Preparing a manuscript for publication is a multi-faceted and, sometimes, anxiety-ridden task. Tips presented here should help you keep track of issues you need to think about and complete your work successfully.
At each stage of your writing, there are elements to have in place as you plan to submit your manuscript to a journal. For simplicity’s sake, we have grouped the elements into three categories: developing your project, manuscript organization and components, and technical preparation.
Developing Your Project
Thinking about your final manuscript begins when you start thinking about your project – whether it is a pure research project or a new library service you are developing. Setting the stage is an important element in writing a successful manuscript.
Thinking about your final manuscript begins when you start thinking about your project...
Almost any project in a library will reasonably begin with a literature search to learn what others have done on the topic. From this review flows your thinking about your own project, its publishable elements, and the context for your findings. Where does your article fit in with the literature of the field? Rarely is a research project or program idea so unique that it is without supporting literature in the discipline. If you describe your project without placing it in the context of other work that has been done, your audience might take this as ignorance of the field or, worse, hubris. Searching the literature in related fields, such as education or computer science, may also be helpful if your project is interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary in scope. Putting your research or program in the context of other work already done will assure your audience of your understanding of the issues and your expertise on the topic.
In addition to the general literature review, it is important to think carefully about your topic and its relevance. Will what you say be of use to the audience of the journal? Are you sharing your experience or your research in a way that is meaningful to others? For example, how could research conducted in the library of a small private liberal arts college be of interest to librarians at a mid-sized urban public university? To make an article meaningful to librarians whose institutions do not mirror your own in size and user population, the manuscript must describe how the environmental context did or did not contribute to the success of the project or influence your research findings.
Thinking early on about the audience for which you are writing will shape the development of your thinking and the project.