American Journal of Physics
Statement of Editorial Policy
The American Journal of Physics publishes papers that meet the needs and
intellectual interests of college and university physics teachers and students.
Prospective authors should read recent issues of AJP to determine the appropriateness of a
possible contribution. However, such an examination does not provide an infallible guide
because editorial policy is always under review. Technical correctness is necessary, but
it is not the only condition for acceptance. Clarity of exposition and potential interest of
the readers are important considerations. It is the reader, not the author, who must
receive the benefit of the doubt.
Contributions should treat subjects of value and interest to physics teachers and
students. They should significantly aid the learning of physics and not be primarily a display
of cleverness and erudition. Highly specialized contributions are not encouraged. Topics
from all fields of physics and neighboring disciplines are appropriate, but the mere
solution of another physical problem, of which there are many, seldom constitutes an
acceptable contribution. Manuscripts on topics that largely parallel those already
available in textbooks and monographs and that differ from them primarily in the domain of
taste rather than coverage are not suitable contributions.
The Journal is particularly interested in manuscripts that can be used to bring
contemporary research in physics and related fields into the classroom. Such manuscripts
should not be review articles, but rather self-contained articles that describe a
particular piece of research in such a way that it is accessible to as many physicists as
possible. Pedagogical value can be added to all articles by including suggested problems
or projects for students. Examples include problems with analytical solutions,
computational exercises and simulations, analysis of experimental data, or other
activities. Making connections between research and standard topics in physics courses is
Manuscripts of historical, philosophical, and cultural value to physicists are also
encouraged. Manuscripts describing novel approaches to laboratory and classroom
instruction are appropriate, provided that the new methods are of general interest and can
be successfully transferred to other settings. Shorter communications describing new
instructional laboratory techniques and demonstration and laboratory apparatus are also
Manuscripts announcing new theoretical or experimental results, or manuscripts
questioning well-established and successful theories, are not acceptable and should be
submitted to an archival research journal for evaluation by specialists. If a manuscript
is otherwise acceptable as a contribution, the inclusion of new results is not an
insurmountable barrier to publication. Nevertheless, authors of such manuscripts should
consider carefully whether AJP is the appropriate journal for presenting their results.
Manuscripts describing original research that clarifies past misunderstandings or allows a
broader view of a subject are acceptable. Manuscripts that demonstrate new relations
between apparently unrelated areas of physics are appropriate. Manuscripts that show new
ways of understanding, demonstrating, or deriving familiar results are also acceptable.
Such manuscripts must provide some original physical insight and not just a clever
Occasionally, review or tutorial articles are published, often of a length greater than
that of the average article. Most of these articles are solicited, and thus authors planning such
articles are asked to consult with the editors at an early stage.
Most readers of a particular article will not be specialists in the subject matter
presented, and therefore the context within which the paper is presented should be established in the
introductory paragraphs and not relegated to the references. Manuscripts must be
technically correct and must take proper cognizance of previous work on the same subject
regardless of where it may have appeared. Such referencing is especially important for
reminders of once well known ideas, proofs, or techniques that may have again become
useful to physics teachers and students. It is the responsibility of the author to provide
adequate references. Editors and reviewers will not do the literature search that should
have been done by the authors.
Contributions considered include: Regular Articles (Papers), Notes (Notes and
Discussion), Apparatus and Demonstration Notes, articles for the Physics Education
Research Section, and Letters to the Editor. Regular articles should be about five journal
pages or less in length, with notes and other contributions being substantially shorter.
Notes are short communications that are usually confined to the discussion of a single
concept, or comments on published articles, and need not have abstracts. The Apparatus and
Demonstration Notes section contains brief papers reporting new equipment, techniques, or
materials of interest to physics teachers. Letters are selected for their expected interest
for readers. They must be brief and may be edited, subject to the author's approval.
Disciplined significant controversy has a proper place in the Journal, but extended,
diffuse argumentation does not. To encourage the former and discourage the latter, the
editors will forward to authors any communications received that are critical of their
published work. Authors and critics are then asked to correspond directly with one
another. If after this correspondence, a significant conclusion has been reached, they are
encouraged to prepare a brief joint note. If such an agreement should prove impossible,
two separate notes might be published. When such notes are judged to be useful to the
readers, they will be published in the Notes section of the Journal. A response will be
published only if it makes a significant addition to the discussion.
Brief discussions of editorial procedures, policies, and statistics are in the
September 1989 and December 1994 issues. Instructions concerning the preparation of
manuscripts are given in the Information for
Contributors. Care in following those instructions will permit editors and
referees to devote more time to thoughtful evaluation of contributions and will ultimately
lead to a better, more interesting Journal.