This series of posts has presented advice and instructions for the major parts of a manuscript, from the title page all the way through to the conclusion. But after the painstaking finalization of a manuscript, an author’s work is likely not done yet. For most submissions, there will be a number of other bits and pieces that are either required or strongly encouraged.
First and foremost, any funding sources for the work presented and author disclosures or conflicts of interest must be provided. Every journal will detail exactly how this should be done — this information may need to be noted on the title page or in a titled subsection in the paper, as well as on forms provided by the journal. If no funding or conflicts of interest exist, this should be noted as well.
An acknowledgement section can be included to recognize those who have provided valuable support or services to either the work presented or the paper itself. Authors may express thanks to a mentor or colleague who provided advice during the study or reviewed the paper, staff who performed clinical duties in performance of a trial, or colleagues who provided materials for lab studies.
A fair number of journals also require a cover letter. Some list exactly what wording should be included in a cover letter, such as statements confirming that this paper has not been previously published, that all authors have read and approved the final draft, and that the authors agree to transfer copyright of the paper to the publisher or journal. Statements attesting to approval for human or animal studies from institutional ethics committees may also be required in a cover letter, in addition to being noted in the paper. Even if not required by a journal, authors can use a cover letter as an opportunity to present in just two to three sentences why the work is important and worthy of publication in their pages. If a journal states that a cover letter is optional, I always suggest submitting one. It’s a quick and relatively easy way to immediately capture the journal’s interest.
If you’ve been following these posts, you know that the Number One Rule remains to find, read, absorb, and follow author instructions. As tedious as that caution may seem, taking the time to comply with a journal’s instructions will pay off. So, one more time: check those instructions! The last thing any author wants is for a paper to be rejected immediately due to non-compliance with instructions. As always, feel free to contact me with any manuscript questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.