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Instructions for contributors

Studies in Second Language Acquisition, a leading publication in the field of second language acquisition, is a refereed journal devoted to problems and issues in non-primary and heritage language acquisition. Theoretically-driven essays as well as theoretically-motivated empirical studies in any area related to second or heritage language acquisition and use or the interface of acquisition and use with pedagogy are acceptable.

Submissions. SSLA uses the ScholarOne system for on-line submissions, Authors may go to https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/sla to create an account if they do not have one, and upload all requested information and documents there. Manuscripts should be uploaded as Word documents (.doc or .docx); please do not upload PDFs. 

For queries regarding manuscripts and submission information, please contact the editors at ssla@msu.edu.

Types of manuscripts

Research Article. These manuscripts may be essays or empirical studies, either of which must be motivated by current theoretical issues in second and subsequent language acquisition or heritage language acquisition, including methodological issues in research design and issues related to the context of learning. Maximum length is 11,000 words all-inclusive (i.e., abstract, text, tables, figures, references, notes, and appendices intended for publication must all fall within the 11,000 word limit).

Research Report. These manuscripts are shorter empirical studies motivated by current theoretical issues in second and subsequent language acquisition or heritage language acquisition, including methodological issues in research design. Very often, these are narrowly focused studies or they present part of the results of a larger project in progress. The background and motivation sections are generally shorter than research articles. Maximum length is 6,000 words all-inclusive (i.e., abstract, text, tables, figures, references, notes, and appendices intended for publication must all fall within the 6,000 word limit).

Replication Study. These manuscripts are shorter empirical studies motivated by a previously published study (not necessarily one published in SSLA). The background and motivation sections will necessarily be shorter compared to research articles as the maximum length is 6,000 words all-inclusive (i.e., abstract, text, tables, figures, references, notes, and appendices intended for publication must all fall within the 6,000 word limit).

State-of-the-Scholarship Article. These manuscripts are essays that review the extant research on a particular theme or theoretical issue, offering a summary of findings and making critical observations on the research to date. Manuscripts in this category typically fall within the 11,000-word limit of regular research articles, however, longer manuscripts may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Critical Commentary. These manuscripts are shorter essays (i.e., non-empirical) motivated by current theory and issues in second and subsequent language acquisition or heritage language acquisition, including methodological issues in research design and issues related to the context of learning. Maximum length is 6,000 words all-inclusive (i.e., abstract, text, tables, figures, references, notes, and appendices intended for publication must all fall within the 6,000 word limit).

All manuscripts in all categories are peer reviewed and subject to the same high standards for publication in SSLA

Manuscripts should not have been published previously or be under consideration for publication elsewhere in any form. All submissions are double-blind peer reviewed.

Contributions written in English are welcomed from all countries. Authors, particularly those whose first language is not English, may wish to have their English-language manuscripts checked by a native speaker before submission. This is optional, but may help to ensure that the academic content of the paper is fully understood by the editor and any reviewers. Cambridge offers a service which authors can learn about here. Please note that the use of any of these services is voluntary, and at the author's own expense. Use of these services does not guarantee that the manuscript will be accepted for publication, nor does it restrict the author to submitting to a Cambridge published journal.

Format. All SSLA submissions must conform to the requirements of the latest Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. These requirements include formatting, headings, language use, presentation of data, citations, references, and all other aspects of manuscript preparation. Information about APA style can be obtained from the American Psychological Association. 

Authors are asked to blind all references to their own research which is either "in press", "forthcoming", or available in "first view". Additionally, any references which can be attributed directly to the authors through the use of pronouns such as 'I' or 'We' should also be blinded. This is to help ensure anonymity during the double-blind peer-review process. Any references to such works in the body of the manuscript should be formatted as follows:

"At least one study (AUTHOR, XXXX) has shown that …"

In the reference section, please record the citation as "AUTHOR (XXXX)" with NO additional information (i.e., manuscript name, Journal, volume#, issue #, etc.), and include among the 'A' entries (i.e., at the beginning of the reference list).

