Author guides are guidelines on how to shape the content, structure and layout of articles so that they will be accepted for publication.
To cut down on editorial work, journals stipulate a number of requirements with regard to the content, structure and layout of the article. You will encounter these requirements when you submit your article to the journal. Therefore it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with them as early as possible to ensure that your article fulfils the criteria and to save to yourself superfluous work.
The requirements of individual journals can vary considerably depending on whether they are dealing with a lengthy article, a review, an annotation, etc. The requirements are often set out on journal websites. Occasionally you only get to see the requirements during the actual upload process. If you are in doubt, you should definitely contact the journal. Be aware that the individual requirements of different journals are in constant flux, and due to the large number of journals, it is not possible to draw up an exhaustive list. The information below simply covers the basics.
Journals stipulate certain requirements regarding the content of articles. For example, a distinction is made between an article and a review. Often, submitted material is not treated exactly the same by the editors. Articles are generally put through a peer-review process, which as a minimum involves an editor, an assessor and an author. The review process can be carried out in several stages. In a simpler workflow, fewer people manage the review. See, for example, the different assessment processes of the journal MedieKultur.
In addition to fulfilling content-related criteria, you will also be asked to provide information about yourself and any co-authors. This can be contact details, details of employment, job title or any co-authors.
Structure of the article
There are normally also a number of structural requirements regarding the length of the article, the language, the structure of diagrams and tables. For some types of submitted material, an abstract can be required and there may be certain stipulations about the length and language of the abstract.
If your article contains illustrations and tables, you will generally have to meet requirements regarding text type, text size, colours, etc. You may also have to pay for having illustrations published in colour.
As a rule, individual journals have very specific requirements regarding the format of references and reference lists. Often, references are expected to be presented according to commonly used 'output styles', but they may also have to comply with a journal's own particular requirements for the structure of source references.
It may be common practice within some disciplines to require access to the research data, furthermore to require online access, with the data attributed a Digital Object Identifier (DOI). The requirement of online access to data calls for extra effort on the part of authors, as they have to decide on what data may be published and how.
As well as the above requirements, there are also likely to be legal requirements. A common requirement is that the article should be submitted for assessment only to the journal in question. If the article is rejected, you are of course welcome to send it to another journal. Researchers may also be asked to verify that there are no competing interests. In other words, the author must be transparent about who has funded a given project so that the journal and the readers can assess whether the content of the article is influenced by its funding sources, such as in the case of the evaluation of medical products, where the manufacturer has sponsored the project.
As mentioned, the list is not exhaustive and simply presents the most common journal requirements. To ensure the most effective work process, you should always be familiar with the author guides before you submit the article. And ideally before you write the article.
Alongside the instructions on form and content that journals provide in their author guides there can also be ethical issues to consider. One can, for example, be asked to quote previous articles from the same journal in order to improve the journal’s impact factor. This is would clearly not be a good research ethic. In such cases it may be advisable to adhere to the Vancouver Protocol where possible. This defines authorship and establishes criteria for when one can call oneself the author of an academic article. It is primarily aimed at
the health sciences but can also be applied to other areas.
Example showing different ways of treating articles: http://ojs.statsbiblioteket.dk/index.php/mediekultur/about/editorialPolicies#sectionPolicies