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Author Guidelines

Submission Categories and Format Guidelines

If authors are not certain about the most appropriate category for their manuscripts, they are urged to contact the editor for assistance.

Knowledge Synthesis

Knowledge syntheses are peer-reviewed review articles. Examples include systematic reviews, scoping reviews, and narrative reviews. Reviews employing a systematic literature search have a structured abstract (Objective, Methods, Results, Conclusions) of up to 250 words, and the body of the manuscript is divided into Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections. Reviews not employing a systematic literature search have an unstructured abstract of up to 250 words, and the body of the manuscript is structured as needed. The main text should comprise no more than 5,000 words. Up to 6 figures and/or tables are included in the main text; additional figures and/or tables can be included as supplemental appendixes.

Original Investigation

Original investigations are peer-reviewed articles describing research that employs any type of quantitative or qualitative method of analysis. Examples include intervention studies, surveys, content analyses, bibliographic or bibliometric analyses, and search filter development and testing. Original investigations have a structured abstract (Objective, Methods, Results, Conclusions) of up to 250 words. The body of the manuscript is divided into Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections, which together should comprise no more than 5,000 words; shorter manuscripts are also welcomed. Up to 6 figures and/or tables are included in the main text; additional figures and/or tables can be included as supplemental appendixes.

Case Study

Case studies are peer-reviewed articles describing the process of developing, implementing, and evaluating a new service, program, or initiative, typically in a single institution or through a single collaborative effort. Case studies have a structured abstract (Background, Case Presentation, Conclusions) of up to 250 words. The body of the manuscript is divided into Background, Study Purpose, Case Presentation, and Discussion sections, which together should comprise no more than 3,000 words. Up to 3 figures and/or tables are included in the main text; additional figures and/or tables can be included as supplemental appendixes.


Commentaries present viewpoints on timely topics of interest to health sciences librarians and information specialists. This category allows freedom of expression and encourages constructive discussion. Commentaries have an unstructured abstract of up to 250 words. The main text should comprise no more than 2,500 words. Up to 3 figures and/or tables are included in the main text; additional figures and/or tables can be included as supplemental appendixes. Commentaries undergo editorial review.

Tools and Skills

Tools and skills are short articles that help health sciences librarians and information specialists in their day-to-day work. Topics are subjects that librarians want or need to know more about, such as an introduction to scoping reviews or how to de-duplicate database search results. Tools and skills articles have an unstructured abstract of up to 250 words. The main text should comprise no more than 3,000 words. Up to 3 figures and/or tables are included in the main text; additional figures and/or tables can be included as supplemental appendixes. Tools and skills articles undergo editorial review.

History Matters

History matters are short articles on historical topics relevant to health sciences librarianship. History matters articles have an unstructured abstract of up to 250 words. The main text should comprise no more than 3,000 words. Up to 3 figures and/or tables are included in the main text; additional figures and/or tables can be included as supplemental appendixes. History matters articles undergo editorial review.

Letter to the Editor 

Letters to the editor comment on recent JMLA publications. Letters should be respectful in tone. Letters are sent to the lead author of the article to invite commentary if the author desires. Letters and authors’ responses (if provided) are published together. Letters should comprise no more than 500 words and contain up to 5 references.

Book Review

Book reviews provide critical appraisals of new books and serials that assist readers in selecting works for their own professional use or for addition to their library collections. Reviewers are chosen based on their knowledge of and experience in areas relevant to the library and information world. Book reviews should contain a brief overview of scope and content so that readers can determine the book’s interest to them. Reviewing each chapter of a book in detail is not necessary. For a research or historical work, please comment on its significance in relation to the focus area as well as to the field as a whole. For an applied or descriptive work, please comment on its usefulness. In both cases, compare the book with similar publications in its area and indicate its potential audiences, where relevant. When quoting the text, indicate page numbers in parentheses at the end of the quote. See more detailed information.

Resource Review

Resource reviews provide critical appraisals of electronic resources, software, web services, and other technology tools that assist health sciences library staff in making collection development and technology implementation decisions. Reviewed resources can include databases and catalogs, electronic collections, research and reference tools, library management systems, educational instruments, commercial and open source software, and web-based productivity tools. Resource reviews do not have an abstract. The main text should comprise no more than 2,000 words. Up to 2 figures and/or tables are included in the main text. Resource reviews undergo editorial review. See more detailed information.

Virtual Project 

Virtual projects are brief articles highlighting current, innovative, and notable virtual projects in health sciences libraries. The virtual projects section is published on an annual basis in the October issue of the JMLA following an annual “Call for Virtual Projects.” An advisory committee of recognized technology experts makes selections of project entries  based on defined criteria. See more detailed information.


