Writing Guidelines

Inquiry’s audience is worldwide and includes academic communities and an educated general public. Inquiry’s authors and editors work hard to make often complex research projects accessible and interesting to this audience. The questions under SUBMISSIONS are a first step in finding the right level and style of writing for an article, commentary, or research brief. Below are basic guidelines to keep in mind throughout the writing and revision process.  

Respect the word limits:  In their final forms, the texts of research articles should be approximately 2500-3000 words, commentaries should be 1500-2000 words, and research briefs may be 800-1200 words. 

Respect your readers:  Aim to make your subject clear, interesting, and relevant to a wide audience, many of whom will know little about your research discipline but are willing to be informed.

Tell your readers right away exactly what your research subject or question is, why it’s important, and why they should be interested in it. This provides the “hook” for a successful introduction to the piece.

Establish a context for your research project: Who are you? Why did you do the research? When and where did you do it? Who was your mentor? How did you conduct the research—what was your methodology?

Be kind to your readers:

  • Use the active voice—say “I”— to let your participation and personal interest be heard. 
  • Use technical terms sparingly, and always define them. 
  • Clarify difficult concepts with examples and analogies, or with pictures, charts, and graphs. However, remember that images only illustrate a point that has already been made.   
  • Minimize the number of acronyms whose meanings readers must remember. 
  • Be sure all pronouns have antecedents—and this includes such words as “this” and “that.”  

Embrace the revision process. Most articles and commentaries require significant revision to make them suitable for Inquiry’s academic and general audiences. Research briefs, due to their requirements and shorter length, require fewer revisions before publication. Authors work throughout the academic year with staff editors, student editors, and their faculty research mentors in person and by email. (See EDITORIAL AND REVISION PROCESS for details.)

Know when to let go:  At some point you and your editor will say “It’s not perfect but it’s good enough, and the final deadline is here.” A staff editor will go over your text for completeness and a final check on grammar, style, and punctuation before the text is formatted for the website. You will get a look at what you and your editor have produced on a test site before the issue goes online. You may make any necessary corrections at that time.