This month we have a number of excellent articles on a variety of topics. While some are by experienced authors, there are a number by beginning authors as well. In addition, Anita Catlin, our series editor on ethical issues lists a number of accomplishments by NANN members over the last year. If you were able to attend the NANN National meeting, you may be reading this at the conference while participating in excellent educational opportunities and meeting fellow neonatal nurses from around the country and overseas. If you were not able to attend, you have received this in the mail or are reading it on your unit thanks to someone having the foresight to subscribe.
One of the goals of any professional association is to provide members a chance to develop leadership and professional skills. Learning to lead a group, participate on a committee or board of directors, and developing speaking ability are some of the skills one can learn through participation in professional associations. Another skill is writing for publication. Every author has to publish a first manuscript. Professional associations provide opportunities for beginning and experienced authors to disseminate information to others.
As nurses, we have an obligation to share knowledge about practice with others. This does not always mean original research. Sometimes it is sharing how your unit solved a particular problem. It may be reviewing current literature on a current topic and putting it together to educate others. It might be a case report of an interesting patient or situation you have encountered. Maybe it is a discharge tool you have created to teach parents. All of these make for good manuscripts for Advances in Neonatal Care.
If you have ever thought of writing something for publication what is stopping you? Nurses have a number of reasons for not writing. Time is the most common reason given and there is no arguing that it takes time to write a manuscript.1 However, once you get started, it is just a matter of setting aside the time and making the commitment to follow through. The other big reason is fear of rejection or fear of public criticism. Remember that many authors who are now famous had works rejected, among them J. K. Rowling, whose first Harry Potter book was rejected by a number of publishers!
The first thing you need is an idea. Think about what you are interested in or what you would like to learn more about.2 What problems have you encountered that might be a problem in other units? Have you prepared a presentation that might be turned into a manuscript? Then, read as much as you can about that topic. This will help you narrow your idea and may lead to other ideas you can use. It will also help you identify gaps in the literature that you may be able to fill with a review article or targeted research on that topic.
Reading about the topic will also help you select an appropriate journal for your work. Pay attention to what types of articles a journal publishes, and what the format is for the type of article you want to write. Check out the guidelines for authors. Advances in Neonatal Care publishes these in each issue and they are also found on our Web site. This will give you guidelines on the length of article, how to format references, and how to submit artwork. A query letter to the editor can give you an idea on whether or not your topic is appropriate for the journal and if they have published anything recently on that topic. It will also let you know if there is a need for that particular topic in upcoming issues.
Once you have done your literature review and identified a journal, then you must begin to write. An outline will help you get organized and keep you on track. Write the introduction and abstract last. If you use an outline, you can start with the sections you are most comfortable with and then move to the sections that are more challenging.
Plan to do more than one draft of your paper. Have a trusted colleague read it before submission for grammar, spelling, and accuracy of information. Consider what sections could be eliminated. Most authors tend to write too much rather than not enough. Think about how tables, graphs, or illustrations can add to the reader's understanding.
Once you are finished, it is time to submit. If you are a first-time author, rest assured that your article will go through a peer-review process that will give you important information about both positive aspects of your manuscript and areas where it can be improved. If it is not accepted, you will receive feedback on how it can be improved. If it is accepted, there will be suggestions for how to revise it to get it ready for publication. Many journals, including Advances in Neonatal Care, are accustomed to working with new authors and are willing to help you get your manuscript in shape. We are also happy to answer questions as you are developing your manuscript.
Professional associations and professional journals depend on members to exchange ideas, teach others, and write for publication. Each of you can participate in any one of these activities. All it takes is an idea. Why not give it a try.
1. Alspach G. Converting presentations into journal articles; a guide for nurses. Crit Care Nurse. 2010;30:8–15
2. Wachs JE, Williamson G, Moore PV, Roy D, Childre F. It starts with an idea. AAOHN J. 2010;58:177–181