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Publishing in the Life Sciences

Information on citation

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 Zotero, which we support) and how to get more information
  • 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

How to write, authorship and contributor roles

Authorship and contributor roles

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

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, it helps if researchers 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?
  • Search your research topic in a database in your field (e.g., MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, BIOSIS, PsycINFO, Web of Science Core Collection).
    • Browse the results and see which publications tend to publish on your topic
  • Search for you research topic in Scopus
    • Use the "Source Title" filter to see which journals have published the most articles on the topics related to your search and research
  • 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 InCites Journal Citation Reports (JCR) Impact Factor. Double-check impact factors that are posted on journal websites: These may not use JCR data, and IFs 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 Quality: 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, rapid reviews, and umbrella reviews with health-related outcomes can be registered at PROSPERO, and for those undertaking reviews for collaborations like Cochrane, for example, protocol publication may be 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 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

  • DOAJ - Search for articles related to your topic and view the results by journal in the left-hand column; you can also perform searches for journals without fees
  • GAJET: Good Academic Journal in Ethical terms - Promotes journals that do not engage in "predatory" or abusive commercial practices
  • Jot: Journal Targeter - Find journals matching your title, abstract, and references [1]
  • 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
  • JournalGuide - Search, filter, compare, and sort journals
  • 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 Currently Indexed for MEDLINE  (U.S. National Library of Medicine) - This list is generated from the NLM Catalog. 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
  • Predatory Reports - Use with due diligence: Keep in mind that this is an anonymously maintained site
  • SHERPA: Publisher Copyright Policies & Self-Archiving (University of Nottingham)
  • Ulrichsweb - Search or browse for publications in all disciplines

Finding Open Access Journals

  • 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


Measures of Journal Impact and Prestige

  • Impact Factor - From Journal Citation Reports. Subscription required.
  • CiteScore (Scopus) - Similar concept to the Impact Factor but uses a different calculation. Does not include field normalization (i.e., not adjusted for differences across areas of study). See CiteScore FAQ
  • Eigenfactor - An alternative or complement to the Impact Factor; can also be accessed through InCites Journal Citation Reports
  • SCImago Journal and Country Rank (SJR) - Can filter by subject area/category; developed from information found in Scopus, a subscription-based, multidisciplinary, bibliographic database. Citations are weighted based on subject field, quality/reputation of the journal; self-citations are limited in weight. Free.

See Journal-level metrics (in the Impact Measurements guide maintained by April Colosimo) for additional information

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Schulich Library of Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Engineering


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