Manuscript Organization and Components

Published Jan 3, 2012 in the Newsletter Issue: How to Get Published in LIS Journals: A Practical Guide

Different types of manuscripts are organized in different ways and contain different components. Though one does not have to follow a rigid outline, following generally accepted and expected practices can help the reader understand what you are saying.

In their book Research and Writing in the Disciplines (Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992), Donald Zimmerman and Dawn Rodrigues have a helpful chapter titled “A Look at Research Reports in Different Disciplines.” The chapter outlines the elements and organization of research reports in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. Though all contain similar components, the order and relationships of the components vary. The MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association also provide useful advice on manuscript organization.

Because of the interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary approaches used in many areas of library and information science, the particular organizational structure and components you use will depend on your research methods and your intended audience. You can get some sense of what is commonly used by browsing past issues of the journal to which you plan to submit your manuscript and by examining the structure of articles identified in your literature review.

Technical preparation of the manuscript is perhaps the easiest and the most tedious stage of the process. Obvious advice here includes careful proofreading for typographical errors and adherence to standard grammar and style. The most important document to reference in this stage of manuscript preparation is the guide to authors for the particular journal to which you are submitting your manuscript. Author guidelines often include directions about the submission process; title page; tables, figures, and illustrations; and references/bibliography. Follow this guide very carefully. It is best understood as a set of rules rather than guidelines!

In addition to preparing the manuscript itself, you will need to write a cover letter to the editor to accompany your submission. In the letter you should indicate that the enclosure is a submission, provide a succinct summary of the work and its relationship to literature on the topic, and provide your mail, email, phone, and fax contact information. If you will soon be out of contact for a lengthy period of time, indicate that as well – as a heads-up in case the editor needs to contact you.

Having prepared your manuscript – submit it! Your attention to detail in the preparation stage of publication will serve you well as your manuscript makes its way through the reviewing, revising, and publication processes.