A Guide for Anti-Racist Scholarly Reviewing Practices at Composition Studies

This document is designed to guide the Composition Studies editors, editorial team, reviewers, and authors toward inclusive, antiracist editing and publishing practices. We are grateful to the authors of Anti-Racist Scholarly Reviewing Practices: A Heuristic for Editors, Reviewers, and Authors. Their heuristic (linked below) inspired and informed this further step in the journal’s development as a scholarly venue for socially-just, inclusive, and equitable research. We honor that document by including the bulleted items, which emerged from the original heuristic, at the bottom of our new policies. Our new policies respond to and contextualize the heuristic’s individual points of guidance to improve our practice and to prompt us to continue these efforts into the future.

Reference: Anti-Racist Scholarly Reviewing Practices: A Heuristic for Editors, Reviewers, and Authors.
Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/reviewheuristic


Composition Studies’s overarching philosophy is that citations are purposeful choices by the author and that each citation should help the author achieve the goal of their piece. We assume citations that authors include or omit are intentional, purposeful choices by the author. At the same time, we are also aware of the politics of citations and that representation in bibliographies and works cited pages matters. We do not require certain “canonical” citations. We understand the authors of some such texts may have engaged in harmful and/or oppressive actions.

That said, we do not automatically exclude a piece from review due to non-diverse citations. Instead, we believe in our reviewers’ expertise and their ability to identify any piece with citations that undermine the piece. Any recommendations reviewers make about citations to include are aimed at helping the author realize their own objectives for the piece rather than fulfilling narrowly defined expectations. Our reviewers should recommend including work by multiply-marginalized and underrepresented (MMU) scholars when it would benefit the piece. In addition, the editorial team believes in the importance of citing diverse voices and, when appropriate, works editorially with authors to encourage them to include MMU scholars in their citations. Finally, we require authors to consider how their piece will benefit from deep and ethical engagement with the citation of non-white scholars, not a mere citation for the sake of it.  


Composition Studies is a disciplinary journal, which attunes us to certain ways of seeing; these ways of seeing are always also ways of not seeing. We try to maintain a perspective of openness and are always in search of a more capacious understanding of the field. The journal serves and will continue to serve as a platform for a diversity of scholarly approaches. We welcome submissions utilizing a range of methodologies and methods that emerge from differences in expertise, knowledge, and subject positions. Additionally, work published in Composition Studies regularly cites and will continue to cite non-traditional sources of knowledge, including email correspondence, blog posts, and social media posts, etc.. We welcome pieces that incorporate lived experience and treat it as a legitimate avenue of scholarly inquiry. Though most of our articles are more conventional in terms of genre, sections such as “Where We Are” are designed to celebrate alternative modes of scholarly discussion. 

Composition Studies routinely publishes pieces by authors with varying levels of academic experience, and our publication process coaches authors through the submission and revision process. One of the core tenets in our bylaws is to serve as a place of scholarly mentoring for early-career scholars and first-time authors.

Review Process 

The review process at Composition Studies is meant to be fair, equitable, thorough, and efficient. We aim to provide careful, considered reviews to our potential authors in a manner that is flexible, timely, and meaningful for all involved.  

Coordinating the Peer-Review Process

The heart of our publication process is double-anonymous peer review. We do not have a set review board for the journal; we recruit reviewers from the field–whose expertise aligns with the content of the piece–in order to find the most appropriate scholars for each submission. This allows us to avoid overburdening a small group of in-house reviewers. In the event that a reviewer is unable to conduct a review, we pivot to another suitable reviewer.

As a journal, we trust our reviewers. More specifically, we respect multiply marginalized and underrepresented (MMU) reviewers’ recommendations, and we are committed to listening to and believing MMU reviewers and their perspectives, especially regarding a piece they feel is bigoted, exclusionary, or does not engage deeply with relevant scholarship by MMU scholars. In an effort to limit reviewers’ contact with potentially bigoted or traumatic material, we provide prospective reviewers with the abstract of the piece we are asking them to review; this offers the opportunity to decline reading it. 

Composition Studies provides reviewers with clear instructions that focus their attention appropriately to higher-order concerns that will truly benefit from their expertise, rather than lower-order ones that are better addressed by copy editors or fact-checkers. We currently do not make our editorial guidelines public, but are working to increase transparency. 

We also hope to begin providing prospective authors with an expected timeline for their submission, though we are mindful that factors outside of our control (e.g. a global pandemic) can affect the process in unexpected ways. For example, we understand that circumstances may prevent reviewers, editors, or authors from completing work by a specific deadline and, when possible, we work to accommodate these needs by redistributing work or allowing extensions. We encourage reviewers and authors to communicate their needs, and we are open to hearing them. On our end, we will communicate with authors proactively if there will be significant delays to the stated timeline.

