Sexually Transmitted Infections - Instructions for Authors
What we publish
Sexually Transmitted Infections selects original papers on the basis of their likely appeal to its readership. Papers we select for publication will:
- Be of interest to practitioners, policy makers, trainees and researchers wishing to keep themselves up to date in the field of clinical, epidemiological, sociological and laboratory aspects of STIs and HIV.
- Be clearly and correctly expressed. Many of our valued contributors do not speak English as their first language. If you feel unsure of your competence in English, please show your paper to a colleague who speaks English, preferably a native speaker, before making your submission.
- Be intelligible to our broad international readership. Do not assume familiarity with cultural or institutional facts that are specific to the place in which the research is undertaken.
- Please explain any details that are likely to cause confusion or misunderstanding for readers from other cultural backgrounds.
- Papers are considered on the basis that they are submitted solely to this journal and do not duplicate material already published, or submitted, elsewhere. In cases of doubt, and whenever material from the same study/dataset has been published elsewhere, please mention this to the editor in your cover letter, and explain the relationship between the manuscripts and how they differ. Please also submit the published material in a supplementary file for editors and reviewers along with your manuscript. We recognise that there may be a need to report the same Methods for multiple studies. If this is the case, please consult http://publicationethics.org text recycling guidelines, and consider what repeated information can be given by referring to another manuscript, or in a Web Only supplement.
For guidelines on policy and submission for all journals from BMJ, please click on the links below:
Patient consent forms
Submission and production processes
For non-native English speakers a professional editing service is available.
A guide to the use of microbial nomenclature and spelling can be found in an editorial published in the journal.
Authors may find our pre-submission checklist useful.
Authors can choose to have their article published open access for a fee of £1950 (plus applicable VAT).
Colour figure charges
During submission you will be asked whether or not you agree to pay for the colour print publication of your colour images. This service is available to any author publishing within this journal for a fee of £250 per article. Authors can elect to publish online in colour and black and white in print, in which case the appropriate selection should be made upon submission.
Article types and word counts
- Research studies
- Systematic reviews, meta-analyses and clinical reviews
- Educational articles(“How to do it” articles)
- Clinical Guidelines and Cochrane-on-a-page
- Case series
- Case reports
- BASHH column
- Clinical Guidelines
How to maximise the chances of your research article being accepted
Your paper should be well organized and clearly structured. You should use guidelines for reporting, as discussed below, so as to ensure that all necessary elements of your study are reported. Guidelines improve the quality of reporting so that reviewers find less to criticize, and help the editors to ensure that all necessary information is concisely presented. This will increase the changes of your published work being cited and its implications for practice being taken seriously.
Whatever your study design, you should upload an appropriate checklist (e.g. CONSORT checklist) as a Supplementary File for Review. This helps editors and reviewers decide whether all necessary information has been presented.
Please refer to the section below on 'Research Checklists'
Your introduction (and your abstract) should contain a clear statement of the objectives of the study and the major hypothesis
tested or research question posed. Make sure that the messages of your abstract are in agreement with the messages in the
body of the article.
Your methods section should contain, in all cases, information about:
- design – including, where appropriate, such factors as prospective, randomisation, blinding, placebo control, case control, crossover, sample size calculation, a statement of the primary outcome and whether a protocol is available;
- setting – including, where appropriate, the level of care (e.g. primary/secondary, and the number of participating centres). Be general rather than give the name of the specific centre, but give the geographical location if this is important ;
- participants – including, where appropriate, numbers eligible and enrolled in the study, sex, and ethnic group. Give clear definitions of how participants were selected, of entry and exclusion criteria.
In the case of trials the methods section should also contain information regarding interventions – what, how, when, and for how long.
Some types of research study that we frequently publish are:
- Controlled trials (randomised or not randomised);
- Observational studies;
- Diagnostic accuracy studies;
- Basic science;
- Qualitative research;
- Service improvement or quality improvement reports, which may include audits;
- Economic evaluations;
- Modelling studies
Authors may choose to present their research in one of two forms:
- a full-length article (with a maximum of 3000 words, and a maximum of four tables/figures and 30 references except in the case of systematic reviews where 60 references are permitted);
- a short report (with a maximum of 1500 words, and a maximum of one table/figure and 10 references).
Original article or short report?
You should consider presenting your findings as an original article rather than a short report in the following situations:
- where the research is generalizable and of widespread significance;
- where your work provides a stand-alone contribution to the literature;
- where the findings relate to a substantial piece of research, and not only a pilot or preliminary investigation.
You should consider presenting your findings as a short report rather than an original article in the following situations:
- where the research, though interesting, is of mainly local significance;
- where your findings provide a largely additional or complementary perspective on existing research;
- where these findings correspond to a still early and relatively incomplete stage in the development of your project.
