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If you have selected a journal, go to its website and find the instructions for authors, which will include the guidelines and sometimes a template.


Make sure that your paper follows the journal guidelines. Guidelines range from "your paper, your way" (e.g., some Elsevier journals), where consistency is the main requirement, to very detailed instructions (e.g., some IEEE journals), where each part of the paper has strict requirements. Note that "your paper, your way" is only for the refereeing process (initial submission); revised papers will need to follow a specific format.

  • The author did not read the guidelines of the target journal.

  • Read the guidelines.

I have read the guidelines for a large number of journals. Don’t feel bad if you don’t fully understand what is required; many guidelines are difficult to understand even for native speakers (see Discrepancies below).

If you are unclear about something, check studies published in the target journal (see Published studies).


Many journals provide templates (often .docx and LaTeX files). Using a template will help you follow the guidelines. Make sure to remove placeholder text where necessary (I once checked a paper that had "[Insert heading here]" as the heading for three sections).

Published studies

Studies published in your target journal are a very good source of information. These studies passed the review process and conform to the journal guidelines.

If you’re unsure about something not mentioned in the guidelines or the guidelines are unclear, reading several studies published in the target journal might give you the information you need.

The format required for submitted papers may not be the same as that used in published papers. Check the guidelines first.


You might find that the guidelines have some inconsistencies. For example, they might state that the maximum number of keywords is 6, but then later state that you need 7.

You might also find that the guidelines do not match the template. For example, the guidelines might tell you to use "Figure 1." for captions, but the templates uses "Fig. 1".

You might also find that templates are not consistent with their own instructions. In these situations, you can check published papers for examples or email the journal for clarification.