The Best Way to Help Your Research Get Published
Your goal of publishing your research is at hand. You've carefully selected the journal for submitting your work (if you haven't selected your journal yet, see The Guide to Choosing the Best Science Journal for Publishing Your Research), you've prepared and formatted your manuscript for the journal, and you are excited at the idea of being published.
For most journals, you must now write the all-important cover letter that gets you in the door to be published. Yes, you must write a cover letter! A cover letter, or pre-submission letter, is the key that entices the editor to agree to review your research. You cannot take the easy way out and simply state "here is my research for you to publish". Why would they care? Why should they care? Sending a carelessly written cover letter shows you don't care and that maybe your research isn't at all worth publishing. Do you really want to give that impression after all your hard work, time, and effort spent performing your research and writing up your findings? Probably not.
With thousands of papers to choose from for publication, science journals have their pick of what to publish and your article may not be chosen. Journal editors are in the driver's seat.
- A good, persuasive cover letter increases your chances of being published.
- Your cover letter is your sales pitch to journal editors for why they should publish your work.
- Your cover letter must follow the journal's requirements, and be concise and free of errors.
WHAT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE IN BEING PUBLISHED OR NOT? YOUR SALES PITCH (OR PERSUASIVE ARGUMENT) TO THE JOURNAL. YOUR COVER LETTER IS THAT SALES PITCH.
Now before you are taken aback at the idea of having to present a sales pitch, think about it. You are asking them to publish your work. You are competing with dozens of scientists and you must stand out from the crowd. We are not talking about exaggerated or overstated claims, but a statement that tells the journal 'What's In It For Them' and 'The Benefit' they gain by publishing your work.
The competition to publish is real and ongoing. There is no resting on your laurels in science publication. A body of work may be lauded, but each piece of work must make its way to the front of the line for publication, and your cover letter is how you gain access to the first step of publication. Without a great cover letter, your research could all be for naught - a wasted effort.
PAY STRONG ATTENTION TO YOUR COVER LETTER AS IT IS THE MECHANISM TO GETTING YOUR RESEARCH READ AND PUBLISHED.
Just as a job cover letter is the first impression future employers see of you, the pitch in that letter is what helps them decide to progress to reading your resume. The publication cover letter is your sales pitch to science journals that your manuscript will benefit them and their readers.
Editors want to know that you understand the focus of their journal, the scope of work they publish, how your work will complement other research they publish, and that your work will relate to their readers, as well as the public and general media. Your cover letter will emphasize why your work is important, useful, and interesting. It is your pitch to get published.
Be persuasive and coherent in your cover letter. Sell the merits of your work to them. You don't need to exaggerate your findings, you just need to describe why they are important and relevant.
NOW THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WHY OF A COVER LETTER, LET'S MOVE ON TO THE HOW OF A COVER LETTER TO A SCIENCE JOURNAL.
First, carefully read the specific Author Requirements and Instructions published in the journal you are targeting. If you don't carefully follow their rules, your manuscript could be immediately rejected.
Find the name of the editor so you can address your cover letter to this specific person. If you can't locate the name and email address, then use "Dear Editor" in your letter salutation. Under no circumstances should you use "Dear Sir or Madam"! It is archaic, antiquated, and outdated. Also, do not use "To Whom It May Concern" as that shows a lack of interest in the person you wish to have read your letter. If you don't care, they won't either.
Cover letters, or pre-submission letters, must contain a brief, concise, and clear message. One page only! If you find yours running longer than one page, edit it.
Know that SciTechEdit International is at your service for composing, editing, proofreading, and polishing your cover letter to achieve its best potential in pitching your research for publication. See more here Cover Letters. Contact us when we may be of assistance to you!
Be human in your letter! Write in plain English and avoid jargon and acronyms. Do not drone on about your paper and bore the reader. Remove passive voice phrases such as "in order to" and "may have potential to", and rewrite in active voice. Respect the editor's time!
Briefly summarize the highlights in a way that non-experts could understand. Tell why your paper will have an impact and on whom: fellow scientists, the public, future research. Editors are not experts in all fields, so make your explanations easily understood.
Choose a readable typeface such as Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman, in a font size between 10 and 12.
Break up large blocks of text as needed to make it easier for the editor to read.
Be sure that the name you use in your research is the same as what you use in your letter. If you are John L. Smith in your paper, sign your letter in that name, not J. L. Smith. Make it easy for the editor to connect the dots.
If your target journal allows suggestions for reviewers ("referees"), or for reviewers you wish to avoid, follow the journal directions for how many of these they allow. *Studies show that you can significantly increase the chances of being published by suggesting and/or excluding reviewers in your cover letter.
Be sure your letter is free of errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting. Don't trust "spell-check" - have a colleague or two (or a science editing company!) review your letter to catch any mistakes. Your cover letter/pre-submission letter is an important document that represents you and your research. If the cover letter is sloppy, the assumption is that your research is, too. Don't miss out on potential publication with a poorly crafted letter!
In addition to the journal's requirements, include this important information in your pre-submission or cover letter:
- Short introduction stating your manuscript title, the type of article if the journal has different types of articles, and the specific journal you are referencing for publication.
- Tell why your research study was important, and what questions it answers. Include why your research was needed and whether it continues or builds on prior research in this field.
- Tell why your research would be of interest to the journal audience and/or to the specific field of science that the journal covers. Your goal is to convince the editor that your research fits the scope of the journal and would be of interest to their audience (THIS IS THE KEY PART OF THE PITCH). Without exaggeration, tell why your research is new, relevant, and of keen interest to scientists and readers of the journal.
- Tell the editor the highlights of your results and the conclusions you have drawn. Clearly and succinctly explain these results, findings, and conclusions in lay terms, not jargon.
- KEY: State that your manuscript has not been published, nor is under consideration by any other journal for publication.
- State that all authors have approved the manuscript and submission for publication to the journal.
WRITE SHORT PARAGRAPHS FOR THESE SECTIONS, WITH SPECIAL CARE AND EMPHASIS ON SELLING/PERSUADING THE JOURNAL ON WHY YOUR RESEARCH WILL BENEFIT THE JOURNAL AND ITS READERS.
- Date (spell out the name of the month to avoid confusion)
- Addressee name, Email address, Journal name
- Salutation (e.g. Dear Dr. Smith:; Dear Editor:)
- Body of the letter, your message
- Closing ("Thank you" gets the best results)
- Email Signature (Name, email address, phone, facility, department, mailing address, personal website)
- Enclosure (under signature, if including manuscript)
Proofread, shorten, correct, review, and rewrite your letter as necessary. The cover letter can open the door to having your research published. Give it the extra care both it, and your research, deserve.
If all this is mind-boggling or you feel stuck in writing your cover letter, contact the editors at SciTechEdit International (
If this article has been helpful to you, please share with your fellow scientists. Thank you so much!
Author: Michael H. Mesches, PhD
© 2017 SciTechEdit International
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
* Grimm, D. Suggesting or Excluding Reviewers Can Help Get Your Paper Published. Science 2005:309:1974 doi:10.1126/science.309.5743.1974