Have you ever struggled to write up your results into a publishable paper only to get it rejected? Richard Threlfall, Managing Editor, Asian Journal of Organic Chemistry, gives some insider tips on how to improve each section of your article and increase your chances of getting published.
The Cover Letter
Often overlooked in submissions, your cover letter is your chance to talk directly to the editor and to highlight all the most important results of your research. It can either make a great first impression or leave the editor uninspired, so it is a fantastic opportunity to make the editor sit up and take notice of your paper!
It is a very bad idea to submit a cover letter that just says:
We are submitting our manuscript for consideration in your journal. It is not under consideration for publication anywhere else.
An even worse idea is not to submit a cover letter at all (which does happen)!
Much like an introduction, a good cover letter explains to the editor the critical question your research addresses, how you have answered this question, and why it is of significance to the wider community.
Consider the basic examples below:
Compound X has interesting biological and pharmaceutical activity. We made some improvements over a previous synthesis and believe it has wider applications in organic chemistry.
A letter like this poses more questions than it answers for the editor. A better start might be:
Compound X is a potent anticancer agent. However, up until now, it could only be isolated in small amounts from Plantius planticus. Our total synthesis gives compound X in 99 % yield by …
We have synthesized catalyst A, which is 75 % more efficient than catalysts B and C for the industrially important hydrolysis of Y. This improvement in efficiency is caused by …
Technical details (where appropriate) will add to the editor’s understanding of your paper, but be careful not to put in an overwhelming set of numbers or to exaggerate.
Lastly, suggest referees whether the journal requires you to or not. This shows you have a good knowledge of your field.
The best cover letters are concise and give a clear explanation of the advances and discoveries made in the course of the research. Remember, journals receive many papers per day and editors see hundreds of manuscripts per year, so take every opportunity you can to get your work noticed!
- Next month: We start right at the top, with the title of your manuscript!
- See all Tips for Better Science Writing Articles