Ten tips for successful writing and article submission
This article marks the end of a year-long series on writing for publication. By now, you have learned a wide range of skills, from choosing a topic to using tables and figures to add interest to your manuscript. This concluding article reviews 10 tips that can help you avoid mistakes and promote a satisfying publishing experience.
TIP 1: READ THE AUTHOR GUIDELINES
These guidelines are a treasure trove of information, including the types of articles that the journal publishes, word count guidelines, submission requirements, and the peer review process. The guidelines can help you match your topic idea with the most appropriate journal. Just as patients fare better when they know what to expect in the OR, you will navigate the seas of publishing with a clearer sense of direction when you know what to expect.
Before you submit your manuscript, double check to be sure you are complying with all the requirements in the author guidelines. Always send a cover letter with your name, title, and contact information. Do not include this information in the article file unless you are specifically asked to do so, however, because peer reviewers usually do not receive any identifying information about authors.
TIP 2: QUERY FIRST
It is always best to contact the editor of a journal with your idea before writing or submitting the article. Promote your topic in a letter no more than one page long that explains why the information you will provide is important for the journal’s readers and why you should be the one to write the article. Remember to tell the editor when you plan to submit the manuscript.
TIP 3: WRITE WITH PURPOSE
The most common error beginning writers make is to attempt to cover too much information in a single article. To avoid this, write with purpose by keeping the summary statement of your article (ie, what you want readers to think, do, or feel) clearly in mind as you write. Remember that it is best to include just one or two major points in a single article.
TIP 4: BE PATIENT
Unless you are presenting ground-breaking information, the publishing process takes time. Do not become discouraged. If you have not heard from the editor after a reasonable length of time (eg, four weeks), send an e-mail to the editor to ask about the article’s status. If the journal uses an online submission and tracking process, you can follow the progress of your article by logging in to the online system.
TIP 5: MAKE YOUR EDITOR’S JOB EASIER
An OR houses many patients in different stages of surgery during any single time of the day or week. Similarly, the editor has many articles in various stages of the publication process. Make it easy for an editor to remember you. For example, instead of writing “article” in the subject line of an e-mail, use the title of the article or the manuscript number if one has been assigned. Repeat the article’s title or number in your message. Sign your full name and include telephone numbers where you can be reached. If an editor sends you a question via e-mail, be sure to include the original e-mail with your reply so the editor can easily determine what you are responding to.
Writing effectively, including organizing your content logically, is another way to lighten the editor’s workload. Keep the four C’s in mind: clear, concise, correct, and compelling. The single most important technique for writing effectively is to use active voice, such as “The circulating nurse places the safety strap across the patient’s thighs” instead of “The safety strap is placed across the patient’s thighs.”
TIP 6: BE OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS
Consider yourself to be part of a team that is working to produce the best article possible, and be open to revision suggestions from the editor and peer reviewers. Be aware that every journal has its own style, and some changes may be made to your article during the editing process so it will conform to that style.
TIP 7: USE VISUALS
Illustrations, tables, figures, and photographs are all examples of ways you can give your manuscript visual interest for readers. Remember to obtain permission from the copyright holder to reprint a visual element that has been previously published.
TIP 8: SUBMIT AN ARTICLE, NOT A SCHOOL PAPER
Editors are accustomed to receiving school papers, theses, and dissertations with cover letters that say something like, “My instructor thought my paper was excellent. Would you consider publishing it in your journal?” Typically, however, a school paper or thesis will require some revision before it is appropriate for publication in a journal (Table 1). Such papers are often too long for a journal article, which make them unsuitable for publication, and their submission tells the editor that the nurse failed to read the author guidelines. Second, papers, by necessity, often have a different focus and purpose compared to journal articles. For example, a dissertation is designed to demonstrate the author’s comprehensive understanding of a topic and ability to conduct research in the area. (1)
You can turn a school paper or master’s thesis into an excellent journal article, however. Begin by analyzing the content to see what fits with the type of content a particular journal publishes. You may need to focus on only one aspect of a thesis or dissertation.
Revise your paper so it fits the style of the journal. Look at past issues and the author guidelines. Be sure to review the most recent health care literature and update your article accordingly.
TIP 9: IDENTIFY SUPPORT POSSIBILITIES
Everyone has 24 hours in a day. How you choose to use those hours is up to you. Negotiate with your family members or supervisor for time to write. Be persistent in finding even short periods of time when you can write. Identify a writing mentor who can support you during the process.
TIP 10: Do NOT JUST TALK ABOUT IT, DO IT.
You have all the tools you need to write. Now it is up to you. Make the commitment to write today.
Editor’s note: This is the 12th and last article in a series of articles on writing for publication. The first article was published in the March 2006 issue of the Journal.
Poynter Online. Available at: http://www.poynter.org. Accessed January 2, 2007.
Nurse Author & Editor. Available at: http://www.nurseauthoreditor.com. Accessed January 2, 2007.
(1.) Calfee RC, Valencia RR. APA guide to preparing manuscripts for journal publications. American Psychological Association. Available at: http://www.apa.org/journals/authors/guide.html#dissertation. Accessed January 2, 2007.
Cynthia Saver, RN
CLS DEVELOPMENT, INC
Tips for Transforming Your Thesis or
Dissertation into a Journal Article (1,2)
Be selective about what information you choose to keep.
Shorten the background information and state your purpose in
Summarize the literature review, including only the most important
Shorten the description of the theoretical framework and incorporate
it into the literature review or include it as a separate section,
depending on the journal’s style.
Shorten the methods section and reduce the number of references.
Focus only on key findings.
Revise the description of the sample and shorten the demographic
Do not overwhelm the readers with statistical analysis methods;
make this section appropriate for the audience.
Use an appropriate number of figures and tables for the text (eg, no
more than one-third of the content should be tables and figures).
Emphasize practical application of the information.
Write in the journal’s style.
(1.) Calfee RC, Valencia RR. APA guide to preparing manuscripts for
journal publications. American Psychological Association. Available at:
January 2, 2007.
(2.) Oermann MH. Writing for Publication in Nursing. Philadelphia:
COPYRIGHT 2007 Association of Operating Room Nurses, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning