Before you commit time to writing an article, consider your idea and all the options available to you. Talk to colleagues. Take a look online, perhaps on a general search engine such as Google, or medical search engine such as Pubmed and get an idea about what has already been written on the topic you hope to write about. This might help you gauge how original, well documented, or topical the subject is.
Editors are after the best content for their readers so consider how relevant your article will be to the readers of the journal that you plan to submit to. It is worth considering if your article is relevant to specialists, or to a wider audience, to doctors in a specific area of the country, nationally, or internationally.
To browse BMJ Journals follow this link. To look at the content of a specific journal, choose from the dropdown list on the right hand side, and select “go”. This will take you to the homepage. You will be able to look at recent content and think about how your idea might fit in.
From most of the BMJ Journals’ home page, you can select the link “About the journal” on the navigation bar - for example, the Emergency Medicine Journal. This will bring up a section on the remit of the journal. On a further navigation bar that appears beneath “About the journal” you can also click on and read “Instructions for authors” from this screen.
“Instructions for authors” will give you guidance about the types of articles they accept and instructions on how to present and format your article. Following these instructions will show editors that you have carefully considered the article.
The websites for The BMJ and Student BMJ are structured differently to the other journals.
The BMJ has a page about its aim, and a resource area for authors here. From the resource area you can expand instructions for authors – article types appear on the left hand side of the screen.
Newly qualified doctors can also write for the Student BMJ for up to two years after qualifying. They have guidelines for authors on their article types – this page also explains more about the process of publication than others.
Authors are responsible for the accuracy of cited references and these should be checked before the manuscript is submitted.
Citing in the text
References must be numbered sequentially as they appear in the text. References cited in figures or tables (or in their legends and footnotes) should appear at the end of the reference list to avoid re-numbering if tables and figures are moved around at peer review/proof stage. Reference numbers in the text should be inserted immediately after punctuation (with no word spacing)—for example, not .
Where more than one reference is cited, these should be separated by a comma, for example,[1, 4, 39]. For sequences of consecutive numbers, give the first and last number of the sequence separated by a hyphen, for example,[22-25]. References provided in this format are translated during the production process to superscript type, and act as hyperlinks from the text to the quoted references in electronic forms of the article.
Please note that if references are not cited in order the manuscript may be returned for amendment before it is passed on to the Editor for review.
Preparing the reference list
References must be numbered consecutively in the order in which they are mentioned in the text.
Only papers published or in press should be included in the reference list. Personal communications or unpublished data must be cited in parentheses in the text with the name(s) of the source(s) and the year. Authors should request permission from the source to cite unpublished data.
Journals from BMJ use a slightly modified version of Vancouver referencing style (see example below, or download here). Note that The BMJ uses a different style.
BMJ reference style
List the names and initials of all authors if there are 3 or fewer; otherwise list the first 3 and add ‘et al.’ (The exception is the Journal of Medical Genetics, which lists all authors). Use one space only between words up to the year and then no spaces. The journal title should be in italic and abbreviated according to the style of Medline. If the journal is not listed in Medline then it should be written out in full.
Check journal abbreviations using PubMed
Check citation information using PubMed
13 Koziol-Mclain J, Brand D, Morgan D, et al. Measuring injury risk factors: question reliability in a statewide sample. Inj Prev 2000;6:148–50.
Chapter in book
14 Nagin D. General deterrence: a review of the empirical evidence. In: Blumstein A, Cohen J, Nagin D, eds. Deterrence and Incapacitation: Estimating the Effects of Criminal Sanctions on Crime Rates. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences 1978:95–139.
15 Howland J. Preventing Automobile Injury: New Findings From Evaluative Research. Dover, MA: Auburn House Publishing Company 1988:163–96.
16 Roxburgh J, Cooke RA, Deverall P, et al. Haemodynamic function of the carbomedics bileaflet prosthesis [abstract]. Br Heart J 1995;73(Suppl 2):P37.
Websites are referenced with their URL and access date, and as much other information as is available. Access date is important as websites can be updated and URLs change. The “date accessed” can be later than the acceptance date of the paper, and it can be just the month accessed.
Electronic journal articles
Morse SS. Factors in the emergency of infectious diseases. Emerg Infect Dis 1995 Jan-Mar;1(1). www.cdc.gov/nciod/EID/vol1no1/morse.htm (accessed 5 Jun 1998).
Bloggs J. Title of letter. Journal name Online [eLetter] Date of publication. url eg: Krishnamoorthy KM, Dash PK. Novel approach to transseptal puncture. Heart Online [eLetter] 18 September 2001. http://heart.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/86/5/e11#EL1
Toxic substances Contro Act: Hearing on S776 Before the Subcommittee of the Environment of the Senate Comm. on Commerce, 94th Congress 1st September (1975).
Washington v Glucksberg 521 US 702 (1997)
The two main series of law reports, Weekly Law Reports (WLR) and All England Law Reports (All ER) have three volumes a year.
Robertson v Post Office  1 WLR 1176
Ashcroft v Mersey Regional Health Authority  2 All ER 245
R v Clarence  22 QBD 23
Wimpey Construction UK Ltd v Poole (1984) Times, 3 May
There are good historical precedents for the use of square and round brackets. Since 1891, round ones have referred to the date of the report, square ones to the date of publication of the report. Apart from not italicising the name of the case, we use the lawyers’ style; be careful with punctuation. Here are some more examples:
Caparo Industries plc v Dickman and others  1 All ER 568-608.
R v Clarence  22 QBD 23.
Finlayson v HMAdv 1978 SLT (Notes) 60
Block v Martin (1951) 4 DLR 121
Official Journal of the European Communities: at the top of the page it gives the No, vol, and page and, at the other side of the header, the date.
The abbreviation for the title is given in parentheses under the title. Jiggle these elements around to get, eg:
Council Directive of 14 June 1989. Offical Journal of the European Communities No L 1989 June 28:181/44-6. (89/831/EEC.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
A DOI is a unique string created to identify a piece of intellectual property in an online environment and is particularly useful for articles that are published online before appearing in print (and therefore have not yet been assigned the traditional volume, issue and page number references). The DOI is a permanent identifier of all versions of an article, whether raw manuscript or edited proof, online or in print. Thus the DOI should ideally be included in the citation even if you want to cite a print version of an article.
Find a DOI
How to cite articles with a DOI before they have appeared in print
- Alwick K, Vronken M, de Mos T, et al. Cardiac risk factors: prospective cohort study. Ann Rheum DisPublished Online First: 5 February 2004. doi:10.1136/ard.2003.001234
How to cite articles with a DOI once they have appeared in print
- Vole P, Smith H, Brown N, et al. Treatments for malaria: randomised controlled trial. Ann Rheum Dis2003;327:765–8 doi:10.1136/ard.2003.001234 [published Online First: 5 February 2002].
PLEASE NOTE: RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ACCURACY AND COMPLETENESS OF REFERENCES RESTS ENTIRELY WITH THE AUTHOR.