The manuscript preparation and submission process can often be a mysterious and intimidating experience for students across developmental training levels.
As interdisciplinary research is becoming more common, health-service psychology trainees may face additional challenges when determining what journals and audiences their research might be best suited for.
This resource is meant to guide trainees through the general stages of preparing and submitting a manuscript for peer-reviewed publication.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN YOUR STUDY
Identify Potential Journals:
Even before you submit an IRB application and begin collecting data, consider if you already have a target journal in mind. Think about your target audience and in what type of journal you will aim to publish. Here is a guide for identifying scholarly journals from professional/trade journals and popular magazines.
Several guides are available for how to choose an appropriate journal for your article. Journal selection will depend on the scope, impact, scientific rigor, and topic area of your paper. Here is a useful blog entry to get you started. Additionally, Current Medical and Research Opinion offers a 3-step plan to help with selecting a journal. In the age of literally thousands of Open Access journals, learn how to be skeptical of "predatory" journals. It's important to protect yourself and your reputation. Here are the Top 8 Ways to Identify Questionable Journals.
Know the Reporting Standards:
High-impact journals are increasingly adhering to specific reporting standards. Knowing these in advance can help you design your study and ensure that all required elements are included. Following a journal's author instructions and reporting standards are among the most important factors for getting your work published. Knowing these ahead of time will save you time and frustration when it comes time to submitting your work.
Reporting standards for APA journals is a great place to start. For health-service psychology trainees, the EQUATOR network (Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research) provides a consolidated list of most peer-reviewed journal reporting standards.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN WRITING
Determine the Authorship Order:
Determine the Order of Authorship: The APA Science Student Council has put out a guide to determining authorship credit and authorship order. Proposing an order of authorship early can avoid later confusion and reduce the chance of offending any authors/contributors.
It is also important to consider how to handle changes to the order of authorship if contributions change over the course of the manuscript development. According to the APA ethical code, "a student is usually listed as principal author on any multiple-authored article that is based primarily on the student’s dissertation or thesis. Faculty advisors discuss publication credit with students as early as feasible and throughout the research and publication process as appropriate."
Contact the Journal Editor:
In most cases, sending a pre-submission inquiry to the journal editor can be a valuable process that saves you much time and effort. Not only can it streamline the submission and review process by notifying the editor ahead of time of your intention to submit, but it can also ensure that your manuscript is appropriate for that journal. A pre-submission inquiry can also allow the editor to identify any major strengths or flaws in your submission. If you are in a particularly specialized field of research, contacting the editor will allow you to develop rapport for future submissions.
Update your Literature Search:
Writing a manuscript is often a marathon endeavor. From the initial idea, to study design, to data collection and analysis, and finally manuscript preparation, months and years may have passed from the initial literature search. Updating your literature search is a critical step to complete before manuscript submission. Studies published since you began your study could further enhance and clarify your results.
THE WRITING PROCESS
Writing can be a challenging, yet rewarding process. Even the most productive and successful scientific writers experience writer's block, burnout, and difficulty managing competing duties. In addition to the resources listed below, consider these Tips for Making Writing a Successful and Enjoyable Experience, by Dr. Kathy Yorkston at the University of Washington.
PREPARING YOUR MANUSCRIPT
The Current Medical Research and Opinion's Toolkit for manuscript preparation is a comprehensive guide to preparing your work for publication in a high impact journal. You've put in hours of work in writing your manuscript. Now it's time to make sure that your document is polished and adhering to your target journal's guidelines. To increase the chances of eventual acceptance, consider the following guidelines:
RECEIVING YOUR MANUSCRIPT DECISION
Journals differ in their review and resubmission procedures. Completing a pre-submission inquiry to the journal editor can help clarify a typical review timeline and possible outcomes. Most journals in the area of health-service psychology use an external peer-review process by which experts in the field are engaged by the editor to provide commentary on the merits of the article.
Manuscript decisions are typically disseminated via email to the corresponding author. Decision types differ between journals, but the general categories are: "Accept," "Accept with Revisions," "Reject with an invitation to Revise and Resubmit," and "Reject." "Accept" and "Accept with Revisions" are less common in today's environment, but certainly not impossible.
More commonly, you'll be asked to revise your manuscript. Revisions are meant to enhance the quality of your manuscript. As such, appropriately addressing ALL reviewer comments will be essential to getting your work published. In the case of conflicting reviewer comments, acknowledge both in your response and provide a rationale for which changes you made. The editor will ultimately decide on the acceptability of the revisions.
In the event of a rejection, work with your co-authors to select an alternate target journal. Consider the new journal's impact factor and submission volume. Selecting a journal with lower volume may expedite the next submission process. However, even when selecting another journal, revisions will still likely be required. Take some time to review the goals and priorities of your manuscript. Persistence and adherence to reviewers' suggestions will ensure that your manuscript eventually finds a home in a scientific journal.