How to Prepare Submission Guidelines

When we think about submission guidelines, we often thing about those that authors should follow. The truth is that there are several different kinds of submission guidelines. Submission guidelines are extremely important for both authors and journals. They are a crucial part of the editorial process. And proper guidelines can help the initial stages of the publishing process run smoothly. If implemented properly (and followed), they will help you to avoid a series of time-consuming issues. They can also help by including checks to prevent problems like plagiarism.

So, what are the different kinds of submission guidelines?

In this article, we’ll be going over two different sets of guidelines, their purposes, and how to prepare them. The first set of guidelines are for submitting authors. The second set are for your editorial staff.

Submission guidelines for authors

These guidelines are “for” authors, but help your editorial staff immensely. They aim to accomplish a few different things, but primarily, they give submitting authors a series of guidelines to follow that help them in the submission stage.

Generally, these guidelines for authors will list important details, such as:

  • Expected materials (this can vary depending on the type of article);
  • Details regarding graphics (file sizes, copyright, etc.);
  • An explanation of the publication process, and how long stages typically take;
  • Acceptable file formats;
  • Required author/affiliation details;
  • Views on plagiarism;
  • and so on.

By including this information in the submission guidelines for the authors, you can prevent losing valuable time. If all of your editorial staff are constantly chasing dozens of authors for required, but minor, details, this can eat into productivity.

Why do authors need submission guidelines?

In many cases, especially when authors are further in their careers, they may not. But especially for early career researchers, or even just authors who are still new to the publication process, they are very helpful.

Importantly, guidelines help authors to ensure that their work is more readily accepted and more quickly published. If these guidelines are appropriately followed (and if the research is acceptable), this can cut a significant amount of time out of the publication process. This information can help editorial staff to determine if an article has been submitted to an appropriate journal, is sufficiently organized to send for peer review, has all the necessarily details that peer reviewers might need or want, and so on.

For an author, it is also important for them to understand the journal’s position on many critical elements of the submission process. Things like properly citing your work, avoiding plagiarism, and ensuring experimental results and relevant information are all provided are usually things that would be included.

How to prepare submission guidelines for authors

The guidelines you prepare should have two primary goals. The first is to help the authors navigate the submission process. The second is to give your editorial staff an understanding of what authors have been asked to do. When you prepare the guidelines, you need to keep in mind a couple of different things:

  1. Technical requirements needed for authors;
  2. Preparation expectations for authors;
  3. Editorial staff guidelines match submission guidelines.

In the future, we will go into detail about how to write submission guidelines to ensure that you and your staff are prepared.

Technical requirements needed for authors

When preparing a set of guidelines, giving authors an idea of basic expectations is important. This might include, for example, that format documents should be in. Are Word documents acceptable? Are LaTeX documents acceptable? What format should images be in?

What information is needed from the authors? Should authors be providing the names and institutions of all the authors, or is only the submitting author acceptable at this stage?

By preparing your authors with the knowledge they need to submit their manuscript, you also empower your editorial staff. They are able to know in advance what formats, files, and information is required or acceptable. This can help them to quickly address issues when they arise. Make sure that you know what you need to start and be clear with authors about this.

Preparation expectations for authors

A little different from technical requirements, preparation expectations are what authors need to be aware of in the context of their manuscript. This should be part of the submission guidelines.

Is the research fully completed? Are all parts written out? Do images need to be created and added? What is your journal’s view on plagiarism and how is it dealt with?

The expectations regarding the preparation of the manuscript will help to avoid unnecessary delays prior to peer review. Because the peer review stage is crucial, it’s important that manuscripts be ready and clearly understood. Failure to prepare manuscripts in such a way that the can be easily read and understood can also result in delays.

Editorial staff guidelines match submission guidelines

Editorial staff guidelines should be written in such a way that they align properly with what author’s are told. For example, it is critical that both sets of guidelines have the same expectations when it comes to how long communications will take, that there can be (and likely are) delays that will occur, and so on. When editorial staff inform authors about delays, these should not be a surprise.

Formats, peer review requirements, layout of documents, and more—are all things that both parties should be on the same page about.

Generally speaking, it usually makes sense to start by working on the editorial staff guidelines first. By understanding how much time your editorial staff needs to accomplish the different stages of the publishing process, you can then craft documents for authors that clarify this. Submitting authors are forgiving with deadlines, but do not like unplanned delays. If you tell an author that peer review will take two days, but it takes a week, this can result in an angry author and this can ultimately negatively affect your business. If you inform your authors that you have strict plagiarism screening, but never do it, this too can hurt your reputation. Keep in mind that plagiarism is extremely damaging to your reputation, and that of your authors.

Give your editors the tools and training they need to be successful.

Remember, your journal will succeed or fail based on its reputation.

How a journal management system can help

Once you have your guidelines prepared, having powerful tools that will empower your staff will help. By using a system that allows you to automate many different parts of the submission and production process, you can use your guidelines to smooth out your workflow. Save time by improving your production pipeline. Let us know if you’re ready to have JAMS help.

D.J. McPhee
20 November 2023Posted inSubmission
Post authorD.J. McPhee