5 tips for publishing in a high impact journal

Dos and don’ts for getting your research paper accepted by a high impact scholarly journal

By Sneha Mittal Sachdeva - April 27, 2020
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There are plenty of ways to get your research out into the world, from broad-scope open access journals to preprint platforms. In some instances, you may be keen to see your work published in a journal that scores highly in citation-based metrics. After all, in an age of information abundance, these metrics have become a shorthand for where to focus your limited time.

However, many researchers aren’t aware of the assessment processes at high impact journals. Here are some techniqeus and strategies you can use to ensure your work has the best chance of finding an appropriate home.

1. Ask these questions before you prepare your manuscript.

Manuscript preparation is an important cornerstone of research. There are multiple steps and goals in the manuscript preparation and its publication. However, even before you start creating the manuscript for your paper, think about the underlying messages you want to communicate and why you want to publish your work.

Ask yourself these questions before you begin:

  • Have you done something new?
  • Is there anything challenging in your work?
  • Will your results influence other researchers?
  • Have you provided solutions to some difficult problems?

If you can answer is “yes” to some or all of the above questions, then it’s a good time to share your research and start the preparation for your manuscript.

2. Make your manuscript publication worthy.

What makes one manuscript more effective than the other? What are the components of a good manuscript? High impact journals seek high quality manuscripts that not only contribute to the knowledge of the reader but also clearly communicate the results and impact of the research. Here are some important characteristics of a good manuscript:

  • Clear scientific message: The manuscript contains a scientific message that is clear, useful and exciting. A good manuscript conveys the authors’ thoughts in a logical manner so the reader arrives at the same conclusions as the author.
  • Manuscript format: The manuscript is constructed in the format that best showcases the authors’ material and is written in a style that transmits the message clearly.
  • Title and abstract: The title and abstract are very important. The title should be succinct, free of obscure abbreviations and to the point, and it should describe key content in an effective way. The abstract should be clear, interesting, understandable, accurate, specific and to the point. Ensure that your title and abstract do not misrepresent your research or mislead the reader.
  • What’s the story? Find a simple and concise way to tell your story through your manuscript. Ensure logical layout of arguments and flow of experiments (the chronology of the experiments is not important), and don’t forget to make use of summary statements.

3. Write a good cover letter.

When you submit to a premium journal, make sure you write a good cover letter. This is your chance to convince the editor why your research is interesting and worth a review. While a strong cover letter does not guarantee publication, a badly written letter may make the editor wonder about the quality and thoroughness of your research paper. Here are some tips to write a good cover letter:

  • Start your cover letter by stating why you think the paper is a good fit for this journal.
  • Include additional background information that is relevant but does not fit in your abstract.
  • Focus on answering why you think the question you set out to address is important and/or why what you found is so exciting.
  • Inform us if there is a controversy or competition we must know about.
  • Do not include the abstract, a list of past accomplishments from your lab, the details of meetings where you’ve presented this work, and feedback you might have received for your research

4. Write an effective results section.

The results section of your manuscript represents the core findings for your research. Here are some tips:

  • An effective results section is clear and easy to understand, features unexpected findings and provides statistical analysis of the research.
  • Use paragraph headings to describe concrete findings, and use the similar headings for the figure legend titles to ensure the data is easy to understand.
  • Tie together your results with the discussion, and make the discussion correspond to the results

5. Mind your references.

The references and acknowledgement section is very important. Ensure you give credit to all papers you referenced and to people who have been helpful in the success of your research. Here are some quick tips for this section:

  • Cite the main scientific publications on which your work is based.
  • Do not use too many references.
  • Ensure you fully understand the material you are referencing and that it supports your work in the way you think it does.
  • Keep self-citations to a minimum.
  • Avoid excessive citations of publications from the same region.
  • Acknowledge your advisors, financial supporters, funding bodies, suppliers who donated materials and any other people who helped you in your research process.

Webinar: How to publish in high-impact journals

Free webinar: How to publish in high-impact journals

Watch this free webinar with Dr. Philip Earis, Editor-in-Chief of Joule, to learn more about developing your paper for publication in premium journals.

Then you can add questions to the Researcher Academy Mendeley group that were not answered in the webinar. We will try to find expert answers for you.

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Sneha Mittal Sachdeva
Written by

Sneha Mittal Sachdeva

Written by

Sneha Mittal Sachdeva

As a Marketing Communications Manager at Elsevier, Sneha Mittal Sachdeva manages content creation and researcher engagement for the premium brands channels Cell Press, The Lancet and Societies Publishing. Through these engaging channels, Sneha aims to provide helpful resources for early- and mid-career researchers to achieve publishing success. Sneha holds a master’s degree in business communications. In addition to being a foodie, she enjoys traveling, reading and writing on her blog. She is based in Amsterdam.

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