How to Write a Great Cover Letter for a Journal Submission
Usually, when you submit a journal article for consideration, you also need to include a cover letter for the journal’s editor. Although this is not standard practice anymore, it is still generally encouraged.
Whether a cover letter is required or not, do not go into this endeavor hastily. The letter gives you a chance to convince the editor that your article is appropriate for their journal and is of sufficient standard to meet their peer-review criteria. In other words, your letter is a chance to promote your article in its best possible light.
To assist you in this process, here are some suggestions that can help you write a strong cover letter:
- Follow any instructions given by the journal. Journals sometimes specify which information to include (and what to exclude), so ensure you have read their ‘Instructions for Authors’ section carefully.
- Limit your letter to about a page. Do not make it too lengthy; editors might get several letters a day and they do not have the time to read a letter that is overly verbose.
- Your letter should have the format of a formal letter (use your university’s letterhead if available) and include your name, institution name and address, as well as the recipient’s address if you know it. Make sure to date your letter as well.
- Address the editor by name if possible, e.g. Dear Dr. [LAST NAME] (do some research to find out who the editor-in-chief or handling editor is of the journal you are submitting to and what his or her credentials are). If you can’t find the editor’s name, start with ‘Dear Editor’.
- Your opening statement should include the name of your paper, for example: We wish to submit an original research article entitled [ARTICLE NAME] for consideration by [JOURNAL NAME].
- Briefly describe your paper in the body of your letter. Tell the editor why your manuscript should be considered for publication. This part generally includes the information from your abstract, but do not simply copy your abstract. Make sure to mention any novel/relevant/interesting findings and their implications for theory and practice, as well as point out any research gaps your paper will help to fill.
- Include a paragraph that explains why this article is of specific interest to the journal. To craft this section well, read the journal’s ‘Aims and Scope’ beforehand. This particular step should show the reader that you have made an informed choice to submit to this particular journal; for example: ‘We believe that this manuscript is appropriate for publication by [JOURNAL NAME] because [REASON]’. It is here where you make a reference to the aims and scope of the journal and try to convince them your paper will be of interest to their readership.
- The last paragraph should include any formalities (e.g. the research is original, has not been submitted elsewhere, no conflict of interest, etc.).
- Some journals might ask you to suggest reviewers for you paper. Alternatively, you might want to note the names of experts you do not want as reviewers (if there is a reason to ask that you would like to exclude a particular reviewer, you generally do not need to explain why).
- Your closing sentence should be polite and acknowledge the journal’s editor, for example: ‘Thank you for your consideration of this manuscript.’
- A common professional closing is ‘Sincerely’, which should be followed by your printed name and a signature.
- This should go without saying, but do not forget to proofread your cover letter to make sure it is free of spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. You have gotten this far, take the extra time to get this part right.
Taking everything said above into consideration, there is no need for you to be overly anxious about writing your cover letter. As we have discussed, it is important to follow certain conventions, but you do not need to overthink this part. There is a chance that your journal’s editor will just glance at the cover letter as we are learning this tradition is slowly becoming outdated in some fields of study as journal submission are increasingly submitted electronically. Nonetheless, your ultimate goal here is to get published, so you might as well put your best foot forward and write a great cover letter.