Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA)
Information for Authors
Revised June 2013; please note changes to submission categories
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The JMLA is an international, peer-reviewed specialty journal that aims to advance the practice and research knowledgebase of health sciences librarianship and information provision. The JMLA welcomes the submission of any original manuscript that seeks to improve the practice of health sciences librarianship or information provision in health or biological sciences or articulates developments and history of the profession and related fields. The JMLA also welcomes manuscripts that extend the knowledgebase through research in the organization, delivery, use, and impact of information on health care, biomedical research, and health professionals’ education.
Manuscripts are reviewed for possible publication with the understanding that they have not been published, submitted, or accepted for publication elsewhere. General availability or mass distribution in an online format is considered publication. Presentation of a paper at a conference or inclusion of a preliminary report in a published proceedings is not considered to be prior publication, provided that the submitted manuscript is substantially more complete than an initial report and any duplicative material is kept to a minimum. Specific cases should be referred to the editor.
Material published in the quarterly print journal also appears online on the Medical Library Association website and through the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM’s) PMC digital archive. Preprints of articles published in the JMLA are available, to MLA members only, on the JMLA website two months prior to the print publication.
The JMLA publishes manuscripts in a variety of categories. Some of the most frequent categories are described in detail below. A variety of other paper types are also welcome. Questions on paper types and format requirements should be addressed directly to the editor.
Manuscripts that present original findings based on standard research methodologies are published as full-length papers. The JMLA reserves this category for papers that meet the Department of Health and Human Services definition of research, “a systematic investigation…designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge” . Thus manuscripts submitted as full-length papers should employ a research design that allows the results to be extrapolated (generalized) to the larger population. Examples of studies meeting these criteria include: surveys using a random or representative sample; interventions employing a control group or a pre/post-test design; and qualitative studies following standard methods for qualitative analysis, such as grounded theory or discourse analysis. Papers with an historical focus are also published in this category. Exploratory studies, surveys with limited samples, and feasibility studies are normally published as research reports (see below) rather than full-length papers.
Full-length papers reporting research findings typically follow a standard research paper format: “Introduction,” “Methods,” “Results,” “Discussion,” and “Conclusion.” The “Introduction” should provide a review of relevant literature and a clear statement of the purpose of the study. “Methods” should be described in sufficient detail to allow readers to evaluate the study’s validity and reproducibility. All data should be in a “Results” section and should be interpreted in the “Discussion,” followed by “Conclusions” that proceed logically from the study. Implications for the theory or practice of the delivery of health sciences information should be addressed in the “Discussion.” Papers should also address the limitations of study findings.
All full-length papers must have an abstract of not more than 250 words, using the format described below.
Full-length paper submissions should be double-spaced, use Times New Roman 11-point font, and not exceed 5,000 words, excluding references, abstract, and illustrations. Manuscript pages should be numbered. Up to 6 illustrations can be included with full-length papers in the print version of the JMLA.
Manuscripts that provide a comprehensive review of literature, opinions, or progress on a topic in order to answer a research question are published as systematic reviews. The JMLA follows the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) definition of a systematic review: a critical assessment and evaluation of all publications that address a particular issue. Systematic reviews use an organized method of locating and evaluating a body of literature on a particular topic according to a set of specific criteria and include a description of the findings of the studies retrieved in qualitative terms (quantitative meta-analysis is not required for systematic reviews submitted to the JMLA).
Systematic reviews typically follow a standard research paper format: “Introduction,” “Methods,” “Results,” “Discussion,” and “Conclusion.” The “Introduction” contains a literature review establishing the need for the study. The “Methods” section describes, in detail, the search strategy constructed to provide a comprehensive review of the relevant literature on the topic. This section also includes the criteria used to select articles retrieved in the search for further analysis and the process (for example, review of abstracts) by which those criteria were applied. The “Results” section provides a comparison and analysis of articles retrieved. The “Discussion” summarizes important findings for the reader, and the “Conclusion” addresses the implications of the findings.
All systematic reviews must have an abstract of not more than 250 words, using the format described below.
