Cover Page and Cover Letter
a perfect cover page and an abstract
cover page should contain complete correspondence information about the
and fax numbers
you move, give your new address to the editorial office.
updating a paper, give the current date (or month and year).
- Do not
mention when a paper was first written and when it was revised. The
editor can tell how often the paper has been rejected, and may
erroneously conclude that it should receive the same treatment. If you
really need the information for yourself, you can add such things as a
non-printing comment. It is probably more convenient to maintain a
separate record that shows the status of all your unpublished papers.
the referee figures out that the paper has been rejected more than once,
he/she is more likely to recommend rejection.
abstract and the paper should be prepared together.
the paper is finally accepted, the abstract has to be written, but your
memory is hazy. It is better to do it when your memory is fresh.
abstract should appear on the second page. Then if the editor rips off
the cover page, the abstract will still reach the referee.
typographical errors in the cover page and the abstract. This is an
absolute minimum courtesy. If there is an error, it is a sign of gross
course, you have to check the spelling for the entire paper, and you
should do that every time you revise the paper.
explain how important the paper is in the cover letter
do not read it.
the secretaries do.
is a signal that you lack experience and that you are not confident.
or two explanatory sentences may not hurt. (You may pass the initial screening.)
half the writing time to the introduction and conclusion
the ideas of a publishable paper are roughly formulated, writing should
be done within a month. Otherwise, you lose interest. You may even forget
about the entire paper.
half of your writing time should be devoted to writing the main body of
the paper, which should be done first.
remainder of your effort should be devoted to writing the introduction
their attention early
evidence of why it is interesting (i.e., why it should be published) in
- If an
apple does not taste good at the first bite, one simply throws it away
without giving any thought on the nutritional value hidden in the apple.
most referees make up their mind at the first bite, i.e., within 15
minutes of reading a paper.
the referees don't like a paper, they begin to look for reasons to
justify why the paper should be rejected.
the referee loses interest from reading the introduction, he/she might
postpone reading the paper.
- If a
paper is set aside, it could be several months later when the referee
picks up the paper again, probably if and when he/she receives a reminder
about the review. This is one of the major reasons why it takes a long
time to get a report.
not repeat the concluding remarks in the introduction.
introduction should be two pages or less
the introduction is more than two pages, it is too long.
it to 2 pages or 1/6 of the paper, whichever is less.
you write more than two pages, then either
are discoursing a lot about other people, in which case you are sending
a signal that your contribution is minor, relative to the literature, or
are discussing too many technical details, which do not belong in the
real world examples
the relevance test by providing citations, statistics, or anecdotes of
real world examples.
the referee cannot say the paper is uninteresting, the most common reason
the referee says it is not interesting, it is a value judgment and there
is no appeal! No editors will publish an uninteresting paper.
important purpose of the introduction is to prevent the referees from
making that disparaging remark.
this sound footing in the real world, your paper may give the impression
to readers that it provides a profound solution to nonexistent problems.
how other successful writers introduce their topic, cite literature, and
get on with their task.
their words and phrases, and modify them to suit your purpose.
- It is
easier to imitate what someone else has written than to create a totally
word “plagiarize” means to “steal and pass off as
one’s own (the ideas or words of another).” (Webster’s Third International
Robert Fulghum’s advice “Don’t take things that
you do, you will pay dearly later when your work is published. You are
lucky if the paper is not published!
you are quoting statements made by another writer, use identifying
people suggest that one should not copy more than three consecutive words
without identifying quotation marks. This is extreme advice that no one
not copy, but summarize the contributions of other writers in your own
words to the extent that they are related to the subject of your paper.
the cited author with year of publication in the text and give the exact
source in the reference section.
not use I
authors do get away with I.
are generally biased against egocentric persons.
the writing task seriously, not yourself.
paper achieves...." sounds softer and more humble than "I did
starting a paragraph with I.
10. Create a packet of related articles
for each paper
cited and other related papers must be at hand.
- This practice
saves time, especially when writing the introduction and conclusion, and
when you revise the paper.
you maintain the background packet, you do not have to go to the library
every time you revise the paper.
11. Treat others generously
the importance of the paper being written, but not at the expense of
others. They are probably your referees and they are sensitive.
hit people (Robert Fulghum). Do not hurt their feelings.
mentioning the works of other persons, avoid using negative terms.
deficiency of Smith's approach is..."
problems of these papers..."
that attack others are likely to be rejected, especially when the authors
or their friends become your referees.
