General Practice

Guidance to authors

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 10 June 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1506

Our full instructions to authors are published in the issue of 7 January 1995, p 50. The following guidance outlines the scope of the journal and our peer reviewing policies.

The BMJ aims to help doctors everywhere practise better medicine and to influence the debate on health. 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 12% of the articles we receive, but we aim to give quick decisions. The editorial staff in London are always happy to advise on submissions by post or telephone.

The BMJ's peer review process

The BMJ peer reviews virtually all the material it receives (including all original research articles). About half the original articles are rejected after review in house by two medical editors. The usual reasons for rejection at this stage are insufficient originality, serious scientific flaws, or 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.

The remaining articles are sent to one or more external referees selected from a database of about 2500 experts. Once returned, those articles thought suitable for publication are discussed by our weekly “hanging committee” of two practising clinicians, two editors, and a statistician.

We aim to reach a final decision on publication within eight weeks of submission. Original articles should be published within three months of being finally accepted—after any necessary revisions. We publish six monthly data on how often we achieve these targets.

Referees are asked for their opinion on the originality, scientific reliability, and overall suitability of the paper for publication in the journal, and their report may be sent to the authors to indicate any changes. To help them, referees are sent the following guidelines.

The broad aspects that we should like comments on include:

  • Originality (truly original or known through foreign or specialist publications or through the grapevine)

  • Scientific reliability

    -Overall design

    -Patients studied

    Adequately described and their condition defined?


    Adequately described?



    Relevant to problem posed?


    Well presented?

    -Interpretation and conclusions

    Warranted by the data?

    Reasonable speculation?

    Is the message clear?


    Up to date and relevant?

    Any glaring omissions?

  • Importance (clinical or otherwise) of the work

  • Suitability for the BMJ and overall recommendations

    -Appropriate for a general readership?

    -If not acceptable can it be made so?

  • Other points

    -Ethical aspects

    -Need for statistical assessment

    -Presentation (including writing style)

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