Canadian Medical Association Journal eCMAJ Home  
Writing for CMAJ
[Updated August 27, 2001]

CMAJ publishes papers that advance the understanding of medicine and health care, stimulate debate, educate and entertain. Most submissions arrive unsolicited, and we welcome them. We also welcome queries: please send an email to the editor or one of the associate editors to sound out ideas for contributions. Remember that CMAJ is a general medical journal; articles must be comprehensible to interested physicians in any field.

As a founding member of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, CMAJ endorses the "Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals." Contributors should follow the most recent revision. For additional guidance please contact one of the associate editors.

All submissions are confidential. We strive to provide prompt peer review and a swift editorial decision. Manuscripts are usually published within 16 to 18 weeks of acceptance.

John Hoey   800 663-7336 ×2118

Deputy Editor
Anne Marie Todkill

Associate Editors
Tom Elmslie
Ken Flegel
James Hanley
Anita Palepu
Peter Singer
Erica Weir

Editorial Fellow
Eric Wooltorton

Journal staff and contact information

Medical writing


Fast tracking

Presubmission checklist

Acknowledgement form

Permission to reproduce figures and tables form

Personal communication form

Forms for reviewers

Digital art submission form (for electronic submission of figures)

CMAJ is organized around the following main headings.

The editorial process at CMAJ


Research articles report original clinical findings of interest to a general medical audience. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses also fall into this category. Articles should be no more than 2500 words long, excluding the abstract, figures, tables and references. Excessive length presents difficulties for peer reviewers, editors and readers. However, we do try to be flexible and are willing to discuss problems of manuscript preparation with authors. Supporting material that is not part of the manuscript itself may be submitted to assist our evaluation; the inclusion of such material should be explained in the cover letter.

Abstracts should be constructed under the following headings: Background (the rationale for the study), Methods (how the study was done), Results (the principal findings), Interpretation (a discussion of the results).

CMAJ requires that reports of randomized controlled trials be prepared according to the CONSORT guidelines.

Research letters focus on singular themes and do not require extensive elaboration with respect to methods and results. Submissions should be limited to 500 words of text with an accompanying table or figure and 6 to 8 references. Research Letters are processed in a manner similar to that for full-length Research articles.

Fast tracking. Some research findings merit urgent publication. Authors seeking accelerated publication should contact the editor well in advance of submitting the paper. Articles selected for fast tracking will receive peer review and an editorial decision within 14 working days of receipt. Publication of accepted manuscripts will be expedited.



Although most commentaries are written at our invitation, we welcome unsolicited submissions and suggestions for topics and contributors. Commentaries should be no more than 1000 words long. They require a succinct and confident style, a clear point of view and a degree of balance. Authors should supply a lively title and support their arguments with no more than 10 references. In general, only unsolicited commentaries are peer reviewed.



The Review section of CMAJ is wide ranging, presenting narrative reviews, program descriptions, case reports and other papers — such as our Bioethics for Clinicians series — that contribute to the professional development of practising physicians. Although we can be flexible with respect to length and format, the main text of most submissions should be no longer than 2000 words; authors should also supply a brief summary of the article. All Review articles are peer reviewed.

Narrative reviews present a practical and highly readable overview of recent advances in basic science or clinical practice. Most articles of this type are solicited, but prospective authors are encouraged to discuss proposals with the editor. Comprehensive or multifaceted reviews may be considered for publication as a series.

Program descriptions present teaching programs, new clinical procedures, innovative approaches to the management of a disease, pilot projects, and so forth. They should contain an evaluative component, even if this is only preliminary.

Case reports must be novel. With rare exceptions, this means that the conditions or events they describe have not been previously reported. Exceptionally, case reports may be accepted if they present a useful teaching point. They should have no more than 4 authors, 1 of whom must be the patient's attending physician. Signed consent to the publication of the report must be obtained from all patients or their surrogates.