Both original articles and short reports should be prefaced with an abstract of no more than 300 words (additional to the 3000/1500 words of the main body of the text). Structure your abstract under the headings: Objectives, Methods, Results, Conclusions. For an example of an abstract, please view the PDF files of an article and a short report given below.
Original articles must, in addition to an abstract, include as part of the text a key messages box. This should contain three or four bullet points of no more than 25 words each, highlighting the main features of, and lessons from, the paper. For an example of a key messages box, please view the PDF file of an article given below.
In the case of articles we are sometimes able to publish online only supplementary material, but the version for the print issue must be self-contained.
Word count and supplementary material
The vast majority of articles fit comfortably within our word limits. However it is sometimes appropriate to provide supplementary material which may be published Web Only. Examples may include questionnaires, additional data tables, additional references or detailed aspects of laboratory methods which would be of interest only to a specialist. Any supplementary material must be uploaded as a Supplementary File for Review and should be clearly referenced in the body of the paper to e.g. Web reference 1, Appendix 2. The publication of supplementary material is at the discretion of the Editor in Chief and should not be considered a substitute for presenting a clear, complete manuscript within the word limit.
Quality improvement reports need to provide all the information a reader needs to assess the applicability of the quality intervention in another setting. For these, we generally recommend the SQUIRE guidelines.
Observational studies should generally follow the STROBE guidance. The results section should begin with the primary outcome measure, and give the results with 95% confidence intervals. Statistics should include, at the very least:
For a cohort study:
- Absolute event rates over time (e.g. 10 years) among exposed and non-exposed groups;
- Absolute risk difference;
- Relative risk (RR) or hazard ratio (HR) for strength of association between exposure and outcome;
- Where multivariable analyses have been conducted, report both the crude and adjusted analyses, with 95% confidence intervals.
For a case control study:
- Odds ratio (OR) for strength of association between exposure and outcome.
For a study of a diagnostic test:
- Sensitivity and specificity;
- Positive and negative predictive values (PPV and NPV).
For clinical trials:
- Absolute event rates among experimental and control groups;
- Relative risk reduction (RRR);
- Number needed to treat or harm (NNT or NNH) and its 95% confidence interval (or, if the trial is of a public health intervention, number helped per 1,000 or 100,000).
The discussion section must be well structured, and should include the following five
- a brief statement of your principal findings;
- an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your study;
- a discussion of these strengths and weaknesses in relation to the strengths and weaknesses of comparable studies;
- a summary of the meaning of your study, offering possible explanations of your findings and their relevance for clinicians and policymakers;
- a consideration of unanswered questions and the possibilities for future research
- the take home message for readers.
The Equator Network is an excellent resource for reporting guidelines for a wide range of study types and contains many useful resources for authors. BMJ requires compliance to the following reporting guidelines. Please upload the relevant completed checklist for your study type with your submission, and label it "Research checklist". If no relevant checklist is available for your study type, this can be indicated on the submission form.
CONSORT statement - Required for all randomised controlled trials
PRISMA statement - Required for all systematic reviews
EVEREST statement - Required for all economic evaluations
STARD statement - Required for all diagnostic research papers
STROBE statement - Required for all observational studies
STROBE-RDS statement - Required for Respondent-Driven Sampling Studies
SQUIRE statement - Required for all quality improvement studies
Abstracts in other languages
For publications originating from countries where English is not the primary language, authors will be encouraged also to supply the abstract of their paper in their native language. This will be requested upon acceptance and published online only as a supplementary file alongside the English version. Authors should be aware that the translated abstract will not be copyedited or typeset and BMJ takes no responsibility for any errors in the non-English version.
We welcome video abstracts to accompany accepted research articles. These allow authors to personally talk through their work beyond the restrictions of a formal article to improve the user’s understanding.
Note that we will not ask you to consider submitting a video abstract until your paper has been accepted. Please do not try to upload a video abstract upon initial submission of your manuscript.
There are many tutorials online which can guide the production of a video abstract, using widely and often freely available software. Windows Movie Maker and Apple iMovie are the most common examples. Examples of video abstracts are available from The BMJ. Below are a few guidelines for making a video abstract. Authors may also want to ask their institution’s press/media office for assistance.
- Video abstracts should not last longer than 4 minutes.
- The content and focus of the video must relate directly to the study that has been accepted for publication, and should not stray beyond the data. We recommend that you follow the same structure as the paper itself i.e. briefly outline the background/context of the study, present your research objective, outline the methods used, present the key results and then discuss the implications of the outcomes.
- The presentation and content of the video should be in a style and in terms that will be understandable and accessible to a general medical audience. The main language should be English, but we welcome subtitles in another language. Please avoid jargon that will not be familiar to a wide medical audience, and do not use abbreviations.
