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How to Write a Cover Letter for Journal Submission
If you’re looking for solid advice on how to write a strong journal submission cover letter that will convince journal editors to review your research paper, then look no further! We know that cover letters can impact an editor’s decision to consider your research paper further.
This guide aims to explain (1) why you should care about writing a powerful cover letter, (2) what you should include in it, and (3) how you should structure it. The last segment will include a free downloadable submission cover letter template with detailed how-to explanations and some useful phrases. Finally, be sure to get journal manuscript editing , cover letter editing , and other academic editing services by Wordvice’s professional editors to ensure that you convey an academic style and error-free text, along with including all of the most important content.
Why does a good cover letter matter?
While your research paper’s role is to prove the merits of your research, a strong introductory cover letter is your opportunity to highlight the significance of your research and “sell” its concept to journal editors.
While your research paper’s role is to prove the merits of your research, a strong introductory cover letter is your opportunity to highlight the significance of your research and “sell” its concept to journal editors.
Sadly, we must admit that part of the decision-making process of whether to accept a manuscript is based on a business model. Editors must select articles that will interest their readers. In other words, your paper, if published, must make money . When it’s not quite clear how your research paper might generate interest based on its title and content alone (for example, if your paper is too technical for most editors to appreciate), your cover letter is the one opportunity you will get to convince the editors that your work is worth further review.
In addition to economic factors, many editors use the cover letter to screen whether authors can follow basic instructions . For example, if a journal’s guide for authors states that you must include disclosures, potential reviewers, and statements regarding ethical practices, failure to include these items might lead to the automatic rejection of your article, even if your research is the most progressive project on the planet! By failing to follow directions, you raise a red flag that you may be careless, and if you’re not attentive to the details of a cover letter, editors might wonder about the quality and thoroughness of your research. This is not the impression you want to give editors!
What to Include in a Cover Letter for a Journal Submission
We can’t stress this enough: Follow your target journal’s instructions for authors ! No matter what other advice you read in the vast webosphere, make sure you prioritize the information requested by the editors of the journal you are submitting to. As we explained above, failure to include required statements will lead to an automatic “ desk rejection ”.
With that said, below is a list of the most common elements you must include in your cover letter and what information you should NOT include:
- Editor’s name (when known)
- Name of the journal to which you are submitting
- Your manuscript’s title
- Article type (review, research, case study, etc.)
- Submission date
- Brief background of your study and the research question you sought to answer
- Brief overview of methodology used
- Principle findings and significance to scientific community (how your research advances our understanding of a concept)
- Corresponding author contact information
- Statement that your paper has not been previously published and is not currently under consideration by another journal and that all authors have approved of and have agreed to submit the manuscript to this journal
Other commonly requested information:
- Short list of similar articles previously published by the target journal
- List of relevant works by you or your co-authors that have been previously published or are under consideration by other journals. You can include copies of those works.
- Mention of any prior discussions with editor(s) (for example, if you discussed the topic with an editor at a conference)
- Technical specialties required to evaluate your paper
- Potential reviewers and their contact information
- If needed, reviewers to exclude (this information is most likely also requested elsewhere in online submissions forms)
Other disclosures/statements required by the journal (e.g., compliance with ethical standards, conflicts of interest , agreement to terms of submission, copyright sign-over, etc.)
What you should NOT do:
- Don’t use too much jargon or include too many acronyms.
- Don’t over-embellish your findings or their significance. Avoid words such as “novel,” “first ever,” and “paradigm-changing.” These types of statements show bias and will make the editor question your ability to assess your work’s merits objectively.
- Don’t name-drop. Listing people who might endorse your paper and discussing authors’ reputations do not interest editors. They want to know if your content fits their criteria, so focus solely on addressing that point.
- Don’t write a novel. While you want to adequately explain your work and sell its concept to editors, keep your cover letter to a maximum of one page. The letter is only meant to be an introduction and brief overview.
- Avoid humor . As much as we want to grab the editors’ attention, there are too many ways in which humor can go wrong!
How to Structure a Cover Letter
You should use formal language in your cover letter. Since most submissions are delivered electronically, the template below is in a modified e-mail format. However, if you send your cover letter on letterhead (PDF or hard copy by mail), move your contact information to the upper-left corner of the page unless you use pre-printed letterhead, in which case your contact information should be centered at the top of the letter.
