RCNi guidance on writing and submitting articles for publication
Here at RCNi, we aim to inform and to encourage critical reflection among nurses by publishing articles that have clear implications for practice.
The journals, in print and online, support the sharing of knowledge and experience. We commission articles but also welcome unsolicited clinical articles, literature reviews, and reports of original research and service innovations, as well as comment on issues in practice, education, policy or management.
To be accepted for publication, articles need to be informative, of interest to a journal’s readership, have something new to say or offer a fresh approach to an old subject, challenge current thought or practice, predict future trends or review current thinking.
One of the best ways to understand how to write for publication is to read a selection of articles published in the journals. There are various kinds of articles that may suit the topic you are considering.
What to write
If you have an idea but are unsure how to proceed or whether readers will be interested, contact the editor, who will tell you whether your planned article will be appropriate for the journal. If it is not, the editor may suggest another journal that might be more suitable. It is also important to get advice if you are planning to base your article on an essay or dissertation because you will need to adapt the length and style of writing to suit the journal.
Types of article the journals tend to publish under ‘evidence & practice’ include:
Description of practice
This is an article that describes logically and informatively a particular nursing procedure, the work of a ward or unit, or the role and function of a nursing post or specialty. The relevance of this work to other nurses should be discussed.
This is a thorough and comprehensive review of current writing on a particular aspect of nursing. Up-to-date referencing is essential, as is a strong conclusion to bring the subject together. Implications for practice need to be explicitly stated – that is, how is this relevant to readers?
This should be written in classic research style, that is, abstract, introduction, literature review, aims, method, results/findings, discussion and conclusion.
Case studies are a form of evidence and can be used to introduce or illustrate specific points in an article. Even though you will anonymise the case study, you should get permission from the subject for publication of such material.
Informing or updating article
Readers appreciate summaries and updates on specific topics including new policy or practice guidelines. Check that the topic has not been addressed in depth recently. For some topics, a continuing professional development (CPD) article may be appropriate, particularly if you want to convey mainly factual information. Check with the editor before you embark on this kind of article.
But they also publish:
The journal provides opportunity for comment on issues current in the field of practice. Writers should express a definite opinion rather than simply restate commonly known arguments. And while there is scope to be provocative and partisan, opinions should be based on fact.
Letters to the editor
These are a useful medium through which to comment on articles that have been published or to inform readers of practice developments or issues in your area in a more informal way than writing a feature article.
Please contact the editor if you are interested in becoming a book reviewer, specifying your area of practice and interests.
How much to write
Talk to the editor of the journal about the word count for your chosen style of article. As a guide, opinion pieces range between 300 and 700 words and evidence & practice articles between 1,500 and 3,500 words, including references. If you agree a word length with the editor before submitting your article, stick to it; otherwise it will probably be returned to you to edit back to the agreed limit.
Preparing your manuscript
Articles should be prepared in a Word document or text file. There can be problems translating some computer commands so please keep these to a minimum.
- Use only one space after full stops.
- Do not use more than one space.
- Use only one return to denote the end of a paragraph.
- Do not use bold, underline or italic type.
- Do not start a new page for sections.
- Do not use block capitals. Use sentence case, capitalising only the first work and any proper nouns.
- Please put text for all boxes, tables and figures at the end of the article and clearly label them. Please also indicate where they should appear in the main body of the text.
If you have a query about preparing your manuscript, contact the editor of the journal or administration manager Helen Hyland on 020 8872 3138 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Checking your manuscript
You should carefully check your article before submitting it:
- Have you checked the spelling using a UK spell-check program?
- Have you checked statistical calculations?
- Have you had a friend or colleague read the article for clarity and sense?
- Are the references in the reference list complete and in style? If you have rewritten or edited the copy, do you need to take out references from, or add any to, the reference list?
- Have you included all the information for any boxes, tables or figures? Are boxes, tables and figures cited in the text?
- Do you need to include photographs or other illustrations?
- Have you gained the necessary permission to reprint photographs? Are they good enough quality and size?
- Have you declared any potential conflict of interest?
Submitting your manuscript
All contributions should be submitted through the online submission system.
A tutorial to help authors use the system is available through the ‘Instructions for authors’ link on that page. The registration and submission process will ask for all your contact details and the following information for all other authors of your article: full name, job title, institution, email address and country.
Please note that your manuscript must be sent to one journal only. It is considered unethical to send it to more than one, and doing so will not increase your chances of publication because editors will not consider articles that have been published elsewhere.
What happens next
All manuscripts submitted to the journal are acknowledged.
The article is then assessed internally before being sent to an external clinical expert for peer review. This is usually double-blind, which means that the reviewers do not know who the authors are and the authors are not informed who the reviewers are.
