Clear manuscript preparation instructions and examples

Author guidelines should normally be found within the journal and on the journal’s website. It is important to make this information as thorough, but user friendly and understandable as possible, particularly for authors whose first language is not English.

Instructions for authors

Author instruction should be journal specific and depending on the journal's topic or topics of interest, should potentially include the following:

  • A summary of most the journal’s editorial policies
  • Authorship criteria (and for the online version links to any authorship forms)
  • Statement on competing interests and financial disclosures (and for the online version links to any disclosure forms, such as the ICMJE form)
  • Guidance on use of ‘Acknowledgements’—who should be acknowledged
  • Guidance on previous publication and duplicate submission, which should include making the authors aware that if they need to recycle for example a figure from another journal article that they must clearly reference this and apply for permission from that publisher
  • Clinical trial specific information (e.g. registered trial number). Acceptable trial registries include those listed at http://www.icmje.org. Authors of trials must also submit protocols (including the complete statistical analysis plan) with their manuscript and the CONSORT flow diagram
  • Guidance on statements for ethics approval of studies involving human subjects, consent, patient permission forms (when patients might be identifiable from the content) and declaration that the study conformed to the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki/Good Clinical Practice guidelines
  • List of the categories of articles that the journal publishes (e.g. reviews, brief reports, original research, views, letters) and a description of each type to include the maximum word count, number of figures/tables, abstract style (structured or unstructured) and what sections each article includes. The number of references should be included. It can be useful, where resources permit, to include links to several free access articles as examples of each article style, which may help authors to get it right first time

Guidance on manuscript preparation and submission requirements

This critical information should included:

  • How manuscripts should be submitted
  • Cover letter components—including declarations on COI, authorship and copyright
  • Peer reviewer recommendation—with a clear statement on potential COIs for peer reviewers and that reviewers who have published/worked with/from the same institution as the author must not be recommended
  • Manuscript components (refer to the descriptions already given specific for each type of manuscript, but detail the required components: title page, abstract, text, references and as appropriate figure legends, tables and figures, each on a separate page)
  • Recommended file size for electronic submission
  • Detailed information about each section—length, style and content, plus information on journal preferred use of abbreviations, units, gene and protein names etc.
  • Reference style with examples of references
  • Instructions for drawing figures and tables (ideally should be in an editable format)
  • Information about online-only
  • Details of any journal fees (e.g. for publication, reprints, use of color figures etc.).

It is useful to provide a manuscript checklist so that the author can check that they have included all the elements that are required at this stage.