Publish or perish holds true in most research environments, but a single publication in a high-tier journal can make a huge impact on one’s academic career path. For this reason, Kyle Vogan, a senior editor at Nature Genetics, provided insider publishing tips May 20 to early-career scientists at the Naturejobs Career Expo in Boston on how to land a paper in one’s dream journal. Nature Genetics ranks among the top five subdivisions of Nature, so the audience received wisdom from someone in the know.
Editors at top journals seek exceptional qualities, in particular, in two components of a paper, Vogan says: its content and its style. When it comes to content, Nature editors look for novelty and conceptual advancement. The finding must not have been published before, however not all new concepts merit publication in high-impact journals, where the readership is broad. The work must provide a significant step forward for the field and provide a new direction.
The second component, style, can easily be achieved with a strong title and abstract. These paper elements are the first things a reader sees and, sometimes, the only parts that are read. Thus, it is essential to communicate key, self-contained points; Vogan calls the abstract a “mini-version” of the paper. This nugget is where you will entice editors and readers into looking at the rest of the paper. It is also a good idea to make sure the abstract is data-base friendly, containing relevant tags and key words, so readers can find your paper through online search or indexing services. “Don’t forget to check the spelling,” Vogan adds. Relying on a spell-check tool, you might fail to detect typos or make embarrassing mistakes, such as changing genome to gnome.
The paper’s title should be informative, telling the reader what the finding was. It should be clear and concise, so that the reader can know what the paper is about. Whereas the title should serve to attract the reader’s interest, one must also find a balance between highlighting the result and overselling it. Focus on the novelty and include one key message. Use action verbs to make the title clear and lively. Avoid generic words, such as “On the…,” “Study of…,” and “Investigation of…,” which are overused and usually do not grab a reader’s attention. Acronyms that are unfamiliar to the intended audience should not be used, as they will only make the content unclear. Similarly, avoid overly technical or specialized jargon. Vogan does not recommend the use of punctuation, including split titles with dashes and colons, unless they are essential. Although puns, plays on words, and amusing metaphors might work for review papers, Vogan also does not recommend them for research papers. Lastly, but importantly, avoid question marks in the title; authors should be providing answers, not asking questions.
Abstracts are usually written with a standard, predetermined structure. The first few lines provide a basic introduction to the field, followed by background on the questions or problems within the field. Next, a specific question is addressed. A transition, such as “Here we show,” leads to the main results. Action verbs and active constructions are more effective than passive ones, such as “It was shown that.” The abstract should end with a conclusion or an answer to the question addressed, followed by an elaboration on the broader implication or impact of the finding. In the results section of the abstract, some details on the methods should be provided, but authors should seek to achieve a balance between too much and too little information. Avoid obscurity; you do not want an editor or reader to become frustrated over an abstract that requires multiple reads. Also, do not refer to figures or tables because some readers lack access to these. (Remember, the title and abstract should be self-contained.)
Vogan points out another good reason to write a compelling title and abstract. When editors choose a synopsis to write for select published articles in the issue, they often scan through paper titles. If a title catches their eye, they will proceed to the abstract to decide whether to highlight your article. Your work will attract increased exposure if it is featured by an editor’s synopsis.
This article grab from http://blogs.nature.com/naturejobs/2014/06/06/how-to-get-published-in-high-impact-journals-an-essential-guide/