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Advice to a New Author

Fulton, Janet S. PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, ANEF, FAAN

doi: 10.1097/NUR.0000000000000256
DEPARTMENTS: Editorial
Free

Author Affiliation: School of Nursing, Indiana University, Indianapolis.

The editor reports no conflicts of interest.

Correspondence: Janet S. Fulton, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, ANEF, FAAN, School of Nursing, Indiana University, 600 Barnhill Dr, Indianapolis, IN 46202 (jasfulto@iu.edu).

Advanced practice nurses increasingly are approaching clinical work in a scholarly manner leading to a greater understanding of clinical practice and care outcomes. Kudos to those nurses who disseminate reports of evidence-based practice projects and innovative clinical programs though presentations and publications. Increasingly, clinicians are joining the ranks of researchers in contributing to the literature. Historically, novice authors were mostly PhD students learning the ropes of publication under the watchful eye of the research mentor. With novice authors now coming from all corners of nursing, here are some thoughts to share with new and some not-so-new authors.

Get a mentor. Like a lot of things in life, there are rules, and then, there are unwritten rules. When writing for publication, always start with the rules, which are in the information for authors posted on the journal’s Web site. Not following the rules can get a manuscript dismissed without much consideration. Like playing a new piece of music or joining a new sport team, the novice often needs an interpreter to provide context and clarification. Select a mentor with experience in publication. Conduct an author search to verify the potential mentor’s publication experience.

Take the mentor’s advice. Find a mentor who will tell it like it is. Avoid the accommodating person who is supportive but uncritical. The manuscript will need to stand up to blind peer review by a panel of experts in the topic area. They are going to be critical; it is a reviewer’s job. If the mentor says to revise, then revise. If the mentor says select a different journal, then a different journal it will be.

Follow through in a timely manner. Manuscripts have a shelf life. Once a mentor has invested in the work, it is important to follow through. If the manuscript is reviewed by the journal and an invitation to revise and resubmit is received, do it. Failure to follow through with revisions wastes not only the mentor’s time but also the reviewers’ time. The critique may be difficult; do not take it personally. It is free advice from experts and deserves respect. The biggest thank you a mentor can receive is to see the manuscript published.

Manuscript preparation is the author’s responsibility. The entire manuscript must be prepared by the author, including tables, figures, graphics, and references. Unless otherwise noted in the information for authors, a journal does not do things such as format data or create artwork. When including a copyrighted material, it is the author’s responsibility to obtain permissions and pay any associated fees. Copy editors will format the manuscript in the journal’s style, such as adding color headers, and will check for grammar and referencing errors, but it is the author’s responsibility to submit accurate, complete information.

Be patient, humans are involved. Manuscripts are logged in, assigned a number, assessed by the editorial board, and, if warranted, sent to experts for review. Reviewers are busy professionals fitting manuscript reviews into complex lives with competing priorities. Life events happen to reviewers; things can bog down. Many editors are part time with minimal editorial office personnel. A review can be delayed by a bad flu season. Be patient, a decision will be forthcoming.

Do not argue. It is common for an author to disagree with the reviewer comments or editor’s decision and to feel angry and disappointed if the manuscript is rejected. However, do not argue with the editor or editorial office staff. Do not send notes disparaging the journal, the reviewers, or the editor. Do not accuse the journal of bias against a topic or author’s credentials. Most often, a poor outcome is the result of the novice author not understanding the author guidelines or failing to seek feedback from colleagues before submitting. Having a mentor can avoid many problems. Share the reviewers’ comments and editor’s decision with the mentor, evaluate the situation, and decide the next steps. It is not a perfect system, humans are involved.

Final decisions belong to the author. Manuscripts should be submitted to only 1 journal. Once the manuscript has been reviewed and returned to the author, the author is free to withdraw the manuscript. However, it is considered inappropriate for an author to revise a manuscript based on a selected journal’s review and then submit it to another journal. The first journal invested considerable time and effort in the review, and if a revise and resubmit invitation is offered, it is best to follow though. In the situation where a manuscript is rejected, the author is free to submit it to another journal.

The review process for many journals, including this one, is blinded. Reviewers do not know who the author is, and the author is blinded to the reviewers’ identities. The editor and associate editors, as managing editors for manuscripts, are aware of author and reviewer identities, and all involved are expected to maintain confidentiality in dealing with authors, manuscripts, and reviewers. Avoid discussing a manuscript with the editors outside the journal Web-based manuscript management system. That said, editors do correspond with authors and prospective authors, but some areas of discussion may be off-limits.

Including clinical work in the professional and scientific literature is important for advancing nursing practice. This journal accepts manuscripts on a wide variety of clinical topics and encourages research papers, literature reviews, evidence-based practice projects, and reports of innovative clinical programs and projects. As the journal closes out its 30th year, thanks to all the authors, new and experienced; our reviewers; and editorial board members for a great 2016. A special thanks to mentors everywhere! Here’s to another 30 years!

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