From Master’s thesis to journal article: Reflections on my experience publishing with the JLS

Katie Morris, PhD Student, Durham University

Pitching my article, ‘Faces of Hunger: An Intersectional Approach to Children’s Right to Food in the UK’(forthcoming in the 2022 Winter issue with the Journal of Law and Society), to the JLS during the early weeks of embarking upon my PhD was, of course, a daunting experience. As a leading collator and disseminator of contemporary sociolegal research, I had targeted the JLS with lofty ambitions – that is, for the periodical to publish my first peer-reviewed paper. Having no experience with the publishing process, I was not sure what to expect when formulating an email outlining my piece and, if anything, was prepared for an immediate rejection in light of the countless submissions the Journal receives from authors far more masterful than myself. Consequently, the editor’s rapid response requesting the full draft to be sent over caught me by surprise and equally excited and unnerved me – I immediately doubted the quality of my work and its original contribution, suddenly acutely aware that sharing the product of months of crafting with esteemed academics would be an extremely vulnerable experience. Nevertheless, I proceeded in pursuit of any feedback which may be offered to me which thus marked the beginning of my journey towards publication.

I was extremely grateful to hear I had progressed to the peer-review stage and found the comments returned to be of immense value which undoubtedly greatly enhanced the quality of my paper. Specific concerns raised by multiple reviewers provided a clear indication of the aspects that required the most attention when revising the submission. In particular, it was frequently suggested that I restructure the piece, whereby the case study would be brought to the fore, followed by the delineation of the right to food in international law and its status in the UK which I had originally begun the paper with. This recommendation made complete sense to me; the paper I had submitted was essentially my Master’s thesis with little amendment and therefore had been written with this purpose in mind, evidently requiring reshaping in order to suit a new audience. Other comments picked up on nuances which I had overlooked including the developments in the devolved nations pertaining to the right to food, moreover one reviewer made me aware of the notions of food oppression and racial capitalism which undeniably unlocked deeper discussions within my work and have since inspired me to conduct further research into these revolutionary concepts. A minority of comments pertained to matters that had been included in the paper or were beyond its purview, which I was able to address in my correspondence with the reviewers via the editor.

An obvious challenge I encountered upon receiving the reviewers’ feedback was trying to incorporate all of their useful suggestions without exceeding the Journal’s limit of 12,000 words for a single piece. My paper was already extremely lengthy having been created as dissertation consisting of three substantive chapters in addition to an introduction and conclusion, therefore it was inevitable that including extra content would be difficult. However, my supervisors were kindly willing to help me identify areas to cut in order to make room for these additions and reassured me that such a situation is not uncommon and would be good editorial practice for future academic articles as well as my PhD chapters. Moreover, the two to three months allocated for these revisions to be made in order for the revised paper to be considered for the journal’s next edition was entirely workable alongside my other commitments. As someone who had never attempted to publish a peer-reviewed article before, I appreciated the transparency of the JLS team throughout the process which allowed me to establish realistic expectations as to when updates would be communicated and how long each step would take.

Conscious that the Journal strives to highlight contemporary issues and generate dynamic discussions, I was also required to respond to recent political and socio-legal developments which occurred after my initial submission and consider their effect upon my arguments presented. Dedicating myself to such a live research area is both a blessing and a curse in this way as the wealth of literature is constantly growing and necessitates constant monitoring, alongside frequent changes in the current national and international climate which have a monumental affect upon food security in the UK including the invasion of Ukraine and cost of living crisis. The guidance I received from the JLS on this matter was rather open-ended, advising I make revisions to reflect the changing landscape whilst also appreciating that COVID-19 was my primary case study, therefore I acted on my instincts and inserted comments to this effect whilst leaving the main focus of the paper unchanged. 

The publication of my article within the JLS is a huge achievement; it is an honour to have my first paper published within such a fantastic scholarly journal which sits alongside highly influential interdisciplinary research exploring the impact of law on all facets of life. I am very pleased to be able to share my findings on the incredibly significant matter of racial and socio-economic disparities in children’s access to food via a journal with an expansive reach and hope that it is able to alert readers to the gravity of this crisis and contribute to the growing impetus to the right to food campaign in the UK. 

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