BrainWaves: The Neuroscience Graduate Program Newsletter

What to expect for your first manuscript submission: The step by step process from a graduate student’s perspective 

Author: Christopher Rowley 

From your first rejection email, right through acceptance, this article will take you through the rollercoaster of emotions that is manuscript publishing.  

Pre-Submission and Submission 

Before you start writing your manuscript, it can be a good idea to determine which journal you would like to submit to. Each journal’s website contains guidelines on their expectations for the submission including formatting, headings, word limit etc. It is best to keep these in mind while writing your first draft as it is easiest to write with these guidelines in mind, rather than writing something that you think is perfect (only to find out it needs to be changed drastically to fit a journal’s requirements). 



The Triage Process 

With that in mind, be prepared to have your manuscript turned down by journals, almost immediately (a process called triaging). Try to not let this get you down as this is the case for nearly everyone! This rejection isn’t to say that your manuscript isn’t the ‘bee's knees’, it just might not fit the focus of that particular journal. The editor or the reviewers (if it goes that far) should tell you the specifics on why they did not see the article as a good fit for the journal.  


Okay, now you are submitting your manuscript to a second or even third journal and it finally gets into the review process! Time to celebrate? Not quite. You will get back your first round of reviews, and more than likely, someone will have something negative to say about your work. Give yourself some time to process their feedback as they are likely not saying your work is terrible. As you get more emotionally involved with your work, with all the time you have poured into it, criticism can feel like a personal attack. You can write some key points down after your first read through of the reviewer’s comments, but give yourself some time to formulate your responses. Keep in mind that all reviewers see these responses, so it is important to address their questions straight on. Dancing around the question will only open you up to further criticism from the reviewers.  This isn’t to say that you haven’t followed the correct scientific methods for your experiments, however, it can be easy to lose context and meaning through email. Therefore it is best to avoid a prolonged back and forth if possible.


Now that you have gotten through the review process and your first manuscript has been accepted, your next step is to print off the Authors’ Proof, hang in on the fridge at home to highlight a job well done and head over to the Phoenix for a well deserved celebratory beverage!