Preparing your manuscript

There are many aspects of writing for publication and practices 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

You may also find guides to styles in particular disciplines.  For example, the following guide of is part of  the guidance provided by the publisher Elsevier:

Goss, D. (2015). Some hints on mathematical style. Elsevier

Author services from publishers also provide a lot of useful advice.  For example, Taylor and Francis Author Services provide a lot of advice about writing your paper as well as about the whole publishing process.

Look at the guidance provided by publishers you are considering.


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.


Your title, abstract and keywords

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

Consider if your title and abstract describe your work appropriately, will be attractive to potential readers and will result in search engines retrieving your work:

  • 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.

Plain language summaries

Providing a plain language summary with your work, makes your research more accessible to a lay or public audience, by presenting it in a clear and jargon free way.

Some research funders ask for plain language summaries.  For example, the NIHR  ask for a plain English summary in funding applications and in research reports submitted to their journal library. Even when a plain English summary is not required, it is a useful thing to do.

Some journals host and promote lay summaries. Below are some examples:

Add a plain language summary to your work on SHURA

You can provide a plain language summary to accompany an accepted or published journal article or conference paper which you are depositing on Elements and SHURA.  The Elements help pages have a section on how to do this.

Further information

Bredbenner, K. & Simon, S. M. (2019). Video abstracts and plain language summaries are more effective than graphical abstracts and published abstracts. PLoS ONE 14(11): e0224697.

Plain-language summaries: How to write an eLife digest. Inside eLife  15 Mar 2017.

Elsevier provide this brief guide: In a nutshell: how to write a lay summary

You can also find guidance on how to write an effective plain English summary on the NIHR Involve site.

Identifying yourself clearly as an author

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 identity and impact for more detailed advice on these and more.

Unique identifiers for your outputs: ISBNs, ISSNs and DOIs

These are unique identifiers for publications and research outputs which you can use to identify your work:

  • International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) for books
  • International Serial Standard Numbers (ISSNs) for serials such as journals and monograph series
  • DOIs for digital documents such as journal articles and conferences papers

If you are publishing your work through a publisher it is very likely that they well assign a unique identifier.  If you are publishing through the university or self-publishing, you may wish to do this yourself.  The information below explains more about the identifiers and how to get them.

‘International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs)

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) are unique identifiers for books and related material.  You will need an ISBN for your publication if you wish to sell it through bookshops and online retailers as they rely on ISBNs to identify, select and stock the correct titles and editions. It is advisable to get the ISBN before you publish, so it can be printed on the work itself.

There is no requirement for a book to have an ISBN.

How do I get an ISBN?

The Library at SHU can provide you with an ISBN if you are publishing a book through the University.  Please contact the Library Research Support Team: Email: or call: (0114) 225 3852

If you are self-publishing a book externally to the University and you need to obtain an ISBN, you can buy an ISBN through the Nielsen UK ISBN Agency.

If you are publishing through a publisher, they will usually organise an ISBN for your book.

Legal Deposit of books: the British Library

The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 requires one copy of each book to be sent to the Legal Deposit Office of the British Library within one month of publication and specifies other libraries which are entitled to a copy upon request.  Please be prepared to provide at least one and up to five copies for this purpose. If you are publishing through the University, the Library Acquisitions team will submit these on your behalf.

The requirement for legal deposit also covers electronic materials. If your book is published in print and electronically you only need to deposit one medium – this would usually be the print format. If your publication is only in electronic format and is freely accessible on the web, the British Library will attempt to archive it through a crawling process.  If access to the book requires a password, subscription or payment, the British Library will contact you.

For more information see the Legal Deposit pages on the British Library website.

International Standard Serial Numbers (ISSNs)

An International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is an internationally accepted code which identifies the title of a serial publication. Serials are publications that have multiple issues published over time, which retain the same title for each issue and for which there is no planned end. Examples include whole journals, magazines, annual reports and monograph series.  The ISSN UK Centre assigns ISSNs to publications.  If you are the editor of a serial publication produced at SHU and would like to obtain an ISSN, please contact the Library Research Support Team: Email: or call: (0114) 225 3852

If you work is going to appear in a journal or other serial published by a publisher, the serial should already have an ISSN.

Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs)

A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is a unique identifier for an online resource.  DOIs are routinely assigned to research outputs such as journal articles, conference papers, reports, dissertations and data sets.

The DOI service


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: 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.