What Does Personality Science Publish – And What Not?

Personality Science (PS) seeks to be a home for any kind of insights related to personality and individual differences. The journal thus already hosts a variety of paper formats and will continue to experiment with new and exciting ones. All papers are featured in a short- to middle-length style (with specific recommendations for the number of words, references, tables, and figures), and they may be submitted without prior solicitation (i.e., uninvited) or in response to a specific invitation. Papers can be submitted any time, and they are published continuously (i.e., there is no traditional volume or issue ordering).
Below, five different paper categories (Theory, Methodology, Empirical, Applied, Comment) and eight special paper types (State of the Art Review, Tutorial, Projects & Data, Insights & Ideas, Cumulative Blitz Report, Registered Report, Replication, Meta-analysis) are presented that PS currently features. Most papers will fall into one category and perhaps also a special type, but on rare occasions papers may also have several categories and/or types. In certain cases (e.g., Theme Bundles, Controversy Exchanges), papers can also be published alongside each other in a collection.

Discouraged Submissions
PS aims to be a broad outlet for personality-related theory, methods, research, applications, and discussions. However, there are three types of papers that are for now best submitted elsewhere:
  1. Long papers (i.e., more than 7,000 words plain text) can be submitted to the sister journal, the European Journal of Personality.
  2. Target articles (i.e., usually with more than 7,000 words, accompanied by several comments) can also be submitted to the European Journal of Personality, though similar arrangements could also be publishable in PS.
  3. Scale development papers or translations of scales as well as highly specialized quantitative methods and psychometrics may not always be a good fit to PS. They can be submitted to the open-access journals Psychological Test Adaptation and Development, Measurement Instruments for the Social Sciences, Methodology, or Quantitative and Computational Methods in Behavioral Sciences.

On rare occasions and under exceptional circumstances, PS may feature also these kinds of papers at the discretion of the handling editors, but we generally discourage their submission for now. Nonetheless, there is the possibility to have a target-article type of paper within a Theme Bundle or Controversy Exchange that is accompanied by several Comments papers. Further, some scale development and assessment papers may be of broad interest to the readership of PS, and so they may be considered for publication. If you are unsure whether or not your paper can be considered in PS – and under which paper format it would fall –, then please contact us at editors@ps.psychopen.eu.

Reasons for Restrictions

PS is an online-only journal, so this begs the question: Why are long(er) papers discouraged? And why are there specific recommendations for the maximum number of words, references, tables, and figures (for specifics, see further down)? This journal is made possible by the generous support of the PsychOpen GOLD program from ZPID which acts as its publisher. It thus relies on German public funds which need to be allocated wisely. Besides financial constraints, there are also limits on what a smaller-scale production office can handle in a reasonable amount of time. Thus, PS has a certain amount of formatted pages allocated to it per year. This means that there is a trade-off between publishing only few and long papers versus publishing more short- to middle-length papers. While of course still being selective in what we publish, we opted for more rather than less papers. This gives different authors the opportunity to publish in PS, thus hopefully also increasing inclusion and diversity in the field and publication landscape. Additionally, we also think that there are enough other long-format journals available for personality psychology and that many readers crave short and crisp papers that are easily digestible yet substantial.


Overview of Major Paper Categories

For now, PS features five major categories of papers: Theory, Methodology, Empirical, Applied, and Comment. Authors are asked to indicate the primary category of paper they are submitting, and in rare cases a secondary category may also be selected. The paper category is indicated on the final, published paper. Each paper category comes with a set of recommendations for the maximum number of words in the plain text (excluding cover page, abstract, references, tables, figures, etc.), references, tables, and figures. While these are not strict numbers, the recommendations will be enforced. We ask authors to stay preferably below the maximum numbers and justify when they have to go beyond them. It will be at the discretion of the handling editors to allow higher numbers, but we generally discourage submitting papers that go beyond the recommendations outlined below.

Category Instantiation Examples Word Count (Main Text) Number of References Number of Tables Number of Figures
Theory Literature review, narrative review, new theory 7,000 50  4 4
Methodology Methods, instruments, statistics, psychometrics, simulations 5,000 30 5 5
Empirical One empirical study 5,000 40 5 5
Multiple empirical studies (2+) 7,000 50 8 6
Applied Transfer, practice case study, best practice 3,000 25 2 2
Comment Commentary, discussion, news, update, blog post 1,000 10 1 1


Overview of Special Paper Types

Besides the five major categories of papers, there are also eight special types of papers that may be attractive for authors and readers: State of the Art Review, Tutorial, Projects & Data, Insights & Ideas, Cumulative Blitz Report, Registered Report, Replication, and Meta-analysis. Upon submission, authors need to indicate if their paper should be considered as such a special type or not (if not, the paper is classified as “Regular”). If applicable, the format is also indicated on the final, published paper. Each format comes with its own set of specific guidelines and recommendations (see below) which should be followed as closely as possible.

