The goal of the focal article-commentary format is to advance the field by providing a forum for varying perspectives on the topic under consideration. A commentary may be:
a) a critical challenge to one or more aspects of the focal article, arguing for a position other than that taken in the focal article;
b) an elaboration or extension of the position taken in the focal article, basically sympathetic to the position taken in the focal article, but pushing the argument further;
c) an application of a theoretical perspective that sheds light on the issues addressed in the focal article
d) a reflection on the writer’s experiences in applying the issues addressed in the focal article in particular organizational settings;
e) a comment on applicability of the issues raised in the focal article to other settings, or to other cultures;
f) a comment with a focus other than those listed above.
We envision comments as one to five journal pages in length, which sets 10 manuscript pages as a rough upper limit. A discussion with the editor is called for if an author sees a need for a longer commentary.
Based on experience to date, most commentaries should require less than 10 pages. In the interests of including as a wide a range of perspectives as possible, the editor will place a great premium on tight and concise writing. A tightly argued 3-5 page commentary is likely to be better received than a meandering 10 page commentary.
1. Do not summarize the focal article. Assume the reader has just read the focal article and say four other commentaries before getting to yours. Move directly to identifying the key issues you want to raise (e.g., “X overlooked two key issues,” or “We explore further the implications of X’s conclusion about issue Y”). Of course you may restate the specific issue that you are addressing. But there’s no need to say “X addresses A, B, and C; in this commentary we focus on C”.
2. Do not include general praise for the focal article (“X has done the field a great service by summarizing this literature,” or “There is much to admire in X’s article, namely, A, B, and C”). There is a tendency for commentators to want to start with a paragraph or two of general praise before getting down to business. Across multiple commentaries this takes up a lot of space.
3. Use only essential citations. There are stylistic differences in scientific writing; some like to cite extensively; others less so. For commentary purposes, cite only works absolutely essential to support your point. Going as light as possible on references provides more space for commentaries.
4. Use a short title that emphasizes your key message. Do not use “A Reply to X” as either the title or subtitle. It will be clear in context that all commentaries are a reply to a particular paper.
5. Do not include an abstract.
6. Make sure there is full author info (name, affiliation, address, phone, email) for all authors. Authors must be individuals (e.g., a paper cannot be listed as authored by “the XYZ Group”). We must know who the authors are, and the authors must assign copyright to SIOP prior to publication.
Commentaries will be peer reviewed; it is expected that some will be accepted and some rejected. Criteria for acceptance include clarity and coherence of the position espoused, technical soundness, and reviewer judgment as to the degree to which the commentary contributes to greater insight and understanding of the topic.
One point of note is that a small set of reviewers read and evaluates all commentaries. Reviewers need to compare commentaries for issues of redundancy and to make evaluations of relative merit (e.g., given journal page constraints, which commentaries are strongest?). Given these demands on reviewers, the level of detail of reviewer comments will typically be far less than that received for typical journal submission.
One issue meriting special attention is redundancy. It is possible that two authors may submit highly similar commentaries. This creates difficulties, as both may be of high quality. We will use a variety of strategies in such a circumstance. These include editing one section of a broad commentary to eliminate the section redundant with another commentary, and working with the authors to pool their efforts and produce a joint commentary.
While a commentary may be critical of a focal article, it is important to maintain a respectful tone that is critical of ideas, not of authors.
There is a relatively short time window for the preparation of commentaries; this may be as short as 30 days. This is driven by journal production schedules.
Queries for the Editor:
Authors should feel free to correspond with the editor prior to submitting a commentary if there are questions about any aspect of the commentary process. Authors may prepare a brief outline of the key points they want to make in the commentary and send it to the editor. While not in a position to commit to a commentary prior to peer review, the editor can comment on whether other commentaries have been submitted or proposed making the same points.
All commentaries should be submitted to the journal's editor, Kevin Murphy, via e-mail, by the deadline indicated on the journal Web page.