12. Avoid predominantly citing your own works
referees may think you are a self-centered clod. There are others who
have contributed to the literature.
the first page only mentions your past work, and not that of others, it
are probably digging into an area in which no one else is interested—this
implication is bad—or
are an egotist who disregards the contributions of others, which is even
13. Cite the papers of potential referees in
many situations, whether your paper is accepted or not primarily depends
on who referees it.
you offend the referee by your thoughtless comments, this paper and many
of your future papers will have no place to go.
references should be mentioned in the first page.
the editor will read the first page (or the next) when choosing the
editor may choose referees from those mentioned in the introduction and
of potential referees should be mentioned in the introduction, rather
than buried deep in footnotes or the main body.
14. Give (accurate) credit generously to the
most likely referees
generous to all authors cited, but particularly to those who are likely
to be referees.
why their works are significant for your analysis.
one or two sentences about the contributions of each of the most likely
referees and how their works are related to yours.
takes up less than 1% of the space, but it can affect the probability of
15. Find quotations from well-known authors
strategy increases the credibility of the paper.
instance, if John Maynard Keynes or Kenneth Arrow said something about
the topic, it is difficult for the referee to argue that your paper is
a live, famous person is more effective; his or her students might be
not quote dead people too often; they won't be your referees. (No pun
not quote yourself. This implies narcissism or lack of exposure to the thinking
of other economists.
16. Do not be apologetic
may acknowledge the limitations of the approach only once in the
do not apologize for what the paper cannot do.
more you mention to the referees what the paper does not do, the less contribution
it seems to make to the literature.
Preparing the Main Body
17. Prepare a rough outline before writing
briefly the content of each section. Then generate the text. Smooth out
the connections. Without this rough blueprint, the paper often evolves in
a different direction than you intended.
blueprint reduces the chances that you will lose direction and dwell too
much upon minor points.
sketch needs to be changed as you go.
18. Start writing before the paper is
finished in your head
precise connection of words from beginning to end cannot be done in your
head, except by a few geniuses like Shakespeare.
15-page paper may contain about 4 - 5,000 words. Writing a paper is like
stringing pearls to make a necklace. There is an optimum order for these
pearls to form a paper, and some pearls are better left out.
the main body of the paper with empirical or theoretical results. Then
create the introduction and conclusion.
and references may be added as needed.
19. Do not read too much
not read too much before you begin to write. It can interfere with your
own thinking and writing.
how much time a prolific writer would spend reading the contributions of
- It is
impossible to read every paper ever written on a subject.
your goal is to write and publish a paper, not to read everything.
have other important things to do (e.g., taking care of spouse and
your family is neglected, what good is your paper?
you read a dozen papers on a topic, you should have enough material to
write a paper. Now add your own ideas to this base of knowledge.
20. Develop consistent and simple notations
enough time to design efficient notations for your papers.
this not just for one paper, but for most of your papers. This helps you
remember when you revise a paper.
the notations are confusing, the paper cannot be very illuminating.
paper may have some notations that are specifically tailored for the
task. But the variables should come from a well-designed and consistent
set of notations so that you may readily remember what they stand for.
21. Strike a balance between theory and
theoretical paper should say something about policies, applications, or
empirical paper should say something about the theory that led to the
the preferences of the journals that you are considering.
22. Divide long paragraphs
there are two or more ideas in a single paragraph, split them up.
up long paragraphs even if they contain a single idea.
tend to skip long paragraphs. They discourage referees and readers from
reading the paper.
eyes of readers are subconsciously looking for open space. This is why
important equations should be displayed, rather than buried in the text.
paragraph should be longer than half a page.
- As a
general rule, a paragraph should have more than two sentences.
23. Each full page should have more than
paragraph extending over a page indicates that you are not an experienced
and readers skip long paragraphs.
there are many equations, it is easy to forget to control the length of a
24. Summarize theoretical findings in propositions
you do not want the referees to miss important results, repeat them in
referees do not read every word you write. They are more likely to read
the displayed items.
- Minimize the number of words in a given proposition.
25. Use tables to summarize results or to
compare with the literature
provide another way to catch the attention of referees.
too many numbers in one table.
not present more than three tables, except in empirically oriented
not present more than six tables even in empirical papers.
26. Minimize numbered equations
should be some equations. Otherwise, the referees might think that it is
a purely descriptive paper.
do not include too many equations. A paper with more than 30 equations seems
difficult to read.
not display every equation. Less important equations can be buried in the
all equations need to be numbered.
primes or other variations such as (3') or (7a), (7b), etc. to group
there are more than a score of equations, move long derivations to the
27. Simplify figures
(good) figure is worth a thousand words.
not use too many curves, lines, or labels.
years after publication, readers may not remember anything about a paper,
not equations nor derivations. But they may recall a figure.