Type Usual Category Word Count (Main Text) Number of References Number of Tables Number of Figures
State of the Art Review1 Theory 5,000 40 3 3
Tutorial Methodology 5,000 30 5 5
Projects & Data Methodology 5,000 30 5 5
Insights & Ideas Any 2,000 15 2 2
Cumulative Blitz Report Empirical 2,500 15 5 5
Registered Report
(Stages 1 and 2)
Empirical (One Study) 5,000 40 5 5
Empirical (Multiple Studies) 7,000 50 8 6
Replication Empirical (One Study) 5,000 40 5 5
Empirical (Multiple Studies) 7,000 50 8 6
Meta-analysis Empirical 7,000 402 8 6

1. At the discretion of the handling editor, the counts may be increased somewhat under certain circumstances.

2. Plus a separate document with the references of the articles that went into the meta-analysis. No restrictions apply here.

State of the Art Reviews
State of the Art Reviews summarize briefly and in an accessible way a research topic or field in personality science by showcasing (a) its importance and relevance, (b) the consensual cumulative knowledge base, (c) persistent or unanswered questions and controversies, (d) common and novel methodologies to get answers, and (e) future directions. In other words, following five questions should be answered concisely in the paper:
   1. Why is the topic important or necessary to consider in the first place? What can we learn?
   2. What do we (think we) already know? What do we agree on?
   3. What do we not know yet? What do we disagree about?
   4. How do we (best) get answers to our (old and new) questions?
   5. How could or should future directions look like? What comes next?
These questions cannot be answered by one single researcher or research team. Indeed, as science is a both a cumulative and collective effort, these questions are best answered by culling together several researchers working on the topic. Thus, State of the Art Reviews should be authored by at least five (international) researchers or even a network or consortium if one exists. The authoring researchers should be preferably from different or independent labs, but they may have collaborated in the past. Still, the review gains in strength and diversity of perspectives if authors not usually publishing together contributed to it. Thus, in writing a State of the Art Review, every effort should be made to cast as wide a net as possible to include contributing experts, with different perspectives and from different institutions and countries. Currently, State of the Art Review are by invitation only, though the editorial team welcomes suggestions for topics or fields to cover.
Tutorial papers provide a “How to …” description and explanation for methodological issues (e.g., how to properly implement a certain research design, use a certain statistical technique, or derive valid conclusions from complex data). The idea is to make specialized methodologies – which are interesting, important, impactful, emerging/novel, and/or neglected – accessible to a broader readership and encourage using them correctly. These papers should thus be written with a broader readership in mind. Overly complex details, further explanations, and other resources (e.g., sample data, code, syntax, scripts, etc.) can be made available as supplements.
Projects & Data
This type of paper describes ongoing or completed projects, resources, platforms, databases, or single datasets (quantitative, qualitative, mixed-method) from groups of researchers, networks, task forces, consortia, or collaborations, but also single researchers or practitioners. The idea is to alert others to an interesting project or data, encourage collaborations, and share data or other kinds of resources (e.g., teaching materials). These papers, if describing empirical projects or datasets, should outline the theoretical background, research design, data sources, instruments, variables, samples (including power considerations), sampling strategies, procedures, ELSIs (ethical, legal, societal implications), and any resources they wish to highlight. Further, questions and hypotheses that will or can be addressed by the project or data should be outlined. Lastly, already published research should be disclosed, and (own) planned research but also ideas for future research (possibly with readers of the paper) should be sketched. Data to be considered for this paper type will usually be large, complex, “multi” (e.g., multi-method, multi-time, multi-group, etc.), and/or of wide interest to many different personality scientists.
Insights & Ideas
Sometimes we have interesting or stimulating perspectives, thoughts, claims, questions, hypotheses, first results, discussion points, or updates on recent developments – and sometimes these are also important, useful to others, and need to be communicated. Insights & Ideas papers are for those “eureka” moments and aim to provide an outlet for more speculative or even serendipitous work. Importantly, these papers should not be mere reactions to papers of others (these should be submitted as Comments), but they should contain original content. Editors may often invite blog posts or social media posts of wider interest to be submitted as Insights & Ideas papers. However, unsolicited Insights & Ideas papers are also explicitly welcome. Insights & Ideas Papers may be of any category (with the exception of Comments), that is, they could belong to Theory, Methodology, Empirical, or Applied papers. They are intended to be ultra-short and cut to the chase.
Cumulative Blitz Reports
Science is a cumulative endeavor, and sometimes we have incremental work that rests on a lot previous work which has been elaborated elsewhere enough already. Cumulative Blitz Reports are crisp, ultra-short empirical papers that seek to primarily build upon previous work; have a truncated or even telegraphic background (e.g., 2-5 sentences); and get right to the Methods, Results, and Discussion which should also be written as succinctly as possible. They will always be empirical (with basic and/or applied questions, and with quantitative and/or qualitative data), but they cannot be replications or meta-analyses (though both of these contribute to or rely on cumulative science). Instead, replications and meta-analyses should be submitted separately as their own paper types.
Registered Reports (Pre-Data and Post-Data)
