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12 Tips for Accelerating Manuscript Publication

Summary

  • This article presents 12 best practices for speeding up time to publication on your research manuscript.
  • Start the manuscript preparation process early, especially with writing and planning your figures.
  • Target the best journal for your research and keep lines of communication open.

Research is often a slow process, requiring the careful design, optimization, and replication of experiments. By the time you have accrued enough data to write a manuscript, you will likely want to publish as soon as possible. Rapid publication can accelerate the dissemination of findings, decrease the likelihood of being scooped, and allow a quicker return to the laboratory to work on the next study. Whether you are currently performing experiments or are in the midst of writing, the following tips may help to increase your publication speed:

1. Keep your figures in mind

Designing key experiments with publication in mind, including the proper controls and layout, reduces the time wasted on repeating work to obtain more complete or presentable data. Additionally, consider drafting your figures early, particularly because this process can become more time consuming and daunting if weeks or months have passed since you collected the data. AJE’s academic illustration services are also a good source for assistance with figure formatting or creation of custom illustrations, especially when you are pressed for time.

2. Start writing early

Even if you do not have a complete set of experiments, you can begin writing your paper right away. The background/introduction section, which is typically based on past research, lends itself particularly well to prewriting. Composing the materials and methods section while the protocols are still fresh in your mind can also expedite manuscript preparation.

3. Write clearly

Unfortunately, the publication of a well-designed study with significant implications may be impeded by unclear writing. In particular, editors and reviewers may have difficulty understanding the content and may even harbor negative bias against poorly written manuscripts, making rejection more likely. This is a particular barrier to publication for non-native English speakers. For help with your writing, consider asking your colleagues for input on your manuscript, referring to AJE’s Author Resource Center for editing tips, and/or using AJE’s editing services or translation services.

4. Use reference formatting software

This type of software can be used to archive relevant references, decreasing the time spent on searching for papers that you have read previously. Moreover, when you are working on a manuscript, reference managers can automatically format your citations according to the target journal’s guidelines and update your reference list whenever you add or remove a citation, saving additional time. Software such as Zotero is freely available.

5. Know when to submit

If you already have a large amount of data on hand but are still running experiments, consider whether your research can be split into two separate stories. This approach will allow the faster publication of earlier studies, even before later ones are finished.

6. Seek pre-publication peer review

Using a service such as Peerage of Science or Axios, which provide peer review before journal submission, can further increase publication speed. You can also simply get feedback from your colleagues on the strength of your paper using our free developmental editing template. With this feedback in hand before you submit, you can avoid some of the objections of journal reviewers.

7. Choose the right journal

To increase the probability of paper acceptance, try to select a journal whose scope is a good fit for your research focus. Conferring with your colleagues, reviewing your own reference list, and browsing journals’ websites and recent tables of contents may be useful for this purpose. You may also want to consider journals and publishers (such as Elsevier) that favor a more rapid turnaround between submission and decision-making. Submitting to open access journals, such as PeerJ and PLOS ONE (advertised as “accelerating the publication of peer-reviewed science”), which tend to focus on scientific validity over novelty and significance, may further help to hasten publication.

8. Contact the journal

A pre-submission inquiry consists of a letter written to a journal to gauge its interest in your manuscript. This inquiry may help to rapidly determine whether your paper would be a good fit for the journal without having to proceed through the entire submission and peer review process. Different journals may have varying requirements for the content of these requests; for example, Current Biology requires submission of the abstract of your manuscript along with your letter. Note that in certain cases, such as when considering publication in PLOS Medicine, a pre-submission inquiry may in fact be required.

9. Adhere to the guidelines

Follow the guidelines of the target journal carefully for the cover letter, main text, references, figures and tables, and any supplementary information to avoid unnecessary delays in publication. AJE’s manuscript formatting service can facilitate adherence to such guidelines.

10. Write an effective cover letter

The cover letter that accompanies your submission provides the opportunity to highlight the relevance of your work to the journal and to showcase your key findings. An effective cover letter sent to an appropriate journal can potentially convince the editor to immediately send your manuscript out for review.

11. Follow up with the journal

If you submitted your manuscript to a journal but still have not received a decision, you may want to consider checking with the editor about the status of your submission. The standard amount of time from submission to decision making can vary between journals and fields, so you may want to confer with colleagues or check the journal website to determine whether you have been waiting longer than usual.

12. Write an effective response to reviewers

A thorough, clear, and polite response to editors’ and reviewers’ comments will help to reduce the likelihood of rejection or another round of review, thus saving you additional time.

Wherever you are in the process of researching and writing, we hope that these 12 tips will help to accelerate the publication of your manuscript. You can also refer to our Choosing a Journal series for further guidance on publishing in a timely fashion, or send us an email any time at [email protected]. AJE wishes you the best of luck!

TagsPeer review and publicationWriting and translationPublishing processLanguage editingManuscript formattingTools and resourcesData tables and figuresPeerJPLOS ONEZotero

Submission Instructions

These are step-by-step instructions for submitting a manuscript to our online submission system.

Do not resubmit your manuscript if you have otherwise already submitted it to PLOS ONE. If you are submitting a revised manuscript, read the revision guidelines. If you are responding to a technical check inquiry, follow the instructions you receive by email from PLOS staff.

Keep this page open for your reference as you move through the submission process.

  Before you submit, refer to our sample files to ensure that your submission meets our formatting requirements:

Begin

Go to our online submission system and log in.

