copyright transfer forms. The last stage of the process involves the final steps in preparing the article for printing. The production editor, Anne Grant, copy-edits and prepares the manuscript for printing and sends the article for a final proofread to the author designated, with any queries that may have arisen.
If people have fulfilled their roles well and the process has been followed dutifully, the product will speak for itself. Our product suggests that this work has been peer-reviewed and, thus, peer-approved. Publishing in a nationally refereed journal like the JMHC is highly valued because of this rigorous and collaborative process. What is published should live up to this expectation and strengthen our profession and our professional reputation as mental health counselors. Ultimately, product matters. People--authors, reviewers, editors, and publishers--come and go, but the printed word lasts forever.
The JMHC is known for high-quality articles that further the scientific knowledge base, define and enhance the mental health counseling profession, and speak to clinicians, educators, and students. This legacy is one I want to continue. When Dr. Rogers began his editorship, he expressed his intention to continue the legacy established by his predecessor, Dr. Pistole, as follows: "to maintain the focus of the journal on publishing high quality, relevant, and well written articles while taking a developmental approach when needed in nurturing manuscripts and developing scholars along the way" (2005, p. 190). If I can uphold this tradition, the JMHC will continue to flourish.
When I began writing this editorial, my goals were twofold: to provide guidance, resources, and encouragement and to demystify the process of publishing in the JMHC. My goal as editor is to put these words into action. Serving the people and the profession in this role is a tremendous honor and privilege, and I am grateful for the opportunity.
American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Hoffman, R. M. (2010). Trustworthiness, credibility, and soundness: A vision for research in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 32, 283-287.
Pistole, M. C. (2005). The seamless transition: On exiting the JMHC editorship. Journal of Mental Health Counseling. 27, 205-209.
Prieto, L., & Kress, V. E. (2008). Writing for publication in the JMHC: Follow the yellow brick road. Journal of Mental Health Counseling. 30, 95-104.
Rogers, J. R. (2002). Looking back and moving forward: Research in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling. Journal of Mental Health Counseling. 24, 195-198.
Rogers, J. R. (2005). The JMHC: Alive and well and moving forward. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 27, 189-192.
Quinn lid Pearson is affiliated with the University of North Alabama. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to DJ: Quinn M. Pearson, UNA Box 5154, Florence, AL 35632. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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