Contributor FAQ


Which article format should I select?

Can you give me more information on the three questions that must be submitted with Research Articles, Research Reports, and Short Reports?

Are the word limits real or simply suggestions?

What counts in the word limit and what is ignored?

Does Psychological Science have special requirements regarding style?

Can I submit an abstract for consideration in Psychological Science?

Can you tell me more about the readership?

How should I prepare graphics for submission?

Is there any limit to the number of manuscripts that I can submit to Psychological Science?

Is it really okay to list preferred reviewers?

How quickly are manuscripts reviewed?

What is the acceptance rate at Psychological Science?

Why are manuscripts declined after initial review?

What kinds of manuscripts are most likely to be accepted for publication?

May I resubmit a manuscript that has been declined?

Can I place a version of my accepted manuscript on my web site and with my university’s research article repository?

Does Psychological Science accept supplemental materials?

I have a question that’s not listed here. How can I get an answer?

I want to submit a manuscript, but I can’t decide which of the formats—Research Article, Research Report, Brief Report—is the best one to use to describe my study. Are there any guidelines?

Yes, one good rule is to use the briefest format that allows a compelling account of your work. Research Articles, Research Reports, and Short Reports are limited to 4,000, 2,500, and 1,000 words, respectively. If, for example, your first draft has 2,700 words, try to eliminate 200 words so that the manuscript can be submitted as a Research Report. And, if you find that your first draft is a few hundred words under the limit (e.g., 3600 words for a Research Article) and covers all the necessary points, please resist the temptation to add words. Editors, reviewers, and readers all prefer manuscripts that are to the point.

Generally speaking, a Research Report or Short Report is the preferred format for a manuscript describing a single experiment with straightforward methods and analyses. The Research Article is the appropriate format for a manuscript that includes findings from multiple experiments or that has complex methods or analyses.

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Can you give me more information on the three questions that must be submitted with Research Articles, Research Reports, and Short Reports?

The editorial team has added a new twist to the manuscript-submission process: When uploading manuscripts that present original empirical work (i.e., Research Articles, Research Reports, or Short Reports), authors are asked to briefly answer three questions: (1) What will the reader of this article learn about psychology that she or he did not (or could not) have known before? (2) Why is that knowledge important for the field? (3) How are the claims made in the article justified by the methods used?

The insertion of “about psychology” and “for the field” in Questions 1 and 2, respectively, is meant to drive home the obvious but important point that Psychological Science is not a neuroscience journal or a social cognition journal or an emotion research journal or any other kind of specialty journal. It’s about psychology, which is why that word is embedded in the first two questions. It’s also about applying scientific methods to study behavior and experience, which motivates asking authors to explicitly tie their claims to their methods in Question 3.

While answers to the three core questions may aid editors and reviewers in their deliberations, the chief beneficiaries of this Q&A exercise are apt to be the authors. With a journal that covers so many different topics and areas, it is not uncommon for an author to receive a rejection notice and think: “They just don’t get it.” “They,” of course, are the editors or reviewers or both, and “it” is what the research demonstrates or why it matters or both. By answering the core questions as part of the submission process, authors can stress the importance of their research and show why readers should care. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers to the questions, and submissions will not be evaluated on these criteria per se, but the answers will guide how the manuscript is reviewed and maybe even how it is written (see Roediger, 2008). That is, the process should help get everyone–authors, reviewers, editors–on the same page and perhaps also aid authors in crafting papers that get their point across. To make the process manageable and not impose a heavy burden on authors, reviewers, or editors, clear and concise answers (maximum of 50 words for each question) would be appropriate and appreciated.

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Are the word limits real or simply suggestions?

They are real. Articles published in Psychological Science are intended to communicate groundbreaking findings in straightforward, economical prose; consequently, authors are expected to adhere to the word limit for each format. Manuscripts that exceed limits are returned.

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What counts in the word limit and what is ignored?

The main text counts, as do notes (or footnotes), acknowledgments, and appendices. The abstract, authorship paragraph, references, material in tables, and figure legends do not count. However, there are separate limits for the number of words in the abstract (150) and the number of items in the references (50 for General Articles, 40 for Research Articles, 30 for Research Reports). Short Reports are limited to a single table or figure. Although there are no set limits for figures and tables for other types of articles, most published Research Articles have no more than four figures and tables (combined), and most published Research Reports have no more than three figures and tables (combined).

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Does Psychological Science have special requirements regarding style?

Psychological Science generally follows the style of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition. You are encouraged to consult that manual for guidelines. Several stylistic elements are particularly noteworthy:

  1. Description of participants—this should include how participants were selected and major demographic information.
  2. References—these should be done in APA (6th edition) style.
  3. Figures and tables—these should be embedded in the main text, and we ask that authors also provide separate, production-quality figure files with their submission.
  4. Figure captions—these should be brief but descriptive. Paragraph-length (or longer) figure captions are not appropriate; key details regarding methods or results should appear in the main text, not the figure caption.

