Author Self-Assessment Guidelines

Manuscript Submission Self-Assessment Guidelines

Thes guidelines in this document have been developed to help authors in self-assessing the content of their manuscripts prior to submission to CriSTaL. Reviewers are encouraged to consider these suggestions in constructing their reviews.

Guiding Questions

Title, Keywords and Abstract

Guidelines for authors:

  • The Title is important because people will use words in the title to find research in which they are interested. The Title should summarise what your manuscript is about in no more than 15 words.
  • The Keywords need to provide the key concepts that will assist a reader to find your paper.
  • The Abstract is the portion of the paper where you provide a summary that presents the paper's most important features. It  should provide a succinct account of the larger context, the specific issue and contribution of the paper to that, the purpose, methods, findings and significance of the study within 150-250 words, yet be able to stand alone and be understood without reading the paper.

Possible questions a reviewer might ask:

  • How well does the Title summarise the key issues that are examined in the paper?
  • Do the Keywords include the key concepts interrogated in the paper?
  • How easily can the Abstract be understood in advance of reading the paper?
  • Does the Abstract adequately summarise the essential details - the general state of knowledge regarding the focus of the paper, the specific contribution that this paper is making to the issue/s, the purpose, methods, findings and significance of the study?
  • Does the Abstract avoid unnecessary extraneous information such as citations of literature reviewed, unfamiliar abbreviations, tables, figures etc?

More information on abstracts

We follow the useful guidelines developed by Pat Thomson and Barbara Kamler (Thomson & Kamler, 2013)
Please make sure your abstract does not exceed words and that it answers the following questions:

Have you located your paper in relation to the larger field that you are focusing on? The larger field might for example be higher education or socially just pedagogies.

What angle are you taking on te issue or debate you are concerned with? For example, you might be looking at a particular theory related higher education or socially just pedagogies which hasn’t been looked at in the way you are looking at it.

What issues/ question/s or problems is your paper exploring. investigating /examining?

Identify the research methodology you have used, including the data collection and method of analysis, if appropriate (optional).

What were your major findings and how do these pertain to the argument you are making in your paper? (optional)

Answer the questions so what, who cares and what now in relation to your angle, argument and findings. What is the specific contribution your paper is making to the issues which CRiSTaL focuses on? How does your paper contribute for example to challenging hegemonic discourse and or reconfiguring higher education teaching and learning?

See for example

Thomson, P. & Kamler, B. (2013). Writing for peer reviewed journals: Strategies for getting published. London & New York: Routledge.

Introduction Section

Guidelines for authors:

  • The Introduction should introduce the problem, and make a cogent argument as to why the study is important. This can be done by indicating a specific gap in previous research, by raising a question, a hypothesis, an unrealised opportunity, particular need, or by extending previous knowledge in some way.
  • It could suggest the organisational structure of the paper.

Possible questions a reviewer might ask:

How well does the introduction:

  • Indicate a specific gap (this could be empirical or theoretical) in previous research?
  • Demonstrate that the area of research is important, critical, interesting, problematic, relevant, or otherwise worthy of investigation?

Literature review (can be part of the introduction or a separate section), conceptual and/or theoretical framework

Guidelines for authors:

  • Introduce and review key sources of prior research in that area to show where gaps exist or where prior research has been inadequate in addressing the research problem by briefly describing, analysing, comparing or criticising the previous research in this area and relating this to the current investigation.
  • Ensure that the cited literature only reports on work which is directly relevant and has contributed to the study.
  • Offer your own point of view and ensure that your voice is distinct from other references.
  • Provide a conceptual framework of how concepts are used in the literature and how they are to be understood in the paper.
  • Provide an explanation of and a justification for using a particular theoretical perspective (e.g. feminism) and/or theory (e.g. critical race theory).

Possible questions a reviewer might ask:

  • How well are key sources of prior research reviewed?
  • How well does the writer's own point of view and voice emerge as distinct from the references you cite?
  • How clearly articulated, appropriate and well-justified is the conceptual/theoretical framework?

Research Methods Section (applicable for empirical studies)

Guidelines for authors:

  • Describe in sufficient detail the methodological approach (e.g. post-qualitative, quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods).
  • Describe the salient aspects of the context, the selection of participants and consent and ethics procedures adhered to.
  • Describe how the data was generated and analysed.
  • Describe how the study was conducted in sufficient detail to allow readers to evaluate the appropriateness of the research process. Describe the measures taken to address issues of the credibility of the study and subsequent findings.

Possible questions a reviewer might ask:

  • Are the modes of inquiry employed well executed and appropriate to the particular problem?
  • Is the type of study conducted e.g. post-qualitative, quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods appropriate and well explained?
  • Are the research questions, the selection of the study participants, study instruments, context and ethics procedures clearly described?
  • Does the author describe how the data was collected and analysed?
  • Does the author describe how the study was conducted in sufficient detail to allow readers to evaluate the appropriateness of the research process?

Does the author describe the measures taken to address the credibility of the study and subsequent findings?

