Three Cover Letter Templates to Journal Editors
Each cover letter is unique, and those addressed to journal editors by scientists and academics when they submit their writing for publication are no exception. As an opportunity to present original research in the best possible light, a cover letter is indispensible for persuading a busy editor that a manuscript is worthy of peer review. A letter can only achieve this goal, however, if it is well written, contains everything the particular journal’s author instructions request for cover letters and offers specific and detailed information about why the research reported and the paper itself are perfect for the journal and of special interest to its readers. The originality that should characterise an excellent cover letter therefore prevents the wholesale use of a universal template without significant alterations, but the three sample letters that appear below may prove helpful for scholars who are planning, formatting and drafting a professional cover letter to a journal editor.
The content of the three sample letters is entirely fictional, with the dates, names, titles and situations invented. The specifics pertinent to your own research, your manuscript and the journal you are targeting will give you the raw material to emulate these templates. The format of a traditional business letter has been observed, so contact information for the authors and editors has been provided as complete mailing addresses. This formality may not be strictly necessary when communicating with a journal editor via email, where such details are often truncated, but the complete forms are always acceptable, and proper names and titles are a necessity. If possible, the official letterhead of the university, department or other research body with which you are affiliated should be used along with your name, phone number and professional email address.
Descriptions of the research and manuscript in each of the three examples have been kept simple so that the meaning will be clear to readers of all specialisations, but there are certainly successful cover letters that delve into a good deal more detail. Letter 2 below, for instance, might productively say more about the specific lights used and tomato plants grown and provide numbers and percentages as well. Do keep in mind, however, that the clarity and accessibility offered by a short and simple approach is also valuable, particularly when writing to an editor who may not share your precise specialisation.
Letter 1 adopts the perspective of a doctoral candidate who has rewritten the literature review chapter of his thesis as a bibliographical study and is seeking publication for the first time. Letter 2 introduces a research paper written by several authors and demonstrates how to act as the corresponding author when submitting a multi-author manuscript. Letter 3 posits that the author met the journal editor at a recent conference where an earlier version of the paper now being submitted for a theme issue of the journal was presented.
Letter 1: A Doctoral Candidate Seeking His First Publication
Department of English
University of the Western Shore
San Francisco, CA, USA 98765
Dr. Brian Editing
Journal of Analytical Middle English Bibliography
New York, NY, USA 12345
November 8, 2017
Dear Dr. Editing,
I am writing to submit my article entitled ‘A Bibliography of Hoccleve Studies from the Fifteenth Century to 2017: Patterns of Readership and Response’ for publication in the Journal of Analytical Middle English Bibliography. This manuscript is based on a chapter of my doctoral thesis, supervised by Dr Hoccleve Specialist, and has not been published or submitted elsewhere for consideration.
I believe this manuscript is appropriate for the Journal of Analytical Middle English Bibliography because it combines a complete list and critical summary of previous studies with an in-depth analysis of not only individual contributions, but also the larger patterns of scholarship and their possible significance through the centuries. As I argue in the paper, the autobiographical nature of Hoccleve’s writing and the bouts of madness he claims to have experienced are topics upon which perspectives and approaches swing on a particularly long pendulum. Shifts in opinion regarding the literary quality of Hoccleve’s poetry are similarly striking. Current trends and the annotated Hoccleve bibliography will likely prove of special interest to many of your readers, enabling future research and encouraging scholarly self-awareness.
If you decide to consider the manuscript for publication, I suggest the following two experts as qualified reviewers:
Dr. Medieval Scholarship
Professor of English, Southern University
Dr. Manuscript Expert
Director of Medieval Studies, Northern University
Many thanks for your time and consideration. I look forward to your response.