ANNOTATED TEMPLATE Journal Submissions Cover Letter
[Journal Editor’s First and Last Name][, Graduate Degree (if any)] TIP: It’s customary to include any graduate degrees in the addressee’s name. e.g., John Smith, MD or Carolyn Daniels, MPH [Title] e.g., Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Co-Editors-in-Chief [Journal Name] [Journal Address] [Submission Date: Month Day, Year]
Dear Dr./Mr./Ms. [Editor’s last name]:
TIP: Where the editor’s name is not known, use the relevant title employed by the journal, such as “Dear Managing Editor:” or “Dear Editor-in-Chief:”. Using a person’s name is best, however.
TIP: Use “Ms.” and never “Mrs.” or “Miss” in formal business letters.
TIP: Never use “Dear Sirs:” or any similar expression. Many editors will find this insulting, especially given that many of them are female!
[Para.1: 2–3 sentences] I am writing to submit our manuscript entitled, [“Title”] for consideration as a [Journal Name][Article Type]. [One to two sentence “pitch” that summarizes the study design, where applicable, your research question, your major findings, and the conclusion.]
e.g., I am writing to submit our manuscript entitled, “X Marks the Spot” for consideration as an Awesome Science Journal research article. We examined the efficacy of using X factors as indicators for depression in Y subjects in Z regions through a 12-month prospective cohort study and can confirm that monitoring the levels of X is critical to identifying the onset of depression, regardless of geographical influences.
TIP: Useful phrases to discuss your findings and conclusion include:
- Our findings confirm that…
- We have determined that…
- Our results suggest…
- We found that…
- We illustrate…
- Our findings reveal…
- Our study clarifies…
- Our research corroborates…
- Our results establish…
- Our work substantiates…
[Para. 2: 2–5 sentences] Given that [context that prompted your research], we believe that the findings presented in our paper will appeal to the [Reader Profile] who subscribe to [Journal Name]. Our findings will allow your readers to [identify the aspects of the journal’s Aim and Scope that align with your paper].
TIP: Identify the journal’s typical audience and how those people can utilize your research to expand their understanding of a topic. For example, if many of your target journal’s readers are interested in the public policy implications of various research studies, you may wish to discuss how your conclusions can help your peers to develop stronger policies that more effectively address public concerns.
TIP: Include context about why this research question had to be addressed.
e.g., “Given the struggle policymakers have had to define proper criteria to diagnose the onset of depression in teenagers, we felt compelled to identify a cost-effective and universal methodology that local school administrators can use to screen students.”
TIP: If your paper was prompted by prior research, state this. For example, “After initially researching X, Y approached us to conduct a follow-up study that examined Z. While pursuing this project, we discovered [some new understanding that made you decide the information needed to be shared with your peers via publication.]”
e.g., Given the alarming increase in depression rates among teenagers and the lack of any uniform practical tests for screening students, we believe that the findings presented in our paper will appeal to education policymakers who subscribe to The Journal of Education . Although prior research has identified a few methods that could be used in depression screening, such as X and Y, the applications developed from those findings have been cost-prohibitive and difficult to administer on a national level. Thus, our findings will allow your readers to understand the factors involved in identifying the onset of depression in teenagers better and develop more cost-effective screening procedures that can be employed nationally. In so doing, we hope that our research advances the toolset needed to combat the concerns preoccupying the minds of many school administrators.
[Para 3: Similar works] “This manuscript expands on the prior research conducted and published by [Authors] in [Journal Name]” or “This paper [examines a different aspect of]/ [takes a different approach to] the issues explored in the following papers also published by [Journal Name].”
TIP: You should mention similar studies recently published by your target journal, if any, but list no more than five. If you only want to mention one article, replace the preceding sentence with “This paper [examines a different aspect of]/ [takes a different approach to] the issues explored by [Authors] in [Article Title], also published by [Journal Name] on [DATE].”
[Para. 4: Additional statements often required] Each of the authors confirms that this manuscript has not been previously published and is not currently under consideration by any other journal. Additionally, all of the authors have approved the contents of this paper and have agreed to the [Journal Name]’s submission policies.
TIP: If you have previously publicly shared some form or part of your research elsewhere, state so. For example, you can say, “We have presented a subset of our findings [at Event]/ [as a Type of Publication Medium] in [Location] in [Year].”
e.g., We have since expanded the scope of our research to contemplate international feasibility and acquired additional data that has helped us to develop a new understanding of geographical influences.
[Para. 5: Potential Reviewers] Should you select our manuscript for peer review, we would like to suggest the following potential reviewers/referees because they would have the requisite background to evaluate our findings and interpretation objectively.
- [Name, institution, email, expertise]
To the best of our knowledge, none of the above-suggested persons have any conflict of interest, financial or otherwise.
TIP: Include 3–5 reviewers since it is likely that the journal will use at least one of your suggestions.
TIP: Use whichever term (“reviewer” or “referee”) your target journal uses. Paying close attention to a journal’s terminology is a sign that you have properly researched the journal and have prepared!
