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Cover Letter Journal Paper Submission Corp

It may seem obvious, but a journal editor's first serious impression of a submitted manuscript lies not only with the article title but also, rather simply, with the cover letter. The cover letter is your first "formal" interaction with a journal, and it embodies a request, so to speak, to consider your article for publication. But it also provides you with an excellent opportunity to present the significance of your scientific contribution.

I've worked as an editor for primary research and review manuscripts alike, and despite their many similarities, there are distinctions to writing the cover letter for each. Here are some helpful tips for writing a suitable cover letter for Cell Press scientific journals. 

Cover letter basics: What do we look for?

1. Let's start with content. We look for letters that start by succinctly explaining what was previously known in a given field and then state the authors' motivation for wishing to publish. Following that, the conceptual advance, timeliness, and novelty should be immediately conveyed. What sets apart this scientific contribution? What is the significance of the work, and where does the article lead us? Will this research be of interest to a broad readership?

2. Get to the point. We want a concise letter that quickly gets to the main point and the take-home message; this sets the stage for your manuscript. Succinctly explain the topic of discussion, and quickly convey the key conclusions. Do not submit a long dissertation. Generally, one page suffices and is preferred.

3. Do not rehash the abstract of the paper. Copying and pasting the abstract into your cover letter verbatim is a big no-no. Instead, we seek a synthesis of the key points—possibly, and depending on style, the summary might resemble a brief story pitch in an elevator! But importantly, you need to venture beyond the summary: write a sentence that takes you further than the obvious conclusions. How does the content move the field forward? Are the implications far-reaching?

4. Get excited! Authors' excitement about their scientific contributions can undoubtedly inspire the editor who's reading the cover letter. Overall, the sentiment of "you're gonna love reading this paper!" should seep through—make that happen!

5. Include a wish list of reviewers. Relevant information on potential reviewers (including their field of expertise) can be included and is definitely a plus, as it can be quite helpful to the editor. By contrast, please don't provide a long list of excluded reviewers (three maximum), and most certainly do not suggest excluding authors from entire continents on the map! Also, save the editor some time by specifying which author should be the lead contact, and indicate their affiliation.

6. Keep it simple ... and humble. In terms of style, consider sincerity and simplicity. The letter should be humble and forthcoming; don't be ostentatious or florid. Claims of priority, if not fully supported, tend to be a turnoff. In addition, statements indicating that the article or related findings have been presented at X number of conferences and are "tremendously" well received by the scientific community—or otherwise—do not add much to the cover letter. They might instead suggest right off the bat that a lot of cooing and convincing of the journal editor will be required. So let the "science" speak for itself. Also, a statement declaring that the article is original and isn't being considered elsewhere can only add to your cause!

7. Proofread your letter by checking the spelling, grammar, and syntax. A well-written letter indicates that you take your submission seriously and that you are an author who pays attention to detail.

8. Check every detail. Avoid mistakes such as directing the cover letter to the editor(s) of a different journal, or to a different journal altogether. This might suggest that you've submitted your article elsewhere, that it might have been poorly received, and perhaps that the Cell Press journal you're submitting to isn't your first choice. It could also suggest that you don't pay sufficient attention to detail. Sadly, these sorts of errors continue to surprise me and happen more often than I would like.

The cover letter:  Primary research or Trends reviews?

There are subtle differences in writing a cover letter for a primary research journal versus a reviews journal, such as the Trends journals at Cell Press.

Many different article formats exist within both the primary research journals and the Trends journals. Make sure it's very clear which type of format you're submitting. As the Editor of Trends in Molecular Medicine, I find that this detail is not always specified by the author(s) in the cover letter. Knowing what type of manuscript you are submitting can help you fully nail down the cover letter in terms of the intent, scope, and take-home message of the article. It also recapitulates your prior agreement with the editor regarding article format: is it a review or an opinion piece?

Along these lines, the content of your cover letter will differ for a review or opinion piece as opposed to an original research contribution. For both, the timeliness and novelty need to strongly come across. However, for a research article, the specific advance relative to previous experimental findings needs to be clearly indicated. For a Trends article, the synthesis and conceptual advance should be particularly stated in terms of what is new and has been trending in the field for the last one to five years. For an opinion piece, take a strong and novel stance on a hypothesis or idea. Projecting into the future, beyond the main take-home message of the paper, is also a strong consideration for Trends articles.

I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the journal that you are submitting to—browse through the journal website and do your homework on author guidelines and the scope of the journal prior to submission! In the case of Trends journals, know who the editor is. Each Trends journal is run by a single editor, so beginning your cover letter with "Dear Madam" when the editor is male, or "Dear Sir" when the editor is female, may not create a favorable impression. While such mistakes are usually overruled by the content and quality of the science, it certainly helps to have your cover letter completely in order!

Keep on writing—we love hearing from you and receiving your submissions! For more tips on writing cover letters for scientific manuscripts, check out this page. Also read more from Cell Press Editor in Chief Emilie Marcus on when—and when not—to submit your paper.


