How to meet journal requirements when writing a paper

For researchers seeking to publish a paper in a journal, it is important to meet the requirements of the target journal. Meeting the requirements can speed up the review process and increase the likelihood of publication.

The first step in meeting the requirements is to find out what they are. Most journals have a website with a section on guidelines for authors which should include information on preparing a paper and the submission process. Read this section carefully. Then read it again. Then follow the guidelines.

As well as the relevance of the paper to the aims of the journal and the types of papers accepted such as empirical research or reviews, the requirements for a specific journal might include:

  • length of the title of the paper
  • length of the abstract
  • maximum total word count of the paper
  • type and format of headings and captions
  • US or British spelling
  • use of footnotes or endnotes (or not).

There may also be guidance on tables and figures such as the format, number allowed, the use of colour, and their location within the text or separately at the end of the paper.

Reference style is particularly important. Check the journal’s preferred reference style and apply it as closely as possible to both the in text references and the reference list. A template for the reference style may be available on the journal’s website to use in reference management software.

Looking at papers that have been published recently in the journal is a good way to check interpretation of the guidelines, including reference style, if insufficient information is provided.

Some journals are more flexible than others in their requirements for initial submission, and many copyedit and format papers to meet their own style once the paper is accepted.

An academic editor can be a second set of eyes to read the guidelines for authors, check the paper meets the guidelines, and advise on and fix any inconsistencies. The aim is to show respect for the journal and make it as easy as possible for the reader, in this case the journal editor and reviewers.

For a success story in meeting the requirements for Nature journal, see my recent blog.

For editing and writing inquiries, contact me at rhdaniels@bigpond.com

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