[Para. 6: Frequently requested additional information] Each named author has substantially contributed to conducting the underlying research and drafting this manuscript. Additionally, to the best of our knowledge, the named authors have no conflict of interest, financial or otherwise.
Corresponding Author Institution Title Institution/Affiliation Name [Institution Address] [Your e-mail address] [Tel: (include relevant country/area code)] [Fax: (include relevant country/area code)]
Additional Contact [should the corresponding author not be available] Institution Title Institution/Affiliation Name [Institution Address] [Your e-mail address] [Tel: (include relevant country/area code)] [Fax: (include relevant country/area code)]
Quick Cover Letter Checklist Before Submission
- Set the font to Arial or Times New Roman, size 12 point.
- Single-space all text.
- Use one line space between body paragraphs.
- Do not indent paragraphs.
- Keep all text left justified.
- Use spelling and grammar check software. If needed, use a proofreading service or cover letter editing service such as Wordvice to review your letter for clarity and concision.
- Double-check the editor’s name. Call the journal to confirm if necessary.
- Search current calls for papers
- Try the Taylor & Francis Journal Suggester
How to write a cover letter for journal submission
Download our cover letter template.
When you submit your article to a journal, you often need to include a cover letter. This is a great opportunity to highlight to the journal editor what makes your research new and important. The cover letter should explain why your work is perfect for their journal and why it will be of interest to the journal’s readers.
When writing for publication, a well-written cover letter can help your paper reach the next stage of the manuscript submission process – being sent out for peer review . So it’s worth spending time thinking about how to write a cover letter to the journal editor, to make sure it’s going to be effective.
To help you, we’ve put together a guide to explain how to write a cover letter for journal article submission. You will receive cover letter instructions of what you should include and what you shouldn’t, and a word template cover letter.
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Customized cover letter
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What should my cover letter include?
Before you start to write, please check the instructions for authors (IFAs) of your chosen journal, as not all journals will require one. You should also check the IFAs for any journal specific information on what to include. This may include a list of relevant articles written by you or your co-authors that have been or are currently being considered for publication in other journals.
Key points to include in your letter to the editor:
Editor’s name (you can usually find this on the journal page on Taylor & Francis Online ).
Your manuscript’s title.
Name of the journal you are submitting to.
Statement that your paper has not been previously published and is not currently under consideration by another journal.
Brief description of the research you are reporting in your paper, why it is important, and why you think the readers of the journal would be interested in it.
Contact information for you and any co-authors .
Confirmation that you have no competing interests to disclose.
Things to avoid:
Don’t copy your abstract into your cover letter, instead explain in your own words the significance of the work, the problem that is being addressed, and why the manuscript belongs in the journal.
Don’t use too much jargon or too many acronyms, keep language straightforward and easy to read.
Avoid too much detail – keep your cover letter to a maximum of one page, as an introduction and brief overview.
Avoid any spelling and grammar errors and ensure your letter is thoroughly proofed before submitting.
Click to enlarge your PDF on key information to include in your cover letter .
Cover letter template
If you need further help to write a cover letter for a journal, you can download and use our sample template as a guide.
You might find that the submission system for your chosen journal requires your cover letter to be submitted into a text box rather than as a separate document, but it is still a good idea to write a draft first to make sure you have included everything.
Always make sure to check the journal’s instructions for authors for any specific additional information to include.
Use our submission checklist to make sure you’ve included everything you need to.
If you need more guidance, take a look at our other information and resources to help you make your submission .
Rapid constructive feedback
Consider the Taylor & Francis Rapid Technical Review service to help you meet your deadline, through peer-review-like comments on your manuscript.
Journal submission support
Guide to improve your submission experience
Article submission checklist
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A good cover letter can help to “sell” your manuscript to the journal editor. As well as introducing your work to the editor you can also take this opportunity to explain why the manuscript will be of interest to a journal's readers, something which is always as the forefront editors’ mind. As such it is worth spending time writing a coherent and persuasive cover letter.
The following is an example of a poor cover letter:
Dear Editor-in-Chief, I am sending you our manuscript entitled “Large Scale Analysis of Cell Cycle Regulators in bladder cancer” by Researcher et al. We would like to have the manuscript considered for publication in Pathobiology. Please let me know of your decision at your earliest convenience. With my best regards, Sincerely yours, A Researcher, PhD
Instead, check to see whether the journal’s Instructions for Authors have any cover letter requirements (e.g. disclosures, statements, potential reviewers). Then, write a letter that explains why the editor would want to publish your manuscript. The following structure covers all the necessary points that need to be included.
