How to Submit Your Manuscript to a Journal: A Step-by-Step Guide

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This write-up will guide you in submitting your manuscript to a journal. Having your work peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in a reputable journal validates your research, expands its reach, and enhances your professional reputation.

Publishing in academic journals is crucial for researchers, scholars, and students looking to advance their careers and contribute meaningfully to their fields. Every researcher would dream of publishing their work in reputable journals such as Nature, Science and the New England Journal of Medicine.

But before the glory of seeing your paper in print comes the manuscript submission process, which can seem daunting if you’ve never done it before. This introductory section will provide a high-level overview of the main steps in submitting your academic paper to a journal.

How to submit your manuscript to a journal

The Importance of Journal Publishing

Researchers invest significant time and effort into designing studies, collecting and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. Journal publishing, i.e., publishing your paper in peer-reviewed journals, is the best way to share these findings with a wider academic audience. Some key benefits of journal publication include:

  • Increased visibility and credibility of your work
  • Opportunities for feedback from experts in your field
  • Contributing new knowledge to academic discourse
  • Collaboration opportunities with those outside your expertise (cross-field collaborations)
  • Career advancement and funding opportunities

Most academic institutions value published research for hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions. Publication metrics like your h-index are also considered indicators of research productivity and impact.

Brief Overview of the Manuscript Submission Process

While each journal has its policies, the submission process generally includes the following:

Choosing the right journal for your paper; reviewing the journal’s author guidelines; formatting your manuscript to match journal specifications; writing an effective abstract and title; submitting your files through the journal’s online system; responding to peer reviewer and editor comments; and revising your manuscript based on feedback.

We’ll explore the specifics of each step in the sections to follow. The submission process can be lengthy, but persevering through revisions and rejections is part of the journey to publication.

Understanding Manuscript Submission: What Does it Mean?

Submitting a manuscript refers to the process of sending your academic paper or article to a journal editor for consideration for publication. It marks the first step to formally publishing your research in a scholarly journal.

But what exactly does this entail?

Defining Manuscript Submission

Manuscript submission involves sending the full text of your completed academic paper or article to a journal editor via the journal’s online submission system or by email.

You provide details about yourself as the author(s) and attach the manuscript file (and other documents required), prepared according to the journal’s author guidelines. This initial submission signals your interest in having your work reviewed, considered, and potentially published by that journal.

The General Process of Manuscript Submission

While each journal has its specific instructions, the general steps for manuscript submission are as follows:

  1. Identifying a suitable target journal.
  2. Checking the journal’s aims and scope to ensure your work is a good fit.
  3. Reading and adhering to the journal’s formatting and submission guidelines.
  4. Registering as an author on the journal’s online submission system.
  5. Entering details about yourself, co-authors, and the manuscript.
  6. Uploading manuscript files in the required format (e.g. Word doc, LaTeX).
  7. Providing any supplemental files like figures or data.
  8. Paying required submission/processing fees if applicable.
  9. Receiving confirmation of successful submission.

After submission, the manuscript will undergo editorial screening and peer review before making a final publication decision. This process can take weeks to months, depending on the journal.

In short, manuscript submission is the first formal step in publishing your academic paper. It requires carefully preparing and submitting your work via the journal’s system for consideration. If accepted, it can lead to disseminating your research to a wider scholarly audience.

The Why: Reasons to Submit Your Manuscript to a Journal

Submitting your research manuscript to an academic journal opens doors to new opportunities and can significantly advance your career. Here are some of the key benefits of getting your work published in a reputable journal:

Gain Recognition in Your Field

Having your paper accepted for publication is a major achievement that demonstrates your capability as a researcher. It allows you to establish credibility and get your work noticed by scholars in your discipline. Your ideas and contributions gain visibility as more researchers read and cite your paper.

Share Your Findings with a Wider Audience

Academic journals provide a platform to disseminate your findings to a broader audience of experts than conferences or internal reports. This amplification effect expands the impact of your work and allows you to reach researchers globally.

Advance Your Academic Career

Journal publications are important criteria for hiring, promotions, and tenure decisions at academic institutions. A strong publication record exhibits your research productivity and strengthens your CV and grant applications. Publications can open up collaborations, speaking opportunities, and leadership roles.

Contribute to the Growth of Knowledge

You actively advance knowledge in your field by publishing original research, new theories, or novel applications in a peer-reviewed journal. Your published insights build on existing literature and provide a foundation for future studies. Sharing findings openly is vital for scientific progress.

Obtain Feedback from Experts

The peer-review process helps improve your work by getting feedback from experts in your field. Reviewer comments highlight areas needing clarification or additional experiments. Revising your manuscript in response to this feedback enhances its rigor and quality.