Systematic review submissions should be double-spaced, use Times New Roman 11-point font, and not exceed 5,000 words, excluding references, abstract, and illustrations. Manuscript pages should be numbered. Up to 3 illustrations can be included with systematic reviews in the print version of the JMLA.
Manuscripts that report interesting and important findings related to the practice of health sciences librarianship and the provision of health sciences information but whose results are suggestive rather than definitive are published as research reports. Research reports explore a question of general interest but use a more limited research methodology than that required for a full-length paper. Surveys where the bias of the sample cannot be determined; interventions in which there is no control group or pre/post evaluation; feasibility studies in which only a small sample was employed; and benchmarking studies designed to document current practice are typically published as research reports.
Research reports follow a format similar to that of a research paper: an “Introduction” with a clear statement of the purpose of the project or study reported along with a few references to relevant literature, a “Methods” section that describes the study in sufficient detail to allow readers to judge validity and reproducibility, a “Results” section presenting major findings or achievements, and then a “Discussion” of the implications of the results.
Research reports should be double-spaced, use Times New Roman 11-point font, and generally not exceed 2,500 words, excluding references and illustrations. Manuscript pages should be numbered. Only 1 illustration can be included with a research report in the print version of the JMLA. A summary abstract of no more than 100 words should be included.
Manuscripts reporting a novel or innovative resolution of a problem or issue important to health sciences librarianship may be published as case studies. Case studies provide information on the way in which a problem was approached; the various options considered and discarded; and the solution implemented, including evidence of the project’s success or failure. A discussion of the sustainability of the solution and its extensibility to other institutions should also be included. Citations to literature addressing this or a similar problem should be presented, and enough information on the institutional setting provided to allow readers to judge whether the adopted solution would translate to their own environments. Case studies must include data or other evaluative information that allows readers to judge the success or failure of the project. Manuscripts including only the author’s opinion as evidence of success will be returned to the author.
Case studies should follow a format similar to that of a research paper. Manuscripts typically begin with an “Introduction,” providing a clear statement of the purpose of the project. A brief literature review, documenting how other libraries have approached this problem in the past, is normally part of the “Introduction.” The “Methods” section should describe the setting in which the project took place and provide details of the project itself. This should be followed by an “Outcomes” section presenting the results of the project including evidence of its success or failure. Finally, the “Discussion” addresses the extensibility and sustainability of the solution along with any lessons learned.
Case study submissions should be double spaced, in Times New Roman 11-point font, and generally not exceed 2,500 words excluding references, illustrations, and abstract. Only 1 illustration can be included with a case study in the print version of the JMLA. Manuscript pages should be numbered. A 100-word summary abstract should accompany the article.
Manuscripts that are primarily editorial in nature, meet the quality standards of the JMLA, and cover important and timely topics are published in the comment and opinion section of the journal. Submissions should be double spaced and no longer than 2,500 words. An abstract is not necessary for comment and opinion pieces.
Letters commenting on, questioning, or criticizing a recent JMLA publication, including responses from original authors, are welcomed. All letters are limited to 300 words.
Though letters may take issue with an author’s work, all letters must be respectful in tone, avoid confrontational or inflammatory language, and limit criticism to the scholarly methods or import of a paper. Letters may include no more than five references. All letters are sent to the lead author of a paper to invite commentary if the author desires; an author’s response (if provided) is generally not sent back to individuals submitting a letter to the editor. Letters and associated commentary (if provided) are typically published in the same issue of the journal.
To complement the print work, some of the paper’s supplementary material may be published in electronic format only (e.g., extensive data tables, survey instruments). In some cases, at the editor’s discretion, articles are published in their entirety online. In this case, the abstract will appear in the print version of the JMLA to direct readers to the online content. Appropriate pointers will also appear in the issue table of contents and annual index. Online content is indexed in PubMed, paginated, and referenced or cited in the same manner as content appearing in the print journal.
Many published guidelines can be of assistance in organizing the content and preparing a manuscript for submission to the JMLA. Because the peer-review evaluation examines the writing style in addition to the content, authors should take great care to submit a manuscript that is well written and adheres to applicable style guidelines. The JMLA follows the style and format guidelines for scientific and medical publications, and authors are encouraged to consult a guide with this emphasis. Examples of such guides include works by Day , Hall , Zeiger , and Matthews . General writing guides such as Fowler  and Strunk  can also be of assistance in the preparation of a well-written manuscript.
