Choosing the journal to submit to is another important step that should be thought through early on when writing up results. Considerations include:
- Who is the main audience for that journal? eg, is it a general journal or a subspecialty journal? Is it aimed at many disciplines or only one?
- Is it local, national or international?
- Is it the kind of article and topic that is usually published by that journal?
- Does it fit into a series within the journal?
- Is the journal indexed for Medline and other bibliographic databases – which will ensure that the publication can be found by others who are searching the literature.
- What is the impact factor of the journal? This relates to how widely read and cited the journal is.
However, the journals with the highest impact factor are also the most competitive ones to be published in, and their peer reviewing processes can be extremely slow and very demanding.
- Open access journals are increasingly being used – and some of these are evolving a new publishing model in which authors pay to publish their work, whilst it is free to readers. This enables more people to read the article but requires a financial commitment.
General guidelines for publication in the medical literature are available from ICMJE. There are also specific ways of reporting the findings of different types of studies - the EQUATOR network is an organisation whose aim is to improve the quality of scientific reporting, and its website has a comprehensive collection of guidelines and checklists for each study type, as well as more general advice for authors.
Each journal also provides its own style guidance to authors, describing their specific requirements in detail. This information can usually be found on the journal’s website. In thinking about publication, it is important to select a journal that publishes the type of research which is being submitted - eg, qualitative versus quantitative studies, pilot studies, randomised controlled trials, epidemiology, health service research and so on.
For referencing, it can save time to use software (eg, Endnote) that will enable an easy change in styles in the event that a manuscript is rejected from one journal and needs to be submitted to another.
Once an article has been submitted to a journal it cannot be submitted elsewhere until a decision has been made.