- If known, address the editor who will be assessing your manuscript by their name. Include the date of submission and the journal you are submitting to.
- First paragraph: include the title of your manuscript and the type of manuscript it is (e.g. review, research, case study). Then briefly explain the background to your study, the question you sought out to answer and why.
- Second paragraph: you should concisely explain what was done, the main findings and why they are significant.
- Third paragraph: here you should indicate why the readers of the journal would be interested in the work. Take your cues from the journal’s aims and scope. For example if the journal requires that all work published has broad implications explain how your study fulfils this. It is also a good idea to include a sentence on the importance of the results to the field.
- To conclude state the corresponding author and any journal specific requirements that need to be complied with (e.g. ethical standards).
TIP: All cover letters should contain these sentences:
- We confirm that this manuscript has not been published elsewhere and is not under consideration by another journal.
- All authors have approved the manuscript and agree with its submission to [insert the name of the target journal].
Before submitting your manuscript, thoroughly check its quality one more time. Evaluate it critically—could anything be done better?
Be sure that:
- The manuscript follows the Instructions for Authors
- All files are in the correct file format and of the appropriate resolution or size
- The spelling and grammar are correct
- You have contact information for all authors
- You have written a persuasive cover letter
Back │ Next
International Science Editing
June 30, 2016 by Teresa Nolan
Tips for writing a good cover letter
Article title: Make sure the article title in your cover letter matches the title in the submitted version of the article. If you revise your article, revise your cover letter.
Journal title: Make sure you write the name of the journal correctly. If your article has been rejected and you re-submit to another journal, make sure that you change the name of the journal. You will be surprised how many authors get this wrong!
Article type: Indicate the type of article (Review article, Research paper, Short communication, etc.), and check that this matches the name of this article type on the journal website.
Research aim: What was the aim of your research? Were you trying to solve a problem? Prove a hypothesis? Follow up on an unexpected result in a previous article (yours or that of someone else)? Don’t assume the Editor knows the precise details of your field of study. Give very brief details of the background if necessary. Spell out any abbreviations, and give the full version of any species name. Does the aim of your research match the Aims and Scope of the journal? If this is not obvious, add a sentence to explain.
Research findings: What did you find out? Don’t exaggerate, but don’t go to the opposite extreme either. If you make it sound too insignificant, why would anyone want to read the article)?
Research impact: What is the significance of your results? What is new? What is interesting? Add something interesting so that the Editor wants to read your article, or send it out for review.
Keep it shor t: don’t repeat whole sections of your article.
Keep it accurate : (perfect grammar, with absolutely no spelling mistakes). Check, double-check, then check again. Then give it to a colleague to read. Does any data in the letter match the data in the article? If you mention a 10% increase in yield in the letter, and a 7% increase in the Abstract, the Editor will start to doubt your research.
Keep it consistent: Format your letter to match the formatting of the article. For example, if you use P for probability values in the article, don’t use p in the cover letter)
Journal-specific requirements: Check the journal submission instructions for any specific requirements, such as disclosure of interests or suggested reviewers. Check the Aims and Scope.
International Science Editing offers a cover letter editing service. See here for prices.
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Writing effective cover letters for journal submissions: Tips and a Word template
When you need to submit a cover letter with your manuscript, you'll probably write it just before submission. Like many other authors, you may find yourself wondering what to write and taking longer than you expected, causing last-minute delays and stress.
To help you write effective cover letters—and to write them quickly and easily—in this article we offer some tips on layout and appropriate wording. Also, you can download our template cover letter (Word file) to help you save time writing and help you remember to include standard author statements and other information commonly required by journals.
If you are submitting a revised paper to the same journal, note that the response letter to the reviewers is different from the cover letter used at initial submission. You can find tips and a template on writing effective response letters to the reviewers in our previous article .
Many journals require a cover letter and state this in their guidelines for authors (alternatively known as author guidelines, information for authors, guide for authors, guidelines for papers, submission guide, etc.). For some journals, a cover letter is optional or may not be not required, but it's probably a good idea to include one.
Why do some journals ask for cover letters?
Cover letters can be helpful to journal staff in the following ways.
1. Cover letters that include standard statements required by the journal allow the journal staff to quickly confirm that the authors have (or say they have) followed certain ethical research and publishing practices.
These statements assert that the authors followed standard practices, which may include (i) adhering to ethical guidelines for research involving humans ( Declaration of Helsinki ), involving animals ( ARRIVE guidelines ), or falling under institutional guidelines; (ii) obtaining ethics approval from institutional review boards or ethics committees; (iii) obtaining informed consent or assent from participants; (iv) complying with authorship criteria (e.g., ICMJE criteria ); (v) confirming no duplicate submissions have been made; and (vi) recommending reviewers for your paper, which may include specifying peers that you prefer not be contacted.
