Academic publishing relies heavily on the quality of manuscripts submitted for review. Manuscript preparation is crucial in this process, as it directly influences the chances of acceptance and dissemination of research findings. Effective manuscript preparation involves more than just organising information; it's about presenting your research in a clear, structured, and academically acceptable manner. From adhering to specific formatting guidelines to ensuring proper citations, these aspects collectively determine the overall impact of your work within the scientific community.
This article provides an overview of the academic publishing process. It covers the key aspects that should be focused on in manuscript preparation, including choosing an appropriate journal, manuscript structure, writing style, language used in academic publications, and the different referencing styles that can be used. We also provide some manuscript writing tips to help you along the way to success in getting published.
Understanding the Academic Publishing Process
The academic publishing process involves several stages, beginning with research and ending with the dissemination of the work in your journal of choice.
Stage 1 – Research
The process begins with the research project, in which data is gathered, and the valuable findings you want to publish are generated.
Stage 2 – Identify Target Journals
Once you know the overall findings, you can determine which journals align with the study’s subject matter, scope, and target audience. You can look at an example of manuscript research papers from each journal to help make your choice. You might also want to consider factors like the journal’s impact factors or its copyright and open access policies.
Stage 3 – Manuscript Preparation
Once you have found your journal(s) of choice, you will want to see their format and style requirements for submission and format your manuscript to match these. Usually, a journal will have a section on their website, ' For Authors’, which will guide you through these.
Stage 4 – Submission
Once the manuscript is formatted as needed, you can submit your article, ensuring you adhere to the submission guidelines.
Stage 5 – Peer Review
Once the manuscript is accepted, the journal's editor will select two or three peer reviewers to evaluate your work for quality, significance, and methodology. Several types of peer review depend on the journal; however, the three most common ones are:
Single-blind – The author doesn’t know the reviewer's identity, but the reviewer knows the author's identity.
Double-blind – Neither the reviewer nor the author knows each other’s identity.
Open – The identities of all parties involved are known by everyone.
You can see manuscript review examples online to get a feel for the potential response that you might receive.
Stage 6 – Acceptance or Revision
Your manuscript may be accepted, or you may be asked to revise one or more sections. You may even be asked to return to the lab to produce more data if it is insufficient.
Stage 7 – Publication
This is the final stage, which means your work has been accepted! The work is then prepared for publication and will appear in print or online (or both).
A number of key people are involved in the submission process:
You – the author/corresponding author.
Production and copy-editing teams
Manuscript preparation is a cornerstone of successful manuscript writing in research, with implications for every stage of the publishing process. At its core, it is about maintaining and upholding quality standards and ensuring that the research shines through its content without being overshadowed by errors in presentation and formatting. Additionally, good manuscript preparation facilitates the peer review process. Good clarity and coherence allow reviewers to focus on evaluating the scientific content rather than grappling with unclear writing or inconsistent referencing. This increases the likelihood of receiving constructive feedback and, ultimately, acceptance. Beyond this, good manuscript preparation enhances visibility and impact after publication, which can improve the number of citations and references it receives.
Preparing the Manuscript
Selecting the right journal for your research requires careful consideration. Begin by understanding your research’s scope, subject matter, and key findings. Look into journal rankings, but don’t rely solely on impact factors. Ensure the journal aligns with your research focus by examining recent publications. Identify your target audience to tailor your work effectively. Be aware of formatting guidelines and ethical considerations specific to each journal. Ethical compliance is essential, especially for research involving humans or animals. Lastly, plagiarism policies must be followed rigorously to avoid any issues with academic misconduct.
Structuring the Manuscript
You’ve chosen your journal, read through the requirements for submission, and are ready to start structuring your manuscript. So, what needs to go into it? The typical structure of a research article is as follows: Abstract, Introduction, Methodology, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion.
First, readers need to know the study's purpose and significance. This provides context for the reader and helps them to understand why the research was conducted and what motivated it. This context is essential for establishing the relevance of your work. Clearly stating the study's purpose helps readers understand the research question or hypothesis and your aim. This also sets the expectation for the reader to know what should be coming in the rest of the manuscript.
The literature review offers context by presenting the existing body of knowledge in your field, laying the foundation for the study. It also helps to identify gaps, inconsistencies, or areas needing exploration, justifying the research. Furthermore, it showcases methodologies used in prior studies, which shows how your research design and methods were guided. Lastly, it ensures your work hasn’t duplicated established findings, emphasising its originality. To organise the existing research effectively, categorise studies based on relevance, summarising the key findings and methods. Trends or conflicts should also be identified, study quality assessed, and the findings synthesised into a coherent narrative. This strengthens your research and its contribution to the academic discourse.
A clear description of the research design and the methods used in the study should be included here alongside any procedures used for data collection (cell counting, colour change measurement or questionnaires, for example). Furthermore, data analysis methods should also be included, such as statistics. This is also the section that usually includes any ethical considerations if needed.
