Guidelines: How to Prepare a Research Handbook Proposal
Guidelines: How to Prepare a Research Handbook Proposal

Guidelines: How to Prepare a Research Handbook Proposal

In preparing your proposal, please bear in mind that the AERA Books Editorial Board needs to know as much as possible about the proposed volume, its scope, its intended audience, and how AERA and its publisher can promote the book to that audience. The Editorial Board also needs to learn how you see the state of the research knowledge in an area of education inquiry, your approach to this field and its unique contribution, and how you believe it can advance future research. In addition, the Board needs to be able to assess that you can edit such a volume with authority, accuracy, and clarity; that the plan (including the proposed list of authors) is achievable in terms of scope and timetable as well as author commitments; and that the works that will be published in such a handbook will be of use, of interest, and of importance to the research community.  Finally, since the Board seeks to publish volumes of excellence that can help chart directions for the field, the Board encourages potential editors to consider the inclusion of emerging scholars with demonstrable potential as contributing authors. 

With this in mind, your proposal should include four items:

1. A PROSPECTUS describing your intentions (of no more than ten pages): It should include the following:

(a)  Brief Description: Describe the research handbook, its rationale, approach, and scope. 

(b)  Relationship of the Handbook to Series: Describe how the proposed volume will address the four objectives of the Series (as outlined in paragraph two of the call).

(c)  Outstanding Features: List briefly what you consider to be the outstanding, distinctive, or unique features of the handbook. Describe any features or components of chapters that you plan as common elements or threads. What would you envision to be the approximate length of each chapter (in double-spaced typed pages) and of the manuscript to accomplish the goals you set forth?

(d)  Review Process: Describe the internal mechanisms you plan to use for working with authors and for reviewing chapter outlines and drafts.

(e)  Competition: Consider existing relevant books in this field and discuss their strengths and weaknesses individually and specifically. This material is written only for the Books Editorial Board, so please be as frank as possible. You should describe how the proposed handbook will be similar to, as well as different from, other volumes in your research area of inquiry in style, topical coverage, and depth. If significant books are now available, you should explain why you believe it is ripe to undertake a research handbook in this area. Please mention all pertinent titles, even if they compete with only a part of your book.

(f)  Apparatus: Will the research handbook include questions, problems, glossaries, bibliography, references, appendices regarding data resources, methods or field guides, etc. that might further advance research or training in research?

(g)  Plans, Timetable, or Special Needs: Please outline how you anticipate implementing your plans for this volume. If you should anticipate the need for, or seek, meetings of volume contributors or authors, please include that in your plan. (Would those meetings occur during an AERA Annual Meeting or other scheduled event?) Please provide a timetable for undertaking this handbook. Modest funds can be provided for direct expenses. Outline any budgetary needs you envision. (Note: AERA does not pay royalties to editors or authors. Volumes are undertaken to further advance education research and AERA’s role in doing so.) 

(h)  Audience: For whom is the book intended (primary audiences in terms of  research areas and specialties inside and outside of education research.)? In what discipline or disciplines? Level or background knowledge in research area required?

(i)  Reviewers: The Editorial Board may seek the advice of additional experts in reviewing the proposed handbook. Can you suggest any?  If the book has distinct research audiences (as we anticipate will be the case with this Series), try to commend at least one reviewer for each. We do not reveal the names of our reviewers.

(j)  Market Considerations: What would you see to be the primary markets for buying the handbook, and why?  If you see the handbook as having a deep market in certain subfields of education research or certain disciplines, please outline what they may be. If you see the volume as having potential for particular courses, please include the types and level of course for which the research handbook might be particularly suitable. What is your estimate of the total market for the book?  If you are aware of professional organization or mailing lists that would be useful in promoting the book, please mention them.

2. A detailed TABLE OF CONTENTS with prospective authors (committed or under consideration); the TABLE OF CONTENTS should be complete and detailed. Explanatory notes should be included as necessary. This material should enable the Books Editorial Board to understand the structure and content of the manuscript.

3. A SUBSTANTIVE DESCRIPTION of the key elements of SAMPLE CHAPTERS (in the form of a detailed abstract or outline) that demonstrates the scope and intent of the volume and illustrates the genre of contribution that such chapters seek to make. Such a description should allow the Books Editorial Board to assess how you (and potentially some selected authors) see the vision of the book unfolding in the context of illustrative chapters. This material may be in the form of a detailed abstract or outline and may include bibliographic cites.  

4. EDITORS AND AUTHORS: An up-to-date VITAE outlining your education, previous publications, and professional experience is needed. Also include the vita of any committed authors. For authors under consideration, provide a brief statement (several sentences) on the author, author background and appropriateness for invitation to the volume.  A prospective authors list can be in the form of a single document of several pages (as needed).

Typically proposed volumes for the handbook series will be in the early development stages. If the proposal is for a research handbook that is already in preparation, please continue to submit a prospectus addressed to issues 1(a)-(j), a complete table of contents, and vitae on all authors. Also, please submit sample chapters and indicate for the volume: What portion of the material is now complete, your timetable to have the manuscript completed, and how long a book you plan (in double-spaced typed pages)?

With all of the above material in hand, The AERA Book Editorial Board will review your proposal. The Board anticipates reviewing proposals early in the quarter after submission so that a decision can be reached and any commitments made by the end of the quarter after submission of a proposal. Please feel free to contact Lesley Bartlett, Chair of the Books Editorial Board, or Felice J. Levine, Executive Director, at if you have questions or want to talk directly. Good luck. The Books Editorial Board looks forward to receiving your material.