Obituaries recognize significant service to health sciences librarianship or related fields. Inclusion of an obituary in the JMLA requires that the deceased person be an MLA member or staff member at the time of death or former member or staff member with continuous membership or service of  ten years or more prior to death who has served the association and profession in a way that demonstrates dedication and commitment to MLA and has significant and lasting achievement in the field (Group I); a public official (appointed or elected) or other person whose actions have had an extraordinary effect or bearing on health sciences information work or librarianship (Group II); or health sciences librarians, not otherwise covered, who are generally recognized as having international stature (Group III).

Special Paper 

Special papers are usually solicited by the editor-in-chief or a section editor. They include longer articles of particular importance to the field of health sciences librarianship that do not fit one of the above submission categories as well as feature columns such as the MLA Janet Doe Lecture.

Writing Guidelines and Editorial Style

The writing style of manuscripts submitted to the JMLA should conform to the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals prepared by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). Other authoritative sources guiding the writing and editorial processes include the Medical Library Association (MLA) Style ManualCiting Medicine: The NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 2nd edition; the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style for punctuation, form, and other areas in which the ICMJE Recommendations are silent; and the latest edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for spelling.

For more information on structured abstracts, consult the MLA Research Section’s structured abstract guidelines.

Reference Style

JMLA reference style is based on the Medical Library Association (MLA) Style Manual, which in turn is based on Citing Medicine: The NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 2nd edition. Authors are urged to consult recently published articles in the JMLA for examples of properly formatted references. Example references appear below.

Journal article

Glanville J, Bayliss S, Booth A, Dundar Y, Fernandes H, Fleeman ND, Foster L, Fraser C, Fry-Smith A, Golder S, Lefebvre C, Miller C, Paisley S, Payne L, Price A, Welch K. So many filters, so little time: the development of a search filter appraisal checklist. J Med Libr Assoc. 2008 Oct;96(4):356–61. DOI:

Electronic resource

US Census Bureau. 2010 geographic terms and concepts - census divisions and census regions [Internet]. Suitland, MD: The Bureau [2010; cited 29 Sep 2017]. <>.

Book chapter

Eldredge JD. Evidence-based practice. In: Wood MS, ed. Introduction to health sciences librarianship. New York, NY: The Haworth Press; 2008. p. 245–69.


Harris RF. Rigor mortis: how sloppy science creates worthless cures, crushes hope, and wastes billions. New York, NY: Basic Books; 2017.

Conference presentation

Patridge E, Bardyn T. Change leadership: partnering with institutional stakeholders to address the need for collaboration spaces and data management support for research success. Presented at: MLA ‘17, the 117th Medical Library Association Annual Meeting; Seattle, WA; May 29, 2017.

Supplemental Material

Extensive data tables, survey instruments, and appendixes should be submitted as supplemental material. Note that papers reporting the results of a survey must include a copy of the survey instrument, unless it has been published elsewhere. Supplemental material should also include a photo of the first author (at least 300 dpi).

Data Retention

Data analyzed for material accepted for publication in the JMLA, along with any instructions or coding systems required to interpret them, should be retained for at least five years by the first author or his/her designee, so that they may be provided, whenever possible, in response to inquiries from interested readers. Authors who have data with longitudinal interest, for example, a survey that someone might wish to repeat at a future date to track changes in user behavior, are encouraged to retain their raw data for at least ten years. Authors should make provisions for adequate backup of their data, in print or digital form, as well as for retaining access to the data should they move to another institution. All material published in the JMLA is archived and publicly available on the JMLA site and on PMC. To facilitate long-term data retention, JMLA authors have the option to have data files and accompanying materials stored on the JMLA site and PMC and linked from their articles. Authors are responsible for ensuring that submitted data sets comply with any local rules regarding data distribution, such as those imposed by local institutional review boards.


Personal acknowledgments may be placed at the end of the text before the references.


Figures (i.e., images, diagrams, charts, or graphs) can be in color for online issues but will be processed into black and white for print issues. Consecutively numbered, brief, descriptive captions (e.g., “Figure 1 Distribution of test scores”) should be placed in the text at appropriate locations. Resolution for photographs or digital images should be at a minimum of 300 dots per inch (dpi). Please note that nearly all images that are downloaded from the Internet will not have sufficient resolution for publication; only screenshots with a minimum resolution of 300 dpi are allowed. Upon manuscript acceptance, charts and graphs should be submitted in the program whereby they were created (e.g., Microsoft Excel) to be processed for publication. 

Tables should be placed in the text at appropriate locations. Each table must be numbered consecutively and headed by a brief, descriptive title that includes the number of the table (e.g., “Table 1 Number of study participants”). Tables should be created using the word processing tools’ table commands.

