How To Type A Cover Letter For A Paper

Writing Cover Letters for Scientific Manuscripts

Release Date: September 29, 2012
Category: Scientific Writing

Key Points Summary

  • Always submit an accompanying cover letter with every manuscript.
  • Some journals have very specific requirements for information to provide in the cover letter, and these are usually stated in the journal’s instructions to authors. Make sure your cover letter includes any journal-required elements.
  • Strong cover letters tell journal editors why they should publish your manuscript in their journals.
  • Cover letters should be succinct and focus on the importance and novelty of your findings, as well as how they relate to the scope of your target journal.

After the hard work of perfecting your manuscript and selecting a target journal, one more task remains before submission: writing a cover letter. The cover letter is an important document that must do more than tell the editor that you are submitting your manuscript for consideration. It should capture the editor’s attention, provide information about the novelty and importance of your findings, and indicate that all authors have approved of the submission and the manuscript has not been submitted to more than one journal concurrently.

Strong cover letters not only introduce your manuscript – they offer an important opportunity to convince journal editors to consider your manuscript for publication.

Determine Your Target Journal’s Requirements

Before you begin, check your target journal’s author instructions for any cover letter requirements, such as certain specifically worded statements. No matter what else you decide to include, always make sure that your cover letter contains any required information and statements described in your target journal’s author instructions.

Develop an Outline for the Cover Letter

In addition to any information and statements required by your target journal, every cover letter should contain the following elements:

  1. An introduction stating the title of the manuscript and the journal to which you are submitting.
  2. The reason why your study is important and relevant to the journal’s readership or field.
  3. The question your research answers.
  4. Your major experimental results and overall findings.
  5. The most important conclusions that can be drawn from your research.
  6. A statement that the manuscript has not been published and is not under consideration for publication in any other journal
  7. A statement that all authors approved the manuscript and its submission to the journal.
  8. Any other details that will encourage the editor to send your manuscript for review.

Write one or more sentences to address each of these points. You will revise and polish these sentences to complete your cover letter.

Write the Body of the Cover Letter

Open your cover letter with a sentence or two explaining why you are writing, the title of your manuscript, and the title of the journal.

  • Example: “I am writing to submit our manuscript entitled, “Taking antioxidants plus zinc reduces the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration for high-risk patients,” for consideration for publication in Archives of Ophthalmology.”

Briefly state the background for the problem or question your research answers. The focus of the paragraph is to explain why your research was needed and clearly state the question your research answers. Clearly and concisely explain your results, findings, and conclusions.

To keep your cover letter concise, limit this explanation to one or two brief paragraphs. You can also include a sentence or two that links your findings to the interests of the journal’s readership, if appropriate. It may be helpful to review your abstract to stay focused on your most important results and conclusions.

  • Example: “Because our findings could be applied in the clinic right away, they are likely to be of great interest to the vision scientists, researchers, clinicians, and trainees who read your journal.”

As you write this explanation, think in terms of “how will my manuscript benefit the journal?” The journal editor’s goal is to publish important, novel findings that are within the journal’s scope and of interest to its readership. Your goal is to show the editor how your manuscript meets these criteria. Such manuscripts will be highly referenced, which will increase the impact factor of the journal. Without exaggerating, explain the novelty, relevance, and interest of your findings to researchers who read that journal.

After describing your research and findings, include a paragraph with any journal-required statements. If the findings in the manuscript have been presented at a scientific meeting, include that information in this paragraph. This paragraph should also include statements about exclusivity and author approval for submission.

  • Example: “This manuscript describes original work and is not under consideration by any other journal. All authors approved the manuscript and this submission.”

In your last paragraph, thank the editor for his or her consideration.

  • Example: “Thank you for receiving our manuscript and considering it for review. We appreciate your time and look forward to your response.”

Add Basic Letter Elements

Cover letters follow the same simple format as all letters. Make sure your cover letter includes the following basic letter elements:

  • Date.
  • Addressee name and mailing address.
  • Salutation (such as “Dear Dr. Smith:” or “Dear Editor:”).
  • Body of the letter.
  • Closing (such as “Kind regards,” or “Thank you,”).
  • Signature block (author’s signature, typed name and highest degree, institution, and mailing address).
  • Enclosure designation (“Enclosure” to indicate your manuscript is included with the cover letter).

