The Importance of Author Instructions – Part 1

Every journal has author instructions—and for good reasons. The author instructions lay out the basic requirements for a submission: how the paper should be formatted, what forms are necessary, how the abstract should be written, how references must be formatted, and other key elements.

Most authors—yes, MOST authors—ignore author instructions. As a consequence, they cause a great deal of additional work in the editorial office.

For example, Ochsner Journal requires a signed patient consent form for every case report. At issue here is the fundamental right of patient privacy. Before we publish a case, we must have documentation that the patient has agreed to make his/her medical details public. We don’t publish the patient’s name, of course, but cases are unique, and anyone close to the patient could potentially recognize who’s being discussed. So we ensure that the patient has agreed to publication.

This requirement is clearly stated in the author instructions. Nevertheless, we receive several case report submissions every month without patient consent forms.

The follow-up with the authors to obtain the consents is additional work for the editorial staff—work that would not be necessary if the authors read and complied with the author instructions at the outset.

Another example is copyright transfer agreements. Ochsner Journal author instructions clearly state that every author on a paper must sign the copyright transfer agreement.

But every week, authors submit copyright transfer agreements with typed names instead of signatures or forms that are missing author names and signatures. Again, the editorial staff must follow up with the authors to obtain a complete copyright transfer agreement.

Compliance with author instructions eliminates the need for follow-up and ensures that submissions can be processed through to peer review without delays. It’s a very good idea to read and follow them.