Education And Debate

Instructions to authors

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 01 January 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:39

The Horton General Hospital NHS Trust, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX169AL.

The BMJ aims to help doctors everywhere practise better medicine and to influence the debate on improving the health of all people. To achieve these aims we publish original scientific studies, review and educational articles, and papers commenting on the clinical, scientific, social, political, and economic factors affecting health. We are delighted to receive articles for publication in all of these categories - from doctors and others. We can publish only about 17% of the articles we receive, but we aim to give quick and authoritative decisions. The editorial staff in London are always happy to advise on submissions.

The BMJ is published weekly and has a circulation of about 111 000 - of which roughly 19000 copies are distributed outside Britain. In addition, Bulgarian, Dutch, Hungarian, Indian, Mexican, Pakistani, Portuguese, Spanish, and South African editions reach another 81 000 readers. Material published in the weekly journal may be reproduced in the other editions.

The BMJ's peer review process

Every article received is read by two or more editors. About half of the articles are rejected at this stage, the main reasons for rejection being insufficient originality, serious scientific flaws, and the absence of a message that is important to a general medical audience. We aim to reach a decision on such papers within two weeks of submission.

All papers selected as possible candidates for publication are sent to one or more external referees selected from a database of about 2500 experts. Once we have received the referees' opinions, suitable papers are selected to be discussed by our weekly “hanging committee.” This comprises two of our 12 clinical advisers (all practising clinicians or general practitioners experienced in assessing papers), two editors, and one of our seven statistical advisers. We aim to reach a final decision on whether to publish a paper within eight weeks of submission and to publish it - after the necessary revisions have been made - within three months of final acceptance. We now publish six monthly data on how often we achieve these targets.

General instructions

All material submitted for publication is assumed to be submitted exclusively to the BMJ unless otherwise stated. All authors must give signed consent to publication. All material should be typed in double line spacing on numbered pages and conform to the uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals.1 Authors should give their names and their address and appointment at the time they did the work, as well as a current address for correspondence (including telephone and fax numbers). Material accepted for publication will be edited.

Original articles

Please send three copies and keep a further copy for your own reference. If submitting an article on disk, please supply information on the hardware and software used, and three double spaced printed copies; keep a duplicate of the disk.

Papers and general practice articles should be no longer than 2000 words, with a maximum of six tables or illustrations. They should report original research of relevance to clinical medicine. Papers for the general practice section should cover research or any other matters relevant to primary care. Scientific papers should conform to the conventional structure of abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and references. The abstract should be structured (divided into objectives, design, setting, subjects, interventions, main outcome measures, results, and conclusions)2 and should be no longer than 250 words. Statistical methods used should be defined in the methods section of the paper, and any not in common use should be described in detail or supported by references. Whenever possible, the numbers of patients or subjects studied should be given. General guidelines on the use of statistical methods and on the interpretation and presentation of statistical material as well as specific recommendations on statistical estimation and significance have been published.3 If the study has used a questionnaire a copy of the questionnaire should be submitted with the paper.

Short reports must not exceed 600 words, with at most one table or illustration and five references.

Education and Debate articles are mostly commissioned, but we welcome reports of up to 2000 words on all aspects of medicine and health. These will be peer reviewed. They should include an unstructured summary of no more than 150 words.

Editorials are also commissioned, but we will consider unsolicited editorials of up to 800 words. These will also be peer reviewed.


The uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to medical journals state that “authorship credit should be based only on substantial contribution to (a) conception and design, or analysis and interpretation of data; and to (b) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and on (c) final approval of the version to be published. Conditions (a), (b), and (c) must all be met. Participation solely in the acquisition of funding or the collection of data does not justify authorship.”1 We want authors to assure us that all the authors included on a paper fulfil the criteria of authorship. In addition, we want assurance that there is nobody else who fulfils the criteria but has not been included as an author.

Conflict of interest

We want authors of papers, letters, and commissioned articles to let us know whenever they have a conflict of interest capable of influencing their judgments. Such conflicts may take many forms but are likely to be financial, personal, political, or academic. Authors should let us know of the potential conflicts even when they are confident that their judgments have not been influenced. We may decide that our readers should know about such a conflict of interest and make up their own minds. Before publishing such information we will consult with the authors.

In particular, we want all sources of funding for research to be explicitly stated, and we will include this information in the published paper.

We also ask referees to let us know of any conflict of interest.

Patient confidentiality

If there is any chance that a patient may be identified from a case report, illustration, or paper we ask for the written consent of the patient for publication.4 Patients are almost always willing to give such consent. Black bands across the eyes are wholly ineffective in disguising the patient, and changing details of patients to try to disguise them is bad scientific practice.

Redundant publication

Whenever a paper submitted to the BMJ overlaps by more than 10% with previously published papers or papers submitted elsewhere then we want authors to send us copies of those papers. To save readers and researchers from being overwhelmed by redundant material we do not want to publish papers that overlap substantially with papers published elsewhere, and we want to make up our own minds on the degree of overlap.

