Writing a Cover Letter For Your Scientific Manuscript


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The cover letter is your chance to lobby on behalf of your manuscript. The letter is far from just a formality and should be written with the same care as your manuscript’s text (if not more). Ultimately, your cover letter is designed to influence the decision of the editor to send your manuscript out for peer review. Sometimes great science will be reviewed regardless of the cover letter, but a well written cover letter is useful for the vast majority of scientists who want to make their research stand out. American Journal Experts wishes you the best of luck with your research!

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Writing a Cover Letter For Your Scientific Manuscript

  1. 1. Information for authors: © 2012 American Journal Experts, LLC
  2. 2. Outline The goal of a good cover letter The structure of a good cover letter Other tips Sample cover letter
  3. 3. The goal of the cover letter  Lobby for your paper  Good fit for the journal  Of interest to the journal’s readers  No conflicts of interest that would be a barrier  Get the editor interested in your paper  Move your paper from “rejected without review” to “sent out for review”
  4. 4. Write carefully  Many authors rush to finish the cover letter during the submission process  Remember that the cover letter may be the only thing that the editor reads  Give it the same effort you gave your manuscript
  5. 5. Outline The goal of a good cover letter The structure of a good cover letter Other tips Sample cover letter
  6. 6. Structure of a cover letter  Business letter format  Topics to cover: ▪ Description of the study ▪ Importance of the study ▪ Fit for the journal ▪ Assurance that the work is original and unpublished ▪ Suggested reviewers (if requested) or reviewers to avoid
  7. 7. The beginning  Include your contact information  Include information about the addressee  Name of Editor/Editor-in-Chief, if known  Name of journal Editorial Office  Standard greeting  Dear Dr. Smith:  Dear Editor:  Avoid “to whom it may concern”
  8. 8. Opening paragraph  Manuscript details  Title  Authors  Type of article (especially if not original research)  Give a 1- or 2-sentence summary of the paper  Definitely mention if this paper builds on a previous paper published in that journal
  9. 9. Second paragraph  Continue to describe your key findings  No need to hedge with soft words, but don’t make outrageous claims  Don’t use numbers or statistics unless critical for your conclusions  This is your “elevator pitch” – a short, convincing synopsis of your work  Can combine with first paragraph, depending on its length
  10. 10. Third paragraph  Explain the fit of the paper for the journal  Go beyond “novel”/”of interest”  Specifically address Aims & Scope  Why would their readers want to read your article?
  11. 11. Final paragraph(s)  Formalities  The manuscript is original  The manuscript is not under review elsewhere or published elsewhere  There are no conflicts of interest to disclose  Suggest reviewers, if asked  Mention researchers that should NOT review your paper  Be polite!
  12. 12. Outline The goal of a good cover letter The structure of a good cover letter Other tips Sample cover letter
  13. 13. Other tips  Grab the editor’s attention!  It’s okay to make bolder claims here, within reason  “Our manuscript defines a novel enzyme from…”  “This paper answers several important questions about…”  Alter the strength of your language based on your target journal
  14. 14. Other tips  Do:  Highlight important results/conclusions  Explain why readers of that journal would benefit from those results  Don’t:  Speak negatively about other papers/researchers  Complain about previous rejections
  15. 15. Other tips  Take your time and craft the letter carefully  Have a colleague look it over  Pay attention to the details  Italicize the journal name and species names  Spell the editor’s name correctly  Check other spelling and spacing
  16. 16. Possible mistakes  Irrelevant material  Citing one of your previous papers that does not relate to the current study  Anything meant for a different journal!  Distracting details  Numbers or p-values  Information on methods (unless that is the focus)  Repetition  No space to waste
  17. 17. Outline The goal of a good cover letter The structure of a good cover letter Other tips Sample cover letter
  18. 18. Sample cover letter Your contact information Recipient’s information Date and greeting
  19. 19. Sample cover letter Authors Manuscript title Brief introduction and important results
  20. 20. Sample cover letter Fit for journal Specific tie to journal scope Reviewer to avoid Possible reviewers (if needed)
  21. 21. Sample cover letter Closing Your name and affiliation
  22. 22. Summary  The cover letter can “tip the scales” in your favor and lead to getting your paper reviewed  Main parts:  Brief introduction to manuscript  Key results (and their importance)  Fit for journal (why will their readers care?)  Conflict of interest/originality statement  Suggested reviewers (or people to avoid)  Focus on the paper’s strengths – sell, sell, sell!
  23. 23. About us  American Journal Experts (AJE) offers high-quality editing, translation, peer review, and manuscript and figure formatting services. To learn more, visit our site at www.journalexperts.com.  AJE also provides author education resources through in-person workshops and our Expert Edge site (http://expertedge.journalexperts.com). If you are interested in hearing more about our workshop series, contact us at education@journalexperts.com.