A Guidelines Checklist for Academic and Scientific Articles
If you are preparing a research article that you hope to publish in an academic or scientific journal, it is essential to pay close attention to the journal guidelines. Most scholarly journals have such guidelines, though they are sometimes called author instructions, formatting requirements or editorial style notes. Whatever they might be called, they should always be consulted. In a few cases, a journal will instead inform prospective authors to examine sample papers to discover the appropriate documentation method and organisational structure and to glean other information that would normally be found in guidelines. Consulting sample articles will require a little more work to determine the patterns that should be used in your paper and you may want to make notes for yourself as these will be helpful as you proofread and check your work. Before a paper is submitted for publication, the following elements should be carefully checked against journal guidelines or the notes you made while reading sample papers.
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• The abstract. Journals tend to be very specific about the length and content of abstracts, so it is important to check your abstract very carefully to ensure that it meets the journal’s needs precisely and will also communicate the essence of your paper clearly to a wide range of readers.
• References. The documentation style indicated in the author instructions must be used with precision and consistency for both in-text and in-list references, so do check this information vary carefully to make sure that every detail is correct for each reference. Some journals also restrict the number of references that can be used and it is essential not to exceed the maximum limit.
• The structure. Many journals will outline or even provide a template for the structural organisation they prefer in papers, so it is worth comparing your paper with the requirements to ensure that sections, headings and other elements are appropriate.
• Tables and figures. Journals tend to give detailed instructions for the design and labelling of tables and figures and some will also restrict the number allowed, so take care to ensure that your tables and figures meet the requirements. Tables and figures often need to be submitted as separate documents as well, rather than embedded in the text of a paper, so do check for this and arrange material in your files accordingly.
• Specialised terminology and nonstandard abbreviations. Some journals give specific advice on how these aspects of scholarly writing should be treated, but in most cases you will need to explain terminology that is potentially obscure and you will certainly need to define any nonstandard abbreviations. Checking these elements carefully is vital for clear communication.
• Length. Although most journals do not have minimum word limits, they do tend to expect papers that are substantial and significant, so be sure that you have described your research thoroughly and developed your ideas well. Almost all journals have rather strict maximum length requirements, and exceeding them can earn rejection, so always make sure that your paper is an appropriate length and check, too, for any length requirements associated with particular parts of the paper.
• Personal information. It is essential to provide exactly what is requested in the places and formats indicated. Often peer review is double blind, the reviewer should not know the identity of the author and journal guidelines are designed to maintain this anonymity, so always follow the instructions precisely.
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