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Publishing in the Life Sciences

Information on Citation

Citing your sources

If you are collecting references for a project, looking for information on how to cite within a particular discipline, or interested in using software to collect and automatically format your in-text citations and bibliography in the proper citation style, the following pages may be of use:

  • Citation Guides - General information on citation as well as information on what's available at McGill (for example, EndNote, which is free for McGill staff and students) and how to get support
  • Life Sciences Citation Style - Information on citing in Vancouver (author-number system), APA (author-date style), CSE
  • Citation Styles - Useful citation guides for other commonly used citation styles
  • Citation Styles by Subject

If you are writing a paper for a course, ask your professors what citation style they recommend. If you are publishing a journal article in the health sciences, consult the instructions for authors database or the journal website to find out what citation style they require your references to be formatted in.


General Tips on Writing

General tips on writing: How to write, authorship and contributor roles

Authorship and contributor roles

Reporting Guidelines Based on Study Design

Reporting guidelines based on study design

Tools to Help You Write Your Article

Tools to help you write your article

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 Qualily: 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


Consider Publishing or Preregistering Your Study Protocol

  • BioMedCentral journals such as Trials may offer this option, as well as other journals like BMJ Open. Some PLoS journals now also offer preregistration. If you are trying to find journals that accept protocols, try doing a search on your topic and adding "protocol" (or "study protocol" OR "trial protocol", for example) as a title word search in your search strategy, just to get a quick sense of where protocols related to your topic (and maybe to your study design) are published. Systematic reviews with a health-related outcome can be registered at PROSPERO, and for those undertaking Cochrane Reviews, protocol publication is mandatory. You can use platforms like OSF Registries to "publish" protocols or study preregistrations as well. 


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.
  • Use caution: An extremely short review time may be a red flag indicating that the peer review process is nonexistent or superficial.

Additional Resources for Journal Selection

List of Additional Resources for Journal Selection

  • Jocalyn Clark: How to Avoid Predatory Journals—A Five Point Plan - Posted on BMJ Blogs, recommended by Trish Groves, Head of Research, BMJ, Editor-in-Chief, BMJ Open
  • Genamics JournalSeek - A categorized database of over 75000 journal titles with basic information
  • JANE: Jounal/Author Name Estimator - Insert your title and/or abstract and the system suggests journal titles suitable for your topic
  • Elsevier Journal Finder - Insert your title, abstract, and field(s) of research and the system suggests journal titles suitable for your topic; information provided includes impact factor, open access status, editorial times, acceptance rates, and production times. Limited to journals published by Elsevier
  • List of Journals Indexed for MEDLINE  (U.S. National Library of Medlcine) - Inclusion in MEDLINE can be used as an indicator of journal quality (Note: Journals may be included in PubMed but not indexed in MEDLINE)
  • Open access journals - Consult this list to select an open access journal
  • SHERPA: Publisher Copyright Policies & Self-Archiving (University of Nottingham)
  • Ulrichsweb - Search or browse for publications in all disciplines

Finding Open Access Journals

Finding Open Access Journals

  • BioMed Central - All the original research articles in journals published by BioMed Central are immediately and permanently available online without charge. McGill University is a supporting member of BMC, entitling authors to a 15% reduction of the article publication fee.
  • Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) - A comprehensive directory listing free, full-text, quality-controlled scientific and scholarly journals, covering all subjects and languages. If choosing an open access journal, journal listing in DOAJ can be used as a positive indicator
  • Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)- If choosing an open access journal, journal membership in OASPA can be used as a positive indicator
  • PubMed Central - U.S. National Library of Medicine's permanent digital archive of life sciences journal literature.
  • Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing
  • Public Library of Science - A non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. PLoS Publishes its own journals.


Measures of Journal Impact and Prestige

  • Impact Factor - From ISI Journal Citation Reports (on Web of Science platform)
  • Eigenfactor - an alternative or complement to the impact factor; can also be accessed through Journal Citation Reports
  • Scimago Journal and Country Rank - Can filter by subject area/category; developed from information found in Scopus, a subscription-based, multidisciplinary, bibliographic database
  • The Australian Research Council evaluated over 20,000 peer reviewed journals and ranked each into four quality tiers. Over 4300 of these journals are in the health sciences. The ERA rankings can be searched by discipline or by journal title
  • The Special Library Association Biomedical & Life Sciences Division ranked the Top 100 Journals in Biology and Medicine in 2010

Schulich Librarians

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


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