PS highly encourages especially the submission of Registered Reports (see also information from the Center for Open Science on this format here). In this special type of empirical article (with basic and/or applied questions, and with quantitative and/or qualitative data), a “shell” of the paper – either (a) before any data have been gathered (Registered Report - Pre-Data) or (b) before already existing data have been examined and analyzed (Registered Report - Post-Data) – is peer-reviewed first, the project is then formally pre-registered, and lastly the actual data analyses and the final write-up of the paper are performed. This means that a Registered Report is published regardless of the results and evaluated only on the basis of its conceptual and methodological merits. This publishing format is supposed to minimize or disincentive questionable research practices, mitigate biases, reward best practice implementations, and ensure more rigorous science. The pre-registered part of the project constrains the confirmatory analyses, but authors additionally have the flexibility to conduct un-registered and thus exploratory analyses (e.g., often as follow-up or in-depth analyses that could not have been anticipated in beforehand). A Registered Report thus offers both rigor and flexibility, coupled with full transparency.
Registered Reports are clearly marked as such and receive a pre-registration badge. There are two sub-types of Registered Reports possible, and these will be marked as such on the paper: Those where everything has been pre-registered and no data were available to begin with (Registered Report - Pre-Data) and those where data were already available but have not been analyzed yet (Registered Report - Post-Data). Regardless of its sub-type, a Registered Report is submitted in two stages (Stage 1: review of the project + revisions; pre-registration; running the study; final write-up; Stage 2: review of the final paper):
  • Stage 1. In Stage 1, a “shell” of the intended paper and project files are submitted. Authors indicate in the online submission system that their submission be considered as a Stage 1 Registered Report and whether any analyzable data have been collected yet (this will determine the specific sub-type of Registered Report). The Stage 1 shell paper should contain a theoretical background, research rationale, questions and hypotheses, results from pilot studies (if any), methods (design, variables, measures, procedure, sample, power analyses, etc.), planned analyses, and guidelines for the interpretation of expectable (patterns of) results. The shell paper itself will later be published as a supplement and should be part of the formal pre-registration of the project. Further information on recommended standards and preregistration templates can be found here. Further, it should be used as a starting point for crafting the final Stage 2 paper. Thus, shell papers operate under the same restrictions as usual empirical papers in terms of word, references, table, and figure counts. Importantly, at submission of the shell paper, the authors additionally need to upload any materials, codebooks, and analyses scripts, code, or syntax that will be used in the proposed project.
    The shell paper and all associated files will be screened by the editors, and – if found generally suitable – passed on to external peer-review. There are three broad types of decisions that can be rendered in Stage 1: the intended project can be rejected, a revision can be invited, or it can be accepted. The latter constitutes an in-principle acceptance of the intended paper: Under the conditions that (a) everything is formally pre-registered on PsychArchives and (b) the project closely follows the pre-registration (and openly discloses where it has diverged, if at all), the final Stage 2 Registered Report submission will be accepted. An in-principle acceptance means that the project should then be formally pre-registered in a repository either publicly or under temporary private embargo. This formal pre-registration needs to be done in PsychArchives, the public and freely accessible ZPID repository. The implementation of the project, potential data collection, analyses, and results interpretation should be followed ideally exactly but in all cases as closely as possible to the peer-reviewed and pre-registered version. An in-principle-acceptance is valid initially for 9 months, but extensions can be granted at the discretion of the handling editor (e.g., in case of longitudinal data, otherwise complex projects, or unforeseen events).
  • Stage 2. After running their study or analyses as peer-reviewed and pre-registered, the authors complete their shell paper with the actual analyses, interpretations, and discussions and submit that paper (along with the data and any other files) as a Stage 2 Registered Report (this will also have to be indicated in the online submission system). Stage 2 papers operate under the same restrictions as usual empirical papers in terms of word, references, table, and figure counts. The paper should clearly distinguish between confirmatory analyses (i.e., those that were pre-registered) and exploratory analyses (i.e., those that were not pre-registered). Further, the authors should be transparent about any deviations from the pre-registration. In case of deviations deemed too strong by the editors or peer-reviewers, an in-principle acceptance may also be revoked; in such cases, the paper may still be publishable, but not as a Registered Report. Further, an in-principle acceptance from Stage 2 is usually peer-reviewed again (if possible by the same reviewers from Stage 1, but sometimes also by additional ones) and thus does not preclude revision rounds for Stage 2 manuscripts until they are fully accepted “as is”. This additional review stage is for quality control and ensuring that the paper has sufficiently followed the pre-registration, is readable, and conforms to the general guidelines of PS.
PS explicitly welcomes replications of effects important to personality science. These replications may be “successful” or “unsuccessful”, but they need to be well-done and contain a discussion of the type of replications (e.g., conceptual, direct, etc.), the constraints on generality, and how this specific replication adds to the literature. Replication papers will always be empirical (with basic and/or applied questions, and with quantitative and/or qualitative data). Papers reporting a replication should follow relevant APA reporting standards (JARS, Tables 1 and 6).
Meta-analyses must include a table of studies with the values of all descriptive statistics, moderators, and effect sizes. They should also include publication bias analyses, and authors must store data and scripts, code, or syntax in a permanent repository (unless they obtain an exemption). Papers reporting a meta-analysis should follow relevant guidelines (e.g., PRISMA) and APA reporting standards for quantitative meta-analyses (MARS, Table 9) or qualitative meta-analyses (QMARS, Table 2).