The style conventions used by the JMLA conform to the “Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals” (also known as “Vancouver Style”), prepared by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors . Other authoritative sources that guide the editorial process include the Medical Library Association Style Manual , Citing Medicine: The NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 2nd edition , the latest edition of The Chicago Manual of Style  for punctuation and form and other areas in which “Uniform Requirements” is silent, and the latest edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary  for spelling.
Members of the JMLA Editorial Board evaluate all contributed manuscripts with certain exceptions. Exceptions include the invited Janet Doe Lecture on the history and philosophy of medical librarianship, editorials, proceedings of the annual meetings of the Medical Library Association, invited columns, comment and opinion pieces, letters to the editor, obituaries, and reviews of books and electronic resources.
The JMLA uses a double-blind peer-review process, in which reviewers do not know the identity of the author and the identity of manuscript reviewers is not revealed to the author. Manuscripts in scope for the JMLA and meeting minimum requirements for submission are reviewed by three members of the editorial board or by subject experts chosen by the editor. The JMLA aims to complete the review process and provide feedback to authors within eight weeks of submission. All submitted manuscripts are treated as confidential communication.
Prior to sending material for peer-review, the editor reviews the paper to determine if it is in scope for the JMLA and, if so, if all material needed for reviewers is included. Authors are encouraged to consult the Key Information Checklist prior to submission to be sure that all required information has been included in their submission.
The editor notifies the corresponding author of acceptance, provisional acceptance requiring revision of the manuscript before publication (revision may include significantly shortening full papers), or rejection.
The formal notification will include feedback from the review panel and suggestions for revising the manuscript if it has been accepted for publication. Reviewers are asked to examine carefully the content and style of the manuscript for relevance, originality, contribution to the knowledgebase of the field, and importance to the aims of the JMLA. Reviewers evaluate the methodology used, validity of data, presence of supportable conclusions, clarity of writing style, and appropriateness of the literature review.
Manuscripts are considered final at proof stage. Page proofs are provided to authors for correction of serious errors; minor alterations cannot be made at this stage. Prompt return of proofs to the copy editor at MLA headquarters is essential. Use email, fax, or overnight express services. Reprint instructions are provided to authors by email via the JMLA’s production firm during the proof stage.
Corrections are only issued for an important error that affects the publication record, the scientific integrity of the paper, or the reputation of the authors or of the JMLA. Corrections are not published for typographical errors, except in cases where the editor determines that the error is particularly significant. Errors in figures are not corrected unless the error significantly changes the interpretation of the data.
The first page of the manuscript should be a separate title page—giving the title, author information, and title page footnotes described below. The title page must be in a separate file from the text of the paper. The title should be specific, descriptive, and concise. It should be followed by a line that gives the authors’ first and middle names or initials and highest degrees earned. Full author affiliation information (email address, authors’ professional titles, institutional affiliation, addresses, and zip codes) at the time of the study should follow in a paragraph under the heading “Authors’ Affiliations.” Present addresses of authors, if different than at the time of the study, can be indicated in a footnote following the author’s name in the “Authors’ Affiliation” section.
Additional title page footnotes, if needed, should indicate acknowledgment of grant support, including grant numbers. Manuscripts based on papers presented at a meeting should include a footnote giving the date, name, and place of the meeting. Use the following symbols in the order noted for explanatory footnotes on the title page or within the text: *, †, ‡, §, **, ††, etc. Additional footnotes should be included in a single list at the end of the manuscript.
For papers undergoing peer review, the title page must be submitted in a separate file so that the manuscript can be adequately blinded for review. Submissions emailed directly to the editor (Doe lecture, commentary, etc.) may include the title page in the same file as the manuscript itself.
Full-length articles must have a structured abstract of not more than 250 words, on a separate page that includes the following categories:
All acronyms must be defined. Consult the MLA Research Section’s structured abstract guidelines for more information on abstract requirements.
