Preparing your manuscript for journal submission is possibly one of the most nerve-wracking steps in a researcher’s publishing journey. This is also the stage where most researchers make errors that can define the fate of their manuscript. To paraphrase renowned German physicist Werner Heisenberg, an expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made and how to avoid them. So we’ve learnt from the missteps of countless researchers and created an easy 10-point manuscript checklist for successful submissions. If you’re ready to submit your manuscript to a journal, be sure to tick these checks off your list before you proceed!
1. Manuscript format
The first item on the manuscript checklist is formatting. Most journals have strict guidelines on the article format, so be sure to double check the layout, font type or size, spacing, margins, numbering and file type (Word/PDF/LaTeX) are aligned to your journal requirements. Also check if you meet the recommended word count for key elements like the Abstract or the Title. You should also run through the citations and references to ensure all in-text citations are included in references, which should be consistently styled and formatted appropriately.
2. Manuscript structure
Ensure your manuscript is complete from title to structure, acknowledgements to footnotes. Each section has a specific objective, so ensure that there is no major repetition of information and data flows cohesively. Apart from following the recommended IMRAD structure for research articles, keep an eye on and refine your article structure by checking the appendix, footnotes, and other sections of your paper when using this manuscript checklist.
3. Language and flow
A well-written manuscript has a higher chance of impressing journal editors and reviewers, and in turn your chance of acceptance. Improve your writing by avoiding jargon and grandiose language, keep the sentences simple and uncomplicated, focus on logic and flow to improve readability, check and correct spelling and grammar errors that could be misleading. Using this manuscript checklist to tick off all these points will help you deliver a polished piece that showcases your research effectively.
Present your scientific data effectively in clear, well-structured, detailed tables and figures. Ensure the tables and figures are clear and legible and don’t repeat information in text. Don’t make these visuals too long, instead include additional information in the appendix. Check and clean up your table titles, figures and graph legends, and image captions as this is something editors will check for. Finally, share these in the correct file type or format as requested by your target journal.
5. Facts and details
The most common error is inconsistencies in the facts and details provided in your manuscript. So do a thorough check to ensure that the data and calculations or equations in your work are accurate. You should also check for consistency in how the numbers, symbols, units of measurement, citations and references are presented in your manuscript.
6. Author information
Determining and being clear about the authors and the roles they play in writing a research paper is key, for example corresponding author, lead author, co-author, etc. At the time of journal submission, researchers are required to share all the relevant details about the authors, including their full names, designations, contribution made, and the full contact details of the corresponding author.
7. Attribution and acknowledgement
You manuscript should acknowledge all sources of support received on the research project. If the study involves patients/subjects, you would need to submit proof of consent forms. While you need to ensure you properly quote or cite text taken from previously published papers, you will need to have written approvals if reproducing graphics or copyright material. Failure to correctly attribute or acknowledge these sources of information is considered an ethical violation.
8. Conflict of interest
All types of submission to a journal will require a conflict of interest declaration, either mentioning conflicts of interest or confirming that there are none. Conflicts of interest in research are when competing financial, professional connections, or personal values and views can potentially impact a researcher’s objectivity. It’s mandatory to for authors to follow journal guidelines and declare all potential conflicts to ensure there smooth processing of a manuscript.
9. Ethical compliance
Adhering to ethical guidelines is critical to ensure that your work is authentic, unbiased, free of errors, and something that can be trusted. Ethical compliance keeps researchers accountable and ensures there is no misconduct in conducting research or in the use of funds. Some of the important ethical declarations at the time of submission include statements of ethical approval from relevant boards or committees, disclosure of simultaneous submissions, and conflict of interest statements.
10. Cover letter
Remember to round off your manuscript submission with a detailed, well-structured cover letter that showcases your findings. Your cover letter should include author information, highlight the impact and significance of your work, detail supplementary materials being submitted, disclose relevant ethical disclosures, and state why the journal should publish your work.
If this seems like a lot, or you’re unsure how to get it right, turn to Paperpal for an in-depth check before you submit. Its robust AI engine evaluates your work, highlights problem areas based on key features all journal editors check for, and offers suggestions that help you improve your manuscript. Want to simplify and accelerate your submission process? See how Paperpal can help!