Writing for publication
What is writing for publication and why is it important? Answers to your questions, and useful resources.
Select the expander for FAQs on planning your article, writing it, getting it reviewed and tasks post-publication.
Step 1: Planning FAQs
What are predatory journals?
A journal which will publish papers exploiting the open access model. Authors will often pay to have their paper published. Find more information on ‘Predatory Publishers’ and journal credentials below:
- predatory Journals: what they are and how to avoid them
- Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)
- Open Access Scholarly Publishers’ Association (OASPA)
What are impact factors?
Impact factors are rankings which allow researchers, academics and clinicians to see how many times an article from a journal has been cited in a year.
Find more information on impact factors and selecting a journal for publication, see below:
- Web of Science Journal Citation Reports
- SCOPUS Journal Rankings and Metrics
How do I select a publisher or journal?
Deciding where to publish can be difficult but you can use a variety of tools, resources, and support from a librarian to help.
Consider the journals that you and your colleagues find useful. You can also review the main publishers for your subject area.
Deciding where you are going to publish early will save you time in the long term. Once you have chosen a publisher, you can use their author guidelines to structure your paper.
Find some key publishers below:
- Elsevier: submit your paper or Research Academy
- Oxford University Press: publishing guidelines
- Routledge: publishing, guidelines and forms
- Sage: resources for journal authors, editors and reviewers
- Springer Nature: manuscript preparation
- Wiley Blackwell: guidelines for authors
Finally, NHS Scotland has produced their own guide to selecting a journal.
What is intellectual property?
Having the right type of intellectual property protection will protect your work from people stealing it.
Visit the UK Government for patents, trademarks, copyright and designs for more information. Alternatively visit Information Commissioners Office (ICO) for guidance on Intellectual property rights and disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act.
What is copyright?
Copyright protects your work and stops others from using it without your permission.
It is automatic, you don’t need to register. Your employment contract may state that the copyright of anything you publish in role will be owned by the organisation.
When publishing, the contract will often state copyright is transferred to the publisher. As an author you will retain the moral copyright on the information usage. Here are The rights granted by copyright.
What licence should I choose?
There is a guide to the types of licences you can expect to encounter as an author on the Creative Commons website along with an explanation about how others can use your work.
Do I need an ORCiD?
An ORCiD account can ensure that you are distinguished from every other researcher. You can link all your published work together under your own unique ORCiD.
To register and start using your own ID visit the ORCiD website.
What do I need to consider when it comes to funding?
Finding opportunities for funding your research can be difficult, especially at junior levels. However, there are a few organisations you might want to explore which fund researchers at all levels to address important questions.
What is an Article Processing Charge (APC) and who pays it?
Even in Open Access publishing, there are costs. You may be asked to cover the Article Processing Charge (APC) as an author. Thinking about APC early on will allow you to factor these costs in to your application for a research grant, allowing you to budget for publication.
The Open University has a clear guide to APCs. If you are studying at a university or have an honorary contract with an academic institution, you might want to explore whether they have arrangements with certain publishers (OUP, BMJ, Elsevier). This may mean that the institution will cover the APC.
Where can I find support on ethics and ethical approval?
The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) has guidance, toolkits and flowcharts which covers all aspects of ethics approval.
Ethical guidelines are in place to ensure the integrity of the researcher. Publishers will investigate any allegations of ethical issues. These may include author disputes, plagiarism, and competing interests.
If you are still unsure, consult your local research department for assistance in completing an ethics approval form.
Where do I start with literature searching?
Most NHS Trusts will have a dedicated library and knowledge service. If your Trust does not have a library service, they may have a service level agreement with another organisation to provide evidence services.
Your local library staff should be able to help you develop literature searching skills and can support your through the process.
Find your local library service via Health Library & Information Services Directory.
NHS England have also produced a guide to evidence searching on difference databases and interfaces.
How do I assess the quality of research identified in my literature search?
Critical appraisal is the process of systematically assessing the reporting of a piece of research. This takes into consideration the validity and application of methods, correct reporting of the results and justification for the interpretation of the results.
The CASP network produces a series of checklists which can help appraise different study designs (RCTs, qualitative research, case reports, etc.).
