This comprehensive journal article submission checklist will assist you in organizing, chronologizing, and prioritizing each step of article preparation for submission to an academic journal.

It is assumed that you have already developed your hypotheses, chosen your methods, acquired your materials, carried out your research, verified your findings, and formed your conclusions. Now it’s time to bring it all together in a coherent text.

We start this checklist by changing the habit of thinking about submission only after you’ve finished writing. The earlier you start thinking about submission requirements, the better; submission conditions should influence how you create your article.

Sometimes the circumstances are determined by your discipline. Scientific research, for instance, may have different writing standards than a humanities essay (e.g., authorial tone, presentation of evidence, citation of sources).

Other times, the conditions are more particular to the journal you’re aiming for (e.g., margin formatting, heading numbers, image captions).

This checklist’s sequential sections are broad enough to cover all disciplines, however individual details may differ from one journal to another.

The checklist is as follows-

The ultimate checklist for journal article submission

1. Selecting a Target Journal

The first step is to choose a target journal, but how do you do that?

It’s possible that your topic is so precise that you’ve always had one journal in mind. If not, and you’re not sure which journal to submit your work to, go back through the sources that inspired your study.

If a few of your sources were published in the same journal, it’s a good bet the journal will be a good fit for your article. Consider which magazine is the most prominent in your area if your sources have been published in a range of major journals.

Also, think about which aspects of your research you want to emphasize in your journal article.

Choose the most reputable magazine with the most published sources for that particular area of your journal article submission. Additionally, if you still need to pick from a list of prospective target journals, have a look at the journals’ limitations (e.g., word count, image count, referencing limits).

This will allow you to find the best possible match for your article’s suggested scope.

Finally, keep your timeframe for publication in mind while you study the limitations of potential journals.

Pay attention to the general timeline, from submission to publication, for any given magazine if you need to publish your research fast to remain ahead of the competition or for a performance review.

If it takes two months for Journal Alpha to receive, acknowledge, peer review, and publish an article, but six months for Journal Beta to do the same, a more time-sensitive article should be published with Journal Alpha, even if it is less renowned.

Similarly, if Journal Alpha makes an accepted version of an article available online prior to final publication while Journal Beta does not, a more time-sensitive piece should be submitted to the former journal.

2. Copyright Issues

This step’s placement may appear to be completely incorrect, but you should really examine copyright concerns as soon as possible!

First, think about how the research for this journal article connects to the research you’ve done for other publications as an author or coauthor. Did you use ideas from a previous paper that you (or a coauthor) had developed? Is it sufficient to just cite the previous document, or did you reuse particular sections of it?

If the latter, you’ll almost certainly require permission from the other publication’s copyright holder. The good news is that academic publishers are usually happy to let you reuse parts of their own ideas as long as you include a proper citation to the original work and perhaps a gratitude note in the acknowledgments.

Second, evaluate whether or not your journal article submission will incorporate quotes from other works, and whether or not those quotations will be considered as fair usage. This will not be an issue for you if you did not quote directly from other sites.

Those of you who did extensively quote from other sources should check your target journal’s guidelines to see whether you need to obtain permission to cite certain texts.

Copyright clearance may be time-consuming and expensive to get, so see if your target journal has staff dedicated to acquiring the rights to reproduce texts, as well as funds set aside to pay the costs of copyrighted content.

If you answered “no” to one or both of these questions, get started arranging these resources right away. If a copyright holder refuses your request, the content of your proposed journal article may be drastically changed.

Third, decide if your piece will include photos and/or video files. This step can be avoided if you’re going to publish an article that’s just words. However, there are numerous considerations for those who must add images (photos, diagrams, graphs, and so forth) and/or videos.

If your photos and/or video files are not your own (e.g., archived photographs, previously established schematics, renowned works of art), consult your target journal’s procedures for obtaining the rights to reproduce such materials (as described in the paragraph above for copyrighted text).

If you’re using your own photos and/or videos (for example, graphs created by software used in your research experiments or video recordings describing your experimental setup), make sure everyone who appears in the papers has granted you formal permission to use their likeness (or that you have sufficiently concealed their likeness).

It’s also a good idea to double-check that your papers are consistent before you start writing about them.

3. Establish Parameters for Formatting

You’ve chosen your target journal and thought about copyright issues; now it’s nearly time to begin writing.

You must first choose the formatting of the document(s) you will send to the publisher before you begin writing. One file type is preferred by some journals over another (e.g., a PDF rather than a Word document or multiple paper copies rather than a LaTeX file).

To ensure consistency in formatting, some journals supply templates (e.g., standard Word documents or pre-encoded LaTeX files), while others merely specify their guidelines for page size, font size, line spacing, heading style, and so on.

To make the best first impression, always stick to the publisher’s guidelines. Use the template provided by the publisher if one is available. If the publisher specifies formatting guidelines, adhere to them.

4. Writing the Article

Without going into detail, it is sufficient to suggest that you compose the major body of the text first, from start to end. Second, come up with a catchy title that will catch the readers’ interest; it should be informative and maybe witty.

Third, write your abstract as a concise overview of the whole scope of the paper, following the journal’s requirements for abstract length, structure, and keyword creation. See how to start a story with a hook to make your readers wanting to read more.

Fourth, include all necessary authorial information, such as your full and accurate name(s), appropriate author ranking in terms of contribution to the article, proper affiliations for the author(s), current contact information for the corresponding author(s), and biographical information for the author(s), if needed.

Fifth, acknowledge everyone who helped you with this project, including scholarships, grants, permissions, and informal assistance (e.g., from students). Sixth, make any potential conflicts of interest clear.

Seventh, create any required appendices, such as supplementary tables or additional diagrams.

Finally, arrange your references by double-checking the relationship between the text’s citations and the entire bibliographical materials. Finally, title, caption, and import the figures (if you’re using the picture and/or video files) either directly within the article or as a separate document or folder of images and/or videos.

Take a break (an hour, a day, a week, or even a month, depending on your timeframe) once you’ve finished a full draft of your journal article and its supporting features before returning to it for revisions.

When you’re writing your first full draft, everything you write may sound great, seem important, and look error-free. However, your refreshed eyes will have a greater chance of detecting poor writing, tangential thoughts, and blatant mistakes once you have taken a break from the paper. Remove them. 

To ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and complies with the guidelines of your target journal, have a friend, colleague, or professional editing service read it and provide feedback.

5. Submit the article

First, double-check that all aspects of your article (such as the text and photos) meet the journal’s requirements. For example, if the journal specifies that papers be labeled with the surname of the lead author, a short title, and the words “Manuscript” or “Supplements,” make sure you follow the instructions to a T.

Second, start gathering any additional information that may be required as part of the publication process. If you’re submitting to a peer-reviewed journal, for example, the editors may ask you to give a list of possible peer reviewers so they may contact them. If the journal editors ask for this information right immediately, have this list ready.

Your choice of peer reviewers should contain authors from key sources cited in your paper, much like when choosing a target journal.

Third, write a cover letter to the editors of the journal. It will entice them to read your journal article submission. You put in a lot of effort to finish the document(s) and are satisfied with the results. Make your future editors thrilled by letting them know about your hard work. 

Finally, send all of the materials to the editors.


You will be more than ready to submit your journal article after completing these steps. Do not forget to check out our article on how to choose the right journal for publication and the publication process steps to get accepted in a journal. Happy writing!

Thanks and Regards,

Isabell S.

The TrueEditors Team

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