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How To Write A Manuscript? Step By Step Guide To Research Manuscript Writing

How to write a manuscript? Step-by-step guide to research manuscript writing

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Getting published for the first time is a crucial milestone for researchers, especially early career academics. However, the journey starting from how to write a manuscript for a journal to successfully submitting your scientific study and then getting it published can be a long and arduous one. Many find it impossible to break through the editorial and peer review barriers to get their first article published. In fact, the pressure to publish, the high rejection rates of prestigious journals, and the waiting period for a publication decision may often cause researchers to doubt themselves, which negatively impacts research productivity.

While there is no quick and easy way to getting published, there are some proven tips for writing a manuscript that can help get your work the attention it deserves. By ensuring that you’ve accounted for and ticked the checklist for manuscript writing in research you can significantly increase the chances of your manuscript being accepted.

In this step‐by‐step guide, we answer the question – ­­ how to write a manuscript for publication – by presenting some practical tips for the same.

As a first step, it is important that you spend time to identify and evaluate the journal you plan to submit your manuscript to. Data shows that 21% of manuscripts are desk rejected by journals, with another approximately 40% being rejected after peer review1, often because editors feel that the submission does not add to the “conversation” in their journal.  Therefore, even before you actually begin the process of manuscript writing, it is a good idea to find out how other similar studies have been presented. This will not only give you an understanding of where your research stands within the wider academic landscape, it will also provide valuable insights on how to present your study when writing a manuscript so that it addresses the gaps in knowledge and stands apart from current published literature.

The next step is to begin the manuscript writing process. This is the part that people find really daunting. Most early career academics feel overwhelmed at this point, and they often look for tips on how to write a manuscript to help them sort through all the research data and present it correctly. Experts suggest following the IMRaD (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion) structure that organizes research findings into logical sections and presents ideas and thoughts more coherently for readers.

  • The introduction should state the research problem addressed in your study and highlight its significance in your research domain. A well-crafted introduction is a key element that will compel readers to delve further into the body of your manuscript.
  • The materials and methods section should include what you did and how you conducted your research – the tools, techniques, and instruments used, the data collection methods, and details about the lab environment. Ensuring clarity in this section when writing a manuscript is critical for success.
  • The results section must include complete details of the most significant findings in your study and indicate whether you were able to solve the problem outlined in the introduction. In your manuscript writing process, remember that using tables and figures will help to simplify complex data and results for readers.
  • The discussion section is where you evaluate your results in the context of existing published literature, analyze the implications and meaning of your findings, draw conclusions, and discuss the impact of your research.

You can learn more about the IMRaD structure and master the art of crafting a well-structured manuscript that impresses journal editors and readers in this in-depth course for researchers, which is available free with a Researcher.Life subscription.

When writing a manuscript and putting the structure together, more often than not, researchers end up spending a lot of time writing the “meat” of the article (i.e., the Methods, Results, and Discussion sections). Consequently, little thought goes into the title and abstract, while keywords get even lesser attention.

The key purpose of the abstract and title is to provide readers with information about whether or not the results of your study are relevant to them. One of my top tips on how to write a manuscript would be to spend some time ensuring that the title is clear and unambiguous, since it is typically the first element a reader encounters. This makes it one of the most important steps to writing a manuscript. Moreover, in addition to attracting potential readers, your research paper’s title is your first chance to make a good impression on reviewers and journal editors.  A descriptive title and abstract will also make your paper stand out for the reader, who will be drawn in if they know exactly what you are presenting. In manuscript writing, remember that the more specific and accurate the title, the more chances of the manuscript being found and cited. Learn the dos and don’ts of drafting an effective title with the help of this comprehensive handbook for authors, which is also available on the Researcher.Life platform.

The title and the abstract together provide readers with a quick summary of the manuscript and offer a brief glimpse into your research and its scientific implications. The abstract must contain the main premise of your research and the questions you seek to answer. Often, the abstract might be the only part of the manuscript that is read by busy editors, therefore, it should represent a concise version of your complete manuscript. The practice of placing published research papers behind a paywall means many of the database searching software programs will only scan the abstract and titles of the article to determine if the document is relevant to the search keywords the reader is using. Therefore, when writing a manuscript, it is important to write the abstract in a way that ensures both the readers and search engines will be able to find and decide if your research is relevant to their study2.