- As a
general rule, a paper should not contain more than two figures and rarely
more than three.
many figures suggest that the paper represents a low-tech research
28. Summarize the contribution briefly in the
paper needs a concluding remark. A note does not, but it may include such
the limitations of the results (without being negative).
how the theory may be extended in certain areas.
referees may be interested in writing a related paper. If they are
honest, they would need your paper as a basis, and hence are likely to
recommend acceptance. That—stimulating a reader to extend your
research—is your contribution.
your results to those in the current literature.
the literature does not have comparable results, discuss how your paper
is related to the literature.
not repeat some portion of the introduction in the conclusion.
29. Discuss policy implications
how the theory applies to real world examples.
In practice, A is used, but you recommend B, etc.
not rehash what you already said in the main body of the paper.
Especially, do not copy and paste it in the conclusion.
you do, the referees will know you are not articulate.
the bottom line. Mention the implications for policy makers,
practitioners, or other researchers.
Abstract and Title
30. Write a provocative abstract
the abstract only after the conclusion is written.
referees read it more often than any other paragraph in the paper.
- In 15
seconds, you have to convince the referees (and readers) that they should
proceed with the rest of the paper.
- So do
an excellent job here.
- If it
is boring, your paper is hopeless.
31. Choose an interesting title
the paper an eye-catching title.
the title is boring, readers will avoid your paper even when it is
published. The paper won't generate many citations.
try to squeeze the content of the paper in the title.
a title to a paper is like naming your child. The title should be short.
line is best. Never use more than two lines.
"On the...". It implies that the paper is actually a note.
Because it is on a well-known subject, the editors are led to believe
that the paper probably contains little that is new.
32. Minimize references
inexperienced writer rarely resists the temptation to cite all papers
that have ever been written on the subject.
practice may be appropriate for a doctoral dissertation, but not for a
ideal number of references is one dozen. A practical upper limit is
all papers, follow the reference style of a well-known journal in the
not revise the reference style each time you submit the paper. The
acceptance decision is not based on the style of your references.
the paper is accepted, you can use the style of the journal in question.
33. Include references to authors who are
known to like your papers
they might become referees.
references to people with whom you have had favorable correspondence.
is not to bias opinions, but to get a fair hearing.
have to make a conscious effort and must be alert in order to be fair to
liberal references to famous economists, dead or alive, who are unlikely
to be your referees.
34. Delete or hide the references to
undesirable potential referees
with double blind reviews, one can often guess the identity of the
referee from the report because of references and writing style, etc.
often select referees from your references.
some referees consistently recommend rejection of your papers, drop their
papers from your references (in the initial submission).
can add them later (after the paper is accepted).
may require rewriting the introduction with a somewhat different
perspective, but it is probably worth the effort.
on the journal, you may ask the editor to eliminate some persons from the
pool of referees. But you should ask informally (e.g., via e-mail) in
advance if it is okay.
35. Cite your own articles
article is considered "important" if it is cited 30 times or
more by others.
your own related papers, provided that they were published or are
forthcoming in a prestigious journal. Others may look up your other papers
and cite them.
do not cite too many.
you have a good reputation, this practice can be useful because the
referee may figure out that it is your paper.
not cite your own unpublished papers or publications in an obscure
journal. The editors and referees may conclude that the current paper also
should be published in such journals.
not cite your dissertation. The referees will know you are inexperienced.
not cite someone else's dissertation. The referees may erroneously
conclude that you are him or her or a close associate, all of whom are
Endnotes and Appendix
36. Put technical, detailed comments in notes
endnotes, tables, references, and appendix or appendices should be
smaller than the main body of the paper. Otherwise, readers wonder
“where is the beef?”
main text should be free from technical details, and the major ideas
should emerge from reading it.
clutter should be relegated to closets, i.e., notes.
notes to insert references and to make points that do not distract
more than 10 endnotes should be provided. Avoid them like the plague
should be short, not exceeding a page and never more than two pages.
37. Put long derivations in an extended note
or an appendix.
derivations of an essential result or an equation which may be over half
a page can be included in an extended footnote, if there is risk of
there are two or more extended notes, they should be converted to an
the derivation is purely mathematical without apparent insight, it should
be in an appendix.
38. Notes intended for referees should not be
in the appendix.
intended for referees' eyes only should be explained in the notes.
not detach such notes from the paper, but write "Not for
Publication" on them. If you detach the notes from the paper, they
may not reach the referees.
39. Your paper should not exceed 25 pages
this is difficult, at least keep the text within 20 pages (Horowitz,
1995). This is the amount the referees would read.
the length of the paper increases, the probability of acceptance
decreases. The referees are more likely to find something wrong.
the length of the paper increases,
are more likely to make mathematical errors.
chance that the referee thinks you made a mistake increases (even when
you are right).
You are more likely to make statements that will
Copyright ©1998-2002 by E. Kwan Choi