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 encouraged.
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 acceptable.
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 derivation.
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.