A summer of rejections

31 Aug

I have had a few journal submissions rejected over the summer. There is no surprise there: I could decorate my office wall with the rejection letters I have received over the years. I simply send the manuscripts somewhere else and eventually they get published. What is surprising, however, is that the reason the articles were rejected.

Quite simply, the articles were mixed methods (a mix of qualitative and quantitative) and so did not fit the preferred orientation of the journals. It is, of course, perfectly acceptable for journals to favour particular disciplinary perspectives and to become a home for a particular long-running debate or accumulation of knowledge. What is disappointing, however, is that there are very few outlets for work that combines both qualitative and quantitative work.
In keynote addresses, and funding competitions, we repeatedly hear and see encouragement for mixed methods work. The reality is that there are very few journal editors and referees who are prepared to tolerate work that is outside of their preferred disciplinary silo.

All of the rejection letters included a line stating that the journal welcomed mixed methods work and then went on to reject the article because it did not fit. A typical line reads:

“We would like to stress that many interesting and thought-provoking manuscripts are rejected due to an inappropriate fit or match with NAME OF JOURNAL’s editorial mandate, and thus, will perhaps find a home in another journal.”

The problem is, I am running out of other journals to try. What happens when there isn’t “another journal”?

The study of peace and conflict faces a real challenge. We seem to be stuck in silos (the same people, the same arguments, the same methods, the same conference panels, the same few journals for each silo) and be unable to find ways out of them. The ensuing epistemic closure means that the added value of much scholarship is limited. The published material may be diverting, entertaining, well-argued and structured, and magnificently embedded in the relevant literature. But often its contribution to knowledge is limited.

Mixed methods research is often messy and contradictory. Mine attempts to mix my long-running critical qualitative interest in international intervention (influenced by ethnography and post-colonialism) with empirical studies from the Peace Accords Matrix and the Everyday Peace Indicators project. You can see how it is neither fish nor fowl. Yet, if only “safe” material can be published, where is the room for innovation, risk-taking and creativity? Instead we are limited to the realm of replication, discipleship and … well … dullness.

Of course, it could be the case that my articles have been rejected because they are of poor quality (and plenty of my work falls into that category). But in these cases all of the rejection letters cite the ‘does not fit’ reason. If we all have to fit all of the time, what does this say about ourselves and our own – very conservative – thought processes?


6 Responses to “A summer of rejections”

  1. Erica Chenoweth 01/09/2015 at 6:54 am #

    Nice post! I hope you’ll submit your articles to us at the Journal of Global Security Studies — we strive for theoretical and methodological pluralism explicitly. http://jogss.oxfordjournals.org/

  2. Jason Michael Quinn 01/04/2016 at 9:20 pm #

    Hey Roger, Jason Quinn here, quit complaining and go work in your vegetable garden!!! Don’t forget that trick I told you.

    Random: a Cabelas ad for 20% off fishing equipment just popped up presumably because you said “neither fish nor fowl” in your blog. Google ads is no match for your prose…

    • rogermacginty 18/04/2016 at 9:01 am #

      Jason – I have to admit that I ma have imbibed a little too much Kroc hospitality! I do remember we spoke, but please do remind me of the tip! R


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    […] points are also touched on in Mac Ginty’s recent blog post – ‘A Summer of Rejections’ – on the difficult dissemination of mixed methods research in academic […]

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    […] points are also touched on in Mac Ginty’s recent blog post – ‘A Summer of Rejections’ – on the difficult dissemination of mixed methods research in academic […]

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