Our editors and Advisory Board help cover for reviewers who are unable to complete for any reason. Given that many members of our staff work for Composition Studies on a volunteer basis, we respect their time and help ensure they are not overburdened by their work for the journal.

Returning Reviews to Authors

Our review process is designed to avoid the production and distribution of racist reviews. Our editorial staff reads all reviews before they are sent to authors, serving as a check to prevent prospective authors from receiving potentially traumatic feedback. Nonetheless, we commit to supporting any author who identifies a review they receive as racist and to opening a dialogue with them about additional possible review processes to combat racist responses to their work. There is not a set review board for the journal; if a reviewer engages in discriminatory practices, we will not ask them to review for us again. Absent concerns of discrimination, we do not currently offer a formal appeals process for review decisions. 

We are working to create mechanisms to gain feedback from authors and reviewers to allow us to continually improve our own practices. We intend to implement a policy of informing reviewers of the publication decision for the pieces they review. This will also allow us to ask reviewers for their feedback on their experience of the review process. Given our practice of recruiting a large pool of reviewers and our current editorial capacity, we are happy to offer letters of support for reviewers upon request. We do, however, name and recognize everyone who served as a reviewer in each spring issue of the journal.

Advisory Board 

The backbone of Composition Studies is the Advisory Board: a collection of scholars of varied ranks from universities and colleges across each major region of the country, covering an array of scholarly and research expertise, and embodying a diverse set of personal backgrounds and identities. Editors are in touch with the Advisory Board throughout the year as necessary and formally update the Advisory Board annually in writing. These meetings (and emails) include discussions of editorial practices and how to ensure they support diversity, anti-racism, and inclusivity. Editors clearly convey expectations to Board members, so that their contributions to the journal can be meaningful, consequential, and respectful of volunteered time and labor. Submission review is not a primary responsibility of the Advisory Board; reviews are, primarily, conducted by the reviewer pool. However, the Advisory Board reviews proposals and articles submitted for summer special issues, and this expectation is made clear to all Board members when they join.

Composition Studies editors offer to document Advisory Board members’ significant contributions to the journal; we work with individual Board members to provide appropriate documentation. Similarly, we work with reviewers to document their contributions to the journal.


The Composition Studies editors pledge to continue the tradition of equitable, inclusive editorial work and to build on that tradition towards improved anti-racist practices. In addition to the implementation of this guide, which makes the journal’s review and editorial processes more attentive to potential harms that could result from submitted material, we are working on five specific improvements to editorial practice.

Currently, submissions are anonymously peer-reviewed and, if accepted, go through subsequent fact-checking, bibliography checking, and copyediting. We are working to introduce a “meso-scale” level of editing into our process that falls between the macro-level questions reviewers raise and the micro-level checks our copy editors and fact checkers perform. This “meso-scale” will help editors and authors to address the issues raised in this document.

We will share equity and inclusion considerations more specifically in reviewers’ instructions. We will link reviewers to this document and ask them to address the citation and (inter)disciplinary concerns noted in the first two sections of this document.

We will continue to work with our publisher and potential authors to improve our print and digital issue accessibility policies. We are beginning with a) our treatment of graphics, tables, charts, and appendices and b) the hosting location of web-content. In addition, we will encourage authors and reviewers to pay more attention to the accessibility of graphical material as it will appear in its final print or digital form. As with other aspects of this heuristic, we welcome the recommendations and insights of our Advisory Board, readers, reviewers, and submission authors on these efforts.

We are currently adapting our style guidelines to include specific, explicit guidance on anti-racist language and marginalized identities in line with MLA 9 guidance and our own developed policies. These will appear in the revised guidelines for our in-house processes.

We are working on updated documentation about these practices to post online and to monitor all documentation on our website to ensure inclusive language. This guide is our latest step in this regard. As a next step, we are creating templates for different types of submissions so that authors unfamiliar with or unmentored in the specific expectations of various academic genres can gather insight into the expectations for submission and publication.

Section-by-Section Points from Anti-Racist Scholarly Reviewing Practices: A Heuristic for Editors, Reviewers, and Authors

Points from original heuristic that informed the Citations section:

  • Editors and reviewers consider inclusive citation practices to be a requirement for recommending publication. Bibliographies that only cite white scholars are unacceptable.
  • Submissions that do not cite inclusively should be revised to be considered for publication. 
  • Lack of certain ‘canonical’ citations is not automatically grounds for rejection. Instead, reviewers recognize that some canonical work may be purposefully uncited because of oppressive and harmful actions taken by those authors.
  • Reviewers and editors recognize that citation practices are political. We form communities of practice/discourse communities in how we cite, excluding and including particular ways of knowing. We give particular ideas power and visibility when we cite them. We decide whose work matters, who should be tenured and promoted, who belongs.  
  • Reviewers and editors recommend relevant work by MMU scholars to authors and, when appropriate, point authors to existing lists of marginalized and/or underrepresented scholars.