Submission Process

All manuscripts must be submitted through the JMLA online submission system. The submission process consists of 5 steps:

  1. Starting the Submission: choose a journal section (e.g., Original Investigation, Case Study, Commentary), complete the submission preparation checklist (see below for details), agree to the copyright notice (see below for details), and provide comments to the editor (optional)
  2. Uploading the Submission: upload the manuscript file (including abstract, main text, references, acknowledgments, and figures or tables)
  3. Entering the Submission’s Metadata: enter information for all coauthors, title, abstract, keywords, contributors and supporting agencies, and reference list
  4. Uploading Supplementary Files: upload appendixes (including survey instrument, if applicable), Excel files used to create figures (if applicable), and photo of the first author (at least 300 dpi)
  5. Confirmation: confirm the successful upload of all submission files

If you exit the system before completing the submission, your submission will be saved automatically. You may return to finish the submission (or remove it should you wish) at a future time.

Peer-Review Evaluation

The JMLA uses a double-blind peer-review process, in which reviewers do not know the identity of the author and the identity of manuscript reviewers is not revealed to the author. Authors are asked to redact all author names or other identifying information from the manuscript before submission. It is also recommended, but not required, to redact the names of the authors’ institutions from the manuscript before submission. The JMLA aims to complete the review process and provide feedback to authors within eight weeks of submission.


Page proofs are provided to authors for correction of serious errors; minor alterations cannot be made at this stage.


Email questions about JMLA to Katherine Akers, editor-in-chief.

Send books or resources for review in the JMLA to: JMLA Review Editor, Medical Library Association, 65 East Wacker Place, Suite 1900, Chicago, IL 60601-7246; fax, 312.419.8950


Submission Preparation Checklist

As part of the submission process, authors are required to check off their submission's compliance with all of the following items, and submissions may be returned to authors that do not adhere to these guidelines.

  1. The results, data, figures, or other material in this manuscript have not been published previously and are not currently under consideration for publication elsewhere.
  2. The text adheres to the stylistic and bibliographic requirements outlined in the Author Guidelines.
  3. If submitting to a peer-reviewed section of the journal, the instructions in Ensuring a Blind Review have been followed.
  4. If relevant to the paper, information on approval or exemption by an institutional review board or equivalent is included in the Methods section. 
  5. The submission file is in OpenOffice, Microsoft Word, RTF, or WordPerfect document file format.
  6. The text is double-spaced; uses a 12-point font; employs italics, rather than underlining (except with URL addresses); and all illustrations, figures, and tables are placed in the text at the appropriate points rather than at the end.
  7. Where available, URLs for references have been provided.
  8. A photo of the first author is included as a supplemental file. Photos should have a resolution of at least 300 dpi.

Copyright Notice

Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:

  1. The Author retains copyright in the Work, where the term “Work” shall include all digital objects that may result in subsequent electronic publication or distribution.
  2. Upon acceptance of the Work, the author shall grant to the Publisher the right of first publication of the Work.
  3. The Author shall grant to the Publisher and its agents the nonexclusive perpetual right and license to publish, archive, and make accessible the Work in whole or in part in all forms of media now or hereafter known under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License or its equivalent, which, for the avoidance of doubt, allows others to copy, distribute, and transmit the Work under the following conditions:
    1. Attribution—other users must attribute the Work in the manner specified by the author as indicated on the journal Web site;
    with the understanding that the above condition can be waived with permission from the Author and that where the Work or any of its elements is in the public domain under applicable law, that status is in no way affected by the license.
  4. The Author is able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the nonexclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the Work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), as long as there is provided in the document an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
  5. Authors are permitted and encouraged to post online a prepublication manuscript (but not the Publisher’s final formatted PDF version of the Work) in institutional repositories or on their Websites prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work. Any such posting made before acceptance and publication of the Work shall be updated upon publication to include a reference to the Publisher-assigned DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and a link to the online abstract for the final published Work in the Journal.
  6. Upon Publisher’s request, the Author agrees to furnish promptly to Publisher, at the Author’s own expense, written evidence of the permissions, licenses, and consents for use of third-party material included within the Work, except as determined by Publisher to be covered by the principles of Fair Use.
  7. The Author represents and warrants that:
    1. the Work is the Author’s original work;
    2. the Author has not transferred, and will not transfer, exclusive rights in the Work to any third party;
    3. the Work is not pending review or under consideration by another publisher;
    4. the Work has not previously been published;
    5. the Work contains no misrepresentation or infringement of the Work or property of other authors or third parties; and
    6. the Work contains no libel, invasion of privacy, or other unlawful matter.
  8. The Author agrees to indemnify and hold Publisher harmless from Author’s breach of the representations and warranties contained in Paragraph 6 above, as well as any claim or proceeding relating to Publisher’s use and publication of any content contained in the Work, including third-party content.

Revised 7/16/2018. Revision Description: Removed outdated link. 


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