When you submit a scientific article for publication, you are usually also required to upload a cover letter. This letter, also called covering letter, is the first document the editor of the journal will read upon submission. It should thus contain key information that will trigger the interest of the editor and encourage her to evaluate the manuscript. Based on the cover letter and the abstract of the article, the editor will then choose to send your application to anonymous reviewers and referees for a deeper analysis. In general, this process is quite similar to sending a cover letter with a CV for a job application, where you want to present yourself in an attractive manner to your potential future employer.
So what points are important when writing the letter and what information should be included?
(1) First of all, the cover letter must be rich in arguments to incite the editor to read your paper. It is really important to present your work in a way that incites the editor to know more about the work you performed.
- One way to do so is to briefly summarize the aim of the study and the main results obtained. In this case, try to be precise without entering too much into details, especially if the experimental part is complex. The idea is not to overwhelm the editor with information but to fuel her curiosity.
- You can also clearly state which are the key attributes of your work, such as the innovative technology used, the incredible amount of samples analyzed, the great impact it has on the research field, the potential clinical interest for affected patients, etc. Define very well the main points and instead of explaining everything, focus on the three that you think are the most relevant for the editor of the specific journal where you will send the article. For example, it could also be that your paper confirms the results already published in the same journal by another research group, or on the contrary fails to replicate results that were considered revolutionary in your field.
(2) Additionally, the cover letter could contain information about you and your research team. Present for example the main investigator, the research interests of your lab or the overall study where this particular paper is involved. In this paragraph, you can also add relevant information such as the reason for choosing this particular journal (and why not another) or the reason for choosing to study this particular protein in this particular disease, etc. If the study is the result of collaboration with other groups you could also mention it here.
If you decide to summarize your main results and findings, be sure to explain what you did and how you did it and emphasize the interest that your study should have on the readers of the journal. Mention what is known in the field and which new information you are bringing with this manuscript.
(3) It is also interesting for editors to have a quick overview of possible practical applications of your work. This includes the direct applications, for example in further research studies that can develop based on these findings, in clinical practice if the results can be applied to treat patient or to develop preventive means, but also indirect applications in other fields, for example if your main interest is myocardial infarction, maybe you results are promising for other vascular diseases such as stroke?
Of course, your letter must be free of grammatical and orthographical errors so make sure to double-check it. Do not hesitate to ask your University for a professional translator or editor service if necessary, who could help you proofread the letter as well as the manuscript, in particular if English is not your native language. Make an effort also to present a beautiful letter with formatting, headers from your institutions and a pleasant font. Avoid long letters, one or two pages maximum but instead be concise and focus on the key elements of your study, the ones you think are especially relevant and finally avoid to copy and paste the abstract.
Be creative and positive, but most of all defend your work as if it was the best paper ever published and you will convince the editor to review it!
I compiled here some examples of cover letters you can use as templates to prepare your own letter.
The pack consists of two awesome templates and two real-life examples and costs only 3€. You can use one of the templates to send the manuscript and another one to send your answer to the reviewers.
Click on the buy now button to download the cover letter templates pack!
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