Getting your paper published can be a long and arduous process. You may not be able to control what the editors think or what the reviewers say; however, you can make sure that your paper is in great shape in order to help accelerate the publication process as much as possible. In today’s post we will be discussing a number of steps that you can take to ensure that your submission is received well and moves through the review process smoothly.
Tip #1: Read the journal guidelines
The best thing that you can do to prepare your paper for submission is to make sure that you have a clear understanding of what your target journal is and what the editors want to see. Read the journal guidelines carefully and in detail to ensure that your paper is in scope and in a format that the journal accepts (for example, not all journals consider case reports).
Tip #2: Consider making a presubmission inquiry
If you are unsure whether your paper is suitable for a specific journal, whether in terms of scope or impact factor, consider contacting the editor to make a presubmission inquiry. The purpose of a presubmission inquiry is to quickly and informally gauge the chances of your paper being sent out for review. The more information you can give the editor the better at this stage: we recommend sending a copy of the abstract at the very least, and a draft of the manuscript itself if you feel comfortable doing so. Be sure to ask the editor a specific question, such as: ‘Is this paper in scope for your journal?’ or ‘Would my paper be sent out for review if I submitted it to your journal?’. An advantage of this approach is that you can make presubmission inquiries to multiple journals simultaneously, whereas you can only submit your paper to one journal at a time.
Tip #3: Format to journal style
Once you have thoroughly read the target journal’s author guidelines, start applying them to your paper. Formatting your paper to a journal’s house style shows the journal that you are serious about your submission (e.g., you’re not submitting it over and over to different journals in the hope that someone will be interested), and also minimises the chance that the journal will ask for format-related revisions prior to sending your paper out for review. Some common features that journal formatting guides cover are: font size, style, and color; word limits for each section; the number of tables, figures, and references that can be included; and whether the inclusion of supplementary material is permitted.
Tip #4: Make sure the title and abstract are clear and informative
In addition to the cover letter, the title and abstract are the first parts of the submission that the editor will read, so it is important that these two sections are clear and well-written, and that they accurately reflect the content of the paper. The impression that readers get of your paper from the title and abstract is like the first impression you get when you meet a new person: you quickly form an opinion of who they are and what is important to them based on how they look and present themselves. In a similar way, an editor will form a rapid idea of what your paper is about and its overall quality and interest level from the content of the title and abstract.
Tip #5: Write a strong cover letter
A well-written cover letter is an important part of your submission that gives you a unique opportunity to communicate directly with the editor. The cover letter gives you a chance to state in your own words why your paper is important and why you think the journal should be interested in it. Generally speaking, cover letters can be written in less formal language than that used in the paper itself, which provides an opportunity to present the same information more directly and with slightly more personality than in the main manuscript. It may help to think about the cover letter as an ‘elevator speech’: in other words, the way you would describe your work quickly and convincingly to someone you share an elevator with for a few minutes. We recommend reviewing your submission carefully to ensure that the cover letter emphasises the same key points that are highlighted in the title and abstract, to present the editor with a cohesive and consistent picture of what the study is about.
Tip #6: Consider using an English language editing service
If you are not a native English speaker, it could be helpful to have a language editing service revise the text of your manuscript and cover letter prior to submission, to ensure that the English usage is as clear and correct as possible. Having your paper edited before you submit it could help avoid any potential delay caused by the journal sending your paper back to you for pre-review editing.
Tip #7: Take care when using the submission system
Submission systems can be confusing to navigate, so we recommend taking your time when it comes to actually uploading your paper. Some journals require figures and tables to be uploaded separately in distinct files from the main manuscript, for example, and it may not be clear beforehand that this is the case, so be sure to give yourself some time to reformat and rearrange files if needed. Similarly, some journals require specific information such as ethics statements, competing interests statements, and keywords to be pasted directly into a field on a web form, instead of incorporated into the manuscript file itself. If you have already prepared these statements, they can be copied and pasted directly into these fields; check the formatting of the pasted text carefully to ensure that the text appears appropriately and legibly. Most submission systems will allow you to save a submission and come back to it later, so consider taking a break if you need extra time to prepare your files or if you want to ask a colleague to confirm that you’ve correctly understood the journal instructions.
Tip #8: Suggest peer reviewers where appropriate
An opportunity that is often overlooked at the time of submission is the chance to suggest potential reviewers for your paper. While the editors who will handle your paper are experts in your field, you are the expert in your specific area of that field. This means that you are likely the best person to identify appropriate reviewers for your work; these will typically be researchers who you encounter at conferences and whose papers you have read, because their work is so closely related to your own. Suggesting reviewers eliminates the need for editors to identify potential peer reviewers on their own, which can delay a submission by days or even weeks. If you provide names and contact information, reviewers can often be invited to review your paper the same day you submit it, so we strongly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity to accelerate the publication process.
Tip #9: Communicate with the journal
Emailing or calling the journal editor directly can be a very useful way to help accelerate the publication process. While many journal submission systems enable you to track the progress of your submission, sometimes it can be unclear why your paper has stalled at a particular step. If you feel that your paper is moving through the system more slowly than expected, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the editor to politely enquire whether there is a problem with the submission and if there is anything you can do to help. For example, the journal may have a question about the ethical approval your study received that they are considering in-house, and getting in touch gives them the opportunity to pose the question to your directly; or perhaps they are struggling to find a second reviewer, so you can help by providing a list or additional potential peer reviewers. Communicating with the editors periodically also means that they will be familiar with your paper, and will likely keep an eye on it as it moves through the system.
Tip #10: Write a strong response to the reviewers
Post-review, one of the best things that you can do to accelerate the publication process is to write a strong letter in response to the peer reviewers’ comments. Incomplete or antagonistic letters can delay the peer review process, and often result in a second round of revision after re-review by the peer reviewers. Writing a point-by-point response letter that is complete, detailed, polite, and in clearly written English will go a long way to accelerating the publication process.
In conclusion, there are a number of strategies that you can use to accelerate the publication process, both prior to submission and during the review process itself. Clarity of communication is key, in the cover letter, in the manuscript, and in your interactions with the journal. If you are seeking additional support to help accelerate publication of your paper, get in touch with us today to see how we can help.
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