How to Write a Winning Cover Letter

A guide for journal submissions

Academic holds a blank piece of paper

When submitting your manuscript to a journal, your cover letter is key. A good cover letter highlights the quality and relevance of your text and is used by editors to determine whether your research is worth publishing in their journal.

If acceptance for publication is like being hired for a new job, your manuscript can be compared to the interview and your cover letter to your CV: your manuscript is far less likely to be read if your cover letter does not present it in an attractive light. That is why it is so important to write your cover letter with as much care as you do the manuscript itself.

Here are some guidelines to help you:

Write it like a business letter

This is a formal letter and, like a business letter, the opening section should include all the pertinent contact details. Address the editor (by name if possible), mention the name of the journal, and include the date.

Title, type and target

In the first paragraph, mention the title of your manuscript and specify whether it is a case study, a research paper, a review, etc. Follow this with a line about what prompted you to conduct the study and the objective you had in mind.

What you accomplished

Next, highlight the major accomplishments and findings of your study. State the relevance and significance of these findings and how they might enrich the current body of literature on the subject. If you have conducted similar or related research in the past, mention it and point out how your current study builds upon or refines your methodology to achieve more accurate results.

Why it should be published

Follow this by explaining why your manuscript is a good fit for the journal. You need to be precise and point out how various parts of your research align with the journal’s purpose and ideals.

Go to the journal's website and find out what they're looking for. Think of ways in which you can draw parallels between your work and the journal's mission statement. Address specific points to demonstrate that you have done your homework in choosing a home for your research.


In the closing paragraph, include a few brief lines stating the following:

  • Your manuscript is an original work
  • You and your co-authors do not have any conflicts of interest to disclose
  • All the authors of the manuscript consent to its publication
  • The manuscript has not been published before, in full or in part, by another journal
  • If need be, respectfully mention the names of specific individuals who should not review your manuscript

Some more things to consider with regards to journal editing

  • Avoid repeating information, and don't include irrelevant details, for instance, a detailed description of your methodology, that distract from the purpose of the cover letter
  • Academic proofreading is important, so always have someone proofread it before sending
  • You can use a reasonable amount of descriptive language in the cover letter (highlighting the contribution of your research, or explaining why your work would appeal to the journal's readers), but avoid humor
  • Avoid language that shows bias, such as embellishing your work ("novel," "groundbreaking") or speaking negatively about competitors
  • Simple is always best, so use as little jargon and as few acronyms as possible

The goal of a cover letter is to catch the editor's attention. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be well on the way to enticing the academic editor to read your paper and send it for peer review.  Good luck!

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