We often get questions from people who are not aware how a journal works and do not understand some step in the editiorial process¹, think some step takes too long² or are just very worried³. We also get some questions where a step in the editorial process took ridiculously long. (e.g., a month for initial quality check) or questions asking for expected times for each step for a specific journal (10 k only link).

The problem with these questions is that we can answer most of them only by reiterating one of the following:

  • We cannot possibly predict the editorial decision.
  • Depending on the field, publisher and journal, that’s normal / outrageously long.
  • The status message probably means that [the editor has to evaluate the reviews].

As different journals or editorial systems use different status messages, and review times vary greatly across fields, this leads to questions that aren’t exactly duplicates of each other but could all be duplicates of a non-existing master question. I here propose to create such a canonical question.

We may use it as a duplicate for questions such as the above, which does not only avoid us dealing with such questions but also helps the asker. It may keep some askers from asking in the first place or help them to focus their question on what is not covered by the canonical question.

This question and answer shall be a community wiki and cover:

  • What is the typical workflow of a journal?
  • How are the individual steps of this workflow named in different editiorial systems?
  • What are the typical durations of individual steps, if they can be given at all? How do they roughly depend on the field?

This is a , i.e., you can indicate approval or opposition by voting on the question.

  • 2
    I upvoted this, but don't you really propose 3 questions here? I think all three need canonical answers we can point to since we see versions of them frequently, but I think you might have to split them into 3 different questions.
    – Bill Barth
    Sep 27, 2015 at 17:56
  • @BillBarth: Technically you are right. But grouping the respective information by these three questions separates the information in a way that I consider very difficult to read and not helpful. For example, the reader should be able to have the following information in close proximity: There is a step in which the journal staff controls whether the manuscript is not a total mess; this step is called initial quality check or technical check or …; this step is usually finished in a few work days.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 27, 2015 at 18:15
  • 1
    Yeah, I understood the point. We just might have to violate one of our own rules in order to post the question. Seems a little misleading or likely to be thrown back at us by people who get their questions closed for asking multiple questions. I thought I'd bring it up before we committed.
    – Bill Barth
    Sep 27, 2015 at 18:18
  • 1
    @BillBarth: It’s totally acceptable to ask closely related questions at once, where it can be expected that those who answer one question also answer the other ones. The problem arises if the questions are so distinct that it becomes expected that people answer only one of them and thus answers are not comparable anymore.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 27, 2015 at 18:26
  • 1
    Agreed. Just wanted to be careful. We close a fair number of questions for asking too many questions. :)
    – Bill Barth
    Sep 27, 2015 at 18:28
  • @Wrzlprmft - I'll rewrite the comment. If someone is interested in reading canonical answers, how would they go about finding them? Sep 30, 2015 at 6:09
  • @aparente001: You can search for questions that are a community wiki (not all of them are canonical questions); you can use this data-explorer query to find popular targets of duplicates or you can ask a meta question to collect them and generate an overview.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 30, 2015 at 7:18
  • @Wrzlprmft - Thanks for the community wiki suggestion. That is something I have not explored at all yet. Searching for duplicates does not, emphatically appeal to me personally, but thanks for posting the tool for others. Your meta question idea -- I tried that and and fared miserably -- maybe I didn't do it right? See meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/7090/… Oct 1, 2015 at 2:47

4 Answers 4


I created the question and an answer as proposed:
What does the typical workflow of a journal look like?

I think that this actual realisation demonstrates that splitting this question would not be beneficial as it does not increase the additional information on alternative names and durations do not diminish the readability and can be easily skipped by readers who are not interested in them.

Please contribute by improving question and answer and in particular by filling the list of alternative names of steps in the journal workflow.


I agree with the comments that there are multiple topics in the proposed question. In this case, I think this is not only fine, but actually desirable.

Because this question will deviate from our general "policies" in a number of ways, that is why having a meta discussion first is helpful. There is nothing wrong with breaking our own rules when we as a group want.

People will always point to exceptions and use it to justify why their question is a good fit. Hopefully we will be able to steer then to meta posts that will explain how things work.

  • 2
    We can also put a small disclaimer in the question explaining that it is a “special question”.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 28, 2015 at 8:22

I am also in favor of separate questions with links to one another, as suggested by Energy Numbers, but for a different reason.

I think pointing a user to a canonical question whose answer is very long, with many parts, is confusing for users. It's a little bit like if a student asks me a question about the Fourier transform, and in answer, I hand them the signal processing textbook. I would prefer to hand them a copy of just the relevant chapter, possibly with an additional comment noting the most relevant subsection...

I always feel a little bad pointing a user with a very focused graduate admissions question to the lengthy canonical "admissions process" question, for this reason.


Put them as three separate questions. Put links in each, to the others.

Then go through old, related questions, and where appropriate ruthlessly close them as duplicates of the new canonical questions.

Creating a triple-question in one would create a broken window. It would linger and create problems from then on, until we relented and broke it up into separate questions. So let's just start with separate questions in the first place, and cut out all of the intervening nonsense.

No amount of disclaimers about "special questions" or "unique exemptions" will prevent a multi-question question from being cited by others as a precedent. And they'd be absolutely right to do so: a precedent is exactly what it would be.

We already frequently get multiple questions in one. Let's not encourage it, and let's not justify it.

  • 3
    I do not see this triple question as a broken window, rather, I see it as a round ornate decorative window that we are calling attention to via the CW designation.
    – StrongBad
    Oct 1, 2015 at 16:43

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