In their article,Klingner et al (2005) outline the essential steps of preparing manuscripts for publication. The process begins even before the first words are written on the draft document. Authors should, in the first instance, consider theirreasonsfor wanting to publish their manuscript, as well as thescopeof the article. These are decision that are often made in consultation with research mentors and supervisors. Once such matters are worked out, the choice of atarget journal(s)becomes clear. Drafting a manuscript to meet the requirements of specific journals makes the task of writing easier than preparing a generic manuscript.

The process of preparing the manuscript is not very different to preparing written documents in higher level undergraduate or postgraduate courses. While journal guidelines dictate the format of themanuscript the structure and content of the manuscript is at the discretion of the author.

Most journals use online manuscript submission systems. Before submitting, make sure that you have a cover letter that describes the main findings of the researchdescribedin the manuscript. Also, give an indication of the significance of the finding. Then, make sure that all of the files to be uploaded are in the correct format. Even before the manuscript is sent for peer review, an editor will decide if the manuscript is suitable for publication in the journal you have selected. Many manuscripts are rejected at this stage of submission. Editors often rely on the cover letter and the abstract to determine thesuitabilityof themanuscriptfor that journal.

Should the editor think that the manuscript is suitable within the scope of the journal, it will be sent to a number of reviewers for peer review. The number of reviewers assigned to review a manuscript varies considerably, but at aminimum there should be two reviewers. The reviewers will determine the scientific accuracy of your work, including experimental design, data analysis and interpretations, as well as the validity of the conclusion you have arrived at. They will address questions such as:

  • Are the experiments valid within the context of developments in the field?
  • Have the experiments been designed well?
  • Are the controls appropriate?
  • Have the data been analysed correctly?
  • Are the assumptions valid?
  • Are the conclusions valid, especially within the limits of the study (i.e., not overly extrapolated)?
  • Are the interpretations and significance meaningful, especially within the context of the study and developments in the field?
  • Do the results of your study help advance the field of research?

The results of the peer-review will be (i) accept, (ii) accept with minor changes, (iii) accept after major revisions of the manuscript, or (iv) reject. Sometime, if the reviewers do not arrive at aconsensus then the editor may make an executive decision on the acceptance of the themanuscriptor send the manuscript for further reviews.

Authors may either proceed with the submission by addressing all of the editors' and reviewers' comments or withdraw the manuscript from further consideration. During the revisionprocess, you should address all of the comments. If you choose not to make a revision (for certain points raised by the reviewers) ordisagreewith the comments, you can discuss those issues with the editor. It is the editors' discretion to agree with your arguments or to stand by the comments raised by the reviewers.

Generally, journals reject more manuscripts than they do accept for publication. Manuscripts may be rejected because the subject matter may be beyond the scope of the selected journal, or that the results and conclusions may not convince the editors and reviewers of their scientific merit. If your manuscript is rejected without peer review, then simply format for another journal and begin the submission process. If, however, your manuscriptis rejected after peer review, then examine your manuscript carefully. You should consider re-writing your manuscript by trying to address all of the points raised by the reviewers. If necessary, perform the additional experiments or re-analyse the data. Once you feel that you have addressed all of the issues and substantially revised the manuscript, you may submit the article to the same journal (a new submission) or to a new journal. However, if your original submission was rejected because of scientific inconsistencies, then make sure that they are addressed before resubmitting the manuscript. Make full use of the peer-review process to enhance your development as a scientist. It will also help you refine your thoughts on future experiments.

A personal encounter

Sometime ago, I discovered an important pattern recognition receptor protein. I only had a partial protein sequence, but had characterised the biochemical properties of that protein thoroughly. I submitted the finding to a journal with a relatively high impact factor. The manuscript was rejected. Both reviewers mentioned that although the findings were significant, the lack of a complete protein sequence meant that I could not, with any confidence, prove that the protein was what I claimed it was. I was disappointed with the outcome. Unfortunately, I could not extend the experiment to obtain the full-length sequence (this was in the days of N-terminal protein sequencing, when obtaining the internal sequences of proteins was quite difficult). In later years, it was established that two unrelated families of pattern recognition proteins exhibited similar range of biochemical behaviours and that the sequence information was indeed insufficient. If my original manuscript was published with my claim about the protein's identity, then I may have had to publish a retraction. Hence, although it may be difficult to acceptcriticismsof our work, try to take such feedback in your stride and putting down toexperience- that steep learning curve that all scientists must ascend.


Janette K. Klingner, David Scanlon and Michael Pressley. How to Publish in Scholarly Journals. Educational Researcher 34:14-20 (2005)

Sham Nair 2014