Tables, figures, and illustrations. Authors are responsible for providing a camera ready copy of figures and illustrations with the submission of an article. Charges apply for all color images that appear in the print version of the journal, although no charge is applied for on-line publication of an article. At the time of submission, contributors should clearly state whether their figures should appear in color in the online version only, or whether they should appear in color online and in the print version. If you request color figures in the printed version, you will be contacted by CCC-Rightslink who are acting on our behalf to collect author charges. Please follow their instructions in order to avoid any delay in the publication of your article.

Quantitative Research. There is a growing awareness in SLA and in applied linguistics more generally regarding the importance of completeness and transparency in quantitative data reporting practices. In order to maintain the highest possible level of transparency in SSLA, authors are required to adhere to the following guidelines, in addition to those provided by the latest edition of APA publication manual. Authors of quantitative research reports must be sure to include:

  • research questions and/or hypotheses being tested; 
  • whether and how statistical power was considered in determining the sample size; 
  • reliability coefficients for all instruments employed; 
  • whether the assumptions of all statistical tests were met and, if not, whether any adjustments were made to the data; 
  • means, standard deviations, and confidence intervals for all analyses based on mean scores; 
  • exact p values for all statistical tests; 
  • effect sizes for all statistical tests along with a meaningful, contextualized interpretation.


In addition to reporting these statistics, authors must also be sure to interpret statistical results in ways that add to the manuscript's substantive contribution.

Supplementary Material. It is customary for authors to describe and include examples of stimuli, treatment materials, assessment tasks, and so on, within the text of their paper for the reader’s convenience. However, authors should also include complete supplementary materials at the end of their papers as part of the original submission. These complete supplementary materials are not normally included in the print version and instead will be made available as on-line materials on the SSLA website or through one of the research data bases (e.g., IRIS) upon publication. They should be marked at the end of the paper as “On-line Supplementary Materials” and referenced accordingly in the manuscript. 

Data collection materials. SSLA encourages authors to consider uploading their data collection materials to the IRIS database, an online repository for data collection materials used for second language research. This includes data elicitation instruments such as interview and observation schedules, language tests, pictures, questionnaires, software scripts, url links, word lists, teaching intervention activities, among many other types of materials used to elicit data. Please see http://www.iris-database.org for more information and to upload. Any questions may be addressed to iris@irisdatabase.org.

Badges to Acknowledge Open Practices

In line with recent trends in language science research, Studies in Second Language Acquisition will participate in the awarding of badges based on the work in Open Science. Following is a list of the two types of badges that an SSLA author can earn and have included with an article at the time of publication.

 Open Data Badge.
This badge is awarded to researchers who share their data publicly so that it can be accessed for replication purposes. Data must be shared publicly with open access (e.g., a university repository or a database on the Registry of Research Data Repositories, www.re3data.org). A codebook or metadata must be included to provide enough information for other researchers to reproduce the analyses and results and the data must have an open license.

Open Materials Badge.
This badge is awarded to researchers who share their materials publicly so they can be used to replicate research procedures and analyses. These materials should be shared on an open-access repository such as the IRIS Digital Repository of Data Collection Materials (http://www.iris-database.org) and be accompanied by an explanation of how the materials relate to a given methodology.

It is not necessary to apply for open science badges in order to publish in Studies in Second Language Acquisition. These badges, however, are incentive for researchers to participate in open communication by sharing evidence for their findings and thereby facilitating replication, critique, extension and application.

Additional information on earning badges will be provided during the submission process.

References. Following APA style, sources cited or referred to in the text should indicate the author's surname, publication date, and page number(s) when pertinent: (Gass, 1994; Lightbown & Spada, 1994, p. 563); if more than one, citations should appear in alphabetical order. When the author's name is part of the text, follow this form: "Schumann (1994) argued that…."