Cover letters are often submitted electronically in an e-mail message. E-mail cover letters may not contain more formal letter elements like the date and address block.

Revise the Cover Letter

Read through your cover letter several times to proofread and revise the text for clarity and brevity. Remove any stray points or sentences that do not directly relate to the purpose, major results, and most important findings and conclusions of your study. As you revise the cover letter, ask yourself if the impact, novelty, and relevance of your findings are clear. Rewrite any sentences that are very long, do not make your point clearly, or are cluttered with too many details.

Cover letters should not exceed one page unless absolutely necessary. If you write a cover letter that is longer than one page, think carefully about how it can be shortened.

As you revise the cover letter, proofread for the same basic grammar and construction issues you would look for when revising your manuscript.

  • Eliminate unnecessary or redundant phrases like “in order to” and “may have the potential to.”
  • Make sure the letter is written in plain English. Remove any jargon and define all abbreviations at first use.
  • Proofread for spelling and grammar errors.

During your review, read the cover letter at least once to ensure you avoid the following:

  • Statements that exaggerate or overstate results
  • Conclusions that are not supported by the data reported in the manuscript.
  • Sentences repeated word-for-word from the manuscript text.
  • Too many technical details.

Always complete a final check to confirm that your cover letter includes all elements required by your target journal.

More Resources for Writing Cover Letters

Scientific Writing Workshops

If you like our articles, try our workshops! Our articles are based on the material from our scientific writing workshops, which cover these and many other topics more thoroughly, with more examples and discussion.

We offer on-site workshops for your event or organization, and also host workshops that individual participants can attend. Our on-site scientific writing workshops can range from 1-2 hours to several days in length. We can tailor the length to suit your needs, and we can deliver a writing workshop as a stand-alone activity or as part of scheduled meetings.

Our scientific writing workshops consistently receive high praise from participants including graduate students, post-docs, and faculty in diverse fields. Please see our scientific writing workshop page for details.

If you found this article helpful or if there is a topic you want us to address in a future article, please use our online comment submission form, or contact us directly. Your comments and suggestions are valuable! Click here to return to our scientific editing article library.



If you’re looking for solid advice on how to write a strong journal submission cover letter that will convince 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. As such, 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 template submission cover letter with detailed how-to explanations and some useful phrases.

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 them 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!

We can’t stress this enough: Follow your target journal’s guide for authors! No matter what other advice you read in the vast webosphere, make sure you prioritize the information requested by the editors. As we explained above, failure to include required statements will lead to automatic rejection.

With that said, below is a list of the most common elements you must include and what information you should NOT include:

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.

TIP: It’s customary to include any graduate degrees in the addressee’s name.

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. Also, websites may be outdated, so call the journal to confirm to whom you should address your cover letter when in doubt.

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].”

  1. Article 1
  2. Article 2
  3. Article 3

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 19.02.2018.”

[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]
  • [Name, institution, email, expertise]
  • [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.

Sincerely,

 

[Your Name]

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 checklist before submitting your cover letter

  1. Set the font to Arial or Times New Roman, size 12 point.
  2. Single-space all text.
  3. Use one line space between body paragraphs.
  4. Do not indent paragraphs.
  5. Keep all text left justified.
  6. Use spelling and grammar check software. If needed, use professional proofreading and editing services such as Wordvice to review your letter for clarity and concision.
  7. Double-check the editor’s name. Call the journal to confirm if necessary.

Additional resources to learn more about cover letters

  1. http://blogs.nature.com/methagora/2013/09/how-to-write-a-cover-letter.html
  2. https://www.springer.com/gp/authors-editors/authorandreviewertutorials/submitting-to-a-journal-and-peer-review/cover-letters/10285574
  3. http://www.biosciencewriters.com/Writing-Cover-Letters-for-Scientific-Manuscripts.aspx
  4. jgimed.org/authors/JGIM-cover-letter-templates.doc
  5. http://www.nature.com/ni/journal/v9/n2/full/ni0208-107.html
Categories: 1

0 Replies to “How To Type A Cover Letter For A Paper”

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *