There are many aspects of writing for publication and practices vary for different formats, publishers, disciplines, etc. This page does not, therefore, propose to advise you how to write you manuscript but directs you to useful sources and helpful tips.
To help ensure you are acting ethically and following the University’s guidelines, please read the University’s principles of good research practice for publication and authorship.
Seek help from your colleagues
If you are working with co-authors they may be more experienced at writing and be able to help you. You could also talk to your supervisor or other senior staff – they may be willing to act as a mentor to support and advise you with your writing.
There may be colleagues in a similar situation who will be happy to be a writing buddy. This can be great for motivation and support while you both write your own separate work.
A critical friend may be willing to read a draft of your manuscript and offer constructive criticism to help you to improve your work.
Look at publisher guides
If you understand the publishing process and know what to expect, it can be a little less daunting. Publishers often provide an introduction to their processes and offer helpful tips for preparing your paper. Below are some examples from two publishers:
Elsevier (2015). How to publish in scholarly journals. Elsevier
IEEE (2012). How to write for technical periodicals & conferences. Piscataway, IEEE
You may also find guides to styles in particular disciplines. For example, the following guide of is part of the guidance provided by the publisher Elsevier:
Goss, D. (2015). Some hints on mathematical style. Elsevier
Author services from publishers also provide a lot of useful advice. For example, Taylor and Francis Author Services provide a lot of advice about writing your paper as well as about the whole publishing process.
Look at the guidance provided by publishers you are considering.
Follow your journal’s guidelines
If you have chosen a journal that you intend to submit to, write your article for that journal. Read the information for authors on the journal’s web page for guidance on length of the article, style, referencing format, etc. and make sure you follow this guidance. Have a look at similar articles in the journal for further ideas on what might be expected.
If your article is rejected you will probably need to rework the article to fit the style of your second choice journal, but you are more likely to be accepted with your first journal if your article follows their guidelines.
Avoid common mistakes
In an article from Editage Insights (2013), the most common reasons for journal rejection are described and some of them relate to “poor writing and organization” and “inadequate preparation of the manuscript”. There are some useful tips on what to avoid!
Make use of Library resources about writing
The library has a wealth of books on academic writing, writing journal articles, scientific writing, effective writing in various disciplines, etc. Use Library Search to find books and other materials which will be helpful to you. There may be book for your particular discipline.
Some recently acquired books include:
Gastel, B., & Day, R. (2016). How to write and publish a scientific paper (8th ed.). Santa Barbara: Greenwood.
Silvia, P. (2015). Write it up : Practical strategies for writing and publishing journal articles. Washington: American Psychological Association.
Have a look at a tutorial on Epigeum
There is a series of Epigeum online courses for researchers which includes a course on ‘Getting published in the Arts’ and a course on ‘Getting published in the sciences’. For information on how to access these, please see this page on How to create an Epigeum account.
Reference management software could help
You may find using reference management software helpful. This software is designed to make adding formatted citations and references to your manuscript easier. It will also enable you to automatically reformat your references to suit another publication should you need to do so.
The Library Research Support Team (Email: email@example.com) can help you with choosing which program to use and with using the software.
If you use third-party material in your manuscript, you must make sure that you are complying with copyright and that you have appropriate permission to do so if required. Contact the Library Research Support Team if you would like more information.
Your title, abstract, and keywords are the ways of helping potential readers find your work and assess whether the full document will be of interest to them.
Consider if your title and abstract describe your work appropriately, will be attractive to potential readers and will result in search engines retrieving your work:
If you are asked to provide keywords, consider terms that describe what your article is about and also terms that potential readers are likely to use to search for articles. Think about the vocabularies used in the various disciplines that may be interested in your work. Looking at similar articles on library databases may be useful to give you ideas for keywords that are commonly used in your area. If you would like help with this, please get in touch.
Providing a plain language summary with your work, makes your research more accessible to a lay or public audience, by presenting it in a clear and jargon free way.
Some research funders ask for plain language summaries. For example, the NIHR ask for a plain English summary in funding applications and in research reports submitted to their journal library. Even when a plain English summary is not required, it is a useful thing to do.
Some journals host and promote lay summaries. Below are some examples:
Add a plain language summary to your work on SHURA
You can provide a plain language summary to accompany an accepted or published journal article or conference paper which you are depositing on Elements and SHURA. The Elements help pages have a section on how to do this.
Bredbenner, K. & Simon, S. M. (2019). Video abstracts and plain language summaries are more effective than graphical abstracts and published abstracts. PLoS ONE 14(11): e0224697.
Plain-language summaries: How to write an eLife digest. Inside eLife 15 Mar 2017.
Elsevier provide this brief guide: In a nutshell: how to write a lay summary
You can also find guidance on how to write an effective plain English summary on the NIHR Involve site.
Think about the ways you can help ensure that you are easily identified as the author of your work.
For example, add your affiliation to your research outputs to help distinguish you from other authors with a similar name and create an ORCID iD that uniquely identifies you
Have a look at our page on identity and impact for more detailed advice on these and more.
A data availability statement tells readers where they can find the data underpinning your work. Best practice requires that you include a data availability statement even where there is no data associated with the research.
Some funders require a data statement. For example the UKRI expect a Data Access Statement, even if you have not collected or produced any new primary research data (see page 10 of the UKRI Open Access Policy).
The exact format and placement of the data availability statement will depend on your journal’s house-style. Some journals have their own template for a data availability statement.
Find out more about Data statements.