Research reports and case studies must have a structured abstract of not more than 100 words, on a separate page. The abstract for research reports and case studies must be structured to include the question, the setting, the method, the main results, and the conclusion. It should state the question, problem, or case covered by the study, the setting in which the study took place, the method(s) adopted to resolve the issue, the main results obtained, and the conclusion, including lessons learned.
Manuscript pages on which the text appears should be numbered consecutively. Divide papers into sections, each with an appropriate, brief heading. Footnotes in the text and personal acknowledgments should be kept to a minimum. Text footnotes if needed should appear on a separate page, not at the bottom of the page on which they occur. Relate them to the text by means of the symbols noted above in the instructions for title page footnotes (e.g., *, †, etc.).
Extensive data tables, survey instruments, and appendixes should be submitted as supplemental material. These items are normally not included in the print version of the JMLA but will be available to readers online. Note that papers reporting the results of a survey must include a copy of the survey instrument, unless it has been published elsewhere.
Data analyzed for material accepted for publication in the JMLA, along with any instructions or coding systems required to interpret them, should be retained for at least five years by the first author or his/her designee, so that they may be provided, whenever possible, in response to inquiries from interested readers. Authors who have data with longitudinal interest, for example a survey that someone might wish to repeat at a future date to track changes in user behavior, are encouraged to retain their raw data for at least ten years. Authors should make provisions for adequate backup of their data, in print or digital form, as well as for retaining access to the data should they move to another institution. All material published in the JMLA is archived and publicly available on PMC. To facilitate long-term data retention, JMLA authors have the option to have data files and accompanying materials stored on PMC as well and linked from their articles. Authors are responsible for ensuring that submitted data sets comply with any local rules regarding data distribution, such as those imposed by local institutional review boards.
Personal acknowledgments may be placed at the end of the text, ahead of the references. People named in the acknowledgments must be notified by the author that they will be included and must agree to be so named.
Schwartz DG, Blobaum PM, Shipman JP, Markwell LG, Marshall JG. The health sciences librarian in medical education: a vital pathways project task force. J Med Lib Assoc. 2009 Oct;97(4):280–4. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3163/1536-5050.97.4.012.
Use the reference style of the examples below. These are based on the formats used in Citing Medicine: The NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 2nd edition.
Consult Citing Medicine: The NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 2nd edition and the Medical Library Association Style Manual for further information and examples.
Illustrations often help to present complex information directly pertinent to the study in a way more easily conveyed than by text alone; however, they should not be included for purely illustrative or decorative purposes. Findings presented in tables, figures, and other illustrations should not be extensively restated in the text of the work and must not be embedded in the manuscript (see instructions below).
Authors may include a total of six illustrations (photographs, tables, figures) for a full-length manuscript, three for a systematic review, and one for a research report or case study. Additional illustrations may be submitted for online publication only; these should be referred to in the text as “online” (e.g., Figure 4, online only). All illustrations submitted for publication in the print journal must be in black and white. If an illustration has been previously published, acknowledge the original source and submit written permission from the copyright holder to reproduce the material. Permission is required irrespective of authorship or publisher, except for documents in the public domain.
If photographs or printed figures are used, the JMLA requires one original copy of the material, ready to be photographed. Submit black-and-white, high-quality glossies or camera-ready figures from a high-quality laser printer. Materials should be prepared using black ink on white paper. Do not combine line drawings and typewritten material in one figure; lettering must be professionally or computer produced, must be very clear, and must be large enough to permit considerable reduction in size by the printer. Care must be taken to use the same scale on all graphs and charts. Photographs should have a glossy finish, with sharp contrast between black and white areas. Each figure should be marked on its back indicating the figure number, author’s name, and the top of the figure. Captions for illustrations should be typewritten and double-spaced on a separate page at the end of the manuscript, with numbers corresponding to those on the illustrations.
Images for the print issue should be submitted in black and white. Images should be scanned at a minimum of 300 dots per inch (dpi). Line art should be scanned at 1200 dpi. Please note that the JMLA does not accept screenshots for the print version, as nearly all images that are downloaded from the Internet will not have sufficient resolution for the printing process. Halftones should have end dot settings of 2% in the lightest area of the image and 98% in the darkest area of the image. More details about requirements for illustrations can be found at www.allenpress.com/resources/education/.
