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Lamentations of a bewildered editor
  1. I B Pless, Editor

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    As I wrote this, I asked myself why I was writing messages aimed mostly at those who are not likely to read them. The best answer I could find was that I knew of no other way to reach those I wanted to reach. This paradox arises because there may be authors “out there” who have never read a single issue of Injury Prevention. Fortunately, my semblance of sanity is preserved because another part of the message is also aimed at authors who do read the journal, but perhaps not as carefully as they should. Everyone needs to be reminded of our international orientation and need to keep this in mind when papers are being prepared.

    Papers submitted to Injury Prevention are as much our lifeline as are our readers. Because ours is a new specialty, we are more inclined than many other journals to work with authors who have promising ideas but less than perfect manuscripts. To this end, we try to provide constructive reviews and, when needed, assistance in editing to ensure that the message is presented clearly. In response, most contributors work hard to improve their paper and eventually resubmit.

    In the course of preparing an original submission or a revision, authors greatly help themselves when they keep in mind one of the cardinal rules of publishing: “know your audience”. The best possible way to do this is to be thoroughly familiar with the journal to which you intend to submit your paper. It follows, then, that the best way to do this is to be able to regularly read the publication in question.

    This brings me back to the first message. To be a regular reader you must either subscribe personally or must have your library do so. Those who are able to peruse a copy and who are preparing a paper for us will discover several important points that improve the likelihood of having their paper accepted. Although I would prefer that these discoveries be made by persuading more authors to subscribe—the real goal of this sermon—I will, nevertheless, highlight a few key points.

    Regular readers should need no reminder that Injury Prevention is aimed at an international and interdisciplinary audience. The former characteristic means that a writer must make a genuine effort, especially in the opening paragraphs, to capture the interest of readers from abroad. The best possible way to do this is to have systematically reviewed all relevant literature, not just studies from one's own country.

    A systematic review is not only an essential ingredient of good authorship, it is also an absolute requirement of good science. Any original contribution must begin by placing the work in context of what others have done. A good introduction convinces the reader that the author is familiar with similar studies and has reviewed them in a suitably critical fashion. It should then be able to state why the new offering represents an improvement on what has gone before. Occasionally a paper is written to verify or replicate earlier work; this is perfectly acceptable but if this is the goal it is essential to explain why replication is needed.

    I most frequently rap knuckles over introductions that are too parochial—those that assume that the entire audience are fellow Brits, Americans, or Canadians. Another cause for chastising is failure to read, or take seriously, the instructions to authors published in each issue. Too many manage to ignore important elements such as how journals cited should be abbreviated and punctuated in the reference section. Often abstracts are too long and keywords not as informative as they might be. Some might see all this as nit-picking, but it is discourteous and not something that earns the goodwill of an overworked editor.

    Familiarity with any journal will provide authors with a sense of how long papers should be, how many tables or figures they typically include, how references should be listed, the importance of a good abstract, and a guide to choosing useful keywords.

    Unfortunately, it is often all too apparent that many authors or their institutions are not subscribers and thus not in the least familiar with the journal. I find this difficult to understand because I assume that if a journal is one that you value sufficiently to wish it to publish the fruits of your hard work, it would also be one whose contents are of sufficient interest to warrant the modest cost of a subscription.