NHS England has produced an online course for critical appraisal on e-Learning for Health.
Will my Trust have a local policy on publishing?
Your organisation may have a local research publication policy. This policy will be a useful source of information on authorship, copyright, declarations of interest and acknowledgement of sponsors/funders.
This policy may be owned or published by a Research and Innovation department.
What is Open Access publishing?
Publishing via Open Access means that your research will be available to readers at no cost to them.
Work which is not published via an Open Access model may remain behind a paywall or may require your local library service to pay for a subscription to the journal.
There are two main types of Open Access publishing:
Green Open Access: a publication is freely added to an open access repository such as PubMed Central or Biomed Central. It is then available for free to readers.
Gold Open Access: ensures that a publication is permanently accessible to everyone via the publisher platform. Gold Open Access will usually involve an Article Processing Charge.
To find out more about Open Access, visit JISC’s Introduction to Open Access.
You can also review specific publisher Open Access policies via Sherpa Romeo from JISC.
What types of study design should I choose?
There are many types of study design for research. It will depend on the question which you are trying to answer.
A useful overview of study designs can be found in a paper by Ranganathan et al. entitled Study designs: Part 1 – An overview and classification
Key study designs include:
- case studies
- controlled clinical trials
- observational studies
- descriptive studies
- systematic reviews
- meta analyses
- cross sectional studies
- cohort studies
Step 2: Writing your article FAQs
How should I structure my paper?
Think about writing a plain language summary of your research that is understandable to a non-clinical audience. Cochrane provides plain language guidance for their Cochrane Reviews which may be helpful.
Finally, the Research Toolkit from NHS England can assist you in writing up your findings.
What should I include in my abstract/title?
The abstract and title are the most visible part of your paper and a primary way in which others will be able to find and read your research. Ensure your research paper has a clear title and is concise. You can also be deliberate with the keywords which you choose for your title.
A well-designed title will aid in the discoverability of your work and attract citations from other researchers. Research has shown that shorter titles are more commonly cited than longer titles.
Biomed Central provide guidance on writing abstracts and titles.
How should I reference other studies in my paper?
Referencing styles will be dictated by the publisher and journal in which you publish. Consider using a reference manager to help you produce a reference list and cite other papers correctly. Examples include EndNote, Mendeley and RefWorks.
Your NHS Library may be able to help you use reference managers.
Below are some help guides on specific reference managers from the Bodleian Libraries:
How should I affiliate and how do I indicate authorship?
Authors who have contributed to the paper should be acknowledged and receive credit for their work.
Generally, the first author named on the paper should be the individual who has done most of the work, including writing the manuscript. The final author named on the paper is the corresponding author and is usually the lead for the research or most senior.
Affiliations to your organisation should be clear. If you need to affiliate to more than one organisation, some publishers will allow this. Some only allow one affiliation per author.
Finally, consider whether you have had support from your local NHS librarian. Would you consider acknowledging them in your paper or making them a co-author if they have provided significant support?
What should I think about before submitting my manuscript?
- think: are you submitting your research to a trusted journal or publisher?
- check: use a checklist to assess the journal or publisher.
- submit: only submit if you can answer ‘yes’ to the questions on the checklist.
The Think, Check, Submit site contains a range of guides which can be used to assess the quality of a journal or publisher.
Where can I find support for reviewing feedback?
Taking feedback on board is essential in writing for publication. The University of Leeds have produced a series of guides on understanding your feedback.
Proof reading and reviewing your content is important if you want to produce high quality work. There are 5 main stages to reviewing and proofreading your research. These include:
- content and relevance
- clarity, style and coherence
- grammatical correctness
- spelling and punctuation
Further resources on proof reading and reviewing your work can be found in the following sources:
- McMillan, K. (2011) How to write dissertations & project reports. Pearson Prentice Hall.
- Cottrell, S. (2014) Dissertations and project reports : a step by step guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Step 3: In review FAQs
What is peer review?
Peer review is essential in publishing and research. Peer reviewers are leaders in the field. They will sign up for peer review and help to ensure that:
- gaps are identified in manuscripts
- manuscripts are easy to read
- manuscripts are important to the field
Types of Peer Review include:
- single-blind: authors do not know who reviewed their work, but reviewers will be aware of the author’s name.
