We are in the midst of unprecedented growth in the scholarship of nursing education and the commitment of nurse educators to share their work and ideas in writing with the broader nursing education community. This growth is evidenced by a dramatic upward trend in the number of manuscripts received by the Journal of Nursing Education (JNE) in each of the past 4 years. In 2005, we received 279 manuscripts, which grew to 428 in 2008, a 53% increase; in 2009, we received 473 manuscripts. The Journal’s selectivity also increased in that same period, from a 42% accept rate in 2005 to a 20% accept rate in 2009.
Readers and potential authors often query the editors and Journal staff about manuscript ideas, which we are happy to answer. However, some general guidelines can assist in increasing the likelihood that your manuscript will be considered, reviewed, and ultimately, accepted. To that end, the following is a David Letterman-style top ten list of tips for increasing your chance of success:
#10—Before submitting a manuscript, review the purpose and scope of the Journal. Manuscripts on topics outside the Journal’s focus are the number one reason for rejecting a manuscript without review. JNE focuses on aspects of nursing education related to undergraduate and graduate nursing programs, including but not limited to such areas as curriculum, teaching-learning innovations, faculty and student issues, and nursing education research. Manuscripts on staff development, continuing education, patient education, and clinical care belong in other journals.
#9—Make sure your manuscript fits the appropriate manuscript category, as outlined in the Information for Authors ( http://www.journalofnursingeducation.com/PDFs/JNEguidelines.pdf). For example, if your research study is limited to a single institution with a small sample size, it does not warrant a Major Article. Rather, you should follow the guidelines for a Research Brief. A manuscript that does not adhere to the guidelines will typically be rejected or the author will be asked to revise the manuscript to fit the appropriate category, which delays consideration and, if eventually accepted, time to publication. Manuscripts also should conform to the guidelines for manuscript length. A 25-page manuscript containing 6 tables will be returned without review.
#8—Become familiar with the nursing education literature published on a given topic within the past 2 years. The Journal is looking for manuscripts that cover new ground, offer innovative or novel approaches, and expand on what is already available in the published literature. Manuscripts that fail to offer meaningful new contributions or that focus on esoteric topics are not likely to be considered.
#7—Organize, organize, organize! State the purpose clearly, develop a logical argument, and base conclusions on evidence you have provided or cited. Ensure the manuscript is clear, concise, flows well, and engages attention. Manuscripts that are disjointed and difficult to follow will lose reviewers’ interest. A good idea is to have one or more colleagues who are unfamiliar with your work read the manuscript for clarity and coherence prior to submission. Poor writing and organization can make an otherwise worthwhile idea unacceptable. Also, be meticulous about adhering to the required American Psychological Association style, including spacing and citation format, as well as spelling and grammar. Again, careful reading and editing are essential, as spelling and grammar detection software do not always pick up errors. Crisp, error-free presentation of your manuscript makes a positive impact on reviewers.
#6—Be selective about including tables and figures, which should amplify and clarify your narrative rather than duplicate it. They also can be used to add information in a more concise format, provided the information enhances the narrative in a useful and meaningful way. A URL link is often preferable to a lengthy table or complicated figure.
#5—Use original sources and include recent references (i.e., within the past 5 years or so), unless they are classic (i.e., foundational to an understanding of your manuscript topic). Minimize citations drawn from the Internet unless the source material is unavailable elsewhere.
#4—When writing about educational innovations, avoid describing details that are specific to your institution (e.g., how a task force was formed). Include only information and lessons learned that are relevant and applicable to other institutions or settings.
#3—Integrative reviews, and indeed reviews of the literature within a manuscript, should synthesize existing works and not simply summarize prior studies or works, one by one by one, without tying together commonalities and differences. Also, such reviews should offer interpretations and applications of the source material to your own work.
#2—Offer a reasoned and objective treatment of your subject, rather than a biased “mind already made up” viewpoint that fails to consider other perspectives or explanations. Also, make sure that any conclusions you draw are based on and supported by the evidence. Avoid making inferential leaps, however plausible they may sound.
#1—Go beyond describing self-reported satisfaction or perceptions as the measure of success or impact of an innovation or intervention. To better advance nursing education’s body of knowledge, your manuscript should provide evidence of the impact of an educational innovation or research study intervention on learning outcomes or performance behaviors or, in the case of qualitative work, offer an evidence-based analysis of common themes. Such manuscripts will be favored over ones that include only indirect impact measures.
Following the above suggestions won’t guarantee acceptance of your manuscript, but it will ensure your worthwhile ideas and works receive full consideration. Ultimately, doing so also will increase the likelihood of your work being published. Now, get ready, get set, write!
Janis P. Bellack, PhD, RN, FAAN