This should concisely present the findings from the study. Begin by stating your study's outcomes objectively, ensuring they relate to your research objectives. Emphasise the significance of any critical findings. This can be complemented with tables, graphs, and figures to enhance clarity, which may be especially helpful if the subject matter is complex. These visual aids should be well-labelled and referenced throughout the text. Visual aids also help the author highlight patterns, trends, and relationships within the data.
Explain the implications and significance of your findings here, addressing how they align with or diverge from your hypotheses. Compare your results with existing literature, highlighting agreements of discrepancies. Discuss the broader implications of your work for the field and any potential practical applications. One important factor to consider is whether there are any limitations and sources of bias; acknowledge these if they exist as they demonstrate transparency. Lastly, outline future research directions, indicating how your study contributes to advancing knowledge. A well-structured discussion synthesises your findings and situates your work within the larger academic conversation, providing valuable insights and guiding future research.
The conclusion of a manuscript typically includes a concise summary of the key findings. Reiterate the main results and their significance in the context of your research objectives. Avoid introducing new information or repeating details from the discussion. The conclusion serves as the final takeaway for readers, reinforcing the study’s importance.
Writing Style and Language
Using appropriate academic language and terminology ensures effective communication within the scholarly community and enhances the reader’s understanding of complex concepts. It is important when writing academically to avoid layperson’s terms and correctly use the appropriate technical language for the subject you are writing for, as this demonstrates an understanding of the subject. Furthermore, avoiding standard grammar and punctuation errors such as comma usage and language is important. For example, a journal may require you to write your manuscript in American English, with several subtle differences from British English (colour – color, for example).
Some common techniques for proofreading and editing are:
Leave the manuscript for a few hours/days after finishing and then come back to do a final proofread.
Read your paper out loud.
Use software to assist in proofreading.
Another option could be to use a company that offers scientific manuscript editing services. These offer invaluable manuscript editing services (you can find information about Co-Labb’s manuscript services here). Their expertise will ensure your research paper shines with precision and clarity. With Co-Labb’s assistance, you benefit from enhanced coherence, polished language, and increased chances of publication, saving you time and stress. You can have a look at one of our client success stories here!
References and Citations
Referencing and citing in manuscript preparation are vital for several reasons. It establishes the credibility of your work by acknowledging the contributions of prior research, and it helps readers trace your sources. Understanding different citation styles like APA, MLA, or Chicago allows you to adhere to specific journal or publisher guidelines. Properly citing sources within the manuscript prevents plagiarism and demonstrates scholarly integrity. Moreover, creating a comprehensive reference list at the end of the manuscript offers readers a clear roadmap to access the cited works, enhancing the research’s transparency and validity. There are several referencing/citation software that you can use, and many of them integrate into Word and your browser to make your life easier when referencing.
Submission and Review Process
The submission and review process is a critical phase in manuscript preparation. Before submission, prepare the manuscript to adhere to the journal’s formatting guidelines and ethical standards. Familiarity with the peer review process, whether experts evaluate your work, is essential, as it can be daunting the first time! Upon receiving reviewer comments, approach revisions with an open mind, addressing each point thoughtfully. Clarify your responses and make any necessary improvements to strengthen the manuscript.
Effective manuscript preparation demands attention to detail. Understand your target audience and the significance of your research, and ensure you adhere to formatting guidelines, ethical standards, and proper referencing. Organising and presenting the findings is important, as is interpreting and discussing them in the context of the existing literature. Lastly, the submission and review process requires patience and receptiveness to feedback. Following these best practices increases the chances of successful publications and contributes to the credibility and impact of your research in academia.
About the Author
Dr. Sarah King holds a BSc in Medical Biology, an MSc in Forensic Biology, and a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology. Her research focused on cellular aging and senescence through NAD-dependent signaling. Sarah is a Senior Scientific Writer at Co-Labb, specialising in the areas of academic and technical writing.
Here are some recommended books, websites, and tools for manuscript preparation
How to Write a Paper by George M. Hall
Scientific Papers and Presentations by Martha Davis, Kaaron Joann Davis, Marion Dunagan
From Research to Manuscript: A Guide to Scientific Writing - by Michael Jay Katz
The Springer Nature – Getting Published page has a number of articles detailing how to write your manuscript alongside tips for boosting your chances of success.
Wiley Author Services has a comprehensive guide for every manuscript preparation and submission step.
Sage Publishing also provides a number of articles to guide you in your manuscript writing.
Manuscripts – A free authoring tool designed for creating scientific articles.
Grammarly – A free grammar and proofreading tool
You can also find some links to academic publishing guidelines and resources here:
Padma. R. Jirge, (2017), Preparing and Publishing a Scientific Manuscript. Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences. 10(1). 3-9. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4103/JHRS_36_17