The Findings Section (for empirical studies) (this section could be combined with or separate from the Discussion  section)

Guidelines for authors:

  • Ensure that the findings are clearly substantiated, based on the evidence from the data.
  • Show how your conceptual and/or theoretical framework shapes your findings.

Possible questions a reviewer might ask:

  • Are the findings clearly substantiated based on the evidence from the data?
  • How well do the authors explain the finds in relation to prior literature?

Are all findings introduced preceded by an appropriate description in the Methods section?

The Discussion Section

Guidelines for authors:

  • This section is often considered the most important part of a research paper because it most effectively demonstrates the researcher's ability to think critically about an issue, to develop creative solutions to problems based on the findings, and to formulate a deeper, more profound understanding of the research problem being studied.
  • The discussion section should focus on the scientific/scholarly and/or practical significance of the study.
  • Explain whether your findings concur with or refute the existing literature or whether they were unexpected and produced new insights.

Possible questions a reviewer might ask:

  • How well does the discussion use the conceptual and/or theoretical framework the phenomenon under investigation?
    • How well do the authors locate their discussion in relation to previous studies?
    • Do the authors provide a thoughtful discussion on the implications of the study for addressing critical issues within the field and topic under investigation?
  • If there are unexpected findings, do the authors adequately explicate the possible implications of these?
  • Do the authors note limitations of the study?

The Conclusion Section

Guidelines for authors:

  • The conclusion is intended to help the reader understand why the research should matter to them after they have finished reading the article.
  • It provides a summary of your thoughts and needs to convey the larger implications of the study (research, practice or policy as appropriate).
  • A conclusion is not merely a summary of the findings or a re-statement of the research problem but a synthesis of key points. For most articles, one well-developed paragraph is sufficient for a conclusion, although in some cases, a two-or-three paragraph conclusion may be required.
  • It presents the last word on the issues you raised in the article. Just as the introduction gives a first impression to the reader, the conclusion offers a chance to leave a lasting impression.
  • Do not  introduce new information into the conclusion, but rather offer new insight and creative approaches for framing/contextualising the research problem based on the findings of the study.

Possible questions a reviewer might ask:

  • How concise is the summary of the authors' thoughts and does it convey the larger implications of the study (theory, research, practice or policy as appropriate)?
  • How succinctly have the authors answered the "so what?" question by placing the study within the context of past research about the topic investigated and elaborating why the findings of the study matter?
  • How well do the authors demonstrate the importance of their ideas and elaborate on the significance of the findings for research, practice or policy as appropriate?
  • Do they introduce possible new or expanded ways of thinking about the research problem?
  • Are the authors' conclusions justified by the findings found in the study?
  • How well does the Conclusion relate to the Introduction?

Paper's timeliness

Possible questions a reviewer might ask:

  • Is the paper timely and relevant to a current problem or specific research issue in critical studies regarding teaching and learning?
  • Does the paper contribute to criticality with regard to a teaching and learning issue?

Does it provide a new angle on an issue of current concern in teaching and learning in higher education?

Quality of Writing/ Organisation

Possible questions a reviewer might ask:

  • What is your overall impression of the writing/organisation?
  • Is the paper legible, well written with few grammatical errors?
  • Is the paper properly organised leading to a coherent account?


Possible questions a reviewer might ask:

  • Are there important references that are not mentioned that should be noted?
  • Have the authors adhered to the journal guidelines for in-text and final referencing?
  • For more information on referencing style see the styleguide. 

A word on the use of AI

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and AI-assisted technologies in scientific discourse has been in the spotlight recently. ChatGPT, as an example of generative AI, which was launched in November 2022, can provide detailed responses across multiple domains of knowledge and produces text that is almost indistinguishable from text written by humans.

In response to the increasing use of Generative AI and AI-assisted technologies by authors, we are following Elsevier’s AI author policy, which focuses on ensuring the integrity of the scholarly record and aims to provide greater transparency and guidance to authors, readers, reviewers, editors and contributors.

Where authors use AI and AI-assisted technologies in the writing process, authors should:
- Only use these technologies to improve readability and language, not to replace key researcher tasks such as interpreting data or drawing scientific conclusions.
- Apply the technology with human oversight and control, and carefully review and edit the result, as AI can generate authoritative-sounding output that can be incorrect, incomplete or biased.
- Not list AI and AI-assisted technologies as an author or co-author, or cite AI as an author. Authorship implies responsibilities and tasks that can only be attributed to and performed by humans, as outlined in Elsevier’s AI author policy.
- Disclose in their manuscript the use of AI and AI-assisted technologies in the writing process either as part of the research methodology/design where appropriate, or at the end of the article, before the references. Authors are ultimately responsible and accountable for the contents of the work.

Relevance to readers across a wide spectrum

Guidelines for authors:

  • Have you described the context for your study adequately? (This is especially important for empirical studies).
  • Have you presented the relevance of your findings for a wide range of readers outside your immediate institution or region?
  • Have you explained local terms and jargon for this wider readership?


Kamler, B. and Thomson, P. 2014. Helping doctoral students to write: Pedagogies for supervision. London and New York: Routledge.

Swales, J. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research   Settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.