Make Sense of Preparing your Manuscript for Submission

After completing your manuscript and choosing which journal to submit your work, the next step is to prepare your work for final submission. If you have never submitted your work to a journal before, then the process can be a bit of a nuisance since there are a lot of checkboxes you’ll have to tick. In this article, we’ll share with you all of the key essential steps that will help streamline your submission process.

Formatting for Journal

First and foremost, you have to format your manuscript based on your journal’s specifications. The requirements can often be found on the journal’s webpage under “Submission guidelines” or “Instructions for authors.” Download this document and read it thoroughly so that you format your manuscript to the exact specification of the journal. A lot of authors skip this step, thinking that the journal will accept any style of formatting. If you don’t follow the guidelines, chances are that your manuscript will be rejected, and you will have to start the process again. Here are some key areas to pay attention to:

  • Abstract formatting and word limits: most journal abstracts are limited to 2000 characters or a 250-300 word maximum.
  • Line numbers: add line numbers to your manuscript, which helps reviewers comment on your work. In Microsoft Word, you can activate this feature in the Layout tab.
  • Referencing style and number of references: download the reference style of the journal and import it into your reference manager. If you’re writing a review, some journals will also put a limit on the number of references in the manuscript.
  • Results/discussion format: most journals will have two separate sections for results and discussion, but some journals will merge them both into one section.
  • Tables: check whether you can include tables as part of the main manuscript or whether you have to attach them in a separate file.
  • Figures: figures are often separated from the main manuscript and uploaded separately. Most journals typically accept figures saved as TIFF, PostScript or EPS file formats (JPEG may also be accepted) at 300 dpi for colour and 600 dpi for black and white.

Writing a Good Title

The first thing that anyone will read is your title. It should be descriptive and representative of the work that has been done. It also needs to capture your audience’s interest. A good title is also extremely important for SEO, which will help readers find your work through search engines. Writing a good title takes time and is more an art than science; below are some tips you should consider when writing a title:

  • Understanding your readers’ intent – what keywords will they search and include those keywords as part of your title
  • Titles should be reflective of the target audience. For instance, your titles would be different if you intended to target readers in ophthalmology and optometry than compared to engineering or basic research
  • Titles should describe the purpose of the research as concisely as possible. Lengthy titles that are 60 characters or more are usually truncated in search results

List of Reviewers

Most journals will also request a minimum of 3 reviewers to facilitate the review of your manuscript. If you don’t know where to begin, then a good place to start is by selecting some of the authors listed from the papers you’ve cited. You may also ask your boss, colleagues, or collaborators for their recommendations. Your list of reviewers should not include anyone who has a conflict of interest. This includes people from your own institution (or any of your co-authors’ institutions), anyone that you have worked with extensively, or anyone who has a vested interest in your paper being accepted. You should also consider adding a list of people you don’t want to read your papers (because they might reject it for personal reasons).

Other Key Pieces of Information

While not applicable to all journals, most of them will also require the following information as part of the submission process:

  • Author contributions
  • Authors affiliations and their e-mail
  • Funding sources
  • Commercial and ethical disclosures
  • Funding sources
  • Acknowledgements, if any

Cover Letter

While a cover letter is not an integral part of your manuscript, it is often required as part of the submission process. We understand that the last thing you want to do is more writing, so we’ve created a simple template that you can use to quickly draft a cover letter for submission. Please get in touch to receive a copy. In brief, your cover letter should include the following 3 sections:

  1. Introduction: in 1-2 paragraphs
    • State the name of the manuscript, names of the authors, and type of submission (research article, review, case study, etc.)
    • The rationale behind the study (2-3 sentences)
    • Describe major findings (1-3 sentences)
    • If applicable, refer to prior work that you have published related to this study (1 sentence)
  2. Why this journal
    • In 1 paragraph, explain why the manuscript is a good fit for the journal by relating the purpose of your paper with the journal’s aims and scope statement
  3. Closing
    • In 1 paragraph, state that the manuscript has not been published anywhere else, and also include some potential reviewers for the manuscript

Preparing your manuscript for submission can take some time, especially if you haven’t gone through the process before. Eventually, as you submit more and more papers, it will simply become routine work. If you need more help with your manuscript submission or any part of your clinical study, please contact Sengi.