For additional information regarding style and other submission requirements, please read the Submission Guidelines.

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I have a manuscript that I’m thinking about submitting to Psychological Science. If I send an abstract, will you read it and tell me if it’s a likely candidate for Psychological Science?

Given the volume of submissions that we receive, we simply don’t have the time or the resources to provide feedback prior to submission. As described in the Submission Guidelines, “Psychological Science encourages submission of papers from all fields—including cognitive science, neuroscience, linguistics, and social sciences—that are relevant to psychological research, theory, or applications.” If your manuscript fits this description, then we encourage you to submit it.

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The Submission Guidelines say that “Preference is given to articles … that are written to be intelligible to a wide range of readers.” Can you tell me more about the readership?

Psychological Science is distributed to nearly 800 libraries around the world, and nearly 3,000 libraries belong to consortia that have access to Psychological Science. In addition, more than 20,000 APS members receive the journal. Most have Ph.D.’s, but a substantial number (28%) are students. Personality/social, clinical, cognitive, developmental, experimental, and general psychology are the most common topic areas reported by members. Because of the international nature of the readership (85% live in North America, 10% in Europe, 2% in Asia, and 2% in Australia), authors should avoid writing in a manner that assumes the reader is a citizen of or intimately familiar with the author’s country (e.g., avoid a phrase such as “participants were students at a Midwestern university”).

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How should I prepare graphics for submission?

We ask that authors supply the original versions of graphs and diagrams they create. Do not save the image in a different file format, as this makes it harder to resize and make other adjustments to the image during production. For example, if you created a graph in Excel, supply the original Excel file. Photographic images such as brain scans, unless incorporated into a larger graph or display, may still be submitted in standard image formats like EPS or JPEG. To avoid appearing blurry or pixilated in print, all figures must have a minimum resolution of 300 pixels per inch (PPI; more information about pixel density can be found here). Please do not submit images in TIF format. Please adhere to the following format when naming figure files: AuthorLastNameFigX.fileformat (e.g., SmithFig1.xls, SmithFig2.jpg, etc). Please see the APS Figure Format and Style Guidelines for more information.

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It is possible to include color in figures?

Yes. Articles that are published can include color in their figures. However, the use of color is very expensive—printing color images requires expensive inks and a complex manufacturing process. These incur costs several times greater than those of black-and-white images. Consequently, authors are allowed one free color figure per article; subsequent color figures cost $250 each.

We also allow authors to use color images in the version of the manuscript that is published online but black-and-white images in the print version. There is no charge for this option. However, because this increases workload during production, we (a) discourage gratuitous use of color in figures (e.g., presenting bar graphs in blue, where the color provides no unique information), and (b) require that authors provide only one version of every figure—one that will be suitable in color and when gray-scaled for print (e.g., in bar and line graphs, this means that color alone cannot be used to distinguish different graphic elements; texture, shape, or pattern should be used as well). Please see the Submission Guidelines and APS Figure Format and Style Guidelines for additional information.

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Is there any limit to the number of manuscripts that I can submit to Psychological Science?

Yes. Since 2004, Psychological Science has had the policy that the editorial staff will not consider papers by the same (set of) author(s) on what the editors consider to be the same topic at the same time. In other words, if Smith and Jones submit a manuscript on modality effects on free recall, Jones and Smith should not submit a manuscript on modality effects on cued recall until review of the first manuscript is complete. In addition, when a manuscript has been accepted for publication, the editors will not consider another submission from that (group of) author(s) on that topic for six months.

Of course, in a true free market of ideas, this policy would be unconscionable. But Psychological Science is seriously constrained in the number of articles that can be published, and this policy is designed to ensure that many different authors appear in the journal’s pages. Editors attempt to follow this policy sensibly, not rigidly (e.g., in deciding whether two manuscripts have the same authors or address the same topic).

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I see that the web site allows authors to suggest preferred reviewers. Is it really okay to list people here?

Yes, definitely. Authors often are familiar with experts in their area of research, and editors appreciate the suggestions. Of course, editors do not always use the suggested reviewers, because the individuals have reviewed for the journal recently, they are unavailable, their previous reviews have not been sufficiently helpful, or they appear to have a conflict of interest. Regarding the last point, authors should abstain from recommending any of their recent mentors or students, recent collaborators, or colleagues from the same department or university as preferred reviewers.

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How quickly are manuscripts reviewed?

Two editors initially review each new submission to decide whether it is likely to be competitive for publication. Within 2 weeks of submission, you will be notified by e-mail that your manuscript either (a) has been declined after initial review or (b) has been sent to two or more external referees for extended review. For manuscripts in the latter category, you can expect a decision within 60 days of manuscript submission.

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What is the acceptance rate at Psychological Science?