All in-text citations must be listed in full in the reference list at the end of each article following the specifications of the APA manual and all references listed must be cited somewhere in the text. Begin the reference list on a separate page entitled "References" and double-space it throughout. Each entry must include the author's name, co-authors (if any), publication date, and title of work. For a journal article, also provide the name of the journal, volume number, and page numbers for the article. For an article in an edited volume, list the editor's name, title of the collection, and page numbers of the article. For a book or monograph, list the edition, volume number, series, place of publication, and name of publisher. Punctuate and capitalize as in the following examples:

Boersma, P., & Weenink, D. (2008). Praat: doing phonetics by computer (Version 5.0.25) [Computer software]. Retrieved from http://www.praat.org
Gass, S. M., & Mackey, A. (Eds.). (2012). The Routledge handbook of second language acquisition. London: Routledge.
Geeslin, K., with Long, A. (2014). Sociolinguistics and second language acquisition: Learning to use language in context. New York, NY: Routledge.
Hulstijn, J. H. (2012). Is the second language acquisition discipline disintegrating? Language Teaching. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1017/S0261444811000620.
Keating, G. D. (2014). Eye-tracking with text. In J. Jegerski & B. VanPatten (Eds.), Research methods in second language psycholinguistics (pp. 69-92). London: Routledge.
Lakshmanan, U. (1989). Accessibility to Universal Grammar in child second language acquisition (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Plonsky, L. (2013). Study quality in SLA: An assessment of designs, analyses, and reporting practices in quantitative L2 research. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 35, 655-687.
Révész, A. (2011, March). Working memory and the observed effectiveness of recasts on different L2 outcome measures. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, Chicago, Illinois.
VanPatten, B. (2013). Mental representation and skill in instructed SLA. In J. Schwieter (Ed.), Innovative research and practices in second language acquisition and bilingualism (pp. 3-22). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Copyright. Authors are responsible for obtaining written permission to publish material (quotations, illustrations, etc.) for which they do not own the copyright. Contributors of accepted articles will be asked to assign their copyrights, on certain conditions, to Cambridge University Press.

Proofs. First proofs of an article or review article will be sent to the lead author as a PDF attached to e-mail. Within 4 business days of receipt of proofs, a list of corrections should be returned to the editor (via e-mail). Published PDF. The lead author of an article or review article will receive a highquality PDF of his or her article without charge.

Open Access. Please visit Cambridge Open Access for information on our open access policies, compliance with major funding bodies, and guidelines on depositing your manuscript in an institutional repository.

First View. SSLA articles are now routinely published online through First View in advance of their appearance in a print issue.

Review Process 

  1. Step 1: Author submits 
  2. Step 2: In-house review (possible outcomes: accept for external review, return for additional work, reject) 
  3. Step 3: External review (at least two evaluators and at least one editor or associate editor) 
  4. Step 4: Editors' decision (based on the recommendations received in step 3, possible outcomes: accept with revisions, revise and resubmit, reject)

A good manuscript…

  1. 1) fits within the scope of the journal; 
  2. 2) is well organized; 
  3. 3) has research questions that are clearly articulated and motivated by the background; 
  4. 4) has appropriate statistical analyses with data that are clearly laid out; 
  5. 5) has a discussion section that sticks close to the data and does not go beyond them. Additionally, the discussion ties back to the background, motivation, and research questions; 
  6. 6) strictly follows the APA manual (latest edition).

Major Reasons for Rejection

  1. 1) The paper does not fit within the mission or the scope of the journal. 
  2. 2) There is a major shortcoming in the research design (i.e., the study cannot address what it claims to address). 
  3. 3) The paper is poorly written and/or suffers from poor organization.
  4. 4) The paper does not address current research issues.

Further Considerations

  1. 1) providing a "Literature Review," as opposed to a "Background and Motivation" that is appropriate in content and length; 
  2. 2) lacking in explicit research questions or hypotheses; 
  3. 3) a discussion section that is too long, or does not adequately provide for an appropriate interpretation of the results and/or does not connect back to the motivation section; 
  4. 4) selective reporting of data, or inappropriate interpretation.
  5. 5) authors are strongly encouraged to consult the latest APA Manual for considerations of what makes for a good manuscript in terms of appropriate length and scope of the background and motivation section, explicit research questions and hypotheses, and the nature and scope of the discussion section.

(Last updated 31st March 2017)