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Revista americana de medicina respiratoria

On-line version ISSN 1852-236X

Rev. am. med. respir. vol.16 no.2 CABA June 2016



Common Errors Made by Authors, from the Perspective of a Publisher. Preventing “Unsubmission”


Authors: Tatsuya Okada1, Takako Kojima2, J. Patrick Barron3

1 Marketing Group, Division of Society Management Services, Sales Department, Kyorinsha Co., Ltd.
2 Department of International Medical Communications, Tokyo Medical University
3 Tokyo Medical University

Correspondence to: Takako Kojima


Series Item 5


In preceding papers in this series, we described important aspects of manuscript preparation, such as formatting, ethical issues, the submission process and the roles of the editorial office. As explained previously, most journals have Instructions to Authors, which provide formatting instructions and other necessary information that authors should provide when submitting a manuscript to that specific journal.
Authors are expected to follow the instructions in the manuscript preparation process, and any papers that are not prepared according to the guidelines, or lack any necessary information, are ‘unsubmitted’ or returned to the authors before proceeding to the peer review process. This is frustrating not only for authors, but also for the journal as it can waste valuable time and resources. It is especially regrettable that this can be prevented by reasonably common-sense approaches, which this paper attempts to describe.
We have previously pointed out matters which require the authors’ attention when writing a manuscript. In this study we have gathered information and analyzed the results to find out the common errors authors make when preparing manuscripts which lead to ‘unsubmission’ of the manuscript, to help the authors understand what points they should pay attention to, besides the contents of their research, before submitting a manuscript.

Materials and Methods

This study was conducted by the Editorial Office Management Support Team at Kyorinsha ( They provide support services to various journals published in the English language. Through their services, when the support team receives a manuscript, administrators inspect the following aspects, such as title page: title, authors’ names, affiliation(s), corresponding author information; abstract: word count, structure; the number of key words; COI disclosure declaration; figures, tables and their legends. If a manuscript is not properly formatted or any of the required information is lacking, the administrators have no option but to return the paper to the authors with descriptions of points that must be complied with before resubmission.
From the several journals that which Kyorinsha provide the support services, we randomly chose 291 submitted manuscripts over a period of 6 months, and analyzed the reasons for those that were subsequently “unsubmitted”. For each manuscript, we tracked their records to check whether they were unsubmitted, and if so the reasons. Some manuscripts had multiple faults that led them to be returned to the authors.


The results of the research are shown in the Table. It shows that out of 291 manuscripts, 118 were unsubmitted (40.5%), which constitutes an excessively large proportion. The errors related to the abstract accounted for a total of 38.2%, which includes excessive word count (20.9%); formatting of the abstract (13.6%); and missing abstract (3.7%). Journals normally have a maximum number of word counts for abstracts1 and most of the journals we studied had a limit of 250 words. When the author exceeded the specified word limit the manuscript was returned to the authors. Abstract formatting problems (13.6%) consisted of the abstract being incorrectly ‘structured’ or“unstructured”, contravening the instructions regarding the type of manuscript. A structured abstract is usually required for manuscript types such as original articles and requires the following headings: Objective (Background), Materials (Patients) and Methods, Results, and Conclusion. On the other hand, the unstructured abstract should be a summary of the study and its findings without any headings. It is commonly used in manuscript types such as case reports and review articles. Each journal may use different terms or subheadings for structured abstracts, and the authors must follow the instructions of the target journal.

Table. Reasons for Unsubmission

Another common mistake was the lack of author information, particularly the mismatch of the number of authors on the title page and in the online submission system (14.1%). In many cases, we found that the submitting author provided information for only one author in the online system, although several authors appeared on the actual title page. In such cases, the manuscript is unsubmitted due to insufficient author information.
The manuscript submission system that was used in this study sends a submission confirmation e-mail to each and every author to try to prevent ghost authorship. Ghost authorship is an unethical practice that uses the names of prominent authors in the field, although those researchers did not contribute to the study, in an attempt to gain some advantage such as favorably influencing peer review. Providing the e-mail addresses of all authors is important in order to allow the editorial office to send submission confirmation e-mails to every listed author regarding the manuscript that has been submitted to the journal in which their name appears. This helps eliminate ghost authorship.
Another common error found in the study was related to the corresponding author’s information (10.5%). A corresponding author is the individual who is responsible for communicating with the
journal throughout the submission, peer review, and production process. Also, the corresponding author is responsible for responding to critiques and questions regarding the study that may arise after publication2. The journals used in the study stated in the instructions to authors to list one corresponding author with contact information (e-mail address) on the title page. The errors found were those cases in which no information was provided, or if more than one author was indicated as the corresponding author on the title page.
In addition to the errors described above we have found many minor errors, such as missing figure legends (3.1%), old revision marks (2.1%), wrong labeling of tables or figures (1.6%), and wrong journal name in the cover letter (1.0%).


Through this study, we found that the errors that lead to unsubmission of a manuscript can occur in various aspects of manuscript formatting, from word count to lack of author information, although the requirements are clearly and unequivocally provided in the instructions to authors.
Authors should be fully aware that the requirements for manuscript instruction vary among the journals due to the different styles each journal employs. Thus, the author should carefully read the instructions of their target journals and prepare manuscripts according to their specific instructions.
If the authors are confused about the instructions, it is strongly recommended to contact the journal’s editorial office for clarification. Furthermore, authors should be aware that although dif
ferent journals have distinct requirements, many of them are based on the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, known as the ICMJE Recommendations2. If authors are uncertain about formatting styles, or issues concerning publication ethics that is not described in the instructions, they should consult the ICMJE Recommendations to avoid any unnecessary and easily avoidable errors.
Avoiding unsubmission caused by errors may consume an extensive period of time for your manuscript to be reviewed, and in some cases, authors may lose the opportunity for publication at an appropriate time. Therefore, it is critical that the authors should carefully read the instructions to authors and prepare their papers accordingly.

Acknowledgement: The authors are indebted to Kaoru Yoshida for her help in collecting data for this study.

Conflict of Interest (COI): T. Okada is an employee of Kyorinsha.


1. Andrade, C. How to write a good abstract for a scientific paper or conference presentation. Indian J Psychiatry. 2011 Apr-Jun [cited 2015 March 15]; 53(2): 172–175. Available from:

2. International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly work in Medical Journals: Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors. 2015 [cited 2016 March 22]. Available from:

2. Comité Internacional de Editores de Revistas Médicas. Recomendaciones para la realización, presentación, edición y publicación de trabajos académicos en revistas médicas: cómo definir el rol de autores y contribuyentes. 2015 [citado 22 de marzo de 2016]. Disponible en:         [ Links ]

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