Submitting the Manuscript to the Journal

In general, you will need to submit several things to the journal when you submit your manuscript: a cover letter, the manuscript, and a signed copyright transfer form. Today electronic submission of manuscripts is increasingly common. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the process and the information that will be requested of you before going on-line to submit your article. Specific information on the cover letter and copyright transfer form follow.

Cover Letter

The cover letter should be prepared following the standard format for a business letter. This means you should put your address in the upper corner, followed by the date, the full mailing address for the Editor to whom the letter is addressed should appear below this aligned with the left margin. The letter should open with a formal salutation: “Dear Dr. Editor:” The body of the cover letter should contain the following information:

  • The full title of the manuscript you are submitting for publication;
  • A statement that your submission is exclusive, i.e., that you are not submitting this paper to another journal (It is not acceptable to submit your manuscript to more than one journal at the same time.)
  • A brief statement summarizing the significance of the work and how this is relevant to the mission of the journal
  • Information on whom to contact in case the journal requires any additional information about the manuscript.

It will also facilitate the review and publication of your manuscript if you provide the following information in your cover letter:

  • The name of the associate editor whom you wish to handle your paper (Selecting the editor yourself ensures that the person handling your paper has an appreciation for your science.)
  • The names and contact information (mailing address, e-mail) for any individuals whom you would like the journal to use as reviewers of your manuscript as well as the names of anyone whom you would prefer that the journal not contact for review.

Click here to see a sample coverletter.


Ideally, you should identify individuals who share similar research interests and who have the technical expertise to provide a critical evaluation of your paper. If there are individuals whom you do not wish the journal to use in reviewing your paper, it is important to state this up front in the cover letter as well. At the beginning, you may find it challenging to identify suitable reviewers for your papers. A good place to begin is by listing those individuals who have published work on the same or similar problems using the same or similar systems and/or approaches and who have published their work in the journal to which you are submitting your manuscript for consideration of publication. Note that most journals publish a list of their reviewers once each year. Reviewers are often culled from the authors of papers published in that journal so this is also a good starting point for identifying possible reviewers. If you are completely stumped, don’t feel that you must supply names. You can always leave the task of reviewer selection up to the editor who will handle your paper. However, remember that if you don’t suggest reviewers and you are unhappy with the outcome, it will be harder to contest negative reviews after the fact.

Copyright Transfer form

As an original work “fixed” in a tangible medium of expression, your paper is a form of intellectual property for which your rights as an author automatically are protected by the U.S. Copyright Act. Normally when you submit a manuscript for consideration of publication, you must transfer ownership of the copyright to the journal’s publisher. Most journals require authors to sign a copyright transfer form, usually available on the journal’s website, at the time they submit their manuscript to the journal for review. As an author it is important that you understand your rights you are retaining and those that you are transferring to the journal. This is an important point because once you sign this form even though you are the paper’s author, you may no longer be able to make and freely distribute copies of your article or portions of it without first obtaining permission from the publisher of the journal. In general, authors retain the right to reproduce their data, figures, etc. For example, the American Chemical Society’s copyright form states:

  • “The undersigned author and all coauthors retain the right to revise, adapt, prepare derivative works, present orally, or distribute or transmit to not more than 50 colleagues, their own paper, provided that copyright credit is given to the source and ACS, that recipients are informed that they may not further disseminate or copy the paper, and that all such use is for the personal noncommercial benefit of the author(s) and is consistent with any prior contractual agreement between the undersigned and/or coauthors and their employer(s). Authors/employers may post the title of the paper, abstract (no other text), tables, and figures of their own papers on their own Web sites, and include these items in their own scholarly, research papers.”

Note: See “Intellectual Property” for more information and references to web resources on copyright.