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How to Write a Great Cover Letter for Scientific Journal Submissions

Letter 1

Writing a great cover letter for journal submissions

You’re ready to submit your manuscript to your journal of choice, but you have to write a cover letter. What you include in this document depends on what the journal requests. For some publishers, this letter is a form that emphasizes only that you have no conflicts of interest, have not submitted your paper to some other journal, and that all authors agree to the submission and content of the manuscript.

But some journal editors want more than this information. They ask authors to tell them why their work would interest readers of the journal, and if the letter isn’t convincing, the manuscript may even come back to you without review. Below are some tips for writing compelling cover letters that encourage the editor to consider your manuscript for review.

Photo by Gemma Evans

Look for the right editor

Find out who the correct editor is, and address them directly, with the proper title. Most journals have a listing of their editors on the website, including name, email address, and proper title. Be quite careful with titles and when in doubt, use “Dr.” in all cases. Do not assume that the editor is male or use the opening salutation “Dear Sir.” If you cannot find the editor’s name, use “Dear Editor.”

Open with a submission statement

“We are submitting our manuscript, “Title of manuscript here,” for consideration for publication in Name of Journal Here. If the journal has article categories, such as “Letters” or “Research Articles,” specify that here, too.

Target journal readers (and editors)

In your next paragraphs, you’ll essentially give a version of your abstract that has been made even more concise and argue the case that your findings are of interest to journal readers. You must link your work to the journal’s target audience. Most journals give information about who their readers are under the “About this journal” link on their website.

Be brief

Give a sentence of context to explain why your research question matters for this journal’s readers. After a sentence explaining how you went about answering the question, give a couple of sentences about what you found. Focus only on the most important, key takeaways for people who would read this journal (and for editors considering those readers).

Photo by Brett Jordan

Include required statements

Most journals that require a cover letter also require authors to make statements about conflicts of interest, single submission (no submission to other journals), approvals from all authors for the submission, and guarantees that the work has not been publicized elsewhere. For this last statement, journals usually allow for earlier presentations at conferences and congresses, something that they will specify in the cover letter instructions. If you have questions, feel free to email a journal editor for clarification.

Be courteous

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Do not close your letter with aspirational or presumptuous statements, such as, “We expect to hear from you soon” or “Looking forward to your positive response.” Simply
express appreciation for the editor’s time and a hope that the editor will find your work worth a look.

Below is a fictional example of the structure of a cover letter:

Dear Dr. Tolkien:

We are submitting our paper, “Dragon egg incubation exceeds 2 years in southern species,” to Current Dragonology for consideration as a Brief Communication.

Dragons typically lay eggs in such obscure places that pinpointing the interval from oviposition to hatching has proved elusive. We tagged three female individuals of the southern species and geotracked them for 3 years, allowing us to determine the timing of both stages of reproduction. Our findings show that egg incubation from deposition to hatching can exceed 2 years in this taxon. Furthermore, females of this species appear to favor shelf fungi as deposition sites for their minute (<2 cm) eggs.

We believe that readers of Current Dragonology will find these results of great interest, especially because they open the way to further investigations of this developmental period and to greater understanding of the ecology of this species. The association of shelf fungi with egg-laying among dragons has not been previously reported.

Our findings have not been presented elsewhere in any format, and we have not submitted our manuscript to any other journal. All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest to disclose, and all authors have approved the final version of this manuscript for submission.

Thank you for your time, and we hope that you find that our results would be of interest to readers of Current Dragonology.

Best regards,

Draco K. Researcher


San Francisco Edit specializes in scientific editing in the United States and we work with scientists from all over the world.


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