Manuscript Basics

The PDF available for download here covers most of the basic nuts and bolts of manuscript writing, and is aimed those who are just starting their academic writing career or published authors who may want a refresher.

As you’ll see on the slides, my number one piece of advice to all writers, for whatever writing project is being undertaken, is to read carefully through the given set of author instructions and follow them! Every journal will spell out exactly how they want submitted manuscripts formatted – from the title page through to the references and everything in between. While it may be tempting to ignore a set of instructions on how to format a particular section of your paper, either due to time constraints, uncertainty over interpreting the instructions, or simply assuming reviewers won’t notice, I strongly advise against it. Reviewers and editors state very clearly in any number of articles you can find online that they get frustrated with good manuscripts that don’t follow author instructions.

Beyond following the instructions, the slides include tips about how to get started on writing a paper, how to work with images, and how to handle other manuscript parts that you may not realize are needed when you first start writing. The Panopto recording of this presentation includes much more detail.

As daunting as it may seem – writing up a study or subject clearly and concisely, while following dozens of detailed instructions to do so, and in the limited “free” time a resident or student may have – writing a paper can be very rewarding, personally and professionally. I’m always happy to answer any questions anyone may have, about writing in general or about your own specific project. Feel free to email Kris Greiner any time!

General Tips

  • Use plain language whenever possible, e.g., “use” instead of “utilize”

  • Look at recently published articles in your target journal to get an idea of the journal’s style and formatting

  • Review articles: sometimes by invitation only, so check journal instructions before submitting unsolicited reviews

  • Case reports: consider the pros and cons

  • The most important tip of all: ALWAYS, ALWAYS follow the journal’s instructions for authors! Publishing companies have placed more of the burden on authors to submit their papers in proper format and many will swiftly reject papers that don’t conform. Most journals painstakingly prepare instructions for submissions, so ignoring those instructions may convey the wrong message to the editors. Authors should demonstrate respect for the journal, its editors, and its reviewers by making every attempt to follow instructions. If something is unclear, email or contact the journal for clarification – they will appreciate your attention to detail.

Where to Submit a Manuscript

How to write…

After Submission

If the paper is rejected

Grand Rounds Lecture about choosing a journal:

Navigating new publication models without becoming prey: From Preprint Servers to Open-Access Journals

Eli Perencevich, MD, MS, Janna Lawrence, MLIS, AHIP (Hardin Library)