Today’s post is a special request post for several clients who have written to inquire how to write a cover letter for the submission of an article manuscript to a journal.
****Addendum (4/29/13): Please read the follow up to this post, “Of Cover Letters and Magic,” as it retracts some of the advice given in this post!****
This is pretty straightforward.
First, by all means follow any instructions given to you for the cover letter on the journal submission website! Those will override anything I say here.
Assuming there are no instructions, the following is common:
The letter should be on letterhead if it is available for your use. The letter will typically be just one page long.
It will have proper letter heading material, ie, the date and the address of the recipient at the top left, under the letterhead.
It will address the editor by name, if the name is known.
It will then have four short paragraphs. The first introduces the writer, and follows the basic format of the intro para of the job cover letter described in this post (ie, field, Ph.D. institution and year, current institutional affiliation and status, and general focus of work). It then states that the writer is submitting a manuscript for review.
The second paragraph covers the topic of the manuscript. This will be a crisp 4-5 sentences that will give a title and describe the topic, the specific material/data covered, the theoretical orientation or approach, any special issues of methodology if important, and, most importantly, the core argument.
The third paragraph will be shorter, and will take about 2-3 sentences to describe the manuscript’s contribution to the field and the suitability of the manuscript to this particular journal based on topic, theme, or methodological or theoretical approach, with reference to other work recently published in the journal.
The final paragraph will list 2-3 possible reviewers for the manuscript, and will thank the editor for considering the manuscript for publication. Contact info can be added here.
Sign off, “Sincerely, XXX.”
And that is about it.