Module 1: An Introduction to the Scholarly Journal


This module introduces the participant to scholarly journals, their characteristics, types of ownership, job titles and roles played in publishing scholarly journals. It discusses the meaning of different editorial titles and roles – Editor, Editor-in-Chief, and Managing Editor —  and the qualities of a good editor. The journal editor and the publishing organization are also considered, especially in terms of what they owe each other.

Learning Objectives

After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • Describe the differences between scholarly journals and other academic publications
  • Understand the different ownership models of scholarly journals
  • Define the different types of editor and their roles
  • Explain the qualities needed to be a good editor
  • Appreciate the roles and responsibilities of the editor and the journal owners to each other


The journal plays a key role in the existence and direction of modern scholarly and scientific disciplines. The major form of publication for original research work is the refereed journal. Journals provide a system for the registration of the author’s ownership of ideas; maintain quality through peer review, and communicate the findings to its intended audience and the editor is at the centre of the journal publishing process. The editorial role is critical in validating the quality of content of the journal, ensuring that the journal provides for the distribution of scholarly and scientific breakthroughs, and also providing an archival record of the knowledge creation process.

In the following units, we’ll examine the journal in more detail and reflect on its important role in the development of knowledge and our understanding of the world.



Self-paced courses can be a bit lonely, so to get to know some of the other people that are taking this course, please add a comment below introducing yourself. Provide your name, institution, journal (if you have one yet), and interest in taking the course. If someone has written something you find particularly interesting, post a reply to their comment.

In addition to introducing yourself, please read this article about Professor James Tumwine and why he started African Health Sciences. Why did he start his journal? How did he know it would be successful? Please add your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

25 Comments on "Module 1: An Introduction to the Scholarly Journal"

  1. Profile photo of John Ricard John Ricard says:

    Dr. Tumwine started the journal to fit a glaring need. He and his colleagues did not have a voice to express their findings and since he had a lot of support behind the scenes, that probably prompted him to feel like it would be a success. Very inspirational!

  2. Hi! I´m María Acosta, from Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, I´m 32 years old, I´m a Fine Arts student from last semesters… I´m owner of AvA Club and soon of my own journal, design, costed and created by myself. I lov the online courses for mine and others contributions to the world, I hope I could help a lot of people and myself with all these studies and knowlegde. I hope someday be the editor of a recognize magazine or journal. Thanks!

  3. Profile photo of Raymond Raymond says:

    Hi everyone, so grateful for this resource. I am an epidemiologist, I’ve been tasked to serve as the managing editor for a national health bulletin. I look forward to learning from your experiences and the course material.

  4. Profile photo of Khalid BOUTI Khalid BOUTI says:

    Hi everyone, I’m glad to be here.
    I’m working in a medical electronic journal, and I’d like to learn new skills in editing.
    Is there any course or diploma in publishing?

  5. Hi Kevin!! I just wanted to share my happiness with you: the Journal I edit (one-man show) has finally come out!! This is the link:

    It is in Spanish, but you can still take a look at it with the knowledge yopu have helped us in achieving our goal!
    Thank you,

  6. Hello everyone! My name is Arturo and I am a Venezuelan researcher working at the Universidad de las Artes in Guayaquil, Ecuador. I have been given the responsibility of editing the film journal which will be published by the University where I work and I am doing this course to learn how to do it properly. I feel excited but very nervous about this big responsibility since it is very important for everyone that this Journal works and we manage to index it in two years. I hope this course gives me the tools to do it.
    I also hope it gives me the information I need to make decisions like: This will be a paper journal so, should I just have a pdf version of the journal hosted at the University´s web page or is it better to have an open access journal running alongside the paper journal? Does the second option imply having a different ISSN for the OA version?
    In a comment I read a discussion about hosting and I don’t even know what that means. Who should I talk to about it in my University? The Librarian or the ITguy? I really hope this course and the other courses offered by PKP will help me with this new responsibility.
    About the article, I feel very much identified with Dr Tumwine and his will to create spaces where researchers from less wealthy countries can also aspire to publish in indexed journals. When researchers complain about not being published in high impact journals of wealthy countries, that we should stop complaining and start editing new journals that fulfill the specifications required to be included in an index.

  7. Hi all. (Greg, I remember you from my stints teaching at Kwantlen!) I’m Nadine Flagel and exploring editorialship on behalf of a friend who wants to start a new Canadian science journal. Her vision is more like Professor Tumwine’s than mine. So why am I here? I love editing, and I want to learn more about it.

    Er…speaking of editing, and speaking with the certainty that this process is about the mutual exchange of knowledge, the third sentence of the section above titled “Introduction” could REALLY use some attention. Just sayin’.

  8. Profile photo of Greg Chan Greg Chan says:

    Professor Tumwine’s story is such an inspiration. The “troublemaker” figured out early on that there were little to no opportunities to share his research with the broader medical community. Establishing an open-access journal was his way of leveling the playing field, as it has given him and his colleagues a chance to participate in forums that validate their innovative research.I admire how Professor Tumwine knows exactly what he has to offer the paediatric community within and beyond his region. His collaborative approach to publishing/disseminating research is a clever solution to financial obstacles. Great article!

  9. Profile photo of Greg Chan Greg Chan says:

    Hello, PKP community. I am Greg Chan, a faculty member in the Department of English at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. As my department’s resident film studies specialist, I am developing an open-access film studies journal–tentatively called “Intermission: Cinematic Conversations,” that will be a central feature of the film minor program we currently have in development. My goal is to learn all things OJS to prepare me for the editor’s role at the journal. Looking forward to working with you!

  10. Hi everyone! I’m Victor Avila. I’m a last year medical student at Universidad Espiritu Santo in Guayaquil, Ecuador. I have written a few articles and began working with an editor in the developing of a journal from a medical association. So I want to know everything about being an editor and in the future becoming one too.

  11. Hello , everyone! Thank you for the opportunity to develop myself!

  12. Hello, everyone. Mark Baechtel here, from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. Grinnell’s Center for Prairie Studies is starting a regionally focused interdisciplinary journal whose working title is Compass Plant. Our library has a digital repository program and the institution has started several other OJS-based journals. We’re hoping to launch our addition to this effort at the end of the Spring 2015 semester.

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