Peer Review—Magazines



Guest Editor Guidelines

IEEE Software publishes focuses on themes of interest to its readers. The themes are derived from meetings with the Advisory Board or are proposed by readers or prospective special-issue editors. The editor in chief (EIC) decides whether to accept or reject a proposal after consultation with the members of the Editorial and Advisory Boards. Your topic should reflect the magazine's mission of building the community of leading software practitioners. We would be happy to show you a complete proposal that was eventually accepted.

These guidelines apply to all special-issue submissions. Contact our publications coordinator for additional information.

Proposal process
Solicitation process
Call for manuscripts
Submission process
Review process
Guidelines for Making recommendations
Deadlines for special issues
Page limitations and text formatting requirements
Peer review policies
Publication guidelines


Proposal Process

Your proposal should contain at least the following sections:

1. Proposed Title: Clear, crisp, meaningful. Try to make it no more than five words.

2. Proposers' Information:. Names, affiliations, and contact information (postal address, electronic address, telephone number, and fax number).

3. Introduction. Explain the theme and how it fits in the larger context of software engineering. Describe its relevance to IEEE Software readers: importance, timeliness, target audience, and so on. Examine recent publications, including other focus sections of IEEE Software, to convince the evaluators that the theme complements other work or fills a gap.

4. Focus: Detail particular questions that will be addressed or perspectives that will be described. If other publications have addressed similar themes, how will this focus section differ? Describe what readers will learn and whether this information is available elsewhere.

5. Organization: Discuss what you want the focus section to include. The introduction should probably include a tutorial or overview to introduce concepts and terminology and a sidebar on related references. You can achieve balance in the section via a point/counterpoint (PCP) debate (see the Mar./Apr. 2000 issue), a roundtable discussions among experts, or a range of technical articles suggesting significantly different viewpoints (see the July/Aug. 1991 issue). We also strongly encourage you to solicit and obtain multimedia enhancements, either to the section as a whole or to individual articles.

6. List of Potential Reviewers and Authors: Balance academics with industrial and governmental contributors. State preliminary contacts that have been made. However, remember that IEEE Software is a refereed publication; all invited manuscripts (except for the point/counterpoint article) must be refereed and are not guaranteed acceptance. The majority of manuscripts that finally appear in the issue will likely be the result of your solicitation. You should propose a credible plan for ensuring enough high-quality submissions. Guest editors may not submit articles other than the introduction for possible inclusion.

7. Call for Articles: Create a call for articles based on your focus. This is often where the "rubber hits the road" on a topic: a good call is specific and clear.

8. Qualifications of the Guest Editors (GEs): In addition to technical qualifications, highlight your experience as editors, in IEEE Software and other publications. Attach a biography of up to one page for each GE, including a list of the five most relevant publications. Two GEs are preferable to one. At least one GE must reflect an industrial and practical viewpoint.

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Proposal review

If the EIC decides the proposal is appropriate and complete, he or she will send it to the Editorial and Advisory Boards, who will have three to four weeks to review the proposal and comment. Their comments will be based on reader interest, technical accuracy, objectivity, balance, GE capability, proposal quality, and relationship to other planned and recent focus sections (including those of other publications).

Final Decision

The EIC makes the final decision and allots a specific number of pages (20 to 60) to the focus. This includes your introduction, the point/counterpoint, and the articles. You will receive the board members' comments but not their names. The EIC may request additional information or a revised proposal based on the need for clarification, redirection, or rebuttal of reviewer comments. We usually reach a final decision within two to four months of the time the proposal is received. Final control of focus publication rests with the IEEE Computer Society, not with the senior lead editor, the group managing editor, or the EIC.

Overall proposed schedule

Ideally, it takes about nine months from the time a proposal is approved until the focus section is published. Here is an estimated schedule:

Month 0: EIC/Editorial Board approval; begin active manuscript acquisition/soliciting; distribute call for manuscripts.

Month 3: Submissions due.

Month 4: Reviews due; decisions made, authors notified; authors sent reviews and asked to revise.

Month 5: All revisions due.

Month 6: GEs make final recommendations to EIC, who makes final decisions. Publications coordinator sends final-decision letters to authors. All manuscript files due at Publications Office.

Month 7: Introduction and point/counterpoint due.

Month 9: Final versions edited, published.

You cannot accelerate this schedule without the concurrence of the EIC and the senior lead editor.

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Solicitation process

Call for manuscripts

If you haven't already done so, prepare a call for articles; the senior lead editor will guide you. Include the following text:

"Manuscripts must not exceed 4,700 words including figures and tables, which count for 200 words each. Submissions in excess of these limits may be rejected without refereeing. The articles we deem within the theme's scope will be peer-reviewed and are subject to editing for magazine style, clarity, organization, and space. Be sure to include the name of the theme you are submitting for."