Release of material to the media

We do not want material that is published in the BMJ appearing beforehand in other media because doctors and patients are then presented with incomplete material that has not been peer reviewed; they cannot make up their own minds on the validity of the message. We accept that reports may appear in the media after presentations at scientific meetings. Those authors who wish us to publish their papers can clarify matters for the media but should not give them any further information than was included in their presentation.

The BMJ puts out an embargoed press release each week. Authors may be asked to prepare a press release and will be given a chance to approve the final form of the information before release.


All authors (with the exception of some government employees) transfer copyright to the BMJ just before publication. Readers may make single copies of articles for their own use, but they need permission from the BMJ to make multiple copies or to republish substantial parts of the original.


Abbreviations should not be used. Drugs should be referred to by their approved, not proprietary, names, and the source of any new or experimental preparations should be given. Scientific measurements should be given in SI units, except for blood pressure, which should be expressed in mm Hg.

Tables, illustrations, and photographs

Tables and illustrations should be submitted separately from the text of the paper, and legends to illustrations should be typed on a separate sheet. Tables should be simple and should not duplicate information in the text of the paper. Illustrations should be used when data cannot be expressed clearly in any other way. When graphs, scattergrams, or histograms are submitted the numerical data on which they are based should be supplied; in general, data given in histograms will be converted into tabular form. Line drawings may be presented as photographic prints or good quality photocopies. Other black and white illustrations should usually be prints - not negatives or x ray films.

All photographs should be of the highest quality possible as reproduction reduces the quality; they should be no larger than 30x21 cm (A4) and should be trimmed to remove all redundant areas; the top should be marked on the back. Colour prints can be used. When photomicrographs are submitted staining techniques should be stated and an internal scale marker included. If any of the tables or illustrations submitted have been published elsewhere written consent to republication should be obtained from the copyright holder (usually the publisher) and the authors.


References should be numbered in the order in which they appear in the text. At the end of the article the full list of references should give the names and initials of all authors (unless there are more than six, when only the first six should be given followed by et al). The authors' names are followed by the title of the article; the title of the journal abbreviated according the style of Index Medicus (see “List of journals indexed,” printed yearly in the January issue of Index Medicus); the year of publication; the volume number; and the first and last page numbers. References to books should give the names of any editors, place of publication, publisher, and year.

21. Soter NA, Wasserman SI, Austen KF. Cold urticaria: release into the circulation of histamine and eosinophil chemotactic factor of anaphylaxis during cold challenge. N Engl J Med 1976;294:687-90.

22. Osler AG. Complement: mechanisms and functions. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1976.

Information from manuscripts not yet in press, papers reported at meetings, or personal communications may be cited only in the text, not as formal references. Authors must verify references against the original documents before submitting the article.

Things to include

Please include the following with your submission. (1) A paragraph of up to 150 words for This Week in the BMJ. (2) Up to five brief points for the Implications box (papers only). These may be clinical, practice, public health, or epidemiological implications. (3) Original data if you think that they will help our reviewers. (4) Copies of related papers that you have published. (5) Copies of any non-standard questionnaires used in the research. (6) Details of the source of funding for research and any possible conflicts of interest of which you are aware.

Acknowledgment, proofs, press releases, and reprints

We will acknowledge receipt of all original articles. If the paper is rejected we will keep copies for three months to answer any queries and then shared them. If the paper is accepted you may be asked to prepare a press release; guidelines for these will be provided. Proof corrections should be kept to a minimum and should conform to the conventions shown in Whitaker's Almanack. If justifications are needed for corrections to the proofs, please give them in a covering letter, not on the proof. Reprints are available; a scale of charges is included with the proofs.

Other submissions

Letters to the editor should be no longer than 400 words with a maximum of five references and one illustration or table (see above). We encourage authors to submit relevant illustrations with their letters. Letters should be typed in double line spacing and signed by all the authors. Priority is given to letters responding to articles published in the journal within the previous six weeks. There is no deadline for letters from outside Britain, but they should be submitted as soon as possible after publication of the article to which they refer, preferably by fax. Please include a stamped addressed envelope if you would like your letter acknowledged. We recognise that this is not possible for overseas correspondents, and so we acknowledge all letters from abroad. We do not send proofs of letters.

Drug points usually report new adverse drug reactions or interactions. Priority will be given to drug points that report more than one case; those in which the patient was rechallenged with the drug; and those in which other possible causative factors (disease process, other drugs, environmental agents) were excluded. They should be less than 300 words long with a maximum of five references. We welcome relevant clinical photographs (see above).

Personal View articles are always welcome and should be no longer than 1100 words.

Medicine and the Media reviews should be discussed with one of the editors before being submitted.

Obituaries should not normally exceed 250 words and should be typed in double line spacing. Pressure on space forces us to be strict about not accepting obituaries that reach us more than three months after the death. Self written obituaries (written in the first person) are welcome, as are good quality photographs. As a medical journal we encourage authors to include the cause of death. We do not send proofs of obituaries.


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