Ph.D. Candidate and Teaching Assistant
Department of English
University of the Western Shore
Letter 2: A Corresponding Author Submitting an Article Written by Several Researchers
Private Plant Research Institute
9201 Pink Greenhouse Place
Coquitlam, BC, Canada, V0V 1A1
Dr Samuel Botanist
Growing Our Greenhouse: A Journal of Current Research
2020 Glass Hill
Colorado Springs, CO, USA, 59678
November 22, 2017
Dear Dr Botanist,
I am delighted to submit an original research article entitled ‘LED Lights Increase Vitamin C Content in Greenhouse Cherry Tomatoes’ for publication in Growing Our Greenhouse: A Journal of Current Research. My colleagues and I at the Private Plant Research Institute in Coquitlam conducted the research and coauthored the manuscript; a full list of the names and affiliations of all ten coauthors is attached. We have all approved the manuscript for submission to Growing Our Greenhouse, and I have been chosen as the corresponding author.
The article is particularly appropriate for the journal’s section dedicated to the cultivation of fruits and vegetables. It is, in fact, a continuation of the research presented in our article ‘Can LED Lights Really Replace the Sun for Tomatoes?’ which was published in that section of Growing Our Greenhouse two years ago. Then we were analysing the results of our first two seasons of growing tomatoes under LED lights. One of the unexpected discoveries we made as we determined which plants and lights produced the best results was that vitamin C content appeared to increase when the ripening fruit was exposed to LED light.
The research reported in the manuscript I am submitting today was designed to investigate further the apparent increases in vitamin C. Its methodology is similar to that of our earlier study, but we used only those cherry tomato plants that we had already shown could thrive under LED lights. We also established a larger number of experimental groups to explore the effects of variables such as light colour, light intensity, hours of exposure, ambient temperature and presence or absence of sunlight. Our findings were convincing to say the least, with vitamin C content doubling and sometimes trebling in fruit exposed to additional LED light. Even fruit given only LED lighting and deprived of all natural sunlight far exceeded the vitamin C content of those tomatoes exposed to natural sunlight alone.
We trust that your readers will find our hands-on empirical method as effective as they have in the past and benefit from our practices and discoveries as they grow and experiment in their own greenhouses.
Thank you for your continuing interest and consideration.
Research Director, Private Plant Research Institute
Letter 3: A Conference Participant Submitting a Paper to the Journal Editor She Met
Chair, School of Business Management
2121 University Road
York, North Yorkshire, UK, YO33 7EE
Dr Margaret Publisher
Journal of Innovative Business Studies
178B West Central Avenue
London, UK, EC9M 6BB
25 November 2017
Dear Dr Publisher,
It was a pleasure meeting you and discussing our similar interests at the Business Management conference in London a couple of weeks ago. As promised, I have revised my presentation and am submitting it for your consideration for the upcoming issue of the Journal of Innovative Business Studies dedicated to management innovations. The new title of the manuscript is ‘Empathy as a Management Strategy Yields Significant Increases in Efficiency and Productivity.’
You might recall that we discussed the challenges of reshaping my presentation, which was designed to generate in conference attendees the emotional responses it discusses, to conform to the structural requirements of the Journal of Innovative Business Studies. The journal’s author instructions were actually very helpful, and I believe the overall argument of the paper is now clearer as a result of the rearrangement. I also took a look at the recent Journal of Innovative Business Studies articles by Sally Scholar and John Researcher that you recommended. The former was particularly helpful and I have cited it more than once in my closing discussion. That discussion has benefited significantly from our long talk at the conference and I hope you do not object to my acknowledgement of your insight.
As you know, the research presented in the manuscript is original and has not been published or submitted elsewhere. My methods comply with the journal’s ethical standards, I have no conflicts of interest to disclose and I have removed all traces of my identity in preparation for blind review. I would respectfully request that Stephen Harsh not review the manuscript, however. His knowledge in this area is extensive, but you may remember from his comments at the conference that he does not share my approach to management or view my recent research with a positive eye. I believe the following two experts would serve as more appropriate reviewers of my paper:
CEO, Management Innovations UK Inc.
Chair, Department of Business Management
University of the Wolds
I look forward to seeing you at the upcoming conference in Leeds. In the meantime, let me take this opportunity to thank you for your interest and consideration.
