8 tips to preparing your manuscript for submission to Frontiers

Dr. Jonathan Wood, Review Operations Specialist

As a former researcher, I know how time-consuming and stressful it can be preparing your manuscript for Peer Review; let alone the weeks, months or years, it has taken to obtain your invaluable data. However, I am now on the other side of the manuscript. At Frontiers, I oversee the review process for several journals, and therefore, I know the issues that can delay a manuscript’s review process. I also know several tips and tricks that can help improve the chances of a seamless trip for your manuscript through the review process.

This post presents a list of advice to give your manuscript the smoothest ride through the review process with hopefully an increased chance of success.

Submit to the correct journal and section

Before having all your manuscript materials ready, I would suggest that you browse through the Frontiers Journals that are on offer – you should have a rough idea of where you intend to submit first. Once you have settled on a journal, you need to select an appropriate specialty section. This will ensure that your manuscript is handled and reviewed by the appropriate researchers in a timely fashion.  I strongly recommend that you read the scope of the specialty. Here is an example of the specialty section scope for Structural Materials within Frontiers in Materials. From here, you should be able to decide if your manuscript would be a suitable contribution – who knows, you may even find a Research Topic for your manuscript to further enhance its reach.

Which Article Type best suits my manuscript?

Once you have selected your Frontiers journal and specialty, you need to decide on the Article Type. The review process is slightly different depending on the Article Type, for instance, the reviewer reports, the publication fees, the figure and word count, and in some cases the number of required reviewer endorsements. Here is an example of the permitted Article Types for Structural Materials within Frontiers in Materials. It is important to adhere to the specific Article Type restrictions as infringement can increase the review time.

Use the Frontiers Authors submission template!

This is the most useful piece of advice I can offer, if the journal provides a template – use it! In most cases, you can download the word or LATEX document directly and start writing into the document. The template makes it easier for Editors and Reviewers to assess your manuscript, in a format that they are used to. And, after all, to increase your chances of publication, it is better to keep the Reviewers and Editors on your side. However, if you do not want to use the template directly, I would recommend that you follow it stringently, specifically adding line numbers – manuscripts without line numbers can be an instant turn-off for the Reviewers. You can download the Frontiers Authors template here.

Sell your manuscript

There is nothing worse than a manuscript with an unoriginal title and abstract with typographical errors. At Frontiers, when a manuscript is sent out for review, the Editors and Reviewers receive the manuscript title and abstract – that’s it! So, if the manuscript has a drab title or if there are language errors, they are far less likely to take on the assignment, which drags on the peer-review process. Therefore, sell your manuscript, write an eye-catching title and a concise abstract, all while staying true to your research and its impact. You have put your blood, sweat and tears into this research – shout about it!

Do you have permission?

Another question you should ask yourself before submitting your manuscript is, do I have the permissions for this? Whether this is for reproducing previously published figures, used for a review article, analyzing existing datasets, or re-using text from your conference papers or submission of the data in a data bank for example. These may seem like minor issues, but they are important things to consider prior to submission and they often can delay the publication of your manuscript. 

Figure out your figures

Often, the figures are the most important information contained in your manuscript. They must display your findings in a clear, attractive, and meaningful way. I would suggest that you take your time creating the figures with the recommended resolution and text size to make it easier for the reviewers to understand what you are trying to show. Put yourself in the reviewer’s shoes, if you see a pixelated figure with tiny text, it is going to make a bad impression. As well as this, I would recommend that you embed the figures in the text file in addition to uploading your separate figure files (as TIF, TIFF or JPEG files). This prevents unnecessary scrolling for the reviewer while reading the text associated with the figure, and they can scroll down to the larger image if they want to inspect the figure more closely.

Navigating the references maze

Choosing the correct reference style can be confusing and daunting and can change from journal to journal. However, with referencing tools like Mendeley it is easy to switch between the different referencing styles, but they can also be buggy. Therefore, I recommend scanning through the reference list for clear and obvious errors. Again, incorrect referencing formats can create headaches for reviewers and further delays down the line when a manuscript is typeset. For further information on referencing at Frontiers, you can check the following links, general overview in section 4.1.2 and for a journal-specific reference guide.

Account for all Authors

Finally, when submitting your manuscript, ensure that all Authors are named and accounted for. This can cause a real headache further on down the line, where, to make the change, you will need a signature from all Authors to confirm the addition of an extra Author. This is important for checking conflicts of interest and shared affiliations between reviewers and authors and can add significant delays to the review process. I would recommend talking a look at our guidelines (section 1.3) to understand what constitutes a contribution sufficient enough to be named as an Author.

I hope this post has helped you prepare your manuscript for submission to Frontiers. Please feel free to share this post with your colleagues or post a comment if you feel there are any other tips to consider when submitting your manuscript. Good luck with your submission and who knows, maybe I will be managing your manuscript in the future.