Writing your article

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This section deals with the structure of your article

Before you start writing

It is very important to

  • Read the aims and scope and author guidelines very carefully as articles that do not comply will be automatically refused
  • Check the total word count in your chosen journal, including charts or graphs and references, as this varies from journal to journal
  • A more detailed guide to selecting the right journal can be found under Publishing Options.

It is a good idea to write the main body of the text then write the introduction and the conclusion. Plan your article to keep it logical and well structured. 

  • The introduction is important so spend time as it needs to engage the reader
  • Provide background information to set the scene
  • Provide a clear purpose of the paper – provide aim etc
  • Main body of the paper will depend on your subject area but keep concise and provide relevant information and clear explanations for the reader.  Clearly state the context of your work and the methodology you used.
  • Conclusion – make it more than just a summary, spend time on how you end the conclusion
Some useful hints for writing

See the basics below and more detail at Purdue University Online Writing Lab

  • Keep it simple, specific and to the point
  • Use the ‘5-word rule’ i.e. readers know the point of the sentence within the first 5 words
  • Sentence structure
    • clear, concise and well-constructed
    • mix of active and passive sentences
    • review each word you use
    • good grammar
    • appropriate punctuation
  • Check cohesiveness and linkages between sentences and paragraphs
  • Try to string sentences together in a cohesive way to make the paper and interesting read
  • Litmus paper – read aloud
  • Don’t bury your argument like a needle in a haystack
  • Don’t over-state your results
  • Keep illustrations clear and easy to read
  • Get ahead of the game - if your study is underway and you are already collecting related data then you should be in a position to write the introduction, aims and methods at this point to save time later


  • superfluous and flowery words
  • doubling of words
  • spelling errors
  • sweeping / general statements
  • padded verbs
  • plagiarism
  • overuse of direct quotes
  • do not mix tenses
  • Jargon 
  • Clichés e.g. at the end of the day
  • Everyday abbreviations e.g. phone
  • Slang 
  • Not gender neutral 
  • Being well over the recommended word count
  • Words that are over used and can increase word count
    • In order to
    • However
    • Therefore
    • Thus
    • Hence
Editing your article

Don’t try to write and edit at the same time. Review, rewrite, review, rewrite …..

  • Explore different ways to inform or explain information, e.g. if anything can be conveyed to the reader in a graph rather than writing it out, this makes your paper more engaging AND reduces your word count
  • Change passive sentences to active sentences
  • Try other ways to make the narrative interesting for the reader
  • Read articles in your field or chosen journal to learn from the style used by other authors
  • Reading your work out loud will help you to improve the flow
  • Try copy/pasting the text of your article without any citations to check the readability
  • Proof reading skills – Some great advice on developing proof reading skills from Jobsite can be found here
  • Ask a colleague or mentor to check your work
  • Critical friends who have published are invaluable to provide advice and support

The Australian National University has included a comprehensive guide to requesting and giving feedback as part of the writing process. 

Before submitting your article

Writing the abstract

This is very important as it is the most frequently read section of any published article and needs to present your key findings while encouraging the reader to want to find out more detail. It is possibly the most difficult part of the process. It should be a mini representation of your paper, be concise and use a clear structure, the journal will usually give instructions of how they want the abstract to be structured.


Choose appropriate keywords carefully to reflect the interests of the audience

Highlights or impact on practice

This what is unique and distinct about your paper for the audience of the journal


It is likely you will try a number of titles before you decide on one that accurately reflects the paper. The Springer tutorial includes many examples of selecting the best title and keywords and hints on improving your abstract.


Ensure you use correct author affiliations as many organisations collate a record of staff publications so it is important your paper is found in any search, do not use team name or department name (unless there is room for it) - do use the proper organisation name NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde or the full name of your HSCP if appropriate.  This enables organisations to locate their intellectual property with greater ease, and gives the proper attribution to your work.

Submitting your article - revisiting the Peer Review Process
  • All journals will explain how their peer review process works in the print copy of the journal and on their website. For example, whether single or double blind reviewers are used, how long the process typically takes and what proportion of submitted articles are accepted for publication
  • Be prepared to wait longer, sometimes much longer, than the journal has indicated - it can be a slow and tedious process as journals often experience difficulty in finding suitable peer reviewers or in getting reviewers to submit their comments on time
  • Although it is naturally disappointing, don't be too alarmed if your paper is 'knocked-back' at some point - this has happened to every author at some stage, even to the most renowned in their fields. It is a normal part of the peer review process, so don't take it personally
  • Take on board any feedback received, use what you think is useful and re-submit to another suitable journal
Videos summarising the key points