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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 astheir first language. If you feel unsure of your competence in English, please show you rpaper to a colleague who speaks English, preferably as a mother-tongue, 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, where part of the material has been published elsewhere, please mention this to the editor in your cover letter, and submit the published material in a supplementary file along with your manuscript. Our editors can then reach their own decision about the degree of duplication.

General guidelines

For guidelines on policy and submission for all journals from BMJ, please click on the links below:
Manuscript preparation
Editorial policies
Patient consent forms
Licence forms
Peer review
Submission and production processes

Open access

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

For non-native English speakers a professional editing service is available.

Authors may find our pre-submission checklist useful.

Research studies

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.  

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.

General guidance
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;
  • Quality improvement reports;
  • 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 250 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.

View a model original article (PDF)
View a model short report (PDF)

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
elements:

  • 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.

Research checklists

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
SQUIRE statement - Required for all quality improvement studies

Word versions of the STROBE checklists are available below:
STROBE checklist for case-control studies
STROBE checklist for cohort studies
STROBE checklist for cross-sectional 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.

Systematic reviews, meta-analyses and clinical reviews

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 250 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).

Educational articles

We welcome proposals for educational articles.  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 have addressed UK clinical practice, we welcome educational articles that address a global audience. 
Educational articles should generally fit within 2 print pages – i.e. 1600 words maximum but correspondingly less if tables/figures are used. 

View an example of an educational article (PDF).

Case series

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.

Case reports

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).

View an example of a case report (PDF).

Correspondence

Short research letters
These may be used to present findings that are interesting but but not yet at a stage to warrant publication as a research article. Other material such as historical or anecdotal vignettes is also welcome in this form if it is of interest to our international audience of clinicians, health researchers and policymakers.

Letters should have a maximum of 400 words if they have no tables or figures, or 150 words if a single small table or figure is included. Letters should not have an abstract. A maximum of two references and normally no more than two author affiliations should be included. Letters are not normally published Online First.

Research letters should be submitted through the journal's electronic submission system under the article type 'Letter', in the same way as any other article. They may be subject to external review. In all cases, it is vital that the journal's integrity, independence and academic reputation is not compromised in any way. Where a letter presents research findings or cases, we have the same requirements for ethical approval and consent as for a research article or case report. 

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.

Debates
Readers wishing to initiate a debate, or contribute to a debate that is ongoing should contact the blogmaster, leslieginlewes{at}yahoo.co.uk. This is the forum for debates relating to issues of concern to the journal.

Miscellanea

Filler articles should have a maximum of 400 words if they have no tables or figures, or 150 words if a single small table or figure is included.  

Fillers should be submitted through the journal's electronic submission system under the article type 'Filler'.

Supplements

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 supplements guidelines (PDF).

Plagiarism detection

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.

Free sample

This recent issue is free to all users to allow everyone the opportunity to see the full scope and typical content of STI.
View free sample issue >>

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