Prepare your journal article: a checklist

Do you want to finalise your journal article and send it off?

Different team members will probably write different parts of the article, with one or two allocated for data management and figure design. People write with different styles and someone has to review everything to polish the writing. You might want to do that yourself, then find an editor after responding as a team to your journal reviewers’ comments.

How do you bring your team’s writing together? Here are 6 quick tips to help.

Check journal specifications

Even before writing, it is a good idea to review all specifications in the advice to authors and work through them step by step: the maximum word count for the abstract, the specific headings for sections, the details required for each section. Journals often need a particular structure for the abstract.

Keep aims doable

Limit your aims to what is easily achievable. You might be able to write two or three articles from one research effort.

Position your research

Be clear about how your research fits with others’ efforts in the field. This will enhance how you present the contribution that your findings offer. Writing too much about this is initially better than not enough. Then summarise it.

Present your contribution consistently

State the significance and contribution of your research in a concise way. Summarise this briefly for the abstract, extend it for the introduction and paraphrase it a little for the conclusion. Please do not just copy and paste.

Justify your methodology

Researchers often cannot see the forest because they are looking at the trees. Expand and elaborate on your methodology. Your findings should be reproducible, under similar conditions. So state the conditions clearly and explain how and why you chose to work this way. As a group, try to brainstorm what the reviewers might ask about this.

Write with a unified voice

While this might look hard, an easy way to start is to use the same words and punctuation for the particular terms you use (including your variables). Also convert everything in the article to one version of English (US, UK or something else). You could be surprised how many varieties Microsoft Word offers. (By the way, the version of Australian English that Microsoft offers looks a lot more like US English than the Australian English that Australians use. This is what happens when you live at the bottom of the world). Most journals tend to accept many versions of English so long as the article is consistently written in one variety.

Finally, for some journals, there is much more information on the peer review process than for others.

If you would like to see some advice on responding to reviewers’ feedback, please read this other post on my blog.