2. Cover letters can summarize your manuscript quickly for the journal editor, highlighting your most important findings and their implications to show why your manuscript would be of interest.
Some journals, such as Nature, state that while a cover letter is optional, it provides "an excellent opportunity to briefly discuss the importance of the submitted work and why it is appropriate for the journal." Some publishers, such as Springer , recommend that you write a cover letter to help "sell" your manuscript to the journal editor.
3. Cover letters that contain all of the information required by the journal (as stated in the guideline for authors) can indicate that you have spent time carefully formatting the manuscript to fit the journal's style. This creates a good first impression. Addressing the letter to a named editor at the journal also shows that you took the time to write your letter (and by extension, your manuscript) with care and considered the fit with the journal beyond just impact factor.
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What makes an effective cover letter?
Cover letters should be short—preferably no more than 1 page—and they often use single line spacing. The content can be broadly divided into six sections:
- Addressee's information and date of submission
- Opening salutation
- Purpose statement and administrative information
- Summary of main research findings and implications
- Statements or information required by the journal
- Closing salutation and your contact information
Let's look at some tips for each section. And don't forget to download the template , which shows these tips already in place.
1. Addressee's information and date of submission
- Check the journal's website for the name of the editor who handles submissions; this could be the Managing Editor or an editor assigned to your geographical region. If no handling editor is named, address your cover letter to the Editor-in-Chief. Some journals ask that you identify a specific editor for your specialty.
- Write the name of the addressee in the top left corner of the page.
- Write the date beneath. To minimize the number of line breaks used in your cover letter (and help keep it to one page of text), you can put the date to the right if you wish.
- Note that dates written as numerals only can be confusing: 02/03/2017 can be read "2 March 2017" in British and "3 February 2017" in American English. Using the format "3 February 2017" or "February 3, 2017" is clear.
2. Opening salutation
- Write the title and last name of the addressee (exclude the first name); for example, "Professor Brown" or "Dr. Baker" (British English: "Dr Baker").
- If you can't find a named editor on the journal website, then you can use the opening salutation "Dear Editor".
- At the end of the opening salutation, you can use a comma or a colon; that is, "Dear Dr. Baker," or "Dear Dr. Baker:" (British English uses the comma; American English uses either, but the colon is considered more formal).
3. Purpose statement and administrative information
- Clearly state the purpose of your letter (that you are submitting a manuscript) and then state your manuscript title, author names (or first author "Brown et al."), and article type (e.g., original paper).
- Be sure to use the journal's own terminology to refer to the article type; for example, some journals use the term "Regular Articles" for a full research paper, whereas others use "Original Submissions", "Full Papers", "Original Articles", among others.
- See the downloadable Word template for an example sentence that presents this information clearly and concisely.
- If your submission consists of many files, consider summarizing them in one short sentence so that the journal editor is sure all of the files have been received; for example, "There are 8 files in all: 1 main manuscript file, 1 highlights file, 3 figure files, 1 table file, 1 supplementary data file, and 1 supplementary figures file".
4. Summary of main research findings and implications
- In a new paragraph, summarize the purpose of your research (the research gap or problem it addresses), the main findings, and finally the implications of these findings. This is your main chance to highlight the value of your work to the journal editor, so keep this short and focused. (Journal editors may receive thousands of submissions annually, and many fulfill editing duties on top of their own research and teaching schedule, so you should strive to make their jobs easier by providing as concise a summary as possible.)
- Be sure to tailor your statements so that they're in line with the readership of the journal. For example, if you are submitting to a more general journal that has a diverse readership, underscore the possible impact your findings could have in multiple fields. Conversely, if you are submitting to a publication with narrow scope, you can write about your findings in highly focused terms.
- Avoid simply reproducing sentences verbatim from the abstract—which the journal editor will likely read next. Instead, if you take sentences from your abstract as a base to work from, then try to craft a much shorter summary that clearly fits the journal's focus and that highlights the implications of your work for the journal's readers. In fact, Nature guidelines state specifically to "avoid repeating information that is already present in the abstract and introduction."
- When stating that you think your work is a good fit for the journal, be sure not to use exaggerated flattery. Avoid using words like "esteemed" and "prestigious" to describe the journal: "We believe that these findings will be of interest to the readers of your esteemed/prestigious journal."
- It's helpful to the journal editor to state if your work directly relates to a paper published by another author in the same journal. Also, mention if your study closely relates to or extends your previously published work, so it is clear why your submitted manuscript is novel or important enough to publish.
