JEL: Editorial Policy

Learn about JEL Editorial Policy

The purpose of the Journal of Economic Literature is to help economists keep abreast of economics research. To this end, the journal publishes survey articles and essays, book reviews, annotations of new books, and a December list of current dissertations.

Survey Articles and Essays

Most articles are commissioned by the editor, though unsolicited articles are sometimes published. Those interested in writing an article for the Journal are requested to begin with an outline of roughly ten pages (not counting references), describing the contents of the proposed article, stating why the topic is deserving of our readers' attention, and listing the main references to be covered. The outline can be submitted for consideration on the Journal website. Submit a proposal here. 

If the editor feels that the topic is of potential interest for the Journal, the outline will be sent to referees who are experts in the field. If they believe that the outline could lead to a promising Journal article, the author is then invited to write it. The full article also is refereed. Most of the articles that have appeared in the Journal have gone through several rounds of revision before being ready for publication; the Journal is not an outlet for authors seeking to get into print quickly.

Writing for the Journal of Economic Literature

The Journal's survey articles and essays seek to synthesize recent research on topics of broad interest within the profession. A successful Journal article has four features: It clearly addresses the question of "why we should care," is accessible, features selective coverage of the relevant literature, and provides a synthesis of the literature that is covered. The intended audience is professional economists but not just those working on the topic of any given paper.

In writing for a broader audience, the first requirement of a successful paper is to lay out what we as economists should hope to know about an issue, and why. What then do we know, with what confidence, and which questions and debates remain.

Accessible exposition should not sacrifice rigor or conceptual richness. While important ideas should be expressible in plain English, there should be no dumbing down of ideas.

Literature coverage, the third ingredient, means addressing work that is both significant and pertinent. It is not necessary to cite every paper in an area. A Journal reader relies on the expertise of the author to guide him or her to the relevant literature and to highlight work that is important and convincing.

The crucial ingredient of a successful Journal article is synthesis. An effective synthesis is informative not only to economists outside the field but also to specialists. A successful synthesis generally has a point of view, which should be clearly acknowledged. Opposing points of view should be fairly explained. Synthesis often produces a clear statement of the important unanswered questions.

The need for the Journal to synthesize economics knowledge is heightened by the technological advances in electronic publishing. Most work, published and unpublished, is readily available and the need for filtering is greater than ever.

Much time can be saved by writing from the start in the Journal's style, as described in the Style Guide; note especially the style for references.

Book Reviews

New books in economics are first annotated by the Journal's Pittsburgh editorial office and then some of these are selected for review. Please send books for review to the Pittsburgh office.

Books that are well-researched and make original contributions to economics will tend to be those selected for review. Textbooks will not be reviewed. Collections of previously published articles will not be reviewed unless some value is added by bringing the articles together. Edited volumes such as festschrifts and conference volumes will be reviewed only if they are in some way distinctive; an edited volume is more likely to be reviewed if it covers a single, coherent theme rather than mixing papers on a wide assortment of topics.

Most reviews are short (around 900 words). A review should be written so as to inform a wide readership of professional economists, explaining what the book is about and enabling a prospective reader to decide whether to read the book. For books of particular importance for the profession, longer reviews may be commissioned.

As a matter of policy, the Journal does not publish unsolicited reviews, nor does it accept offers to review specific books. The Journal does not publish rebuttals or comments on book reviews. The Journal does, however, welcome general expressions of interest from American Economic Association members who would like to review books.

How the Order of Items in the Journal Is Determined 

The order in which papers appear in the “Articles” section of each issue is determined by the editor. The paper that appears first (the "lead article") is one that the editor particularly wants to call attention to, based on such factors as the importance of the questions it addresses and its analysis, as well as the quality of its presentation. The order of the subsequent articles is based on a range of factors. The editor's assessment of the importance of the articles continues to play a large role (particularly for the first few articles after the lead article). Other factors are the time since articles were accepted (with higher priority to ones accepted earlier), their length (with higher priority to shorter articles), and the relation among articles (with an effort to place related articles together). "Review essays" are generally, but not always, placed at the end of the "Articles" section. Items in the "Book Review" section are ordered alphabetically by the first author of the book being reviewed.

Bibliographic Information

Complete indexing and abstracting of articles published in economics (currently from over 1,000 journals) is available electronically on EconLit. A subset of this information (covering about 210 journals) appeared in the printed Journal of Economic Literature through December 1999.

EconLit can be accessed online through libraries that subscribe to EconLit on the Ebsco, ProQuest, ProQuest Dialog, and Wolters Kluwer|Ovid platforms.