- Authors usually talk directly into the camera and/or present a slideshow, but we encourage the use of other relevant visual and audio material (such as animations, video clips, still photographs, figures, infographics). If you wish to use material from previously published work or from other sources, please obtain the appropriate permissions from the relevant publisher or copyright owner.
- If the video shows any identifiable living patients and/or identifiable personal details, authors need to demonstrate that consent has been obtained. If a patient consent form was provided for the related article, there is no need to provide this again for the video.
- Please use the compression parameters that video sharing sites use. Often these are standard options from your editing software. A comprehensive guide is available from the vimeo website.
Videos are too large to email so will need to be uploaded to BMJ’s account on the Hightail website. Please include the journal’s name and your manuscript ID number in the message field – this will enable us to match your video to your paper. Your video needs to be received by the time that you return the corrections for your article proof, at the very latest. Please note that if you do not correctly label your video or if you miss the deadline, this may cause delays in publication of both your article and the video.
All video abstracts will be assessed for suitability by the editorial team and publication is not guaranteed. In some cases editors may request edits to the video.
Video abstracts are embedded within the research article online and also published separately on the journal’s YouTube channel. They are published under the same copyright terms as the associated article.
We welcome systematic reviews and meta-analyses. A systematic review is a review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review. Statistical methods (meta-analysis) may or may not be used to analyse and summarize the results of the included studies. Meta-analysis refers to the use of statistical techniques in a systematic review to integrate the results of included studies.
Systematic reviews with or without meta-analysis have a word limit of 3,000 words and should follow the PRISMA guidelines. They should contain no more than four tables/figures and a maximum of 60 references. Preface your review with an abstract of no more than 300 words (additional to the 3,000 words of the main body of the text), structured in accordance with PRISMA guidelines. Include a key messages box. For an example of an abstract and a key message box, view the PDF file given below.
Clinical reviews are generally commissioned, often in relation to special issues or supplements. We very rarely publish unsolicited
clinical reviews. The Editors are willing to discuss proposed clinical reviews, but please first consider the possibility
of an Educational article. They are subject to peer review in the usual way. It is unusual for the journal to publish an
unsolicited clinical review. Where such a review has been commissioned, it should meet the standard formatting requirements
for research articles, normally with a maximum of 30 references.
View an example of a review article (PDF).
We welcome proposals for educational articles in our “How to do it” series. They are intended to provide advice and a basis
for discussion on clinical or organizational aspects of STI diagnosis and care, especially where these are not fully addressed
by guidelines. They often address “grey areas” of practice and are sometimes illustrated by case studies. Educational articles
are handled by our Education Editor, Dr Sarah Edwards and are subject to peer review to ensure that they present a balanced
view and are relevant to our clinical readers. Though most address UK clinical practice, we welcome educational articles that
address a global audience.
Educational articles should fit within 2 print pages – i.e. 1600 words maximum but correspondingly less if tables/figures are used.
STI journal supports writers of guidelines published elsewhere in communicating their work to a wider audience. Generally guidelines are not suitable for full length publication in the journal due to limitations of space, and are kept up to date and corrected on the website of a professional body such as BASHH.
We welcome summaries of guidelines on a single page of the journal, highlighting important points and key changes. Please note that 1 print page of the journal has space for 800 words, correspondingly fewer if a Table or Figure is used. The full version of the guideline should be referenced in full and include a web link.
Clinical Guidelines and Cochrane-on-a-page can be often be enhanced by a related Educational article. These often explore clinical issues that fall between the gaps in guidelines. You are welcome to discuss this possibility with our Education Editor, Dr Sarah Edwards.
A case series is rarely best design to answer a research question as it lacks formal hypotheses and study designs. This means that a case series has serious scientific limitations, and generalizable conclusions cannot so reliably be drawn as they could from a scientific paper. On the other hand, in certain circumstances (e.g. early in a disease outbreak), they may be the only effective means of feeding helpful preliminary information to clinicians and policy-makers. Sexually Transmitted Infections will therefore consider as research studies case series where they are sufficiently informative for clinical practice and/or public health practice or policy.
When a case series raises controversial issues for health services and policy, warranting detailed discussion, a systematic review might be the best format.
A case series should not exceed 3,000 words, and should include no more than three tables and 30 references.
Please note that patient permission is required for the use of images (see electronic submission system for consent form).
For guidance on presentation, see the Case reports section.
We occasionally publish individual case reports, if - only if - they convey an important learning point for our community of clinicians (e.g. cases involving a new manifestation of a disease, or important diagnostic or management issues). It is vital, if you are seeking publication in Sexually Transmitted Infections, that you make absolutely clear in your covering letter, as well as in the case report itself, why you see the lessons of the case to be important for other people's practice.
In cases of submitted case reports that the editorial committee to be of insufficient importance for publication in Sexually Transmitted Infections, we would often advise submission to BMJ Case Reports.