In summary, publishing in academic journals provides visibility, credibility, career growth opportunities, and a means to drive innovation through knowledge sharing. The peer-review process further refines and strengthens your work. Embark on this rewarding journey and contribute your research to advance your field.

Choosing the Right Journal: Making the Decision

Selecting the right journal to submit your manuscript to is one of the most important decisions in publication. With thousands of options, it can be overwhelming to determine which journal is the best fit for your work.

Tips to Identify and Select the Most Suitable Journal

Here are some tips to help you narrow down your options:

  • Define the scope of your research – Is it focused on a specific field or interdisciplinary? Who is the target audience? There are tens of thousands of academic journals worldwide, so you will need to do some searching.
  • Make a list of journals in your field and related areas. Ask colleagues for recommendations.
  • Check if the journal’s aims and scope align with your manuscript’s topic, methods, and findings.
  • Check some top journal databases to identify high-impact and reputable academic journals.
  • Read some of the journal’s recently published articles to understand the style and content.
  • Look at the journal’s readership – Is it reaching your target audience?
  • Evaluate the journal’s impact factor and citation metrics if relevant.
  • Consider the journal’s peer review process and acceptance rates.
  • Check the journal’s publication frequency and production timelines.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Journal

Here are some key factors to consider when evaluating journal options:

  • Scope – Does the journal publish articles on your specific topic and from your field?
  • Readership – Who does the journal reach? Are they your target audience?
  • Impact Factor – The journal’s impact factor is important for many fields. The impact factor signifies the journal’s standing, reputation and importance in its field of publication.
  • Indexing – Is the journal indexed in databases your readers use to find research?
  • Open Access – Do you want your article freely available or behind a paywall? An open access journal will allow your research to reach the audience quickly.
  • Article Processing Charges – An open access journal usually charges the Article Processing Charges. As the amount varies, ensure you will have the necessary funding access to pay this fee.
  • Acceptance Rates – What are the journal’s rejection rates? Higher rates often indicate more selectivity.
  • Publication Timelines – How quickly after acceptance is your article published and available to readers?

Evaluating potential journals thoroughly can help you understand your options and select the one that best fits your goals as an author.

Preparing Your Manuscript for Submission: The Checklist

Submitting a manuscript for publication in an academic journal requires careful preparation and adherence to guidelines. Here is a checklist of key steps authors should take before submission:

Format the Manuscript

Ensure the manuscript format matches the target journal’s requirements. This includes aspects like:

  • Font type and size
  • Line spacing
  • Margins
  • File types for text, figures, and tables
  • Length limits
  • Style guidelines (e.g. reference citations and formatting)

Formatting correctly shows editors you can follow instructions and saves time later.

Proofread Thoroughly

Carefully proofread the manuscript to fix any errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, formatting, references, figures, and tables. Read the text aloud to catch awkward phrasing. Ask colleagues for feedback. Solid proofreading polishes the manuscript and makes a good impression.

Check Journal Guidelines

Read the target journal’s author guidelines closely and ensure you meet all requirements. This includes things like:

  • Scope of suitable topics
  • Types of articles published (reviews, research articles, case studies, etc.)
  • Word/page limits
  • How documents should be prepared. For example, you may need to prepare separate documents for the abstract and the full manuscript. You may also be asked to remove the author’s details on the full manuscript file if the journal practices blind review (the author and the reviewer are anonymous to each other)
  • Number of figures/tables allowed
  • Ethics and disclosure requirements

Following the guidelines shows editors you can produce compliant manuscripts for their journals.

Write a Strong Abstract and Title

The title and abstract are the first parts your manuscript editors and readers see. Make them count by:

  • Making the title concise, descriptive, and catchy.
  • Ensuring the abstract summarizes key information clearly in 200 words or less.
  • Using keywords, readers can easily find.
  • Capturing the essence of your work.

An engaging title and informative abstract motivate editors and readers to review your work further.

Following this checklist helps ensure your manuscript is ready for submission. Investing time in careful preparation improves your chances of success and saves future revisions.

The Submission Process: Step-by-Step Walkthrough

Submitting your manuscript to a journal can seem daunting, but breaking it down into clear steps makes the process much more manageable. Here is a step-by-step guide to walk you through manuscript submission:

How to submit your manuscript to a journal

Step 1: Choose the Right Journal

Identify 3-5 journals that publish similar work and fit your research. Compare the journal’s aims, scope, target audience, impact factor, and acceptance rates. Choosing the best journal gives your manuscript the best chance of acceptance.

Step 2: Read the Author’s Guidelines

Each journal has specific manuscript submission guidelines (or author’s guidelines). Read these carefully to ensure your manuscript adheres to the journal’s requirements for formatting, word count, referencing style, etc. Following the guidelines shows you have taken the time to submit to that specific journal.