Points from original heuristic that informed the (Inter)Disciplinarity section:

  • Editors and reviewers recognize an expansive notion of citations and source texts that shapes the thinking of another scholar. 
  • Reviewers and editors recognize and support research that pushes at field boundaries and consider how to encourage authors to show connections without shutting down or being defensive about expansion.
  • Reviewers and editors account for the relationship between positionalities and expertises and value a variety of expertise without positioning one kind of expertise as universal.
  • Reviewers and editors value and are willing to imagine the field beyond their individual perspectives.
  • Reviewers and editors read and respond to work on its own terms without demanding it be reframed through dominant forms of expertise.
  • Reviewers respect lived experiences as a source of expertise and excellence where appropriate.
  • Reviewers and editors resist reflexively suggesting that certain work is not within the purview of the field.
  • Reviewers and editors mentor authors on how to frame articles within the context of field conversations.

Points from original heuristic that informed the Review Process section:

  • Editors proactively inform authors that publication decisions may be delayed.
  • Editors, reviewers, and authors proactively offer flexibility and generosity in times of personal and communal crisis. 
  • Reviewers in positions of privilege offer to take on additional reviews to lighten the workload of those who become unable to conduct their reviews.
  • Editors reject review practices that are exclusionary and intervene before sending potentially traumatic reviews to authors.
  • Editors recognize problematic reviewers, resisting the use of scholarly reputation and other excuses as justification for racist review comments. Editors trust BIPOC authors who identify a review as racist. 
  • Editors send all reviewer feedback and editorial framing of reviews to authors after applying anti-racist editorial judgment on if and how to send the feedback in cases of racist reviews.
  • Editors recognize that MMU scholars may receive disproportionally more review requests.
  • Editors document the number of reviews each person has conducted to avoid overburdening specific scholars.
  • Editors consider whether full review by two external scholars is truly needed for revised manuscripts.
  • Editors and editorial boards create reviewer guidelines that direct reviewers’ attention and reduce unnecessary labor.
  • Editors make all review guidelines publicly available.
  • Editors make a detailed description of publication processes and timelines publicly available.
  • Editors create a mechanism to gather feedback from authors about the publication process.
  • Editors create a mechanism to gather feedback from reviewers about the review process.
  • Editors and editorial boards create an appeals process for authors whose work has been subject to discriminatory reviewing. 
  • Editors and editorial boards create policies for reviewing and removing board members or reviewers whose reviewing practices are not aligned with the journal’s policies on inclusion and anti-racism.
  • Editors trust MMU reviewers’ insights, particularly when they choose to recommend rejection rather than labor to help authors revise work that is explicitly bigoted or forwards unsubstantiated claims that do not engage deeply with multiply marginalized scholars’ research.
  • Reviewers and editors frame reviewer comments to support author revisions.

Points from original heuristic that informed the Advisory Board section:

  • Editors engage in regularly scheduled (e.g., annual, at editorial changeover, etc.) recursive oversight and revision of review practices to ensure they remain inclusive.
  • Editors and editorial boards ensure that those who are invited to serve on editorial boards and as reviewers reflect the diversity of the field, both in terms of demographics and rank. 
  • Editors publicly convey clear expectations for and obligations of editorial board members.
  • Editors and editorial boards make the reviewer and board composition processes explicit and reflective of those contributing labor.
  • Editors are explicit about expectations of editorial board members, especially the number of reviews they are expected to conduct per year. 
  • Editors acknowledge that MMU scholars are often disproportionately asked to provide and perform service, and editors offer to send targeted letters recognizing the work and their contribution to the journal and field.
  • Editors offer official letters to reviewers and editorial board members acknowledging their labor.

Points from original heuristic that informed the Editing section:

  • Editors build into the publication process comprehensive editing that provides another layer of protection against oppressive and anti-racist language (“catches” that are often too small for reviewers and too big for copyeditors).
  • Editors collaborate with advisory boards to write and make available a transparent and clear journal policy on requiring anti-racist language use and welcoming a broad range of writing styles.
  • Editors specify in the journal style guide the preferred terms, especially for marginalized identities and update the style guide as terms change.
  • Editors and editorial boards identify and replace exclusionary terms or descriptions in aims and scope, journal information, and other journal documentation.
  • Editors and reviewers reject and/or require revisions from authors to prevent and/or intervene in practices that might do harm or create trauma in either the implementation of methods or the circulation of accounts of the research; this harm may include harm to local communities, to MMU scholars, or to the community at large.  
  • Editors create, share, and enforce an accessibility policy, such as requiring alt text for images, transcripts for multimedia, etc., which enables disabled scholars to serve as reviewers and editorial board members.
  • Editors make equity and inclusion practices explicit in review processes and procedures.
  • Editors proactively identify and publicize journals’ inclusion practices.
  • Editors and editorial boards include examples in journal documentation from a wide range of contexts.