Refer interested authors to you for more information about the focus and to the publications coordinator at or to our website for author guidelines and submission details. The call will appear in IEEE Software, on the Web, and elsewhere.

Solicit from authors original work that has not been published elsewhere. Papers that have appeared in a conference proceedings may be submitted but must undergo our detailed technical review process. To be accepted, a significant portion of the content must be new. Tell submitters that you cannot accept any manuscripts; you recommend them to the editor in chief, who makes final decisions.

Solicit reviewers—as many qualified ones reflecting the international community as possible and the number of submissions each is willing to review—before submissions arrive. Send a complete contact list to the publications coordinator. If you've already confirmed their willingness to review in the allotted time (about three weeks), and the number of articles each is willing to review, the process will be smooth. Remind reviewers of the focus you've set and any particular manuscript characteristics that you seek. Be sure to have at least one software practitioner as a reviewer on every submission. At least three reviews by qualified people are required before decision-making.


Distribute the call at appropriate conferences and workshops. Send it to other publications (such as user group newsletters) and discussion lists (such as SE World). Send a note and the call to the prospective authors you know, encouraging them to contribute either as authors or reviewers. Use the target list you provided in the proposal; reviewers, colleagues, and other board members might be able to suggest additional names. It is your responsibility to actively solicit submissions and to make sure that we receive a significant number of high-quality submissions.

Submission Process

The IEEE Computer Society uses a secure, all-electronic, Web-based manuscript submission and peer-review tracking system called ScholarOne Manuscripts. Authors who wish to submit to IEEE Software must use this system. First-time users must create a new account; from there, they log in to their own Author Center and upload their submission. The process is easy, and the site itself provides detailed instructions on usage. Once an author uploads a manuscript, he or she can check its review status at any time, because it can be viewed online. The publications coordinator sends authors an acknowledgment of receipt as soon as the manuscript is checked for proper word count.

We discourage guest editors from submitting to their own issues. However, if you wish to submit a manuscript for the focus section, submit it through ScholarOne Manuscripts; we will have it reviewed separately.

If an author sends you a submission directly, please direct him or her to ScholarOne Manuscripts.

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Review process

Guidelines for making recommendations

The publications coordinator will tell you how to access the system as guest editor and see all of your theme's submissions and their review status (except, of course, your own submissions).

If you email the publications coordinator about a particular submission, please include its identification number in the subject line. The publications coordinator will create a spreadsheet for the issue listing all submissions and other pertinent information. He or she updates it regularly and sends you and the EIC a copy.

It is very important to conduct an initial review before assigning reviewers to weed out poorly written or conceived papers and those that are not in the special issue's scope. The EIC will consider the latter group for possible review as nontheme articles. If you don't want to consider a submission, you may reject it outright, suggest alternative publications that could be more suitable, or tell the publications coordinator to refer them to the EIC for nonfocus consideration. The Publications Coordinator will inform the author once you send him or her your specific comments to include in the letter.

The publications coordinator sends the other submissions to three (if confirmed) or seven (if not confirmed) reviewers each and monitors deadlines. Try to confirm with specific reviewers ahead of time, so that they know what to expect and agree to the time commitment.

When each manuscript finishes the review process, you will be informed. The senior lead editor might also review manuscripts, making suggestions about length, organization, number and type of illustrations, title length, appropriateness, and fit. Reviewers should not worry about or make comments about grammar or spelling. Staff editors will collaborate fully with the authors on magazine style and content (to make sure the manuscript flows, is direct, and organized—see for more information on our editing style).

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The recommendation process

Before making recommendations to the EIC, you must have at least three reviews, including at least one from a software practitioner. Remember your total page allocation when you consider what you want to include. Your recommendations to the EIC should fall into these categories:

REC. TO ACCEPT: You DO want to include the manuscript in your focus section and you feel that the changes the authors need to make (if any) are slight enough that they could be easily addressed in the editing process by our staff editors.

REC. TO MAKE MINOR REVISIONS: You do want to include the manuscript in your special issue but you feel that there are relatively minor changes the author needs to make before it is edited. We give authors a few weeks to fix the changes on their own before they resubmit. You will review the resubmitted manuscript and then decide whether to recommend it to the EIC for acceptance.

REC. TO MAKE MAJOR REVISIONS: You might want to include the manuscript in your special issue but the authors need to make significant changes before you can decide. Normally, we give authors a month to fix the changes on their own. Once the submission returns with revisions, we send it back to the original reviewers for a second round of reviews.

REC. TO REJECT: You DO NOT want to include the manuscript in your focus section.

The EIC makes final decisions; either the EIC or the publications coordinator will process the decision letter, customizing each one with specific comments you provide. Authors of accepted submissions will be advised about our staff editing process, which collaboratively transforms manuscripts into our magazine style.