Common phrases in this paragraph:
Summarizing the purpose of your research
- This study presents/summarizes/examines…
- X remains a problem for (engineers/software developers/local government). In this study, we (examined/investigated/developed and tested)…
Presenting your main results
- Our main findings/results were that…
- The most interesting/important findings were that…
- Most importantly, our findings can improve/reduce/help…
Highlighting the relevance of your findings
- These findings should enable (engineers/doctors/local government) to…
- We believe that these findings will be of interest to the readers of your journal.
5. Statements or information required by the journal
- In this new paragraph, provide any statements that the journal requires be included in your cover letter. Be sure to review the journal's guidelines to know what information you should provide.
- Some journals or publishers have very specific requirements. For example, PLOS requires that authors describe any prior interactions with the journal in the cover letter, as well as suggest appropriate Academic Editors from the journal's editorial board to handle the submission.
- Some journals require that sentences are provided verbatim in the cover letter. The guidelines will tell you to copy and paste the sentence provided in quotation marks into the cover letter. For example, Springer states that cover letters should contain two specific sentences: "We confirm that this manuscript has not been published elsewhere and is not under consideration by another journal" and "All authors have approved the manuscript and agree with its submission to [insert the name of the target journal]."
- Several statements pertaining to research and publication ethics are commonly required by journals across a broad range of fields. These are given in our downloadable Word template . When using the template, you can retain the statements in full, revise them slightly as appropriate to your circumstances, replace them with any similar wording required by the journal, or delete them if they do not fit your specific situation.
Previous contact with the journal
- We state that we have had no previous contact with the journal regarding this submission.
- We previously contacted the journal to inquire about/to check whether…
Conflict of interests and financial disclosures
- The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.
- X.Y. advises Company A and has received lecture fees from Company B.
- This study was supported by a grant from Z.
- No financial support was received for this study/work.
- A.B. conceived the study, analyzed the data, and drafted the manuscript; C.D. analyzed the data…
- All authors have approved the manuscript and agree with its submission to the journal.
- All authors approved the final version of the manuscript and agree to be accountable for all aspects of this work.
- Potential reviewers for our manuscript are:
- We believe that the following individual(s) would be well suited to reviewing our manuscript.
Request to exclude reviewers
- We request that the following individual(s) not be approached to review our manuscript (because…).
- We declare that this manuscript has not been published before, in whole or in part, and is not currently being considered for publication elsewhere.
- This study was presented in part at…
- This study was previously published in Japanese (citation) and…
6. Closing salutation and your contact information
- Briefly thank the journal editor for considering the manuscript and follow this with the full contact information of the corresponding author (name, academic degrees or professional qualifications; affiliation and postal address; telephone (and fax); email).
- Be sure to maintain a collegial tone to leave the journal editor with the best impression as he or she finishes reading your cover letter and moves on to evaluate your manuscript.
- Avoid statements that could be construed as presuming to give instructions to the editor. For example, "we look forward to your review of our manuscript" implicitly directs the editor to review your paper. Also, we look forward to hearing from you "at your earliest convenience/as soon as possible" implicitly directs the editor to communicate with you quickly; instead, simply use a neutral but polite phrase such as "we look forward to hearing from you" or "we look forward to hearing from you in due course".
- A suitable closing salutation is "Sincerely," or "Yours sincerely,"
Although the cover letter is not, strictly speaking, a part of your manuscript, it can affect how your submission is perceived by the journal editor. A cover letter that is tailored to the journal, introduces your work persuasively, and is free from spelling and grammatical errors can help prime the editor to view your submission positively before he or she even looks over your manuscript.
We hope our tips and Word template can help you create professional, complete cover letters in a time-effective way. Our specialist editors, translators, and writers are available to help create or revise the content to be error-free and, as part of our additional comprehensive Guidelines for Authors service , we can ensure the cover letter includes all of the statements required by the journal.
Lastly, just as a reminder for members of ThinkSCIENCE's free annual rewards program , remember to claim your reward of free editing or translation of one cover letter alongside editing or translation of a full paper before the end of the March!
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Writing a Successful Journal Cover Letter (Free Templates)
Even great manuscripts often stand out based on the title or its contents alone. They need great cover letters.
Cover letters for journal submission are an underrated part of the submission process. Don’t overlook them. They’re a valuable step to getting your research noticed, published, and all the good things that come after that.
The truth is, most journal editors just don’t have the time to thoroughly read every submitted article in full to decide if it’s suitable for their journal. They use cover letters to help them filter out the most interesting and appropriate submissions first.
Cover letters also help identify articles completely out of the journal’s scope and that would be better off getting a quick letter of rejection.
