How to Write a Cover Letter For Your Journal Submission
When you submit your paper to a journal, as well as the paper itself you will need to include a cover letter. This cover letter is addressed to the editor of the journal and acts as a guide to the contents of your paper. In many ways, the cover letter can be as important as the paper itself in terms of getting accepted to a journal. So you should take your time with your cover letter and make it as good as possible. Here are tips on polishing your cover letter for a journal submission.
Use standard business language and formatting
The tone and layout of your cover letter should be in standard business style. So that means that the language you use should be fairly formal, and you should address the editor by their full name and title. Do not use contractions or slang in your cover letter, and do not share personal information about yourself. Instead, focus on presenting the paper as you might present it to a conference. It aids in readability to use short paragraphs, so make sure that each paragraph is only a few sentences long. Use the standard business letter layout of the editor's name and address at the top, followed by your name and address, and sign the bottom of the letter.
Tailor the cover letter to the journal
Remember that just like how you need to tailor your cover letter to the company when you apply for a job, you also need to tailor your cover letter to the journal when you submit a paper. The cover letter should describe specifically how your paper will add to not only the knowledge of the field, but also to the knowledge of the journal's specific audience.
For example, if you are applying to a journal with a clinical focus or one which is read by many clinicians, then you should include information in your cover letter about how your paper could affect clinical practice. You may also choose to reference other important papers in your topic which have been published in the journal you are applying to. If an upcoming issue of the journal that you are submitting to has a theme that your paper fits into, definitely mention this as this will increase the chances of your paper being accepted.
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Describe your research in non-expert terms
Remember that the editor who will read your cover letter will likely have expertise in your general field, but may not have a lot of knowledge of your specific subtopic. For this reason, you should avoid using overly technical language or jargon in your cover letter, as this may not be comprehensible to the editor. Instead, you should describe your research as if you were explaining it to an intelligent non-expert. You don't need to explain the basic fundamentals of your field, but do be prepared to give brief background information on your topic and why your paper, in particular, will add to the body of knowledge in the field.
Talk about the impact of your research
As well as describing who you are, the background to your research, your methodology, and your results, it's vital that your cover letter addresses the potential impact of your research on either the academic community or the broader public. It's not enough just to explain what you did and why – you also need to explain why this matters and why it will be of relevance to the journal's audience.
Try to stay away from generic phrases like “This research will further knowledge in [your field]” and to instead use more specific phrases like “Our findings of [x] will be relevant to [this group] and the approach taken to [this subject]”. If you can be even more specific, then that's better – something like “With [event x] happening soon, there is a pressing need for research into [your topic] in order to [achieve a specific goal]”. A good cover letter should give information on yourself and your co-authors, as well as information on your topic and your paper, and then convey why this work is important to the journal's audience.
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