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Publishing in the Life Sciences

Formatting Your Article for Final Submission

Advance Planning: Formatting Your Article for Final Submission

When authors take on the task of writing up their research for publication, it is good practice to prepare the report in a format that resembles most closely the final submission. In order to prepare, researchers should pre-select the publication (in the life sciences, usually a peer-reviewed journal) to which they intend to submit.

Tips for Choosing a Publication

Which Journals May Publish Your Article?

  • Ask colleagues for advice about which journal to publish in.
  • Look at the references in your article.
    • Which journal(s) appear?
    • Which journals appear in your references' references? Or:
  • Search your research topic in a database in your field (e.g., MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, BIOSIS, PsycINFO, Web of Science).
    • Browse the results and see which publications tend to publish on your topic.
  • Search you research topic in Scopus.
    • Use the "Source Title" filter to see which journals have published the most articles on the topic of your search.
  • Check the Instructions to Authors pages of the journals that interest you.
    • You may also wish to email the journal to find out if the subject fits in the publication's scope, or in a particular theme issue.
    • Note: Author guidelines will also include important information like citation style, inclusion of data sets, etc.
  • Consider the intended audience of the journal.
    • E.g., If the journal only publishes medical articles of general interest on research on humans, they may not consider your manuscript on translational regulation of release factor 2, no matter how good it is.


Check for Quality

  • What is the quality of the articles published in the journal? Read a few of the journal's published articles.
  • Is it a scholarly/research journal or a trade publication?
  • Does it have a peer review process?
  • Determine the popularity and prestige of the journal, using impact measures such as the Journal Citation Reports (JCR) Journal Impact Factor. Beware of counterfeit impact factors. Be aware that those not published by JCR may be less meaningful to the academic community. See other metrics such as Eigenfactor, and CiteScore.  See this guide to learn more about impact factors and metrics.
  • Useful Checklist for Review of Journal Qualilty: Blobaum, Paul M., "Blobaum’s Checklist for Review of Journal Quality for Submission of Scholarly Manuscripts" (2013). Faculty Research and Creative Activity. 27.


Check for Legitimacy


Consider Open Access

  • Is the journal open access, or does it allow for the author to post in an institutional repository such as eScholarship@McGill? Some grants (such as CIHR) will require that your research output is made freely available within a certain amount of time.


Consider Publishing Your Study Protocol


Is the Timing Right?

  • The publication's lag time, that is, the time it takes once a manuscript is accepted for it to be published. This can range from immediately (in the case of some online open access publishers) to more than a year.
  • The lag time for review is also of importance. If it is not stated in the author guidelines, ask the editor how long it usually takes for a submission to be reviewed. Note that it is considered inappropriate to submit a manuscript to more than one journal at a time. Note: An extremely short review time may be a red flag indicating that the peer review process is nonexistant.

Additional Resources for Journal Selection

List of Additional Resources for Journal Selection

Schulich Librarians

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Schulich Librarians
Schulich Library of Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Engineering


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