Tables should appear on separate numbered sheets at the end of the manuscript. Each table must be numbered consecutively and headed by a brief, descriptive title that includes the number of the table (e.g., “Table 1 Number of study participants”). Use your word processor’s table commands or use a single tab between columns and a hard return between rows.
Charts and graphs may be produced with Excel, PowerPoint, or other standard software and will be labeled as figures. To allow adjustments in spacing and layout in the print JMLA, submit these materials in native file format, in a file or files separate from that containing the manuscript. Provide the data on which the chart was based; for Excel, this may be either on the same worksheet or another sheet in the workbook. Each chart or graph should print on a separate page, numbered consecutively, and headed by a brief descriptive title that includes the number of the figure (e.g., “Figure 1 Distribution of test scores”).
Indicate the placement of all illustrations and tables by referencing them in the text. For example, “Table 1 shows the relationship of authors to their citations” or “Students preferred electronic reserves to print reserves (Table 1).” For material (extensive data tables, survey instruments, color illustrations) to be published online only, use “Table 1 (online only) shows the relationship…” or “Students preferred electronic reserves (Table 1, online only).”
If a manuscript is accepted for publication, the JMLA will require the author and all coauthors to submit a signed copy (or individual copies) of the JMLA copyright license agreement and disclosure forms. It is the responsibility of the first author to ensure that all coauthors sign copyright and disclosure forms.
All persons designated as authors should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for the content. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors provides guidelines for determining authorship.
Manuscripts of all types should be submitted at www.editorialmanager.com/JMLA/. Authors will receive email confirmation of their submissions.
Please note that papers not adhering to JMLA guidelines—including scope, article category, word count, or reference style—will not be sent for review but will be returned to the submitting authors.
Authors will be notified of acceptance, rejection, or need for revision of their manuscripts via email.
All manuscripts intended must be submitted through the JMLA electronic submission system at www.editorialmanager.com/JMLA/. Authors are encouraged to consult the Key Information Checklist prior to submission to be sure that all information required for peer review has been included in their submission. Papers missing key information will be returned to the authors for revision.
The online submission system will prompt you for:
Note that if you exit the system before completing the submission, your submission will be saved automatically. You may return to finish the submission (or remove it should you wish) at a future time. Once you have completed the submission process, you will be asked to review a PDF of your submission and will have the opportunity to revise it if needed before submitting it to the editor.
The individual or individuals proposing the focus issue typically are responsible for developing content ideas and proposed authors as well as securing author participation. The focus issue organizer is also responsible for coordinating the submission of manuscripts and may elect to complete an initial review of manuscripts to ensure that they fit the theme of the focus issue.
The organizers do not make editorial decisions once papers are submitted for review. Articles submitted as part of a focus issue must also go through the regular JMLA peer-review process and are subject to the word limitations and organizational parameters of all JMLA papers.
Focus issue organizers should serve as the first author on no more than one paper included in the focus issue. Focus issue proposals should include a brief statement of the organizer’s knowledge of the proposed topic and qualifications to serve as organizer.
The proposal should include a description of the proposed focus issue topic, including:
For each paper, the proposal should include:
This article-level detail should provide enough information and description to allow the editorial team to understand the relationship between the article and the overall theme, as well as judge significance and potential overlap of the proposed content.
No focus issue proposal or included articles should be considered accepted until formal notification in writing by the JMLA editor. The editor may suggest additional articles to round out the coverage or perspectives on a theme or reject individual articles proposed as part of the focus issue. The editor may also determine that focus issues, in whole or in part, be published online only.
When a focus issue proposal is accepted by the JMLA editor, the editorial team will develop a production timeline with specific deadlines for initial drafts that accommodate the time required for editorial review and manuscript revision.
Additionally, as noted, focus issue papers are subject to the JMLA review process. As such, individual articles submitted as part of a focus issue may be rejected or the editors may propose a reduction in content or shift in emphasis. The editorial team is not obligated to accept focus issue submissions in their entirety.
Medical Library Association
Last Updated: 2013 July 05