What are position papers and reflective essays in scholarly journals?
September 16, 2023 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Hello all, I am working on an academic opinion/essay kind of topic in the social sciences and I stumbled upon a social science Canadian scholarly journal, and I am wondering what exactly is a reflective essay and a position paper in scholarly journals. They are not exactly empirical/deep theoretical papers, but I'm quite unsure.

Do both still have a lot of academic footnotes and citation references?
posted by RearWindow to Education (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As I understand it, you are in the process of starting a graduate program. This seems like a great discussion to have with your advisor, who is being paid to help you navigate this sort of thing.
posted by Alterscape at 10:22 AM on September 16 [39 favorites]

In my field it would be extremely difficult to convince a journal to publish an unsolicited position or reflective essay unless you were very well established. Many journals will tell you what sorts of papers they will accept and give brief criteria for each type of publication on their website. You could also contact the editor of the journal to ask if they are accepting unsolicited opinion papers.
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:25 AM on September 16 [8 favorites]

Check the "About" and "Submissions" pages of the journal, which will likely clarify this. The types of articles you refer to are often not subject to anonymous peer review (in that they will be reviewed by people who know your identity) and do not contain your original research.
posted by avocet at 10:45 AM on September 16 [4 favorites]

And following from comrade_robot's comment, not to abuse the edit window, the lack of anonymity in the peer review process is because the journal's editors are likely thinking of the submission in terms of "what does RearWindow think about _______", not "what does ________ think about ________". In these fora, your identity matters to the opinion.
posted by avocet at 10:48 AM on September 16 [1 favorite]

To add to the excellent comments above, I'll say that review articles and policy/opinion pieces will also reflect a deep understanding of both the topic and the relevant research around the topic, including controversies, etc.

These wouldn't be comparable to something a new researcher might write--they're expert opinions on the expert's field of expertise.
posted by yellowcandy at 10:53 AM on September 16 [4 favorites]

If you can find actual examples in those journals, that would be the best answer.

I'm assuming position papers would have notes and sources quoted, but that the author would be taking a position on a subject. Or could be analyzing, then outlining a certain position on a topic with multiple viewpoints.

A reflective essay sounds like it could have some personal narrative aspects in the essays or a reflection on something from someone's personal point of view.

I don't have the definitive answer on this, but I'm taking an educated guess.
posted by AnyUsernameWillDo at 6:28 PM on September 16

The answer to your question varies widely from field to field and from journal to journal. Best thing to do to become familiar with the publishing norms and mores in your field is to read the top journals in your field regularly. You can use ISI rankings to look at the impact factor of journals in your area(s) of study to help you figure out what the top journals are if this is not something that's already evident from what you're learning in your PhD program. Most journals will allow you to sign up for an email table of contents so you get regular updates whenever a new issue is published. I scan the contents for the five major journals in my area every month when they come out and read anything that's relevant to me.

For any academic, the secret to learning how to write is that you first must learn how to read in your field. Ask your advisor about how they stay on top of the research. Ask other students and professors. Read everything on every syllabus. Strangers on the internet cannot really answer these kinds of questions about your area of academia; that has to come from inside of your field.
posted by twelve cent archie at 12:56 PM on September 19 [1 favorite]

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