Confidentiality Policy: Submitted manuscripts are considered both CONFIDENTIAL and EMBARGOED from the time of submission. In compliance with the Embargo Policy, no information beyond that contained in the Abstract, can be made public before the manuscript has been published. Manuscripts containing a substantial amount of overlapping information that has been previously published or made available to the readership through other venues are ineligible. For more information on JCO's originality requirements and what constitutes prior publication, please scroll down to the Originality section below.

The Confidentiality and Embargo Policies require that, prior to the embargo being lifted, all authors of the research are not allowed to:

  • Publish the information or provide it to others who may publish or disseminate it through other venues,
  • Use the information for trading in the securities of any issuer, or provide it to others who may use it for securities trading purposes.

The corresponding author is responsible for conveying this information to all parties.

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The Conduct Policy describes the responsibilities of authors, reviewers, and editors, and sets out the Journal of Clinical Oncology's approach to addressing potential misconduct when concerns arise.

Find the policy here: Conduct Policy


JCO Editors (including the Editor-in-Chief, Associate Editors, Deputy Editors and Consulting Editors) and Reviewers are required to recuse themselves when the following circumstances arise:

  • The Editor or Reviewer is the spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling or child of an author on the manuscript.
  • The Editor or Reviewer is currently employed by, or has his or her principle practice or research site at, the same institution or organization as an author on the manuscript.
  • The Editor or Reviewer is involved in ongoing, direct research collaboration with the author, including as a co-investigator or co-author on a different manuscript.
    [Note: Membership in the same cooperative group as an author is not grounds for recusal. However, participation as an investigator on the same cooperative group study as an author is grounds for recusal.]
  • The Editor or Reviewer has a relationship with a commercial interest that is relevant to the subject matter of the manuscript.
  • The Editor or Reviewer has a relationship, not listed above, that would impact his or her ability to provide a fair and objective review.

Recusal is also required upon request by the JCO Editor-in-Chief.

Questions about the recusal process should be directed to JCO staff, who will provide advice in consultation with the Editor-in-Chief, as appropriate.

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Authors submit manuscripts with the understanding that, if accepted, the copyright of the article, including the right to reproduce the article in all forms and media, shall be assigned exclusively to ASCO.

If any portion (e.g., a figure or table) of a manuscript submitted for consideration has been published previously, authors must acknowledge the original source, and submit written permission from the copyright holder to reproduce the material. Permission is required regardless of authorship or publisher, except for documents in the public domain. To request permission from a copyright holder, authors may find it helpful to use the permission template.

Upon submission, authors are required to upload these permission statements from the copyright holder using the Manuscript Processing System. An accepted manuscript will not be published if the necessary permissions have not been granted.

ASCO will not refuse any reasonable request for permission to reproduce any material published in JCO. Authors should e-mail requests to permissions@asco.org.

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Manuscripts must contain original material that is not already available elsewhere. However, authors are allowed to submit and present abstracts (i.e., oral or poster presentations) of their research in open, scientific meetings.

The title page and cover letter should include a statement verifying the originality of the work, and disclose any previous abstracts, presentations, reports, or publications that contain material that might be perceived to overlap with the current submission. If a similar publication exists, the authors should upload a copy as a supplemental file as part of the submission process, and justify why their submission is considered non-overlapping and novel. If applicable, authors should cite any previously published or closely related work within the text.

JCO will not accept for review any manuscript that is currently under review at another journal.

Authors can post their results in clinical trial registries or submit them to government regulatory agencies (e.g., FDA or EMA) without the manuscript being considered previously published or an overlapping publication.

JCO follows the guidelines from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors section on Overlapping Publications (Overlapping Publications)

On rare occasions, JCO will consider co-publication of guidelines manuscripts with a limited number of other journals, assuming that the following conditions are met:

  • A written request must be approved by the Editor-in-Chief prior to guidelines manuscript submission, justifying the need for co-publication, as well as indicating the specific journals being considered.
  • JCO editors retain responsibility for evaluating the guidelines manuscript and deciding its appropriateness for JCO, including peer review, revision, and final decision making.
  • Should the guidelines manuscript be accepted by JCO, transfer of the copyright to ASCO will occur per our usual process. Such a copyright may be shared with the other journals involved.
  • Online co-publication of the guidelines manuscript must occur simultaneously in all involved journals. The corresponding author of the guidelines manuscript accepts responsibility for ensuring that this will occur.

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Conflict of Interest


In compliance with standards established by ASCO's Conflict of Interest Policy (J Clin Oncol 35:796, 2017), ASCO's intent is to promote balance, independence, objectivity, and scientific rigor in all of its editorial policies related to JCO, through the disclosure of financial and other interests, and in the identification and management of potential conflicts. The financial interests or relationships requiring disclosure are outlined in the ASCO Conflict of Interest Policy. All contributors to JCO are required to disclose financial and other relationships with entities that have an investment, licensing, or other commercial interest in the subject matter of their manuscript. These disclosures should include, but are not limited to, relationships with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, device manufacturers, or other commercial entities whose products or services are related to the subject matter of the submission.

Disclosures of financial interests or relationships involving the authors must be addressed on the Author Disclosure Declaration. Each author must complete a declaration form for each manuscript submitted. The corresponding author must enter this information as part of the online submission process, but should not send hard copies of the forms to the Editorial Office.

