Advice for first time authors

The Journal of Human Nutrition and dietetics particularly welcomes submissions from authors who are clinically active. We appreciate that for such authors the world of publishing research articles may be unfamiliar. The list of frequently asked questions below may help address some of the common queries which arise, but obviously as other questions come up, you can post them here and I will attempt to answer them.

Take a look at our How to Write series of guides.

There are also some articles on this blog that you may find useful:

Rejection without review
More on rejection
Dealing with rejection

Guidance for authors
What’s in a title?
Writing an abstract

Frequently Asked Questions

I am primarily a clinician and have no experience of writing up my research for publication. Where can I get advice on where to start?

The journal strongly encourages submissions from researchers in clinical settings. There are a number of articles available online which give directions on how to prepare a manuscript for publication. E.g. Dixon (2001). Writing for publication- a guide for new authors. Int. J. Qual. Health Care 13, 417-421.

The most important starting points really lie long before you will be thinking about publication. JHND is not alone in striving for international excellence, so as an aspiring researcher you need to be thinking about the bigger picture. A piece of research that is of major interest in your own clinical department, may not be of interest at national or international level. You need to consider the wide applicability and scope of your work. Is your work novel? Journals are not interested in work that merely replicates observations that have been reported many times before. Are you using the most robust and reliable methods? Is your research project adequately powered (number of subjects)? Are you following key guidelines such as the CONSORT statement on the design of randomised control trials. Without attention to these points at a very early stage your work may be unpublishable.

How long should my manuscript be?

 Generally speaking, a full paper should be no more than 20-25 double-spaced pages. The word limits for papers are specified in the author guidelines for the journal. Longer articles may be acceptable, but this will depend on their content. Use graphs or tables to summarize information that otherwise would take a long time to explain in the body of the paper, but papers should include no more than five tables, figures, or graphs.

 Does it matter if my article isn’t perfect in terms of English expression?

Yes it does. Whilst the journal will have accepted articles copy-edited, it is important that the changes introduced at this stage are minor, otherwise interpretation errors might be introduced. If you are a new author we would advise you to give your article to a colleague with publishing experience for proofreading. Proofreading is not solely concerned with checking for spelling mistakes. This step will ensure that you have expressed the details of your study in concise, clear, unembellished language.

I wrote the article, but would like to thank my colleagues for offering guidance. Should I list them as authors?

No, this is not appropriate, as authorship cannot be conferred. To qualify for authorship each individual should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for the content. Authorship credit should be based only on substantial contributions to the conception and design of the study, or analysis and interpretation of data; and to the writing and revision of paper. If a colleague has otherwise offered assistance, e.g. technical support, comment on paper drafts, but does not fulfil requirements for authorship he or she should be listed in a short acknowledgment.

I have been asked to submit a revised version of my paper. Does this mean that the journal are committed to publish it?

No, a request for a revised submission is not a commitment to publish. Revised papers are usually sent out to the same reviewers who considered the first version. If the view is that the revised version does not adequately address the points raised, with insufficient rebuttal of points that were ignored, then the paper will be rejected.

  

I have received extensive reviewer comments following peer review. Do I have to make all of the changes that the reviewers suggest?

Like all peer-reviewed journals, we require reviewers to provide suggestions for improvement on the articles they review for us.  When you receive the review comments, carefully consider their suggestions, and incorporate the ones that you feel will genuinely improve your article into your revised version. Other points may not be suitable for your paper, but you should carefully respond to them in a cover letter to the editor, explaining why you have not made a revision. It is acceptable for you to overlook suggestions that you feel are not relevant to the article, but you should ensure that you state robust reasons for doing so and accept that if the Editor disagrees with your rebuttal, the paper may be rejected.

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