Case reports should not exceed 750 words, and should contain a maximum of 1 table and 10 references. They should be prefaced by an abstract of not more than 150 words.
Please note that patient permission is required for the use of images (see electronic submission system for consent form).
Your report needs to be well structured and should contain the following elements:
- Background – why you think the case is important;
- Presentation – presenting important features; medical/social/family history;
- Investigations – if relevant;
- Differential diagnosis – if relevant;
- Treatment – if relevant;
- Discussion – including a very brief review of similar published cases;
- Learning points (in the Key Messages box).
Short research letters
Short research letters may be used to present findings that are interesting but not yet at a stage to warrant publication as a Research Study. We usually publish letters as filler articles in the paper journal with a maximum of 300 words if they have no tables or figures, or a maximum of 150 words if a single small table or figure is included. Letters do not require an abstract and should have no more than two references and normally no more than two author affiliations.
For letters presenting outbreak reports or audit reports, additional information may be published online only as supplementary material. This may include data or information that may be of interest to practitioners in some settings but which is too detailed and/or local in its interest to meet the expectations of the majority of the journal's audience.
Letters should be submitted through the journal's online submission system in the same way as a regular article and may be subject to external review.
Responses to published work
Rapid responses to published work should be submitted to the journal electronically via the website. Contributors should go to the abstract or full text of the article in question. In the right hand column on the article webpage is a section entitled ‘Responses’. Click on ’Submit a response’ and complete the online form.
Responses will be reviewed by the editor and shown to the authors of the original article, when appropriate.
eLetters will not be included in the print edition of the journal, but will be published online only.
Readers wishing to initiate a debate, or contribute to a debate that is ongoing should contact the blogmaster, . This is the forum for debates relating to issues of concern to the journal.
We publish Filler articles in the paper journal on topics of interest to our readers, with a particular focus on our print subscribers who are mainly clinicians. These can include audits. Fillers have a maximum of 300 words, if they have no tables or figures. If the article contains a single small table or figure there is a maximum word count of 150 words with a single small table, or figure. Fillers, like letters, will not have an abstract and should have no more than two references and normally no more than two author affiliations. References will be published online only, as will additional affiliations and acknowledgements. Letters should be submitted through our electronic submission system in the same way as an article or a short report and may be subject to external review.
The purpose of this column is to make readers aware of the work & activities of BASHH and to discuss developments of health policy, education etc. within the UK and how they will/might affect the specialty of GU medicine. These are commissioned papers and should be within 800 words including references. If any figures/tables are used, the manuscript will need to be correspondingly shorter.
BMJ journals are willing to consider publishing supplements to regular issues. Supplement proposals may be made at the request of:
- The journal editor, an editorial board member or a learned society may wish to organise a meeting, sponsorship may be sought and the proceedings published as a supplement.
- The journal editor, editorial board member or learned society may wish to commission a supplement on a particular theme or topic. Again, sponsorship may be sought.
- The BMJ itself may have proposals for supplements where sponsorship may be necessary.
- A sponsoring organisation, often a pharmaceutical company or a charitable foundation, that wishes to arrange a meeting, the proceedings of which will be published as a supplement.
In all cases, it is vital that the journal's integrity, independence and academic reputation is not compromised in any way.
When contacting us regarding a potential supplement, please include as much of the information below as possible:
- Journal in which you would like the supplement published
- Title of supplement and/or meeting on which it is based
- Date of meeting on which it is based
- Proposed table of contents with provisional article titles and proposed authors
- An indication of whether authors have agreed to participate
- Sponsor information including any relevant deadlines
- An indication of the expected length of each paper Guest Editor proposals if appropriate.
For further information on criteria that must be fulfilled, download the supplement guidelines (PDF).
Clinical guidelines may published in STI, where they are of interest to a wide audience and present a significant change or innovation. They should not exceed the normal word count for a research manuscript of 3000 words and four tables or figures. They should not have Web Supplements, but instead refer the reader to the definitive version of the Guideline (often longer) published by a professional body. This will minimise potential for confusion or inconsistency.
The purpose of publishing guidelines in the journal is both to provide information on the rationale and need for change, and to document new recommendations for practice, so the Introduction should have educational content updating the field. When adapting guidelines for the journal, bear in mind the audience of practitioners, researchers and policymakers. The guidelines themselves maybe briefer than the version published by a professional body, and should refer to this version for further detail giving full web details.
BMJ is a member of CrossCheck by CrossRef and iThenticate. iThenticate is a plagiarism screening service that verifies the originality of content submitted before publication. iThenticate checks submissions against millions of published research papers, and billions of web content. Authors, researchers and freelancers can also use iThenticate to screen their work before submission by visiting www.ithenticate.com.