For new submissions started after 6:30 pm EDT on March 24, 2014, please use the new JCO Author Disclosure Declaration and Author Contribution form

This form is also available for download in the Author Area of the manuscript processing system or upon request from the Editorial Office. The Editorial Office recommends that corresponding authors collect the Author Disclosure Declaration from all other authors before starting the formal online submission. All disclosures appear in print at the end of all published articles.

Please note that authors being solicited for editorials or podcasts should alert JCO immediately if there is a conflict of interest that might be perceived to bias their ability to provide objective commentary on a given paper. JCO reserves the right to decline an editorial or podcast contribution if there is sufficient evidence to give the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Disclosure of Research Funding Instructions

  • Disclose financial research support received from commercial entities under question #7 (Research Funding) on the Author Disclosure Declaration (note that funding from government or nonprofit entities should not be disclosed here).
  • Acknowledge financial research support of the study on the manuscript title page (see Manuscript Preparation Guidelines), rather than on the form.
  • Disclose commercial research funding received by an author's institution, cooperative group, or clinical division on the form if the author has received benefit (eg, salary support).
  • For more information, see Questions and Answers Regarding the ASCO Conflict of Interest Policy.

Editors and Reviewers

Editors and reviewers are required to disclose financial interests or relationships, and are asked to answer the same questions as authors. Reviewers are asked to disclose potential conflicts when accepting a review assignment. These disclosures are held in confidence within the Editorial Office, while the Editors' disclosures are published online annually as an adjunct to "JCO and the Public Trust" (J Clin Oncol 24:323, 2004). To find the Editors' disclosure information, click on the Editors' Disclosure Statement link associated with this article.

If in doubt about reporting any potential conflict of interest, it is better to declare a conflict than not. For additional information regarding ASCO's Conflict of Interest Policy, please visit ASCO.org.

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Authorship Contributions

JCO adheres to the guidelines on authorship established by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors statement on Authorship and Contribution. According to these guidelines, the criteria established for authorship are intended to present an honest account of what took place. Those with substantial intellectual contributions or who have written the manuscript should be included as an author.

Entering patients for study or providing funding or administrative oversight are not sufficient for authorship; instead these contributions should appear in the Acknowledgment section.

If someone other than the authors, such as a science writer or corporate employee, has participated in writing the paper, this participation must be disclosed. If a multicenter group conducted the research, the group should identify a writing committee that accepts direct responsibility for the manuscript.

Authors themselves, not JCO, are responsible for settling any disputes about authorship, acknowledgements, or institutional affiliations. In addition, the authors themselves, not JCO, are responsible for ensuring proper attribution of institutions and agencies where the research was conducted.

Author Contribution Forms must be completed and submitted as part of every online submission. These forms should be forwarded to the corresponding author, rather than the Editorial Office.

For new submissions started after 6:30 pm EDT on March 24, 2014, please use the new JCO Author Disclosure Declaration and Author Contribution form

The forms are also available in the Author Area of the manuscript processing system or upon request from the Editorial Office.

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Corresponding Author

Selecting the corresponding author:

  • The corresponding author is the primary contact with the journal.
  • Any author can be the corresponding author.
  • Only one author can be the corresponding author.

Role of the corresponding author:

  • meets submission requirements and submits the manuscript to the journal
  • ensures all authors have reviewed and approved the final version of the manuscript prior to submission
  • ensures completion of authorship forms—this includes conflicts of interest forms for all authors
  • distributes decision letters, reviewer comments, and other messages from the journal, and distributes proofs among coauthors for review
  • returns corrections and ensures that all authors approve each version of the article

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Open Access

See Open Access.

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Preprint Policy for ASCO Journals

ASCO journals will consider publication of manuscripts that contain information previously posted on preprint servers. However, authors should be advised that the degree to which the submitted manuscript overlaps with what is already posted on the preprint server may affect the novelty of the findings for ASCO journal readership, and this will be taken into account in the evaluation of the manuscript. If a report has been published on a preprint server prior to manuscript submission, this must be acknowledged during the submission process. In addition, a link to that document must be provided so that reviewers and editors can evaluate the preprinted information and compare it with the submitted manuscript. Failure to acknowledge prior dissemination of research posted on preprint servers or similar databases will jeopardize the status of the submission. When such a manuscript has been submitted to an ASCO journal, no revisions should be posted to the preprint server during the manuscript's peer review process. If the manuscript is eventually accepted for publication, no revisions should be posted on the preprint server until the final manuscript is published online by ASCO, and any such revisions must not deviate from the final version of the manuscript published by ASCO. Finally, once the manuscript has been published by an ASCO journal, any future changes to the manuscript such as errata, discovered by the authors after journal publication for instance, must be first submitted, approved, and published by ASCO, prior to making any changes to the preprint document. Violation of this preprint policy will be considered grounds for article retraction.

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JCO asks that all authors register for an ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID), which should be provided to JCO at the time of online submission. ORCID is a persistent digital identifier that uniquely identifies contributors as they engage in research, scholarship, and innovation activities. For more information, and to register, please visit ORCID.org.

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