If your manuscript doesn’t have a cover letter and the 12 other articles on the editor’s desk do, it’s likely that your paper will be looked at last. Putting in that extra effort, just like on a job application, lets you sell your research, avoid quick rejections, and more likely make it to peer review.
We also have some journal cover letter templates and examples for you, so you don’t have to start from zero. Read on.
What do you put in a journal cover letter?
Your cover letter needs certain basic elements. Generally they are:
- Editor and target journal
- Salutation (Dear Dr. …)
- Indication you’re submitting your manuscript, along with its title, and the category of manuscript you’re submitting (Original Report, Review , Case Study, etc.) based on what the journal accepts
- Background information regarding your work – what is already known about the subject matter?
- What your study was
- Why you performed the study (rationale)
- Briefly, what methods you used and what your key findings were
- Why your manuscript is a great fit for this journal
- (optional, depending on the journal and on if you want to do this) Recommended reviewers
- (optional, depending on the journal) Funding information
- Closing line (Sincerely, etc.) and the name and contact details for the manuscript’s corresponding author
Those are the key elements. It’s how you express them and the quality of your message that mean the different between a dry overview and an attractive promotion of your work.
Many journals don’t have a prescribed format for the cover letter. On the other end of the spectrum are PLOS ONE’s guidelines , which give specifics on what to include, including selecting Academic Editors from its directory.
Always check the guidelines first to be sure you give the journal what it wants. Those are basics. With a grasp of those, there are many ways to polish your cover letter into a valuable sales tool for your work.
What to do and what to avoid in your journal cover letter
Most “problems with journal cover letters relate to simply not spending enough time and care on it. Or even not doing it at all. These are easily fixed if you’re a skilled English writer. If not, they’re still easily fixed with a little help.
All of the following are critical. Make sure you DO:
- Check the name of your target journal.
- Address the cover letter to the relevant person. It is not enough to simply say “Dear Editor” or “To whom it may concern.” Include the name, title and position of the editor you are addressing.
- Avoid superlatives – about the journal, yourself and your own work. It’s pretty unlikely your work is “groundbreaking” or “trailblazing,” though it may by the “first time ever” that a certain approach was taken with a certain population.
- Check the formatting. This varies by journal. It includes US vs. UK vs. Oxford English spelling, correct page numbering, use of templates, and much more.
- Get a colleague to read your cover letter before you send it.
“ A typical cover letter just repeats the abstract. That’s a huge missed opportunity. You need to think of what the journal wants. Try to tailor your manuscript’s novel and interesting points specifically to the your target journal’s aims and scope. It may mean an extra half-hour of work for you, but if it helps get you published, isn’t it worth that small investment of time? “ — Geraldine Echue , PhD, CMPP Edanz Managing Editor
But don’t do this…
The following may not be critical, but they’re common areas that authors mess up. Sometimes they don’t know they’re doing it or they’re just trying their best. So be aware
Make sure you DON’T :
- Take shortcuts. Your cover letter is very important for getting your manuscript to peer review; give it time and attention.
- Cut and paste your abstract, or sections of it, into the cover letter. That’s low-effort and low-readability. Reword it to make it pop.
- Over-praise the editor or target journal – it’s not necessary to use such phrases as “your esteemed journal.” A manuscript will be sent for peer review based on the quality of the cover letter and study, not because you say nice things about the journal.
- Forget to use the Word (or other software’s) spellcheck and, ideally, use a tool like Grammarly and/or Hemingway to help grammar and readability. These are no substitute for a professional edit, though.
- Be overly proud about your English skills. Just like you go to the dentist to get your teeth fixed, you can hire a professional editor and subject matter expert to get your English fixed.
Not that a lot of these also reply to resubmission letters and responses to peer review . The underlying themes are care, courtesy, and excellent English suitable for your audience.
And two more big DOs
- DO get a professional edit or proofread if you’re not a native speaker of English or just not that great at writing.
DO have a professional write your cover letter for you if you want to save some time and make sure you got everything just as the journal wants it. The Edanz Cover Letter Development service can handle this for you.
Set phrases and common expressions
The journal letter maintains a formal tone, so there are certain stock phrases you can use and in some cases must use. As a result, there are a number of phrases which are common to cover letters.
- To our knowledge, this is the first report showing…
- We believe our findings will appeal to the readership of [target journal name].
- Please address all correspondence to:
- We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
“I’ve found about 60% of authors don’t submit a cover letter at all. It seems they just expect something magical to happen with their manuscript. Journal editors struggle with this: they’re not necessarily subject-area specialists. They wonder, ‘Why is the paper important?'” — Gareth Dyke , PhD Edanz Author Education Manager
Commonly required statements
Many journals and publishers require that all cover letters should contain the following sentences:
- We confirm that this manuscript has not been published elsewhere and is not under consideration by another journal.
