By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editor-in-chief
When we get a manuscript submission, I always read the cover letter first to learn about the author and why the article was written. Often, the first sentence goes something like this: “I am a student and I’m submitting my capstone paper as required by my professor.” Or the letter may say, “My professor encouraged me to submit this paper, my capstone work.”
The paper is usually the very paper the student wrote and submitted to the professor. And that almost always means it’s not suitable for a professional journal.
The problem is not that we won’t consider manuscripts written by students—we sometimes welcome them, especially papers written by nurses who are experienced clinicians and working toward a graduate degree. The problem with the submissions I’m talking about here is inherent in the purpose of the papers themselves. Student papers are written primarily to demonstrate what the student knows about a subject; these papers tend to be expansive, cover the topic in a superficial way, and include a long list of references of books, articles, and Web sites (or, conversely, they may only have a few references, mostly Web sites, plus perhaps one much-cited textbook—thankfully, few are citing Wikipedia).
Student papers that describe themselves as “literature reviews” often have no information about the search strategy—and little synthesis. Instead, they contain a long list of various studies related to the […]