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8 Simple mistakes that can delay peer review (and how to avoid them)

Are you preparing a manuscript to submit to PLOS ONE? Congratulations! We think you’ve made an excellent choice.


When you submit to PLOS ONE, our goal is to help move your manuscript through the editorial process as quickly as possible so your work can get out there and get noticed. At the same time, we need to make sure that manuscripts meet basic technical and policy requirements before they can be assigned to an editor or proceed further in the peer review or publication process.


Want your manuscript to proceed as quickly as possible? We’ve put together a short list of common issues that can delay a submission. Check your manuscript for these issues, and and then read our advice for how to fix them.


1.  You inserted your figures in your manuscript file.

Quick fix: Upload each figure file separately. Read more about uploading figures.


2. You uploaded a figure file but did not reference it in the manuscript text (or vice versa, you referenced a figure in the text but did not upload the corresponding figure file).

Quick fix: Make sure that every figure uploaded is mentioned in the text, and that every figure mentioned in the text is uploaded with the submission. Read more about figures.


3.  Your study involves human participants but you did not provide full details about study approval and ethical protocols.

Quick fix: Make sure you name the Institutional Review Board that approved the study (or provide a reason if IRB approval was not required) and describe the ethical protocols followed, including how participants gave consent and how this consent was documented. Include this information in the online submission form and in the Methods. Read more about requirements for human subjects research.


4.  Your study involves animal research but you did not provide full details about study approval and ethical protocols.

Quick fix: Make sure you name the institutional animal ethics committee that approved the study and describe the ethical protocols followed, including animal care and welfare, efforts to alleviate suffering, and methods of sacrifice if applicable. Include this information in the online submission form and in the Methods. Read more about requirements for animal research.


5.  Your manuscript describes a clinical trial but you did not provide details about clinical trial registration or upload the required trial documentation.

Quick fix: Your trial must be registered before you submit, and you need to provide registry information with the submission. You also need to provide supporting documentation about the trial, including the trial protocol, flow diagram, and CONSORT checklist. Read more about requirements for clinical trials research.


6.  You did not include your title page within the manuscript file, or your title page does not include all required information.

Quick fix: First, make sure your title page is included within your manuscript file. Then make sure that the title page lists all authors and affiliations and clearly designates the corresponding author. Finally, make sure the title on the title page matches the title that you entered in the submission system. Read more about formatting the title page.


7.  Your submitted manuscript contains text that overlaps with or is closely related to previously published work.

Quick fix: Rephrase the text to avoid duplication, make sure all sources are cited, and provide an explanation for how your submitted manuscript advances on previous work. Read our policies on plagiarism and on dual submission.


8.  You submitted your manuscript in an incompatible file format.

Quick fix: Submit your manuscript in DOC, DOCX, RTF, or, for LaTex papers only, PDF.  Read more about manuscript formatting.


We hope that these tips are useful for your submission to PLOS ONE. What are you waiting for? Submit your work now.

This is the first in a two-part series of insider tips for PLOS ONE authors.

Featured Image from Hernán Piñera from Flickr under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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