Overview of Bundled Paper Collections

Papers in PS are continuously published “on their own” (which will be most common) or in bundles. Bundled paper collections feature a set of papers that are thematically linked to each other and may also refer to or discuss each other. Each of the bundled papers is a separate paper with its own DOI, but the papers indicate that they are part of a bundle and are later linked together as a collection on the website. PS currently has two formats of bundled paper collections: Theme Bundles and Controversy Exchanges. The journal will usually publish 1 or 2 of these bundles per year, and each has between 3 to 8 papers in it. The same recommendations for the different categories and types of papers apply to papers published in a bundle.

Theme Bundles
PS will publish “Theme Bundles” where papers (regardless of their category or type) are bundled together because of a common theme (e.g., a phenomenon, issue, topic, perspective, theory, method, or application). These are often coordinated by an editorial team member or guest editors and should help alert readers to interesting and/or emerging topics in personality science. Currently, contributions for Theme Bundles are by invitation only, though there may be open calls in the future and the editorial team welcomes suggestions for themes to cover.
Controversy Exchanges
PS will host the format of “Controversy Exchanges” which can be exciting for authors and readers alike, especially when controversial issues are tackled. The idea is to have papers from opposed, adversarial, or even warring factions that each (try to) make their case as compellingly as possible. Each Controversy Exchange paper should follow the recommendations for a State of the Art Review (i.e., 5,000 words, 40 references, 3 tables, 3 figures), although individual arrangements at the discretion of the handling editor may be made. There are different ways of going about a Controversy Exchange, and the specifics will depend on the topics and author teams involved. For example, if only two parties are involved, each party could first write their own, unique perspective (irrespective of what the others write). Next, these papers would be exchanged, and each party writes a response to the other parties. Lastly, some rather neutral or cross-cutting figure could provide a meta-commentary on the issues brought up in the sets of party-specific papers and perhaps attempt to reconcile them or show us the way forward. However, if there are three or more parties, this may become unwieldy. In such a situation, there could just be the initial papers describing own, unique perspectives and one meta-commentary on those (i.e., there will be no or only limited direct exchange between the opposing parties). Currently, Controversy Exchanges are by invitation only, though there may be open calls in the future and the editorial team welcomes suggestions for controversial issues and the opposing parties involved that could write on these.


Questions or Ideas?

If you have questions which format is best for your paper, please do not hesitate to contact us at editors[at]ps.psychopen.eu.
You can also share ideas for new papers formats with us! We would love to hear them.