It would not be wrong to say that the title, abstract and keywords operate in a manner comparable to a chain reaction. Once the keywords have helped people find the research paper and an effective title has successfully captured and drawn the readers’ attention, it is up to the abstract of the research paper to further trigger the readers’ interest and maintain their curiosity. This functional advantage alone serves to make an abstract an indispensable component within the research paper format3 that deserves your complete attention when writing a manuscript.

As you proceed with the steps to writing a manuscript, keep in mind the recommended paper length and mould the structure of your manuscript taking into account the specific guidelines of the journal you are submitting to. Most scientific journals have evolved a distinctive style, structure, and organization. One of the top tips for writing a manuscript would be to use concise sentences and simple straightforward language in a consistent manner throughout the manuscript to convey the details of your research.

Once all the material necessary for submission has been put together, go through the manuscript with a fresh mind so that you can identify errors and gaps. According to Peter Thrower, Editor-in-Chief of Carbon, one of the top reasons for manuscript rejection is poor language comprehension. Incorrect usage of words, grammar and spelling errors, and flaws in sentence construction are certain to lead to rejection. Authors also often overlook checks to ensure a coherent transition between sections when writing a manuscript. Proofreading is, therefore, a must before submitting your manuscript for publication. Double-check the data and figures and read the manuscript out loud – this helps to weed out possible grammatical errors.

You could request colleagues or fellow researchers to go through your manuscript before submission but, if they are not experts in the same field, they may miss out on errors. In such cases, you may want to consider using professional academic editing services to help you improve sentence structure, grammar, word choice, style, logic and flow to create a polished manuscript that has a 24% greater chance of journal acceptance4.

Once you are done writing a manuscript as per your target journal, we recommend doing a comprehensive set of submission readiness checks to ensure your paper is structurally sound, complete with all the relevant sections, and is devoid of language errors. Most importantly, you need to check for any accidental or unintentional plagiarism – i.e., not correctly citing, paraphrasing or quoting another’s work – which is considered a copyright infringement by the journal, can not only lead to rejection, but also stir up trouble for you and cause irreversible damage to your reputation and career. Also make sure you have all the ethical declarations in place when writing a manuscript, such as conflicts of interest and compliance approvals for studies involving human or animal participants.

To conclude, whenever you find yourself wondering – how to write a manuscript for publication – make sure you check the following points:

  • Is your research paper complete, optimized and submission ready?
  • Have all authors agreed the content of the submitted manuscript?
  • Is your paper aligned with your target journals publication policies?
  • Have you created a winning submission package, with all the necessary details?
  • Does it include a persuasive cover letter that showcases your research?

Writing a manuscript and getting your work published is an important step in your career as it introduces your research to a wide audience. If you follow our simple manuscript writing guide, you will have the base to create a winning manuscript, with a great chance at acceptance. If you face any hurdles or need support along the way, be sure to explore these bite-sized learning modules on research writing, designed by researchers, for researchers. And once you have mastered the tips for writing a research paper, and crafting a great submission package, use the comprehensive AI-assisted manuscript evaluation to avoid errors that lead to desk rejection and optimize your paper for submission to your target journal.

Table of Contents


    1. Helen Eassom, 5 Options to Consider After Article Rejection. The Wiley Network. Retrieved from https://www.wiley.com/network/researchers/submission-and-navigating-peer-review/5-options-to-consider-after-article-rejection
    2. Jeremy Dean Chapnick, The abstract and title page. AME Medical Journal, Vol 4, 2019. Retrieved from http://amj.amegroups.com/article/view/4965/html
    3. Velany Rodrigues, How to write an effective title and abstract and choose appropriate keywords. Editage Insights, 2013. Retrieved from https://www.editage.com/insights/how-to-write-an-effective-title-and-abstract-and-choose-appropriate-keywords
    4. New Editage Report Shows That Pre-Submission Language Editing Can Improve Acceptance Rates of Manuscripts Written by Non-Native English-Speaking Researchers. PR Newswire, 2019. Retrieved from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-editage-report-shows-that-pre-submission-language-editing-can-improve-acceptance-rates-of-manuscripts-written-by-non-native-english-speaking-researchers-300833765.html#https%3A%2F%2Fwww.prnewswire.com%3A443

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