- All authors have read and approved the final manuscript and agree with its submission to [target journal name].
If all authors have no competing interests, you should include a statement indicating as such:
The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.
If an author does have competing interests, it’s a good idea to include details of these in your cover letter. You might also include funding information:
This study was supported by a grant from the [funding body].
Other required statements
Some other potentially required information:
- Clinical trial registration database and number
- Has this manuscript been published in another language? If so, has that journal editor given permission for this submission?
- What other publications related to the same study have been published? (especially for clinical trial related manuscripts)
- Has the data in your study been presented or been published in any other format? For studies involving human subjects, was informed consent obtained? Was permission obtained from an ethics committee? Was the study carried in accordance with Declaration of Helsinki guidelines?
- Was permission obtained for the reproduction or modification of previously published figures and tables (especially for review articles).
The journal’s guidelines will typically give specific directions on which of these to include, if any. And if you have any questions, get in touch with them directly.
Journal submission tips and hacks from the experts
Most of these are plain common sense, but if you’re in a hurry, you might overlook them. Some are less commonly known.
Be personal, use the editor’s name
Do your homework. Look up the name of the Editor-in-Chief or the specific Section Editor for the journal you’re submitting to and address the letter to them directly.
Use Dear Dr. (or Professor) + their Last name . If you’re not sure of their title, Google them to see if they have a LinkedIn page, ResearchGate page, or works published in the last couple of years. If you still can’t confirm their title, use Dear Full name as shown on the journal’s webpage .
It’s like a cover letter for a job; you need to personalize your cover letter to demonstrate your interest in that particular journal, and not make it look like you’d just be happy to get your paper accepted anywhere.
You should also explain why your study will be of specific interest to the readers of the journal.
Check the Aims & Scope on the journal website to see who their target audience is and tailor your reasoning to them.
Tell them what you want to publish
This may seem obvious, but sometimes authors submit cover letters without including the title of their manuscript and what type of article it is.
This should appear in the very first paragraph of your letter and will help the editor see immediately if the topic is of interest and judge whether they have space for the article type you’re submitting for the current issue.
Even more, it will show that you thoroughly read the guidelines. If you say you’re submitting “Original Research” when the journal calls it “Research Articles”, you’re not making a very good first impression.
Summarize the highlights of your work
It’s not enough to simply include the title of your manuscript in the cover letter and hope that alone will attract the editor.
Try to keep the cover letter to one page, but always include a brief summary of your study outlining the reasons why you conducted the work, your aims, and the major results you observed. If that makes you go a bit longer, it’s not a big deal.
Don’t include statistics or a lot of data; a compelling summary of the study is sufficient. If the editor is interested, they’ll look into your manuscript more deeply for further details.
Cover letters are your chance to talk directly with the journal editor and convince them that your paper is more interesting than the next one sitting on their desk. Talk about any real-world implications of your findings or the significance of your results for the field. Don’t be too speculative or over-exaggerate your findings, but do take this important opportunity to feature the importance of your work.
Don’t forget your “must have” statements
Editors want to know that your manuscript has not been submitted elsewhere or is under consideration at another journal.
They want to know any relevant conflict of interest information and any roles the funding body played in the study.
The author instructions may or may not have explicit information on what they want you to write, but it’s good practice to state this information upfront. This way, the editor doesn’t have to dig through the manuscript to know if you’ve met the basic ethical requirements for publication.
See it in action: Edanz video on writing cover letters
We laid out the basics of a cover letter in this video.
And if you don’t want to start with a blank document…
Get a cover letter template
It’s all easier said than done, right?
Download a template to plug-and-play your text.
Download the above short-form or long-form cover letter from the Edanz Learning Lab template collection .
“When I became a journal editor, I really learned how important cover letters are. We need them to learn more about submissions and to make more informed decisions on whether to send manuscripts out for peer review. As a journal editor, I greatly appreciate a carefully written cover letter; it saves me time and it shows me the authors really care. It also helps with reviewer selections … something I rarely have time to do.” — Gareth Dyke , PhD Editor-in-Chief of Taylor & Francis journal ‘Historical Biology’
By the way, not all cover letters are the same, though most are. PLOS ONE cover letters are a notable exception and have certain requirements for what you need to tell them, such as which of their Academic Editors you want to review your submission. See their guidelines here .
So, all set to do your cover letter? Now go find a forever home for your manuscript and tell them why they’re the perfect fit for you.
Want to dig deeper into the publication process, soup to nuts, ideas to publication? Take simple, expert-designed courses to walk you through it all, at the Edanz My Learning Lab .