Writing for JITP

By: Lyn Lord

This post serves two purposes: 1) to encourage new authors to submit to JITP, and 2) to provide some general advice on how to prepare a submission for the journal. If you’re a seasoned academic writer, ignore the post below and skip to our submission guidelines.

Since 2006, JITP has published thousands of pages of integral content, but we face a dilemma: many of the submissions we receive are from previously published authors. (Currently, our submission queue hovers around 30% of repeat submitters.) Given Integral Theory is a new field, it makes sense for a lineage of work to develop in the journal. However, we’d like to see the Integral model continue to be accepted in more venues and used by more disciplines, which requires an infusion of “new blood.”   

One of the strongest facets of the JITP editorial process is our access to a global Rolodex of integral practitioners. At least one specialist as well as someone with extensive knowledge of Integral Theory evaluates all of our submissions. The editorial process is supportive and is designed to galvanize your research beyond the simple act of publishing in the journal. As the only integral publication that is fully peer reviewed and included in several major academic indexes, you can confidently include JITP refereeing duties or publications on your C.V.

Below are a few tips for first-time submitters. Some of these points may seem obvious, but over the course of evaluating hundreds of articles the same problems tend to crop up again and again. 

  1. Pay close attention to your abstract. The abstract should not just outline content but also explain how the text exemplifies aspects of Integral Theory (e.g., taking perspectives). Write your abstract using concise, complete sentences, and get to the point quickly. Maximum length should be 200 to 250 words, almost always in a single paragraph.  A simple rule-of-thumb for knowing whether your abstract has enough information is to imagine yourself as another researcher doing a similar study.  If the Abstract were the only part of the paper that was accessible—this is often the case for students who access JITP from an indexing database like ProQuest—would you be happy with the information that is presented?
  2. Pay closer attention to your opening paragraphs. One of the tenets of fiction is that you have to grab your reader within the first few paragraphs. Scientific writers can benefit from the same strategy. There are many ways to approach the introduction of a paper, but I’ve found the best way is to think of it as an inverted triangle.  The broadest part at the top lays the foundation of the paper and couches the manuscript in the context of similar researchers’ work.  Then, narrow down to your specific topic, providing information that provides context, and then arrive at your statement of purpose and rationale for why it contributes to integral studies.    
  3. Revisit the writing basics. JITP is a scholarly publication, but the fundamentals of writing still apply: outline your material, define your terms, and stick to the core format for presenting a scientific paper.  In my experience, integral writers tend toward prolixity. This is often the result of an author trying to give equal coverage to the five elements of the Integral model (vs. focusing on the elements of the model that are most relevant to the subject at hand). So, rather than take a “kitchen sink” approach, it may help to start with the outline that most scientific articles use:
  • Abstract (What is being studied?)
  • Introduction (What is the problem/issue?)
  • Materials and Methods (How was the problem solved?  Obviously, this section is omitted in speculative or theoretical articles.)
  • Results (What was discovered?)
  • Discussion/Conclusion (What does it mean?)
  • Endnotes (Integrally informed writers are prone to asides and further exposition. Used judiciously, endnotes can enhance a text.  However, be careful about writing another manuscript in your endnote section—busy readers tend to skip endnotes. In fact, if there’s one formatting change I’d like to inspire in integral writers, it’s less reliance on endnotes.)
  • References (Whose work was consulted?)
  1. Define the territory. That is, why would someone who is not from your field want to read your article? If the reader would not naturally be interested in the content, how can you create such interest, right up front, by being explicit about how the work might be more widely relevant to the integral community? I can point to two indispensable resources for those new to Integral Theory: Sean Esbjörn-Hargens’ resource paper, “An Overview of Integral Theory,” and the “AQAL Glossary,” which defines the core tenets of Integral Theory.  
  2. Be critical. JITP authors are encouraged to explore hypothetical and critical views in relationship to Integral Theory. When presenting hypothetical material (e.g., the possibility of a new line of development in one of the quadrants), authors should make it clear that a suggestive addition that is not currently part of Integral Theory is being offered, and then provide as much evidence, argumentation, and supportive material as possible to substantiate their position. Critical papers remain a small fraction of what we publish, but those that make it through the gauntlet have contributed a great deal to the refinement of Integral Theory.
  3. Be visual. Nested ideas and quadrant- or level-specific concepts are common in Integral Theory. Thus, integral material benefits from illustrations. Too often, though, authors choose to avoid visual presentations (probably because it’s more work to have an artist create a diagram). As much as we encourage the use of illustrations, there are three pitfalls to be wary of: 1) do not reiterate every concept from a table or figure in the text, only the key result or trend depicted; 2) do not repeat the same data in a table and figure, which is a waste of space and energy; and 3) JITP is a grayscale-based journal, so illustrations have to be clearly labeled with text that denominates the altitude(s) under consideration. 
  4. Don’t be cavalier with levels of development. One of the problems that new integral authors face is how to present their work in such a way as to not appear elitist. Vertical development is a delicate topic, in other words. In a recent exchange I had, an author mused how to ensure that movement to second-tier structures will not end up being “the societal equivalent of a lethal mutation in biology.” This is worthy of a dissertation, of course, but the basic point is that you should be careful when generalizing about entire populations, rely on data whenever possible, and anticipate problems that might arise when painting entire nations or groups as residing at a particular altitude.
  5. Globalization is a reality. The Integral framework is relevant regardless of race, nationality, or IQ, which is one of its many strengths.  You would think that authors would naturally consider, then, how perspectives shift according to different cultures. For example, North American authors can be incredibly provincial, sometimes ignoring the mores within our own continent. Religion, climate change, and cultural conflict in scientific or political domains are just three big-picture topics where I have received submissions that have shown a surprising lack of sensitivity to global idiosyncrasies. Again, for integrally informed writers this consideration should be almost second nature, but perhaps it is worth keeping in your awareness when evaluating a first draft.
  6. Headings are your friend. Too many of our submissions underutilize a simple organizational element: headings. Used judiciously, headings and subheadings neatly organize complex concepts into digestible form. Most articles can get away with only two levels of headings, but multi-tiered presentation is often necessary due to the holarchical nature of integral studies.
  7. Use a two-tier pre-submission vetting process: beta readers and critique readers. A beta reader is someone who reads a draft and offers big-picture commentary on formatting, structure, and an article’s overall impact. A critique reader does all of the above while also offering in-depth comments on a sentence-by-sentence level. For those without integrally informed colleagues, the Integral Directory will make it much easier to network and find competent readers.