A cover letter presented to the editor-in-chief of the target journal is your chance to lobby on behalf of your manuscript. A good cover letter should tell the editor why you think they should consider your manuscript for publication. The cover letter should be concise, emphasizing the novelty and importance of the study, and how its topic fits the journal’s scope.
Although there is no strict limitation on structure, a well-prepared cover letter usually contains the following elements:
Based on the openness of the author and reviewer identity, the peer review process may adhere to one of three models:
Open Review:Identity of authors and reviewers is open to each other;
Single-Blind Review:Identity of authors is open to reviewers, whilst the reviewers' identity is concealed from the authors;
Double-Blind Review:Identity of authors and reviewers is concealed from each other.
When submitting a manuscript to a journal, authors are usually required to recommend (and also sometimes exclude) a list of reviewers.
一Generally, reviewers who have been suggested by authors tend to be more likely to accept the review task and give a more detailed review report, possibly due to a good matching of research interest. Reviewers suggested by authors often have a better understanding on the authors’ research. However, journal editors do not necessarily invite recommended reviewers for a variety of reasons.
Usually, in most scientific journals, journal editors would make the following suggestions based on comprehensive review comments after peer review:
When a manuscript meets the journal’s requirements and expectations with regard to research scope, scientific soundness, technical writing, language expression, etc., the editor will generally opt to accept the manuscript. Some extraordinarily well-prepared manuscript may be accepted directly without revision, while in other cases, manuscripts have to undergo 1 to 2 rounds of peer review and revision until there are no further comments from the reviewers.
Reconsider after Minor Revisions
When a manuscript largely meets the journal’s requirements and expectations, but might suffer slight problems such as a few unclear expressions or missing information, it can be easily improved to get it into a publishable state by minor revisions. The editor is likely to reconsider this manuscript after proper revisions are made.
Reconsider after Major Revisions
When a manuscript indicates a potential contribution to the science of that field but suffers problems such as unclear or ambiguous statements, important information, missing experiments or data, etc. The editor may opt to reconsider this manuscript after substantive revision and, when necessary, simple additional experiments performed.
Reject and resubmit after revision
This suggestion is not fundamentally different from Reconsider after Major Revisions. The slight difference between the two is that problems in the rejected manuscripts would be more severe and would take a quite long time for authors to address, e.g., re-perform data analysis or part of an experiment. The editors recognize some value in the study but are not overly optimistic that the authors can address them in a timely revision. There is perhaps also the tacit implication that editors would not mind if the authors submitted their manuscript elsewhere.
Rejection can happen at any stage during the process of manuscript consideration due to such reasons as:
If a manuscript does not fit the scope of a journal, the editor will reject it immediately without organizing peer review. Thus, checking journal scope and choosing the right journal is a basic but essential step in the submission process.
A crude cover letter accompanying submission
A poorly prepared cover letter which may not convince the editors that the manuscript fits the target journal, increases the likelihood of rejection.
High Proportion of Duplication
Manuscript contains too much duplication with published papers. It may involve plagiarism problem;
Research Ethics Deficiency
The research involving animals, rare plants, or human organs, tissues, and cells violates international ethical practices or has not been approved by an appropriate official ethical agency;
Low academic level
Manuscript would be rejected due to lack of novelty, originality and/or scientific soundness, subjective and biased discussion and/or conclusion, or fatal flaws in design, method and statistical testing, etc.
Technical writing should avoid subjective, ambiguous, illogical expressions and incorrect grammar and spelling. A manuscript with poor language expression may delay the process or invite rejection
All journals have their own style of publication. Some journals that may be stricter in pre-checks, directly rejecting new submissions in the wrong format.
Most peer-reviewed journals require the authors, when resubmitting the revised manuscript, to include a point-to-point response to the reviewers’ comments. A well-prepared response letter not only leaves the reviewers with a good impression, but may also accelerate their review of the revised manuscript.
A good response letter should firstly be in point-to-point form, which best indicates:
What your attitude is to each of the comments from the reviewers - e.g., whether you agree or not;
What you have done in terms of responding to the comment - e.g., added the suggested information, or deleted/revised any sentences, or corrected any mistakes;。
Where the modifications were made - e.g., on page 10, line 25.
For example, if a reviewer suggested you add some information into a section, you may answer it by a note such as: Agree, we have added XXX at page XXX, line XXX.
To assist reviewers and editors in identifying your revisions, it would be best to highlight all changes in the manuscript file accordingly.