Step 3: Prepare Your Manuscript

Format your manuscript file according to the journal’s guidelines. Make sure your tables/figures are clear and properly labeled. Write an engaging yet concise abstract. Choose a title that accurately reflects your work. Proofread thoroughly before submitting.

Step 4: Create an Account on the Journal Website

Most journals require you to register on their online submission system before uploading your manuscript. Follow the instructions to set up an author account with your contact information.

Step 5: Submit Your Manuscript

Upload your manuscript file(s) through the journal’s online submission system per their instructions. You may need to enter information like author names, manuscript titles, abstracts, keywords, etc. Pay any required submission fees.

Step 6: Track the Status of Your Submission

Most systems allow you to monitor your submission status. The journal will first assess if your manuscript meets its basic requirements. If so, it will then be sent for peer review, which typically takes several weeks to months, depending on the journal.

Step 7: Respond to Requests for Revisions

The journal will contact you once the review is complete. The editor may request revisions to your manuscript before final acceptance. Carefully review the feedback and make the necessary changes.

Step 8: Deal with Rejection

Rejection is common in academic publishing. If your manuscript is rejected, understand why before submitting it to another journal. You can also request feedback from reviewers.

You can successfully navigate the manuscript submission process with careful preparation and persistence. It may take some time, but the reward of publishing your hard work is worth the effort.

After Submission: What’s Next?

Once you have submitted your manuscript to the journal, the next step is the peer-review process. This is when experts in your field will evaluate your manuscript to determine if it is suitable for publication. The peer-review process aims to ensure only high-quality research is published. Here’s what you can expect after submission:

The Waiting Period

After submitting your manuscript, it may take several weeks or months to hear back from the journal editors. The waiting period varies across journals depending on factors like the volume of submissions.

For example, journals I have worked with have an average of four months of processing time. But they are manuscripts that completed peer reviews in days, which helped speed up the decision turnaround time.

But be patient and avoid contacting the journal repeatedly to check the status.

Peer Review

The journal will send your manuscript to 2-4 peer reviewers – experts in your field of research. The peer reviewers will read your manuscript in detail and provide feedback to the journal editors. This includes commenting on aspects like the study methodology, analysis, and relevance of findings. Their feedback determines the next steps.

Editorial Decision

The journal editors will decide based on the peer reviewers’ feedback. There are several potential outcomes:

  • Acceptance – Your manuscript is accepted for publication as is. Only a small percentage of submissions get acceptance without revision, so count yourself lucky if you get it!
  • Minor revisions – You are asked to make small changes to the manuscript before acceptance. Usually, a minor revision takes a few days or, at most, a week for you to complete.
  • Major revisions – You are asked to make significant changes to the manuscript before reconsideration. A major revision can take a few weeks or months, depending on the extent of changes required.
  • Rejection – The journal rejects your manuscript.

The decision letter will provide the reviewers’ feedback to help guide your revisions if required. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully.

Addressing Revisions

If the journal requests revisions, you must modify your manuscript accordingly. Make the changes per the feedback provided while highlighting how you have addressed the reviewers’ comments. Resubmit the revised manuscript within the stipulated timeframe.

In academic publishing, authors do not necessarily have to agree with reviewers. You can provide rebuttal to the journal’s editor for their consideration and evaluation.


While disappointing, rejection is common. You can submit your manuscript to another suitable journal. Also, learn from the feedback to strengthen your work.

With patience and perseverance, you can successfully navigate the post-submission process. Stay positive and keep striving towards your goal of publication!


Submitting your hard work and research to an academic journal can seem daunting, but this comprehensive guide has hopefully demystified the process and provided you with the knowledge and tools to take that first step. Learning how to submit your manuscript to a journal correctly would speed up the process and minimize your frustration.

By now, you should clearly understand what manuscript submission entails, the reasons for doing so, how to identify the right journal, prepare your work for submission, walk through the process, and know what to expect after submitting.

The peer review and publication process requires time, effort, and patience, but it is invaluable in advancing knowledge and establishing your expertise. As intimidating as it may seem initially, every researcher has to start somewhere. With the right preparation and persistence, you will successfully navigate the world of journal submissions.

Remember that rejections and revision requests are par for the course. View them as opportunities to improve your work. Finding the right home for your research is often a matter of trial and error. Throughout it all, believe in the merit of your work and don’t be discouraged. Your enthusiasm will shine through if you are passionate about your research and its potential impact.

You have a solid foundation to take the next step in your academic journey. Trust in the value of your scholarship. Learn from every experience along the way. Refine your ideas through peer feedback. Stay motivated and be your own biggest champion. This path will lead you to fulfilling your goal of publication and contributing meaningfully to your field.

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