Once you have chosen where to publish, you must prepare your manuscript according to the requirements of the publisher. You may publish your research in books, journals or conference proceedings. This page guides you through the process of preparing a manuscript for submission to a peer-reviewed journal, including:
A key point when publishing in journals is to familiarise yourself with the formal requirements concerning manuscript submission. These requirements are found in the author guidelines, or instructions to authors, commonly found on the journal’s web pages.
The formal requirements include both the content and layout, and the technical requirements for submitting a manuscript. You will also find information about the journal’s Open Access policy. Your funding source or employer may have specific regulations when it comes to Open Access. You need to consider co-authorship and copyright to ensure your rights as an author are not violated. You will also need to adress any conflicts of interest concerning the work you are publishing. When your manuscript has been accepted for publication you will sign a contract confirming the copyright issues of the publication.
It is common publishing etiquette to not submit the same manuscript to more than one journal at a time.
The meta-information of the article is very important, it makes your article searchable and retrievable. Without it, your peers may never find the article. The meta-information consists of the title, authors with affiliations, keywords and abstract of the article. These are the elements that are indexed in scientific literature databases, and thus determine what searches will find your article.
The classic scientific article has the follwing chapters: introduction, methods, results and discussion. This structure is commonly refeered to as IMRaD. Journals across the scientific disciplines employ variations of this structure in their articles.
References and citing: Continuously discussing your work in relation to the works of others is an essential feature of academic writing and part of what makes a work verifiable. Throughout your article you will cite the works of others. Citing in the text and the reference list is done by following specific reference styles that are given in the journal’s instructions to the author. It is recommended to use a reference tool to save time and to handle and structure the large information load. You can read more about this in Reference Managers. The frequency of citations is additionally an important bibliometric tool in formal evaluation of research.
Acknowledgements: No work is done in isolation and you should show your appreciation for the help you have received. It can be challenging to decide who should be listed as co-authors and who should be listed as contributors to be thanked in the acknowledgements. Acknowledgements should include:
Cover letter: When submitting a manuscript to a journal, it is common to include a cover letter to the editor. The letter contains information concerning your submission. Common points to adress are:
Manuscript file: The requirements of the file format, including text, figures and tables, will vary for different journals and editors. You must pay heed to such details as page numbers and double spacing. Some journals have separate formatting rules according to the type of article. Most journals have a web-based, electronic submission system.
Response to peer reviewers: If the manuscript is a resubmission after revisions, the response should be formulated according to the instructions to authors.
Accessibility to the data: Sometimes it is essential for the readers to have access to the data behind the article. There are several options as to how and where to store the data in order to make them accessible. Certain research domains have large data archives, and you will be expected to deposit your data there. The journal itself may provide storage space for the data as a supplement to the article, or your institution may provide a service for data archives.
Publishing contract: For each accepted submission you will sign a contract with the publisher. Every publisher have their own specific regulations determining issues of copyright, reuse and accessability. Important matters to consider before signing a publishing contract are:
You will also need to make sure the contract is not violating any terms your employer or research funder has given for publicating the research you have done.
“Manuscript would need to be revised to comply with the requirements of our journal”.
Letter from an editor
A manuscript submitted to a peer-reviewed journal will be sent to a number of referees chosen by the journal editors. These referees are researchers working in the field within the scope of the journal, and are often experts in the field that the manuscript cover. The referees will together with the editors screen the manuscript and ask questions such as:
“Unsuitable for our readership”.
Letter from an editor
The outcome of the peer-review may be:
The referees will often provide new views on the work, with suggestions for further improvement of the manuscript. Use these comments to improve the manuscript for any re-submission. If your manuscript is rejected, be even more stringent in choosing another journal to submit to, since it is unnecessary work to choose a journal which require a total change in structure and layout. Once your manuscript has been accepted for publication, you will receive a manuscript proof that you have to read carefully, to check that there are no printing or layout errors.
Figure: Based on Derntl, 2003,2011.
Some journals offer a preprint publication possibility, where your full-text article is published on the journal web site prior to the final version. Traditionally, publishers have discouraged publication of preprints. However, the increasing use of online preprint archives such as arXiv.org (an archive for electronic preprints of scientific papers mainly in mathematics, physics and astronomy) has lead to an increase in acceptance and encouragement for such preprint and self-archive practices. Discussions and reviews of manuscripts in preprint have added an extra level to the peer-review process, as more revised versions of a manuscript are now found openly available.
Derntl, M. (2003). Basics of research paper writing and publishing. Faculty of Computer Science, University of Vienna, Austria.
Derntl, M. (2011). Basics of Research Paper Writing and Publishing. Unpublished manuscript, RWTH Aachen University.