Tips on how to submit your paper

Gepubliceerd op 12 mei 2023 om 11:00

Your article is finished, now let’s submit! This often takes more time than you expect. Easily plan a whole day for this. Every scientific journal has its own terms and conditions. It would save a great deal of time if the submission process would be identical everywhere, but alas! Unfortunately scientific journals are equally as stubborn as scientists and everyone wants it their own way. That is why we have some general tips for you, so you will be well-prepared to submit your paper. 


  1. Check the author guidelines

The website of the scientific journal you chose always has a page with author guidelines. These state for example how many words your manuscript and your abstract may contain, which subheadings you must use (e.g. background or introduction), in which style your references must be (e.g. Vancouver, APA or AMA), whether you must upload an accompanying letter (the so-called ‘cover letter’) and how you must edit your tables and figures (e.g. separately, together or with a minimum amount of pixels). It is useful to already be aware of the author guidelines while you are writing your article. That way you can anticipate, for example, the maximum length your article is allowed to be.


  1. Create an account 

Create an account on the website of the journal, well before you are ready to submit. Once you have created an account, you can check everything you need to upload during the submission process. Here you find how you need to upload parts of your manuscripts, for example with figures and tables separately or all in one document. It also says here whether you need to submit some ‘keywords’ (see point 4) for example, or whether you need to suggest some reviewers (see point 5) and which information the journal wants to have about you and your coauthors (see point 6).


  1. Style in style    

Make sure everything is edited in the style of the journal, as is described in the author guidelines. After submission it is often checked whether your submission meets the technical demands of the journal. For example, if you need to upload a certain document as a Word-file and you have uploaded it as a PDF, or if you have edited your table in the wrong output style, or your figure does not have enough pixels, then your article will often be inexorably returned. In other words: the submission process needs your meticulous attention!



    1. Put some thoughts into your keywords

    If someone searches for your topic, you want them to find your article. It is therefore wise to choose your keywords in a way that ensures your articles will be found as frequently as possible. Search engines will generally find the words you have used in your title anyway. So choose keywords that are not directly in your title, but that are closely related to your topic. Some umbrella terms that reach many domains (such as ‘medication’, ‘physical health’ or ‘mental health’ for example), can greatly expand the reach of your audience.


    1. (Not) recommending reviewers

    You finally have everything ready to submit and suddenly you have to think about potential reviewers for your article. Especially when you are not too familiar yet with the researchers who are working in your field, a useful tip is to check the bibliography of your own article. Are there any articles in your list of references that connect with the content of your article? It should, you are citing them for a reason after all! The first and/or last authors of these articles may be suitable reviewers for your article. Sometimes you can also indicate whether you wish to exclude certain reviewers. Has your article been rejected before and do you know who the reviewers were? Then you could indicate here that you wish to exclude these people now.


    1. Information of your co-authors

    Pretty much all scientific journals want you to list all of the co-authors one by one, in the correct order, with all correct titles and relevant affiliations. Sometimes including the complete addresses of their institutions, e-mail addresses, phone- and fax numbers (yes, they still exist!). It occurs often that authors are affiliated with multiple institutions and -when in line with the article and wish of the co-author- they must all be inserted. Some journals want a signed agreement for the content of the article from all authors at the time of submission. If that is the case, it is useful to collect these signatures before you are actually submitting. Otherwise it will often take you more than just one day to complete your submission process!


    1. Check your submission

    Right before hitting the submit button, you will generally get to see a PDF-file of everything you are submitting. Always check this proof-file carefully, because this is how your article is sent to the journal and reviewers! What happens sometimes, for example, is that you needed to upload the abstract in a separate field, but that you have made some last-minute adjustments in the abstract included in your manuscript, and suddenly they are not identical anymore. Or you accidentally uploaded the cover letter of your previous submission, with the names of the previous journal and editor you submitted your article too. Oops! And the desk rejection goes to…



      1. Hit that button and relax…

      You have checked absolutely, indisputably éverything and you finally hit that submission button! This is the time to really take a moment. Celebrate all your hard work! Maybe your article will be accepted for publication, maybe not, but for the foreseeable future you are done. It is a rule rather than an exception that you have to wait a few months before a journal lets you know what the review comments are and whether or not they accept your paper for publication.


      1. … or not!

      You hope that your article will at least get ‘under review’! This means that the journal seriously considers your article for publication and has it reviewed by experts from your field. It is kind of a sad ending to this blog, but it is reality: a rejection without review (desk rejection) unfortunately does happen. Good journals often get a great deal of submissions and therefore must also reject a lot of them. That is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of your article. It is also possible the editor thinks your article does not fit the scope of the journal all that well (also see our blog: 10 tips for selecting a scientific journal). In that case you take a deep breath, shoot back another espresso and start the whole process again with the next journal on your list.


       Do you have any additions to this list? Have you experienced any bloopers or interesting matters during the submission of your article? Let us know in the comments or send us a personal message through the contact page!

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