Formatting a manuscript for journal submission: Following Journal Guidelines
Before submitting your manuscript to an academic journal, it is important to format it according to the journal’s guidelines, which can cover anything from the font style used to the sections that should be included in the paper. This article discusses things to do before you begin the actual formatting.
Identify the journal guidelines
When formatting a manuscript for submission to an academic journal, the first thing to do is locate the journal’s formatting guidelines. Every journal will list their formatting guidelines either online or in a downloadable PDF. These guidelines are typically referred to as Instructions for Authors or Guidelines for Authors, or more generically as Information for Authors. We recommend bookmarking the webpage for your target journal’s guidelines or downloading the PDF (if available) and saving it where you can easily find it, so you can refer back to the instructions as often as needed while preparing your manuscript for submission.
Follow the guideline for your paper type
Keep in mind that most journals publish multiple article types (such as original research articles, case reports and reviews), so make sure that the formatting instructions you are following are the appropriate instructions for your submission type.
We recommend reading through the formatting instructions carefully before making any changes to your manuscript, as these guidelines can often be lengthy and highly detailed.
Tip: It may help to print out a copy of the guidelines and highlight the instructions that are most relevant to your paper to avoid getting distracted by instructions that may refer to another article type, for example.
Follow the guidelines instead of following published papers
When formatting a manuscript, be sure to follow the journal’s stated guidelines, instead of trying to match the style of previously published papers.
- Occasionally, papers end up being published that do not comply completely with the journal’s formatting standards, so the formal guidelines are a better standard for correctness.
- The format that most journals request for peer review is often quite different than the final published format. For example, using double spacing makes the text easier for peer reviewers to read, whereas most published articles are single-spaced. Similarly, many journals publish articles in a two-column format, but a single-column format is typically more readable and manageable for peer reviewers.
Use a template if provided
In some cases, journals provide downloadable Microsoft Word templates that are already formatted exactly according to the journal’s guidelines, which can be extremely helpful in preparing your paper for submission. In these cases, you can simply cut and paste your manuscript text into the template file and be confident that it is formatted appropriately.
Journal formatting instructions are highly detailed and can seem challenging to implement, but knowing what to expect before submitting your paper can make the process go more smoothly and ultimately reduce the time to publication.
Read previous/first in series: Formatting a manuscript for journal submission: Importance of the House Style
Read next/third (final) in series: Formatting a manuscript for journal submission: Common Elements of Formatting
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