- double-blind: reviewers are unaware of the author’s name, authors are unaware of the reviewer’s name.
- open peer: authors know who the reviewers are, and reviewers know the authors.
- transparent peer: reviewers know who the authors are, authors do not know who has reviewed their work unless it is signed by the reviewer.
- non-selective review: Rather than reviewing how important the papers subject matter will be, all papers which meet the criteria of the reviewers (sound, reliable, etc.) are published regardless. The purpose of this is to ensure that good papers can still be published in high profile journals regardless of space.
For more information on peer review, visit Biomed Central.
What responses can I expect following peer review?
Responses which authors can expect following peer review include:
- revise and submit: suggestions will be made to the authors that they review sections of their manuscript and resubmit
- minor corrections: Suggestions will be made to make small alterations to spelling, sentence structure, etc.
- acceptance: a manuscript has been accepted and will be published in the journal
- rejection: the manuscript submission has been denied and will not be published
Planning your approach or response to the outcome of peer-review is useful. PLOS has produced a guide on ‘How to Receive and Respond to Peer Review Feedback’.
What are the most common reasons for rejection?
The following are the most common reasons for the rejection of a manuscript or paper:
- subject not relevant to the submitted journal
- weak hypothesis
- basic research
- no acknowledgment of previous research
- inadequate methodology (small sample or poor statistical analysis)
- no interpretation of results
- study not contextualised
- conflict of interest not declared
- ethical standards not met
- suspected or confirmed plagiarism
- poor language, spelling, or syntax
- no new information for the field
- poor referencing
Step 4: Post Publication FAQs
How can I increase the visibility of my research?
Your research is more likely to be noticed and used by others if it is visible and accessible. This will increase your academic kudos within the scientific community and the likelihood of your work making a positive impact.
The University of Pittsburgh outlines 6 main steps to increase visibility:
- Get an ORCiD.
- Share outputs of your research.
- Create and keep an up-to-date online profile.
- Engage in social networking communities.
- Notify local communications department to promote research
Another key method of promoting your work is to attend a relevant conference and present your work as a poster or conference abstract.
Many big publishers also produce their own guides for increasing the visibility of your research. One example is the 9 free resources to promote your research from Elsevier.
Finally ensure that you notify the owners of local/institutional repositories of the publication of your paper. Adding it to a searchable repository will increase the discoverability of your work.
How can I use social media to increase the visibility of my work?
The Times Higher Education has produced a blog post on the 10 ways you can use social media to get your research noticed, this includes:
- eye catching visualisations and infographics
- providing links to open access versions of research
- recognising social media promotion as part of the research process
Loughborough University has a research guide on measuring research visibility.
How do I increase the searchability of my work?
A paper on Effective Strategies for Increasing Citation Frequency also highlights the importance of ‘keywords’. Keywords are vital ways in which other researchers will discover your work.
Use specific keywords which reflect the important aspects of your paper. Consider what you would look for if you were searching for your own research.
- remove any keywords which are too broad narrow, obscure or misleading
- be descriptive with your title: your title should clearly tell your reader what your paper is about
- keep your keywords relevant
- include the top 3 keywords in your title
- keep your title between 50 and 140 characters
- title, abstract and keywords are the most important aspects of your paper, especially when it comes to search engine optimisation
How can I increase the ‘citability’ of my research?
By contributing to the research landscape, you are contributing to the research discourse. If you pay attention to who is citing your research, you can also see who is building on your work and identify future collaborators.
Here are some top tips for increasing your ‘citability’:
- collaborate with likeminded researchers
- refrain from engaging in any questionable practices, this may damage your reputation
- communicate with your networks and colleagues
- engage in self citing of your own research
How do I know whether my research has had an impact?
Research metrics can help you to gain a quantitative understanding of how influential your research has become. Funders are also increasingly requiring researchers to demonstrate their commitment to responsible research metrics.
Further information on responsible research metrics can be found on the University of Leeds website.
For further information, find your local library service via the Health Library & Information Services Directory.
Check with other relevant departments within your own organisation which may be able to assist with your publication.
Last updated: 4 May 2023 by Jayne Plant and Dan Livesey.