By the time you have a paper ready to submit it is highly likely you would have a sense of your target journal. There is absolutely no reason not to aim for a leading journal, especially if you have received positive informal feedback. In human geography, for example, this might include journals such as Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Annals of Association of American Geographers, Environment and Planning A-D, The Geographical Journal and leading specialist journals such as Economic Geography and Political Geography.
Determining your journal will in part be shaped by content and scope of your paper compared to the journal’s stated mission. In order to maximise your chances of being successful you need to do the following – ensure you comply with the journal’s submission guidelines, engage with recent papers within the target journal, think carefully about an engaging title/abstract/keywords and finally make sure that your paper has a good balance of theoretical and empirical material. Top journals, as based on citation factor or overall reputation within the field, do not tend to publish empirical papers. Do contact the editor prior to submission if you want to reassure yourself about the suitability of the piece
Many journals operate pre-screening. This is where you might find your paper is not even sent out for review if the editor determines it is not of the right quality, topic and or length. So prepare yourself.
Once accepted for review you may have to wait for 3-6 months, sometimes longer, for peer review. You might have to help the editor nominate potential referees if others say no. Some people will not peer review.
Most journals will usually provide at least 2 reviews, possibly 4/5 depending on the norm of that journal. Shorter pieces such as commentaries may only receive one review.
Most people’s papers are evaluated as revise and resubmit. Very few papers get accepted with no revisions required, and a slightly larger number will receive a ‘minor revisions’ judgement. Some papers will clearly be rejected on the basis of peer review.
The editor’s letter to you will provide his/her judgement of the peer reviews and where they might clash with one another possible pathways to revise and resubmit the paper. Read the peer reviews slowly and take notes. Distil the major and minor suggestions, and do not despair if some of the criticism is acidic. Better to receive it now rather than in print.
Most journals want you to resubmit within 3 months and provide a detailed explanation, especially if you have substantial criticism to engage with, of the proposed changes.
Your paper will be sent out for review again to all, or possibly a sample, of the original reviewers. You may have to make further changes and possibly face another round of peer review. So if this process takes many months do not be surprised.
You have made it! The editor has accepted your paper. You complete the copyright form, and await your proofs.
When the proofs come respond quickly and positively to any editorial suggestions, and read through the paper carefully in case any errors have occurred at the production stage. Better yet get someone else to do it for you.
Remember to update your institutional affiliation and address because you might have moved from your place of doctoral study.
Most journals have an early view or online publication facility, so once you, the editor and the production team approve it. Your paper will eventually appear in a journal issue – again this might take time. But you can relax because once online your paper is citable!
Finally, you might consider making your work available via website such as www.academia.edu but check copyright conditions before doing so.