Submit new manuscript

Click on the “Submit New Manuscript” link under the “New Submissions” heading. This will take you to a new screen.

Article type

Next, select your article type. Most submissions will be either a Research Article or a Clinical Trial.

Title

Enter the title and short title of your manuscript. Please enter your titles in sentence case (capitalize only the first word of the title, the first word of the subtitle, and any proper nouns and genus names). Do not enter titles in all capital letters.

Contributors

Next you will be asked to enter the names, email addresses, and institutional affiliations for each author. Each author should have made real and concrete contributions to the manuscript; you will have the opportunity to describe each author’s contribution in a further step. Each author should also be aware of the submission and approve the manuscript submitted. PLOS does not condone or accept guest authorship.

Read our authorship policy.

Corresponding author

Additionally, you will be asked to designate one author to act as corresponding author. Note that this is the person who will receive correspondence from the PLOS ONE editorial office, but does not need to be the person who will appear as corresponding author on the paper if accepted.

The corresponding author is responsible for ensuring that the author list and author contributions are accurate and complete. The person noted as the corresponding author should be the person who is actually responsible for ensuring that all the proper forms are submitted and accurate, and should be readily available for correspondence if PLOS ONE editors have questions or concerns.

The corresponding author must provide an ORCID iD at the time of submission by entering it in the user profile in the submission system. For more information about how to register for an ORCID iD and link it to Editorial Manager, watch this short video.

If a corresponding author will not be available for an extended period of time, please inform PLOS ONE at plosone@plos.org.

Read more information about designating corresponding authors and about corresponding author responsibilities.

Category

Next, you’ll receive a prompt about your paper’s Section/Category. If your paper describes primary research on human subjects, indicate that here by selecting the category Clinical; if not, select Other.

Abstract 

This should exactly match the text of the Abstract in your manuscript file.

Keywords

These will help expedite the internal processing of your manuscript. You will not have another opportunity to edit these, so please make sure to add concise, accurate keywords at this point.

Competing interests

Please declare any affiliations or relationships that could be viewed as potentially competing interests. This information will be published with the final manuscript, if accepted, so please make sure that this is accurate and as detailed as possible.

Read our policy on declaring competing interests.

Financial disclosure

Please disclose your funders and the role they played in your manuscript. This information will be published with the final manuscript, if accepted, so please make sure that this is accurate and as detailed as possible.

Please include relevant grant numbers and the URL of any funder’s website. Please also state whether any individuals employed or contracted by the funders (other than the named authors) played any role in: study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. If so, please name the individual and describe their role. If no individuals employed or contracted by the funder(s), other than the authors, were involved in these tasks and the authors had unrestricted access to the data, please state, “The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.”

Ethics statement

You must provide an ethics statement if your study made use of human or vertebrate animal subjects and/or tissue. The text in this field should exactly match the text of the ethics statement in the body of your paper; we recommend that you cut and paste your paper’s ethics statement into this field. The information submitted here will be evaluated by the PLOS ONE editors to ensure that it meets our standards, so please include as much information as possible. See the PLOS ONE Criteria for Publication for more information about ethics requirements.

Previous interactions

If you are submitting your manuscript following a recommendation from another PLOS journal, or if you have had a previous interaction with PLOS ONE about the manuscript or closely related manuscripts, please indicate the extent of your previous interaction here.

Suggest Academic Editors

Please recommend 2-5 Academic Editors from our board who you feel are qualified to handle your submission based on their areas of expertise.

Collections submission

Please indicate if you are submitting your paper as a part of a collection. Read more information about PLOS Collections.

New taxon 

If your paper describes a new taxon, please give its name. Read the guidelines for describing a new taxon.

Dual publications

Please explain whether any of the elements of your paper have ever been published anywhere before. If so, we may have to consider copyright issues, so it is very important that you provide this information in full.

US Government employee

If you are an employee of the US Government, please indicate that here.

Author contributions

This is a series of questions that will enable you to state the contributions of each author. Each author listed on the manuscript should have made a real and concrete contribution to the submission, and each person who contributed to the manuscript should be listed. More information about authorship can be found in the Editorial Policies.

Required statements

Next you must enter your initials to indicate your agreement with four required statements regarding PLOS Editorial and Publishing Policies.

Direct billing to institutions and funders

If your institution has a direct billing relationship with PLOS, please indicate this here.

Publication fees

Select the country that provided the primary funding for the research in the submission.

For questions about publication fees, you must  contact the Author Billing department. Do not email the journal about publication fees.

Enter comments

You may enter comments for the editorial office here.

Oppose reviewers

If there are people you think should not be invited to review your paper, please provide their information here, as well as the reason for opposition. If there are any Academic Editors you think should not be invited to review your paper, please also provide their information here, making clear that they are an editor, not a reviewer. You must also provide an explanation for your opposition.  The editorial team will respect these requests so long as this does not interfere with the objective and thorough assessment of the submission. 

Attach files

Now you will upload your cover letter and each of the files to be included in your manuscript. For each file you upload to the system, you will select the file type from the “Item” drop down menu. Enter or amend the autofill description for each file in the Description box. When you are done uploading files, you will have an opportunity to review your file inventory before finalizing your submission.

Review file inventory

When you are satisfied, click “Next” at the bottom of this page. If you experience any issues with your figures, please use the PACE tool to assess them. Watch this short video for instructions about using PACE. 

Create a PDF

In this step, the system will merge all of your files into a PDF for your approval. When you are ready, approve the PDF to finalize your submission.

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