Primary Research Formats

“Show me a paper you think can’t be shortened and I will show you how to cut 1000 words” – A Seasoned Editor

Go to the profile of Jenn Richler
Oct 05, 2018
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Nature Research journals offer a variety of primary research formats (Article, Letter, Analysis, Brief Communication, Resource) that present original empirical analysis. To meet the needs of the different communities they serve, the formats available differ between the journals (for instance, Nature Climate Change has Letters and Articles; Nature Energy has Articles and Analysis), and, just to keep you on your toes, the word limits for the same format also differ between journals.

However, the Nature Research journals share important general principles when it comes to research formats.

Initial submissions do not need to be formatted to match journal requirements.

Style and length will not influence consideration of a manuscript, within reason. We do not start asking for journal-specific formatting changes until it seems likely that your paper will ultimately be published.

Our editors can help you navigate format choices.

Our editors are experts in the often subtle differences between format options, and can provide suggestions to this end once a manuscript is submitted. In some cases, we may make suggestions for a format change after peer-review, as this may illuminate the kind of contribution being made (which distinguishes, for instance, between Analysis and Article).

In short, this is not something to worry about too much at initial submission. If you submit as one format, but we think the manuscript is better suited for another, we’ll just tell you; this would never be grounds to reject a paper.

Our format requirements aim to maximize the accessibility of the research.

The Nature journals are read by scientists from diverse backgrounds, and thus our aim is to publish research that will be considered theoretically and technically complete to topic specialists, while remaining accessible to interested readers from other areas. Two of the most salient features of Nature papers that distinguish them from papers published in disciplinary outlets – their short length and presenting Methods at the end – seek to achieve this balance. The main text provides the key information needed by a general reader to grasp what was done, why it is important, and what the results mean; full technical details necessary for reproducing the study, and additional theoretical discussion or analyses critical to topic specialists are presented in the Methods and Supplementary Information, respectively. 

 This is where our editors come in: once a paper is accepted we work with authors to determine the best way to present all the material, and provide guidance on what information is better suited to main text, Methods, or SI. Importantly, although we have a preference for short papers (and we rarely encounter papers we can’t shorten to some extent), our length limits are flexible; if we think that more words are needed to get your message across most effectively and with the greatest clarity, we will make sure you have them.

Other questions about research formats? Leave a comment below.

Go to the profile of Jenn Richler

Jenn Richler

Senior Editor, Nature Climate Change & Nature Energy

Jenn joined Nature Research in 2016 as a Senior Editor serving Nature Climate Change and Nature Energy, where she handles a broad range of manuscripts from across the behavioral and social sciences. Jenn was named Acting Head of the Nature Research Social Sciences Centre of Excellence in 2017. Prior to joining the company, Jenn was an associate editor at Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, and a writer for the American Psychological Association. Jenn completed her PhD in psychology and postdoctoral work at Vanderbilt University.

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