Chair, School of Business Management
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You have worked hard to prepare your manuscript for submission to a journal you have chosen carefully. Now, introduce your manuscript with a great cover letter. Although many authors hastily compose this document, the cover letter can make or break your chances of publication: it can make the difference between being granted a peer review and being rejected outright. Follow the guidelines below to make your cover letter and manuscript stand out. Feel free to use this template to construct your cover letter, and modify it according to your needs.
The basic elements of the cover letter include a heading/salutation, the body, and the closing:
Heading and salutation
- The heading includes the name and title of the Editor-in-Chief or handling editor, the name of the journal, and the date. See a sample heading here.
- The salutation is a standard greeting (e.g., Dear Dr xxx:) addressed to the Editor-in-Chief or handling editor. If you cannot find the name of the appropriate editor, you can write “Dear Editor:”
- The body is the heart of the cover letter; this is where you will make the case for why your paper should be granted a peer review.
- Begin with a concise opening statement announcing that you are submitting a manuscript entitled [“your title”] for consideration as a Research Article, Letter, Brief Communication, Note, or other format tailored to the journal. See a sample opening statement here.
- Next, provide a brief but compelling description or summary of the most important or interesting findings addressed by your manuscript. If you have previous publications that provide the context for your study, you can briefly mention them here with the supporting citations. This summary will help to determine whether the editor will consider your paper further. The summary should be limited to just a few sentences. Consider the following points to help you craft your summary:
- Why is your study important?
- What are your most interesting findings?
- What are the implications and broader significance of the findings?
- What gaps in the research does your study fill?
- After the description of your study, provide a brief statement of how or why the work is relevant to the scope of the target journal and of interest to its readership. This should be based on the stated “Aims and Scope” of the journal and on your knowledge of the journal’s content. A strong statement says more than that you “believe” your findings are relevant and of interest. How does your work relate to the journal’s focus and other research published in it? This section should show that you have made a well-informed choice when selecting the target journal for your manuscript. See a sample summary and statement of relevance here.
- The final paragraph of the body covers a few formalities (see example here). This paragraph should confirm that:
- The research is original.
- The manuscript has not been published elsewhere and is not under consideration by any other journal.
- All the authors have approved of the submission of the manuscript to this journal.
- There are no conflicts of interest.
- Informed consent was provided (humans), and appropriate ethical standards were followed (humans and animals)—if relevant.
- Suggested reviewers: Many journals invite or require authors to list recommended peer reviewers for their manuscript and to mention any individuals they would strongly prefer NOT to review the manuscript (e.g., because of a conflict of interest). Select these individuals carefully, and keep these statements polite.
- The final sentence should simply express appreciation for the editor’s consideration. For example, “Thank you for your consideration of our manuscript. I look forward to hearing from you.”
- An appropriate and common closing is “Sincerely.” The closing is followed by your signature and typed name, institutional affiliation and address, and contact information (see a sample closing here).
- Editors want to know that you have selected their journal based on your familiarity with its focus and content and the appropriateness of your work to its scope and readership. It is advantageous to you to help the Editor-in-Chief to understand how your paper complements other research published in the journal. Doing this does not guarantee that your manuscript will receive a peer review, but failing to do this may reduce the chances that your work will stand out and be taken seriously.
- The cover letter should be concise. Editors read many cover letters each day and may simply skim over letters that are longer than a few short paragraphs.
- Clearly emphasize why the research is important, novel, or interesting.
- Avoid presenting numeric details and other highly specific results unless they are essential to your conclusion.
- Some journals have specific requirements for cover letters. Read the journal’s “Instructions for authors” carefully, and make sure that all required contents are included.
- If your study builds on previous work that you have published, or directly relates to other papers published in the target journal, it is appropriate to mention that and to cite these studies in the letter.
- The cover letter must be well written and free of spelling and grammar errors. If there are glaring errors in this important document, the Editor-in-Chief may assume that your manuscript will also be sloppy. At best, the editor is likely to have low expectations for your manuscript if the cover letter is poorly written. Always run a spelling and grammar check, and have a colleague review your cover letter before you send it.
Do you have questions or insights about writing cover letters? Please leave your comments and questions below.
Anne Altor PhD, PWS
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