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Publishing a Journal Article

Before you Begin Writing Your Article

Journals publish manuscripts that describe original research.  Depending on the discipline and journal audience, some journals also publish other types of writing including those listed below. Please have a look at recent issues of the journal and their information for authors to see what types of contributions they accept.

Rewrite of a Report or Dissertation Chapter
Runs a higher risk of rejection as it may not share the targeted scope or address the specific audience of the journal. 

Articles Based on a Published Conference Paper/Report
May be seen as previously published work. Check your target journal's webpage ("author instructions") for their policy on published conference papers and reports. If information is not available online, contact the journal for clarification.

Previously Published Articles or Research Results
Articles published in a journal must contain new information, i.e. information that has not been published elsewhere. If your article builds on previous work or data that has been published already, contact your target journal for clarification before you submit your article.

Before You Submit Your Article

In addition to the strength of the content, an article's acceptance by a journal depends on whether the article fits with the journal's mission or scope. You also must ensure that your article meets the journal's requirements for length, formatting and citation style.

Before you submit your article, review the following questions:

  • Is my article on the way to another journal?  Being reviewed at another journal?

Send your article to one journal at a time. Virtually all journals require that articles submitted to them are not being submitted to any other journal at the same time. Publishers and reviewers do not want to invest time and effort into an article that could be published elsewhere.

  • Does the journal's mission statement, aim, and scope match my article?
  • Are articles in the journal similar in scope, theme, and perspective to my article?
  • Are there submission guidelines that outline format and style for submissions?
  • Is there an online submission form that authors must use?
  • Do I have documented permission to use the images/figures in my paper that came from secondary sources?
  • Does the journal require or encourage that the associated research data be made freely available? (Example: PLOS Data Availability Policy)

Writing a Cover Letter

Most journals and publishers offer article submission via an online form, but for other journals, you'll need to write a cover letter to accompany your manuscript.  

The advice below from the Springer Author Academy * is applicable to many academic publishers.

All cover letters should include these sentences:

  • We confirm that this manuscript has not been published elsewhere and is not under consideration by another journal. 
  • All authors have approved the manuscript and agree with its submission to [insert the name of the target journal]." 

 Additional Common Phrases:

  • Please find enclosed our manuscript, “[manuscript title]” by [first author's name] et al., which we would like to submit for publication as a [publication type] in [name of the journal]. 
  • To our knowledge, this is the first report showing… 
  • We believe our findings would appeal to the readership of [journal name]. 
  • Please address all correspondence to:
  • We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

* Quoted with permission

From a journal editor . . .

Kenar, J. A. (2016). Dear authors: We do read your cover letters. Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society, 93(9), 1171-1172. doi:10.1007/s11746-016-2889-3

Top Ten Peeves of an Academic Journal Editor

We asked a journal editor to tell us what bothers them most when reviewing submissions:

  1. The author uses ALL CAPS in the title.
  2. The paper formatting requirements are not met.
  3. The article submission is missing information.
  4. The article submission provides extraneous information.
  5. The author requests a faster review.
  6. The paper is not anonymized.
  7. The author provides a list of possible reviewers.
  8. The author doesn't respect the word limit.
  9. The author asks to use alternate formatting.
  10. Papers are sent by email when an electronic submission system exists.