We received nearly 3,000 submissions in 2011. About two-thirds of them were declined without review. Of the 1,000 that that were reviewed, about one-third were accepted, which makes for an 11% acceptance rate.

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Why are manuscripts declined after initial review?

In general, manuscripts are declined after initial review because they do not meet the editorial goals of Psychological Science. We look for manuscripts that report innovative findings that are of general theoretical significance or of broad interest across specialties of psychology and related fields, and that are written to be intelligible to a wide range of readers. Of course, not all accepted manuscripts meet all of these goals. However, manuscripts are most likely to be declined after initial review when they are written poorly, directed at a small segment of the Psychological Science readership, or report findings that represent an incremental contribution to the literature.

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What kinds of manuscripts are most likely to be accepted for publication?

We hope to publish manuscripts that are innovative and ground breaking and that address issues likely to interest a wide range of scientists in the field. Before submitting a manuscript, ask yourself the following question (which we encourage reviewers to use in evaluating manuscripts): “If you’re a ‘specialty area-A’ psychologist, do the findings reported in the manuscript represent some of the best and most exciting work in specialty area-A, the sort of results that you’d be excited to mention to your colleagues in specialty areas B, C, and D or colleagues in areas related to psychology?” If the answer is “no,” then a specialty journal is probably a more appropriate outlet.

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I’ve fixed some of the problems identified by the reviewers and want to resubmit. May I?

Psychological Science has long had the policy that resubmission is by invitation only. In other words, you should submit a revised version only when the action editor’s decision letter explicitly indicated that he or she would like to consider a revised manuscript. Uninvited revisions are usually declined immediately.

This policy may seem harsh, but it is essential given the number of manuscripts submitted to Psychological Science. That is, of the (approximately) 2,600 manuscripts that were declined in 2011 after initial or extended review, most of them could have been improved by some combination of rewriting, additional analyses, or additional data. But the editorial team simply could not manage 2,600+ revised manuscripts on top of the 3,000 new submissions that were received.

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I’ve had a manuscript accepted for publication in Psychological Science. Can I place a version on my web site and with my university’s research article repository?

The version that was submitted may be placed on your personal or department website or with the university repository at any time; upon acceptance, you may do this with the final, accepted version of the article. You may not post the final published PDF.

Note that authors who wish to pay for immediate public availability of their paper in order to comply with NIH or other funder mandates may use the SAGE Choice option, in which case SAGE will complete the necessary repository deposits on their behalf.

For more information on open access options and compliance at SAGE, including self author archiving deposits (green open access), visit SAGE Publishing Policies on our Journal Author Gateway.

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Does Psychological Science accept supplemental materials?

Yes. Authors are free to submit certain types of supplemental material. If the manuscript is accepted for publication, such material will be published online on the publisher’s web site and linked to the article. However, such material must be supplemental and cannot be essential for the reader to understand the manuscript.

As described in the Submission Guidelines, Psychological Science allows for the online publication of two types of supplemental material. One type, referred to as SOM-R, includes material that has undergone both an initial review (by two members of the editorial team) and an extended review (by two or more external referees). The other type, SOM-U, includes unreviewed material, or information that has not been vetted by either the editors or the external referees.

Common examples of SOM-U include research stimuli, audio or video recordings, and ancillary citations; for example, authors who have reached the allowable limit of references for their type of publication (General Article, Short Report, etc.) may wish to cite additional sources as “Recommended Readings” within the SOM-U.

Under SOM-R, authors may wish to provide more details on their methods and procedures–details of particular interest to specialists in the area, to readers concerned with the reliability, generality, and robustness of the results, or to researchers who endeavor to replicate the results for themselves. If authors have carried out conceptual or methodological replications of their own, they may wish to summarize such complementary studies under SOM-R. Given that Psychological Science places a premium on innovation and discovery, empirical evidence that attests to the replicability of the principal results is generally welcomed by editors, reviewers, and readers alike. SOM-R material is limited to 1,000 words (including text, notes, and captions for tables or figures), 10 references, and 3 tables or figures (combined).

If you intend to upload SOM-R or SOM-U material, please read the 2012 Guidelines for Publication of Supplemental Online Material, which describes conventions for naming files and for citing supplemental materials in the manuscript. Files containing SOM-R or SOM-U material should be uploaded to the submission system when the manuscript proper is submitted.

Video files can be submitted in QuickTime (*.mov), MPEG Movie (*.mpg), and Microsoft AVI Video (*.avi); acceptable audio files include Windows Media Player (*.wma) and MP3 (*.mp3). Signed release from all participants in audio and video clips is required; please use the Audio/Visual Likeness Release Form for this purpose.

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I have a question that’s not listed here. How can I get an answer?

Send an e-mail to psci@psychologicalscience.org. We’ll answer promptly. For more information about practices at Psychological Science, we encourage potential submitters to read a 2010 interview with Robert Kail, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, and a 2011 editorial by Eric Eich, the current Editor-in-Chief.

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