A Good Cover Letter is Key to Getting Your Research Published
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How to Write a Cover Letter

You have prepared your manuscript and carefully selected the journal in which you would like to have it published  (if you haven’t yet selected your journal, see our article The Guide to Choosing the Best Science Journal for Publishing Your Research). The next step is writing an effective cover letter. A cover letter, also known as a pre-submission letter, is a vital tool that persuades the editor to review your research. A well-crafted cover letter will attract an editor’s attention and showcases the importance of your work. Considering the vast number of papers submitted for publication, journal editors have the luxury of choice. Therefore, a compelling and persuasive cover letter increases your chances of being published.

  • 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.
How to write a cover letter for a science journal

Why is a cover letter important?

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.
It is crucial to view your cover letter as a mechanism to capture the attention of the editors and get your research read and published.  Your cover letter serves as a sales pitch to the journal editors, explaining why they should publish your work. The difference between being published or overlooked often lies in the persuasive argument presented in your cover letter and how your research stands out from hundreds of other submitted articles. Your letter should inform the editor of the benefit the journal gains by publishing your work.
The publication cover letter is the initial impression journal editors have of your work. The pitch in this letter determines whether they proceed to review your manuscript. Your cover letter should demonstrate that you comprehend the focus and scope of the journal, highlight how your work complements existing research, and illustrate the relevance to both the readers and the wider scientific community. Emphasize the importance, usefulness, and interest of your work to make a compelling case for publication.

Pay strong attention to your cover letter: it is key to getting your research read and 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.

Details of how to write an effective presubmission or cover letter to a science journal.

Writing an effective cover letter to a science journal requires that you follow specific guidelines. Start by thoroughly reading the journal’s author requirements and instructions. Failure to adhere to these guidelines can often result in immediate rejection. Whenever possible, address the cover letter to a specific editor by finding their name and email address. Using “Dear Editor” is acceptable if the editor’s information is unavailable, but avoid outdated salutations such as “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern,” as they indicate a lack of interest.

Writing Tip – Clear and Concise

Cover letters, or pre-submission letters, must contain a brief, clear, and concise message. One page only! If you find yours running longer than one page, edit it accordingly.

Briefly summarize the highlights in a way that non-experts can understand. Tell why your paper will have an impact and on whom: fellow scientists, the public, future research. Write in plain English and avoid jargon and acronyms. Capture the editor’s attention by briefly summarizing the key highlights of your research in a manner that is understandable to non-experts. Remember that editors may not possess expertise in all fields, so it is important to provide easily comprehensible explanations. Respect the editor’s time.

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 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 using that name, not J. L. Smith.

If your target journal allows suggestions for reviewers (or 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. Relying solely on spell-check is insufficient; consider having a colleague or professional science editor review your letter. Your cover letter/pre-submission letter is an important document that represents you and your research. A poorly crafted cover letter may lead to missed publication opportunities, as it reflects on the quality of your research.

In addition to adhering to the journal’s requirements, include the following vital information in your cover letter

  • A brief introduction stating your manuscript title, the type of article (if applicable), and the specific journal you are targeting.
  • Highlight the importance of your research study and the questions it addresses. Explain why your research was necessary and whether it builds upon or contributes to existing knowledge in the field.
  • Emphasize why your research will be of interest to the journal’s audience and the broader scientific community. Convey how your work aligns with the journal’s scope and elucidate its novelty, relevance, and appeal to scientists and readers. Your goal is to convince the editor that your research fits the scope of the journal and would be of special interest to their audience. Without hyperbole, tell why your research is new, relevant, and of keen interest to scientists and readers of the journal.
  • Emphasize why your research will be of interest to the journal’s audience and the broader scientific community. Convey how your work aligns with the journal’s scope and elucidate its novelty, relevance, and appeal to scientists and readers.
  • Summarize the key results and conclusions of your research, using layman’s terms rather than technical jargon..
  • Explicitly state that your manuscript has not been published previously, nor is it under consideration by any other journal.
  • Confirm that all authors have approved the manuscript and its submission to the journal for publication.

Write short paragraphs for these sections emphasizing the importance of your research to 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

Proofread, shorten, correct, review, rewrite, and polish your letter as necessary. The cover letter can open the door to having your research evaluated and published.


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