Some people think this helps to ensure the manuscript is given an objective and unbiased review; others see open, as opposed to double-blind, review as being more honest. Nursing Children and Young People, for example, operates an open peer review system. More information about this can be obtained by contacting the editor: please see the contact information in Exploring our journals.
Reviewers advise the editor who is responsible for the final decision. To be accepted the article needs to be:
- Have a message that is important to the readership.
- And, in the case of original research, demonstrate appropriate rigour.
Reviewers give an informed or expert opinion on the work of an informed or expert author, which is why it is called ‘peer’ review.
It takes about 12 weeks from acknowledgement to receive a response. Responses may be:
- Acceptance without revision.
- A request for minor or major revision.
- A letter explaining that your manuscript has not been accepted for publication.
Requests for revision. In most cases, authors are asked to revise their manuscripts in the light of the comments made by external reviewers and editorial staff. These comments are intended to be constructive and useful and to help to produce a high-quality article. The manuscript will be returned to you by email with a copy of the reviewers’ comments and a deadline for re-submission. Revised manuscripts may be returned to the original reviewers to ensure the changes made are satisfactory.
Not accepted for publication. There are many reasons why your manuscript may not be accepted for publication and these may not necessarily reflect the quality of the submission. Where possible, we will to try to explain why but we retain the right not to engage in further correspondence on the matter.
The review process may be a bit uncomfortable when you have spent many hours labouring over your first or even your tenth article but it is a healthy and constructive process that ensures quality in the journal. The author does not have to accept all the views in the review report. Most find the comments helpful but authors are free to respond with reasons for not making one or more of the changes suggested. Please contact the editor to discuss any questions that you have about your review feedback.
RCNi offers continuous online publishing so that, once your manuscript is accepted for publication, it will be published online first. Peer-reviewed articles will be posted as soon as they are accepted and edited to ensure that readers have access to new content as soon as possible. Please note that not all articles we publish online will appear in print.
Bear in mind that RCNi subscribers can read your article online even if they subscribe to another RCNi journal. This is because they can access ten free articles from other RCNi journals every month. So publishing online rather than only in print can mean that even more people can read, and act on, what you have written.
Articles that are accepted are checked using antiplagiarism software. This generates a ‘similarity report’ which shows any matches between text in your article and text in other published articles. If lengthy verbatim or unreferenced passages from previously published articles are identified during this check, you may be asked to revise the passages, including any from published articles that you have authored. The article may also be rejected based on the report.
Editing and production
Accepted articles are then edited, for example, for sense, flow and grammar and to check that the article is in-house style.
If any queries arise or are outstanding at this stage, you may be emailed directly by an editor, perhaps with an attached Word document of the edited article with the queries highlighted. The editor may also explain a particular format to use in answering the questions.
Otherwise, the article is prepared by members of the RCNi production team. They will send you this draft in Word form, along with images or figures that you have provided and have been redrawn.
At this stage, there may still be unresolved editorial queries, which will be highlighted. This is also your chance to check the accuracy of the text of the article and any images or figures, for example, the labelling of anatomical drawings.
Please list any amendments separately from the article in an email to the production editor, whose details you will now have. Do not try to amend the PDF or resubmit an amended Word document.
Where payment is due for an article, for example for a continuing professional development (CPD) article, it should be received within between eight and ten weeks of publication.
The publisher’s agreement that you are asked to sign when your article is accepted assigns copyright of your paper to the RCNi Company. This protects you from someone else taking your work and using it ‘unfairly’. If someone wants to reprint or adapt your work or place it on a website, they will need to obtain permission from us and credit you as the original author. We do not usually allow articles published in our journals to appear on third-party websites. We would generally support reprinting provided the proposed use was appropriate. If you have any specific questions, email Helen Hyland
- How to Write in Plain English from the Plain English Campaign (Last accessed: 7 May 2017.)
- Nurse Author & Editor is an international publication dedicated to nurse authors, editors and reviewers. It was first published in 1991 as a print publication but it is now published by Wiley-Blackwell as a free quarterly online publication. To access, click here (Last accessed: 7 May 2017.)
- Albert T (2009) Winning the Publications Game. Third edition. Radcliffe Publishing, Abingdon.
- Happell B (2008) Writing for publication: a practical guide. Nursing Standard. 22, 28, 35-40.
- Happell B (2012) A practical guide to writing clinical articles for publication. Nursing Older People. 24, 3, 30-34.
- Leary A (2006) Nursing a Secret. To access, click here (Last accessed: 7 May 2017.)
- Orwell G (2000) Politics and the English Language. In Orwell G. Essays. Penguin Classics, London.
- Turnbull A (2001) Plain Words for Nurses; Writing and Communicating Effectively. Foundation of Nursing Studies, London.
- RCNi writing style guidance
- RCNi guidance on planning and structuring articles
- Become a reviewer for RCNi
- Explore our journals