Navigating the journal submission process – are you really prepared!

Who remembers the days of mailing your valuable manuscript to a journal’s editorial office, or even faxing through your 20+-page document? Simpler times, maybe. Nowadays, you almost have to take an intensive course to come to grips with the complexities of some of the online manuscript submission and tracking systems used by journals and publishers.

So, you’ve chosen your short-list of target journals, your manuscript, figures, and covering letter is ready for uploading, and you’ve even thought of a few names to recommend as potential reviewers if asked (topics covered in previous blog post), and now you’re ready to start the submission process. While the acceptance of your manuscript is unfortunately not guaranteed, the one thing that I’m pretty sure about is that you’re not as ready as you think – there is always something missing, some requirement you haven’t considered, keywords you haven’t picked, co-authors details you don’t know, or an image format you’re not familiar with. And what really doesn’t help is that publishers’ submission processes and online platforms differ quite considerably from one to the next. The protocols that must be followed can be both tedious and difficult to understand even for seasoned authors, never mind the first time junior author. Remembering back to hours spent on previous article submissions, it is at this point that many authors consider reaching out and seeking the help of professional editorial services to help them navigate through this complicated, frustrating, and sometimes nerve-wracking, but necessary, step in the publication process. The editorial services on offer guide you carefully step-by-step through journal selection, manuscript specific formatting and submission, rounds of revision, proofreading of proofs, and any other necessary pre/post-acceptance publication tasks.

However, for those authors that are willing to persevere, and tackle the manuscript submission by themselves, we have prepared the following handy checklist of points to consider:

  • Registering and creating an account for online submission – consider creating a unique ORCID ID to help distinguish you from other authors with similar names –more information on this to be given in a subsequent post.
  • Write a compelling cover letter to the target journal (make sure you get the right journal name!) illustrating the novelty and value of your work.
  • Prepare any patient consent forms, copyright transfer forms, and ethics statements (IRB), as most journals will now ask for evidence of these.
  • Provide registration identification number for clinical trials.
  • Describe the specific contributions made by each of the authors based upon authorship criteria proposed by the ICMJE.
  • Identify the author that can be contacted to obtain access to any datasets (some journals may now even require submission of datasets with your manuscript).
  • Include a disclaimer/disclosure statement for any funding sources and/or conflicts of interest.
  • Disclose any previous presentation of your research at a conference.
  • Compile a list of prospective reviewers with up to date contact details.
  • Gather information on co-authors full names, academic degrees, affiliations, phone numbers, addresses, and emails.
  • Review your target journal’s specific information for authors, and format your manuscript accordingly; e.g., Word counts, headings and subheadings, number of tables/figures allowed, font, spacing, and formatting, etc.
  • Review any specifications for abstract subheadings, and word counts.
  • Ensure all figures have legends, and all tables have titles and footnotes as necessary.
  • Format references as per journal guidelines (can vary considerably between journals), source and provide DOI numbers if requested.
  • Prepare high-resolution graphics as per journal specifications for file format, and dpi.
  • Obtain written permission for usage of photographs, figures, text, or tables from another source.
  • Select a specialty category for your article.
  • Compile a list of keywords and a running title (abbreviated title).
  • Prepare short key take home message statements (sometimes referred to as article highlights).
  • Select an article type for your manuscript according to the categories available at your target journal.
  • Ensure that the file formats of documents to be uploaded (doc or docx), along with figures (jpeg or tiff) and tables (embedded or in a separate file), follow the journal’s guidelines.

Making sure you have the answers and details to all of these points, will not only make the submission process faster and smoother for you, it will also help the editorial office in checking your initial submission and avoid any unnecessary delays.

After the successful submission of your article (phew!), you can continue to benefit from the post-submission support that professional editorial services offer. They will continue to communicate with the journal editor on your behalf, provide you with detailed information related to the manuscript, and monitor, and report on the progress of your submission.

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