Preparing your manuscript

Writing for publication is a complex task and requirements vary for different formats, publishers, disciplines, etc. This page does not therefore propose to advise you how to write you manuscript, but directs you to some sources you may find useful and hopefully provides some helpful tips.

To help ensure you are acting ethically and following the University’s guidelines, read the University’s principles of good research practice for publication and authorship.

 

Seek help from your colleagues

If you are working with co-authors they may be more experienced at writing and be able to help you.  You could also talk to your supervisor or other senior staff – they may be willing to act as a mentor to support and advise you with your writing.

There may be colleagues in a similar situation who will be happy to be a writing buddy.  This can be great for motivation and support while you both write your own separate work.

A critical friend may be willing to read a draft of your manuscript and offer constructive criticism to help you to improve your work.

 

Look at publisher guides

If you are understand the publishing process and know what to expect, it can be a little less daunting. Publishers often provide an introduction to their processes and offer helpful tips for preparing your paper.  Below are some examples from two publishers:

Elsevier (2015). How to publish in scholarly journals. Elsevier

IEEE (2012). How to write for technical periodicals & conferences. Piscataway, IEEE

 

Follow your journal’s guidelines

If you have chosen a journal that you intend to submit to, write your article for that journal. Read the information for authors on the journal’s web page for guidance on length of the article, style, referencing format, etc. and make sure you follow this guidance. Have a look at similar articles in the journal for further ideas on what might be expected.

If your article is rejected you will probably need to rework the article to fit the style of your second choice journal, but you are more likely to be accepted with your first journal if your article follows their guidelines.

 

Avoid common mistakes

In an article from Editage Insights (2013), the most common reasons for journal rejection  are described and some of them relate to “poor writing and organization” and “inadequate preparation of the manuscript”.  There are some useful tips on what to avoid!

 

Make use of Library resources about writing

The library has a wealth of books on academic writing, writing journal articles, scientific writing, effective writing in various disciplines, etc. Use Library Search to find books and other materials which will be helpful to you.  There may be book for your particular discipline.

Some recently acquired books include:

Gastel, B., & Day, R. (2016). How to write and publish a scientific paper (8th ed.). Santa Barbara: Greenwood.

Silvia, P. (2015). Write it up : Practical strategies for writing and publishing journal articles. Washington: American Psychological Association.

 

Have a look at a tutorial

There is a series of Epigeum online courses for researchers which includes a course on ‘Getting published in the Arts’ and a course on ‘Getting published in the sciences’.   These can be found in the ‘Academic CPD Online Courses’ organization on Blackboard – look under the ‘Research skills’ section.

 

Consider setting time aside for a writing session

It can be difficult to protect time to write, away from everyday distractions. The Doctoral School and Library Research Support Team are working together on a series of Shut Up and Write! sessions aimed at providing you with dedicated time and space to focus on your academic writing.

Find out more and book a writing session.

 

Reference management software could help

You may find using reference management software helpful. This may make adding citations and references to your manuscript easier.  It will also enable you to automatically reformat your references to suit another publication should you need to do so.  The Library Research Support Team (Email: library-research-support@shu.ac.uk) can help you with choosing which program to use and with using the software.

 

Remember copyright!

If you use third party material in your manuscript, you must make sure that you are complying with copyright and that you have appropriate permission to do so if required. Contact the Library Research Support Team if you would like more information.

Email: library-research-support@shu.ac.uk

 

Your title, abstract and keywords

Your title, abstract and keywords are the ways of helping potential readers find and assess whether the full document will be of interest to them.

Make sure your title and abstract are descriptive and attractive to potential readers:

  • They should clearly describe your work and contain the most important and relevant keywords
  • Remember that the first few words of your title is often what a potential reader sees when your paper is retrieved by a search engine. It may therefore be advisable to avoid a literary or cultural allusion or humorous phrase etc. at the beginning of your title . However, what is appropriate, can depend on your discipline and audience
  • Your abstract should summarise your publication and describe the significance and rigour of your research

If you are asked to provide keywords, consider terms which describe what your article is about and also terms which potential readers are likely to use to search for articles. Think about the vocabularies used in the various disciplines that may be interested in your work.  Looking at similar articles on library databases may be useful to give you ideas for keywords that are commonly used in your area.  If you would like help with this, please get in touch.

 

 Identify yourself clearly

Think about the ways you can help ensure that you are easily identified as the author of your work.

  • Where possible, be consistent with the version of your name that you use
  • Add your affiliation to your research outputs to help distinguish you from other authors with a similar name
  • Create an ORCID iD which uniquely identifies you

Have a look at our page on managing your researcher identity for more detailed advice on these and more.