"Huh," Elle and I said, looking at each other. I can't remember how we came up with the letter - if Elle drafted the entire message or if we worked collaboratively. But we came up with the following:
Dear You,I started to wonder after Friend and I discussed it about whether my cover letters to journal editors read much the same way.
You gave money last year. Good job! You should give again this year. That'd be great - thanks.
Here's a paper I wrote. You should put it in your journal. That'd be great - thanks.
"I need examples," I told Friend and she mentioned she had a couple at work. "I wonder if I've been doing it wrong," I mused.
But I thought of people who enjoyed mentoring and came up with the resident expert on most everything. PhysioProf offered the following.
The key is to explain the following items (in order):
(1) a statement of an important open issue in the field;
(2) a statement of how you have addressed this issue methodologically;
(3) a statement of what results you have obtained;
(4) a statement of how these results clarify the open issue;
(5) a statement of what is important about your results and the scope of the audience that will be interested.
So I need to make a bunch of statements about a bunch of stuff. Which is all true and good and lovely, I'm sure, but I need examples! While I talked to Mom earlier tonight (we're both moody and tired) and Friend did something science-related in her lab, I glanced through several pages she had filed and immediately saw an easy pattern to follow.
Editor's Address (which seems weird since these are emailed, but OK)
Please find attached a manuscript entitled "This Cool Thing I Call My Paper," submitted by me, my important boss's name, and my important collaborators' names. (I think the idea here is that the editor should be pleased and/or impressed by the people I work with since I definitely don't cut it. Good to know!) I think Editor Joe would be appropriate for this submission.
Let me give you a bit of background about this topic. I'm going to do that for about a paragraph, sometimes with relevant references, sometimes by noting what I or my lab have already done in the past. This should, I think, convince you that the overall topic is important. Because it really is. Honest.
Now let's talk about this paper specifically. We present for the first time evidence that (1) first piece of cool knowledge; (2) second bit of nifty results; (3) final gem of scientific glory. I separated them into a numbered list so they'll be easy for you to follow. I'm nice like that.
These results are significant because they answer some question or clarify some issue. A given audience - hopefully the same one that reads this journal - will so totally care about this. Trust me. It'll be super-awesome. Thank you.
My contact information
So that's what I think I know. Given that I usually just throw something in that little box when I'm submitting a paper, I've usually hit most of the high points. But I wondered if you have hints or advice you'd like to share. If so, you should leave a comment. That'd be great - thanks.
P.S. Richard summoned the knowledge of the Nature Network on this topic so if you don't read him already (which, honestly, you probably should - he's fantastic), pop over for additional information.