Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Developing a Conceptual Article for Publication in Counseling Journals

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Developing a Conceptual Article for Publication in Counseling Journals

Article excerpt

According to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.; American Psychological Association [APA], 2010), "Journal articles are usually reports of empirical studies, literature reviews, theoretical articles, methodological articles, or case studies" (p. 9). Journals published by various divisions of the American Counseling Association (ACA), as well as the flagship journal, the Journal of Counseling & Development (JCD), include these article categories and often contain more diversity regarding what constitutes inclusion in each designation. Although there is a trend in the academy to privilege empirical publications over theoretical or conceptual ones (Yadav, 2010), the scholarly importance of conceptual articles--ones that facilitate theory building and elucidate professional issues--has consistently been acknowledged in ACA journals, both by their inclusion in the "Guidelines for Authors" and, more importantly, by their consistent inclusion in the pages of the journals.

Although conceptual and empirical articles both constitute scholarly contributions, an empirical article, because of its standard formatting, may be easier to write (Salomone, 1993). Therefore, the purpose this article is to help authors better understand the purpose, process, and procedures for developing a conceptual manuscript for publication. The article explains the basis of a conceptual article, discusses how authors may generate ideas for writing, and then describes a process for developing a conceptual article that I have found helpful.

What Is a Conceptual Article?

Salomone (1993) noted that many writers, including academicians, do not appreciate the important differences between a literature review (even an integrated literature review) and a conceptual article. Many literature reviews are the clustering of ideas and authors, the recitation of information that could be found elsewhere. Although useful for establishing a context, these reviews typically do not provide a significant enough contribution to the literature to warrant publication. Good, integrated literature reviews, however, do contribute to the literature because they provide information in one source for practitioners and researchers. Authors of integrated literature reviews attempt to go beyond merely reporting ideas and findings, by describing and synthesizing important results into a coherent review that highlights the main themes, strengths, and weaknesses of the work. According to the APA Publication Manual (APA, 2010), literature review articles are integrated reviews that critically evaluate "material that has already been published.... By organizing, integrating, and evaluating previous published material, authors of literature reviews consider the progress of research toward clarifying a problem" (p. 10). Thus, literature review authors should seek to "define and clarify the problem; summarize previous investigations and inform the reader of the state of research; identify relations, contradictions, gaps, and inconsistencies in the literature; and suggest the next step or steps in solving the problem" (APA, 2010, p. 10).

Literature reviews and theoretical articles are often similar in structure, and the sections of both can vary in the order of their content. Theoretical articles, however, present empirical information only as it is relevant to theory building or evaluation. "Authors of theoretical articles trace the development of theory to expand and refine theoretical constructs or present a new theory or analyze existing theory, pointing out flaws or demonstrating the advantage of one theory over another" (APA, 2010, p. 10). In theoretical articles, therefore, theory building and evaluation are the primary considerations.

ACA division journals have consistently published quality conceptual articles that include, but are not limited to, theoretical ones. Conceptual articles may be described, therefore, as articles that provide new theoretical perspectives or integrate existing theoretical views, address innovative--new or adapted--procedures or techniques, discuss current professional issues or professional development (position papers), or offer well-reasoned reactions or responses to previously published articles. …

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