Follow the instructions

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JHND Editor has had the dubious pleasure of spending the weekend decorating children’s bedrooms and refitting them to suit their changing needs as they age. Easily the most dubious part of this pleasure was going to Ikea (also known as The Temple of Doom) and acquiring some flat-pack furniture. Luckily when it comes to assembling this furniture I have firmly learned through bitter experience, the importance of following the instructions. It’s easy really, just follow each step and within 20 minutes you have a new chest of drawers or a table. Cast the instructions aside and follow your gut instincts and suddenly you’re in trouble. Two hours and a lot of naughty words and sweat later, yes you have your chest of drawers, but there’s a diminished feeling of satisfaction.
Lately I have been noticing the same principle applies to getting papers published. Experienced authors who have published before know what they’re doing… or so they think. They don’t read journal guidelines for authors because they don’t need to. They know how a paper should be formatted and the only thing that you really need to check is the specific reference format for the target journal. Nothing else matters as the typesetters will do everything else. Right?
No, wrong.
All journals have author guidelines which set out key points that they expect, no demand, their authors stick to. These might include word limits, abstract style, requirements for statement of authorship, conflict of interest statements or transparency declarations. These things all have to be sorted out before a paper will be published. However most authors seem to ignore them in the first submission of their paper. Those that survive the review process and are invited to resubmit will then need to go back and address the author guidelines alongside the changes requested by reviewers. Recently we have had a spate of papers where even the second submission doesn’t take note of the guidelines and so we go to a third submission and threats of rejection from the editor.
So, the moral of the story is, if you want to get your paper accepted with a minimum of fuss, just read and follow the instructions, from the beginning of the submission process. Ours are here. Key things to note are:
1. We don’t publish animal studies (but receive several submissions of rat studies every year).
2. We have a word limit of 2500-4000 words.
3. We allow supplementary materials.
4. We expect structured abstracts.
5. Our references are in the Vancouver style.
6. We require a statement on transparent and accurate reporting of research studies.
7. We don”t tolerate plagiarism.
8. We require a conflict of interest statement from all authors.
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