Look for essential references that may be missing, and for unnecessary references that may be included. The farther along a typescript goes in the sequence of drafts, the more likely it is that changes have led to errors.
Use only enough references to support key statements. Do not include extras just to show that you are familiar with the related literature. Direct the reader to relevant references for previously described methods, giving only enough detail to orient readers and alert them to any modifications you made.
Theses and dissertations are sometimes an exception to this rule. Advisory committees may require extensive review and referencing to showcase a graduate student's mastery of the literature in a research field. Before the research papers that arise from this work are submitted for publication, however, remove all but the most directly relevant material.
The last question in the previous section focused on assuring that your document included the relevant references. The next question should be, are these references cited correctly?
Several studies of the accuracy of citations and presentations of others' assertions in the biomedical literature have revealed surprisingly high rates of error. An analysis of 300 randomly selected references in six frequently cited veterinary journals found major errors in 30% of them (Hinchcliff etal., 1993). Misquotation rates of 12% in medical journals (de Lacey et al., 1985) and 27% in surgical journals (Evans et al., 1990) have been reported.
Spelling problems were the most common error, a particularly important concern because misspellings have the potential to impede computerized retrieval systems or to obscure author identity. Another common error was a failure to cite the original source of information, a disturbing finding because it suggests that authors frequently do not read the original reference. Misquotations of findings in studies by others also were common, carrying the risk that through repeated secondary citation, a major inaccuracy may become established as accepted fact.
Make it an absolute policy never to try to save time by copying references from someone else's list. Such shortcuts may seem harmless, but it is amazing how easily inaccuracies can creep into reference citations.
Long before now you have, of course, chosen a journal. Now it is time to be certain that you have tailored your submission to its requirements. Check the January issue for the journal's current year of publication. There you will often find Instructionsfor Authors spelled out. Journal ITAs vary widely in their comprehensiveness, however. You may also need to refer to the "Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals" excerpted in Appendix 2.
Examine a recent issue for editorial style. Pay attention to the nitty-gritty of matters such as reference citation style, headings and subheadings, use of footnotes, and figure design. Remember that however attractive the pages may look, they are wrong if they are not in the proper format for the publication to which they are being submitted.
Most probably, you will be submitting your document as electronic copy, though some journals still require paper and others want both. Standard practice dictates that typewritten copy should appear in Pica or Elite type, and the spirit of this requirement has carried forward into electronic manuscript preparation. Although computer-generated fonts differ from one another in size, typewritten Pica and Elite type are roughly equivalent to 12-point and 10-point computergenerated type, respectively. Unless specified otherwise, double space everything that is typed, including tables, figure legends, and footnotes. Use wide margins (a full inch at sides, and at least an inch at top and bottom).
When and if you are asked to submit a document in paper (hard copy) form, do not even consider reducing the font size to squeeze artificially within specified page limitations. Also, unless a journal specifically approves it, do not send tables that have been reduced in size on a photocopier. Such seeming attempts at deviousness will only alienate the editors whose approval is critical to your document's acceptance, and it will probably result in its prompt return.
Unless the ITAs specify otherwise, use a proportional serif font style such as New York or Times for the basic text in a conventionally published journal. (Sometimes, a sans serif font such as Courier or Helvetica is used to differentiate tabular material, computer addresses, or other such inclusions.) Electronic journals may use only sans serif fonts.
Refer back to Chapter 1 and check that you have all the required entries on the first page. The Abstract or Summary usually appears by itself on the second page. Note whether keywords for indexing services appear here in recent issues of the journal. Mimic the style used.
Begin the Introduction on the third page. Either run the text matter continuously or start each subsequent major section on a separate page. Many journals require the latter approach.
Footnotes to text material, if used, are grouped on a separate page, as are figure legends. Each table, with its title, should be on a separate page. Rather than interspersing these non-textual materials throughout the text, assemble all of them in numerical order at the back of the typescript. Some journals require notations within the text margins to indicate approximate locations for tables and figures.
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