Submit to The Journal of Basic Writing

The Journal of Basic Writing is published twice a year, in the spring and fall, with support from the City University of New York, Office of Academic Affairs. We welcome unsolicited manuscripts and ask authors to consult the information below on the history and methodology of typical articles published by the journal as you consider submitting. 

History of The Journal of Basic Writing

The Journal of Basic Writing is a national refereed print journal founded in 1975 by Mina Shaughnessy, who served as the journal's first editor. Basic Writing refers to the field concerned with teaching writing to students not yet deemed ready for first-year composition. Its use as both a term and a programmatic practice has been contested since Shaughnessy first identified “basic writer” as a category in the 1970s. Originally, these students were part of the wave of open admissions students who poured into universities as a result of the social unrest of the 1960s and the resulting reforms. Though social and political realities have changed dramatically since then, the presence of "basic writers" in colleges and universities—and the debates over how best to serve them—have remained. 

Today the term “basic writer” is used with wide diversity, illuminating the subtexts of individuals’ writing practices while also joined to critiques of institutions and contexts that place students in Basic Writing courses and standardize academic language. Many recent JBW articles have addressed the authority and influence of writing programs and the impacts of placement beyond the classroom. Therefore it is necessary for authors to situate the Basic Writing, or BW-related, context by clearly describing the student population and setting at the outset of their article.

Journal Themes and Methodology

We seek manuscripts that are original, stimulating, well-grounded in theory, and clearly related to the complexities of providing writing support across contexts.  All manuscripts must focus on Basic Writing and/or must situate settings of instruction or institutional agency in explicit relation to Basic Writing concerns. A familiarity with the journal and its readership should be evident through an introduction that engages with recent and ongoing debates, open questions, and controversies in and around Basic Writing.

We particularly encourage submissions that draw heavily on faculty voices, student voices, or student writing as supportive evidence for new observations; research written in non-technical language; and co-authored writing that provocatively debates more than one side of a central controversy. Recent JBW authors have also engaged more deeply with archival research. Work that reiterates what is known, which is mainly summative or overly practical will not be considered. Articles must work to substantively add to the existing literature by making explicit their central claims early on and by devising a clear and thorough methodology. Before submitting, potential authors should review published articles in the journal, which model approaches to methodology and organization. 

JBW scholarship reflects the full range of frameworks applied to composition and rhetoric, two-year college, and literacy studies. We invite authors to engage with any of the following methods or approaches: antiracist approaches; second-language theory; the implications of literacy; first-generation studies; discourse theory; just-writing and access studies; two-year college literature and student support; writing assessment and evaluation; linguistics; digital composing and new technologies; writing center theory and practice; ethnographic methods and program studies; program histories and critical university studies; and/or cross-disciplinary work. In addition, the journal is in active dialogue with the scholarship of translingualism and multilingualism, multimodality, digital rhetorics, and justice studies. Authors should be explicit about their choice of framework and its appropriateness to the article’s subject matter, including reference to how such choice models or revises a particular theoretical approach.

In view of Basic Writing history, we value submissions that help Basic Writing reassess its original assumptions, question its beneficence, and posit new and informed futures for writing support. We invite prospective authors to view the latest issues in our web archive at

Manuscript Submission Information

Submissions should run between 25 and 30 pages (7,500-9,000 words), including a Works Cited, and follow current MLA guidelines. Manuscripts are refereed anonymously. 

To assure impartial review, include name(s), affiliation(s), mailing and email addresses, and a short biographical note for publication on the cover page only. The second page of the manuscript should include the title but no author identification, an abstract of 250-300 words, and a list of five to seven key words. 

Endnotes should be kept to a minimum. It is the author's responsibility to obtain written permission for excerpts from student writing, especially as this entails IRB review, which should be made transparent in an endnote for readers. 

Contributions should be submitted as Word document attachments or Google links via email to Authors will receive a confirmation of receipt. The next communication will be on whether the manuscript, if geared toward a JBW audience, will be going out for peer review. If so, review reports generally follow in six to eight weeks. The editors also welcome proposals for guest edited issues.