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A “call for papers” (or CFP) is a request from a professional journal, conference, or other forum asking scholars to submit research on a particular theme or subject. The CFP from a particular journal or other entity may pose a research question or series of questions that scholars should address in their work. Along with the theme and research question, the CFP usually stipulates the length of the project (typically in word count or length of presentation), and other guidelines such as style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.).
Most CFPs in literary studies ask for proposals or abstract submissions before consideration of complete papers. An abstract is a brief overview of the work. A typical request is for an abstract of 500 words. If the abstract is approved, you will receive an invitation requesting a completed work by a particular deadline.
Beginning and intermediate scholars who wish to continue in the field should familiarize themselves with a variety of CFPs. Doing so allows you to see what topics are currently being discussed, what kinds of guidelines researchers must follow for their work to be published, and what journals and professional platforms are available.
Your instructor may ask you to aim your course project towards a particular CFP, even if you don’t decide to submit your work. Doing so is a great way to learn professionalization skills as you develop your research skills. If your instructor does not ask you to aim your work for publication, it is still a good idea for you to aim for one as a potential target. Many published research papers begin as class projects.
The value of a professional publication for a student’s career is immense. It shows you have the skills to make it in this highly competitive world. Also, don’t be afraid of rejection. It happens to all scholars. You can practice being rejected by submitting your work to the Journal of Universal Rejection (see below).
The process for publishing in a journal varies, but typically involves several stages. You might begin with an informal inquiry, asking the editor if the journal is open to your idea for a project. If so, you may be asked to submit a formal proposal or a full manuscript. The editor will then review the submission and reply with a a provisional acceptance, a request for revisions, or a rejection. Upon complete submission, the work will go to reviewers (typically two or three readers) who will write reports about your work and recommend one of the following: publication, revision, or rejection. Reader reports provide valuable feedback to scholars. Keep in mind that rejection does not necessarily mean that the work is bad; it could mean that it is not a good fit for the journal and its mission. Sometimes, finding the right fit requires several attempts. One rule: do not make simultaneous submissions to multiple journals. If more than one journal accepts your work then you are wasting the precious time of a poor overworked editor.
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