Research is often a slow process, requiring the careful design, optimization, and replication of experiments. By the time you have accrued enough data to write a manuscript, you will likely want to publish as soon as possible. Rapid publication can accelerate the dissemination of findings, decrease the likelihood of being scooped, and allow a quicker return to the laboratory to work on the next study. Whether you are currently performing experiments or are in the midst of writing, the following tips may help to increase your publication speed:
1. Keep your figures in mind
Designing key experiments with publication in mind, including the proper controls and layout, reduces the time wasted on repeating work to obtain more complete or presentable data. Additionally, consider drafting your figures early, particularly because this process can become more time consuming and daunting if weeks or months have passed since you collected the data. AJE's academic illustration services are also a good source for assistance with figure formatting or creation of custom illustrations, especially when you are pressed for time.
2. Start writing early
Even if you do not have a complete set of experiments, you can begin writing your paper right away. The background/introduction section, which is typically based on past research, lends itself particularly well to prewriting. Composing the materials and methods section while the protocols are still fresh in your mind can also expedite manuscript preparation.
3. Write clearly
Unfortunately, the publication of a well-designed study with significant implications may be impeded by unclear writing. In particular, editors and reviewers may have difficulty understanding the content and may even harbor negative bias against poorly written manuscripts, making rejection more likely. This is a particular barrier to publication for non-native English speakers. For help with your writing, consider asking your colleagues for input on your manuscript, referring to AJE's Author Resource Center for editing tips, and/or using AJE's editing services or translation services.
4. Use reference formatting software
This type of software can be used to archive relevant references, decreasing the time spent on searching for papers that you have read previously. Moreover, when you are working on a manuscript, reference managers can automatically format your citations according to the target journal's guidelines and update your reference list whenever you add or remove a citation, saving additional time. Software such as Zotero is freely available.
5. Know when to submit
If you already have a large amount of data on hand but are still running experiments, consider whether your research can be split into two separate stories. This approach will allow the faster publication of earlier studies, even before later ones are finished.
6. Seek pre-publication peer review
Using a service such as Peerage of Science or Axios, which provide peer review before journal submission, can further increase publication speed. You can also simply get feedback from your colleagues on the strength of your paper using our free developmental editing template. With this feedback in hand before you submit, you can avoid some of the objections of journal reviewers.
7. Choose the right journal
To increase the probability of paper acceptance, try to select a journal whose scope is a good fit for your research focus. Conferring with your colleagues, reviewing your own reference list, and browsing journals' websites and recent tables of contents may be useful for this purpose. You may also want to consider journals and publishers (such as Elsevier) that favor a more rapid turnaround between submission and decision-making. Submitting to open access journals, such as PeerJ and PLOS ONE (advertised as “accelerating the publication of peer-reviewed science”), which tend to focus on scientific validity over novelty and significance, may further help to hasten publication.
8. Contact the journal
A pre-submission inquiry consists of a letter written to a journal to gauge its interest in your manuscript. This inquiry may help to rapidly determine whether your paper would be a good fit for the journal without having to proceed through the entire submission and peer review process. Different journals may have varying requirements for the content of these requests; for example, Current Biology requires submission of the abstract of your manuscript along with your letter. Note that in certain cases, such as when considering publication in PLOS Medicine, a pre-submission inquiry may in fact be required.
9. Adhere to the guidelines
Follow the guidelines of the target journal carefully for the cover letter, main text, references, figures and tables, and any supplementary information to avoid unnecessary delays in publication. AJE's manuscript formatting service can facilitate adherence to such guidelines.
10. Write an effective cover letter
The cover letter that accompanies your submission provides the opportunity to highlight the relevance of your work to the journal and to showcase your key findings. An effective cover letter sent to an appropriate journal can potentially convince the editor to immediately send your manuscript out for review.
11. Follow up with the journal
If you submitted your manuscript to a journal but still have not received a decision, you may want to consider checking with the editor about the status of your submission. The standard amount of time from submission to decision making can vary between journals and fields, so you may want to confer with colleagues or check the journal website to determine whether you have been waiting longer than usual.
12. Write an effective response to reviewers
A thorough, clear, and polite response to editors' and reviewers' comments will help to reduce the likelihood of rejection or another round of review, thus saving you additional time.
Wherever you are in the process of researching and writing, we hope that these 12 tips will help to accelerate the publication of your manuscript. You can also refer to our Choosing a Journal series for further guidance on publishing in a timely fashion, or send us an email any time at [email protected]. AJE wishes you the best of luck!