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Deadlines for special issues

Because the schedule gives us only five months to complete the peer review process for special-issue (SI) submissions, from start to finish, we strongly encourage you to follow this review schedule closely:

Week 0: Manuscript submissions due.

Week 1: GE assigns reviewers to all submissions (rejecting some prior to review as needed).

Week 4: Reviewers submit their reviews.

Week 7: GEs submit their recommendations (via ScholarOne Manuscripts) to the EIC.

Week 9: EIC makes decisions.

Week 10: Publications Coordinator sends decision letters to authors, with revision recommendations as required.

Week 13: Authors submit revised articles.

Week 14: Publications coordinator or EIC sends revised "major" submissions back to the original reviewers.

Week 16: Reviewers submit new reviews.

Week 17: GEs review the revised articles (accepts, minor changes, and major changes) and make recommendations to the EIC regarding what to include in the issue, the number of pages allocated to each article, and what (if anything) the authors still need to address during the staff editing cycle.

Week 18: EIC makes final decisions; publications coordinator sends out decision letters.

Week 20: All materials submitted to Publications Office.

Do not accelerate this schedule without the concurrence of the EIC and the senior lead editor.

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Page limitations and text formatting requirements

The EIC will give the GEs a specific page allocation for all the theme papers, including the GE introduction and the point-counterpoint. The GEs decide how many of those pages go to each piece.

We accept plain text, Word, Postscript, and PDF. Any file an author uploads to ScholarOne Manuscripts will convert into a PDF. Files cannot exceed 20 Mbytes.

The pages should be set to 8 1/2 inches wide by 11 inches high. Margins should be at least one inch on the left and right and at least 1.5 inches from the top and bottom. Authors must have page numbers on every page, at least one inch from the bottom of each page.

Articles should not exceed 4,700 words, including all text, the abstract, keywords, bibliography, biographies, and table text. Each table and figure is counted as 200 words (to account for white space needed). You may reject any article exceeding this word limit automatically, without going through the review process. Authors must supply an abstract and at least two keywords when uploading their manuscripts. Each submission should have a title page containing the submission's title and the names, affiliations, and contact information for all coauthors.

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Peer review policies

Concurrent Submission: We do not allow submission to more than one publication at one time. If we determine that a manuscript has been submitted to another publication before IEEE Software's review process is completed, we automatically withdraw that manuscript.

Duplicate Submissions: We do not accept duplicate submissions of manuscripts. Authors should not try to enter or upload a modified version of manuscripts that are already in the system as a new submission. Identical submissions will be immediately rejected.

Preliminary/Conference Version(s): If any portion of a submission has appeared or will appear in a conference proceedings, the author must include a copy of the previously published manuscript along with the IEEE Software submission and a summary of changes identifying the differences between the two.

The GEs and reviewers must check each submitted manuscript to determine whether a sufficient amount of new material has been added to warrant publication in IEEE Software. New results are not required; however, the submission should contain expansions of key ideas, examples, elaborations, and so on.

If you have questions regarding this policy, please contact the publications coordinator.

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Publication guidelines

Guest editors' introduction

The introduction should discuss the theme topic in the context of the computer industry, presenting recent results, future directions, and important trends and their implications and getting across to the reader why this topic is important and timely. The introduction should not summarize the articles, but instead explain how they relate to the topic and to each other; try to motivate the reader to read them. It could include a tutorial or overview to introduce concepts and terminology, enabling readers unfamiliar with the topic to understand the articles. It should be no more than four magazine pages (2,500 words), including a Further Resources sidebar of 300–500 words, where you list and comment on the most important sources of information about the topic (papers, articles, books, newsgroups, conferences, organizations). The senior lead editor will review your introduction.


Every focus section of IEEE Software must be balanced. If the main articles do not explicitly reflect conflicting views, then the section should contain a PCP highlighting two sides of a controversy in the theme area. The GEs choose the PCP topic and recruit the two authors. It should generate discussion about the theme and provide a forum for dissenting viewpoints. The essays should not include personal attacks but should focus attention on supportable positions that take opposite views. The authors should be well-known and well-respected in the field. Each PCP author has about 750 words to state her or his side of the argument and about 250 words to response to the other's comments. A staff editor will work with the authors to format their articles appropriately.

The articles

Staff editors will copy-edit and collaborate fully with the authors on magazine style and content (to make sure the manuscript flows, is direct, and organized—see for more information on our editing style). We reserve the right to edit the title of all submissions.

Letters to the editor

Please forward any reader comments you receive to the senior lead editor and EIC, and we will send you what we receive. In either case, you may respond in print if you wish. The letters editor will advise you of publication deadlines.

For more information:

Brian Brannon, Lead Editor

IEEE Computer Society
PO Box 3014
10662 Los Vaqueros Circle
Los Alamitos, CA 90720-1314

Office: (714) 821-8380
Fax: (714) 821-4010

Ms. Kathleen Henry, Publications Coordinator

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