Common author errors

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As Editor I often receive emails from prospective authors who wish to know whether their manuscript falls within the scope of the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. Nine times out of ten my answer is ‘Yes’, but I am happy to give that pre-submission advice. Unfortunately, although scope of the journal is often checked, authors submitting papers make a number of basic mistakes which delay the submission process and ultimately a decision on whether to publish their paper. Not doing these things first time round means that you will end up with a longer list of annoying revisions. All of these errors can be avoided by careful reference to our Guidelines for Authors. The frequency of errors seems to suggest that most people don’t bother to check our requirements.

Here are the most common problems:

Abstract not structured

JHND abstracts are expected to be structured with sub-headings for Background, Methods, Results, Conclusions. Abstracts should be no more than 250 words.

Requirements for reporting of human studies and reviews

The journal has made a commitment to comply with international guidelines on the reporting of intervention trials, the conduct of observational studies, and systematic review methodologies. This is a means of increasing the quality of the work which we publish. Since January 1st 2015 we have had a requirement for papers to show that they comply with CONSORT, STROBE or PRISMA guidance, as appropriate. This is an absolute requirement and if authors cannot demonstrate compliance we will reject their manuscript. Generally there will be an opportunity to demonstrate compliance after initial review should a resubmission be invited, but it would save time to include it with the initial submission.

Referencing Style

In September 2014 JHND made a change to the referencing style used in our publications. This is still catching a lot of people out and making for time-consuming revisions. Our style is now the Vancouver style and you can see how it works here. Personally I find adding references to be a total pain in the derriere as I am not a user of Endnote or similar tools. To have to do it twice would cause me severe angst.

Exceeding the word limit

Although the journal is published only online, we have a page budget that is rather constraining. We receive many more papers than we could possibly publish and as a result our acceptance rate is currently only 15%. Due to these constraints we have a word limit for manuscripts which is now tightly enforced. Manuscripts should be no longer than 4000 words, and even shorter if there are large numbers of tables and figures to be published. Papers that are over the word-limit run the risk of encountering the ultimate horror of the editor saying ‘Make it shorter’ and the referees saying ‘You need to add this…’.

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Missing out all of those little extras

As scientists we just want to communicate our work as clearly and as quickly as possible. It is easy to focus on writing the normal elements of the manuscript, adding in the tables and graphs, doing the pesky reference list and then just submitting it. What we often forget are all the various statements that are now mandatory for almost all journals:

  • Conflict of interest statement
  • Acknowledgment of funding source
  • Statement of ethical approval
  • Statement of author contributions

None of these take much time to do (but they do count within your word limit!), but are an absolute requirement for publication.

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