How to Prepare Your Scientific Paper for Journal Submission

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Researchers spend a lot of time designing studies, analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and writing it all up in papers they aim to publish in academic journals. Producing a high-quality piece of writing is critical—a paper full of typos or dogged by structural issues undermines your credibility. Plus, if your writing isn’t clear enough, your message may be muddled, and if it’s not engaging enough, your readers are likely to tune out. 

Unfortunately, while researchers are experts in their field, they aren’t necessarily experts in writing, which requires an entirely different skill set. If you’re a researcher, you may have stumbled upon this article because you’re in the process of writing a paper but could use some practical tips.

Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to increase the chances of your paper getting accepted by a journal. Of course, these five steps alone aren’t enough to guarantee a stellar research paper, but they’ll help you whip your work into shape before you submit it for publication. Be sure to also check out our editing services for academics—with academic writing experts supporting you, you can confidently send your paper to a journal.

1. Have colleagues review your manuscript

It’s crucial to submit your work to an informal peer review before it goes to an official peer review. Have as many colleagues as possible read your manuscript before moving on to editing and submitting it. Fellow experts can spot issues with the core of the study, so this initial peer review process can help you improve your paper before it lands on a journal editor’s desk. This will save you a lot of time as you can address any issues before submission instead of dealing with revisions afterward or, even worse, having the journal reject your paper outright. Be sure to offer your expertise as a peer reviewer to your colleagues as well—mutually beneficial relationships can take you far.

2. Get your manuscript professionally edited

Editing isn’t only about eradicating typos and fixing grammatical mistakes—a professional academic editor can greatly improve the quality of the writing in your manuscript. Of course, you will go over your own manuscript countless times and correct any errors you find, but a professional editor can improve elements of the writing that aren’t as obvious, for example, sentence structure, flow, and overall readability. Besides, even if you’re a grammar whiz, editing your own writing effectively is almost impossible simply because you’re too familiar with it—your brain automatically skips past any errors because you know what it’s supposed to say. 

Unfortunately, many papers get rejected before they make it to the peer review stage due to poor writing. Even if the research is impressive, a journal won’t accept a manuscript that is too hard to follow, meaning that a poorly written paper can void all the hard work you’ve put into your research. An experienced academic editor can save you the pain of rejection by making your paper clearer and more engaging.

3. Craft carefully the abstract

The abstract is often the last part of a paper a scholar writes, and with good reason—you’re condensing the entire text into a couple of hundred words. However, just because the abstract is short and written last doesn’t mean you should take it lightly. In fact, you should take extra care with your abstract as this small section can determine whether your paper gets published. 

Unfortunately, many researchers don’t spend enough time honing their abstracts. This is a grave error because the abstract is the journal editor’s first look at the research and its significance. It represents a condensed version of the full paper and helps an editor or a reader decide whether the study is worth their time.

4. Don’t neglect the cover letter

Another thing academics often put minimal effort into is the cover letter accompanying their journal submission. Some may see it only as a piece of administrative paperwork, but it’s much more important than that. The cover letter offers you a chance to provide insight or context to your paper. It’s the perfect opportunity to clarify any elements that may reflect poorly on your submission, sell the editor on your work, highlight the novelty or significance of the research, and explain how it’s relevant to the journal you’re submitting to. 

5. Choose the right journal for your manuscript

Speaking of relevance, you may have done impressive research on a theoretical concept, but if you submit your paper to a journal publishing studies on practical applications, your manuscript will be rejected. Every journal has an aims and scope statement, so make sure you read it carefully to assess whether your research fits the publication’s objectives. Submitting your paper to more journals without doing your due diligence won’t increase your chances of success—it’ll just waste your time and energy.

Academic publishing is an intensely competitive niche, but there are ways to maximize the chances of your manuscript being published. While our list doesn’t cover all of them, it does highlight relatively quick and easy things you can do to ensure your paper is ready for submission. There are never any guarantees when it comes to getting published, but the more you do to prepare, the more likely you’ll be to succeed. If you need some extra help with your writing, have us edit and proofread your academic manuscript so you can submit it with absolute confidence.

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