Review Series

We welcome suggestions or proposals for review series. We are moving away from extended series and now prefer to consider series of four articles or fewer. The review process will be two-part, with review of a series proposal preceding submission of papers. Proposals should consist of a model paper, a list of authors' names and a description of all the papers in the series.


The Left Atrium

The Left Atrium gives readers room for reflection through book and film reviews, creative writing, photography and features on the visual and performing arts. Book and film reviews should be a lively 700 to 1000 words; please query the editor before submission. We welcome unsolicited poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction for "Room for a view" and especially value contributions that convey personal and professional experiences with a sense of immediacy and realism. The writing should be candid, but patient confidentiality must be respected. In general, prose manuscripts should be limited to 1000 words and poems should be no more than 75 lines long. Photography submissions are welcome, as are brief, illustrated items on unexplored corners of medical history. If you would like to be added to our list of book reviewers or would like to discuss ideas for contributions please contact the deputy editor, Anne Marie Todkill 800 663-7336 ×2109.


Letters to the editor

Letters commenting on an article published in the Journal should reach us within 8 weeks of the article's appearance. Those of general interest are also welcome. Letters are not usually peer reviewed but they are edited for length and style. Brevity is highly prized: submissions should be no more than 250 words long; if necessary, they may be accompanied by a few references. The most effective letters are often those that raise a single, tersely argued point. Authors whose work is discussed are given an opportunity to respond.



This section of CMAJ is written primarily by our staff and by freelance journalists, but we will consider unsolicited reports concerning particular specialties or communities. This section is devoted to news, not commentary or opinion. These reports should be brief (about 250 words), although a few longer features (800 words) will appear in each issue. Ideas for articles are always welcome. Contact the news editor, Patrick Sullivan 800 663-7336 ×2126.



CMAJ publishes a brief notice following the death of a CMA member. We encourage readers to submit obituaries of up to 200 words about deceased colleagues. Colourful writing is welcomed. Submissions should be sent to the news editor, Patrick Sullivan 800 663-7336 ×2126.


The editorial process at CMAJ

Receipt of manuscript

Each manuscript is assigned a number by the manuscript coordinator, who verifies that the submission conforms to the uniform requirements. Manuscripts should be submitted in triplicate, printed in a clear font (12-point Courier is preferred) on 1 side of the page only and double spaced. The manuscript package must include the following:

  • A cover letter, signed by all authors, attesting that the paper is original and has not been published or submitted for publication elsewhere. (Fax copies of signatures are acceptable.) Potential conflicts of interest must be disclosed. If the manuscript does not fit readily into one of the categories described earlier, the authors should explain in their cover letter why they feel it is suited for publication in CMAJ.

  • A title page, listing the full names of all authors and their affiliations.

  • A separate page specifying the contribution of each author. This information will be published. An author is someone who contributed substantially to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data and drafted the article or revised it critically for important intellectual content and gave final approval of the version to be published. The research process is complex and may involve many participants; however, not all may qualify for authorship. Areas of uncertainty can be discussed with the editor.

  • Address to which the manuscript should be sent: Dr. John Hoey, CMAJ, 1867 Alta Vista Dr., Ottawa ON  K1G 3Y6


Manuscript review

The editor or one of the associate editors looks at each submission to decide on its suitability for peer review. About 60% are sent for peer review. Manuscripts judged not suitable for CMAJ are intercepted at this point and the authors notified. Authors whose submissions have moved on to peer review are notified. Peer review usually takes about 4 weeks.


Editorial decision

After peer review the editors read the paper and the reviewers' comments and decide together whether the paper is suitable for publication. Authors are notified promptly of the decision and sent a copy of the peer reviewers' comments. A few manuscripts are accepted without revision, but most go through one or more revisions in light of the reviewers' comments. Occasionally the peer reviewers discover that a lack of critical information precludes evaluation of the manuscript; this information is requested from the authors and the manuscript is reevaluated, often with a second peer review.

A specific associate editor or the editor takes responsibility for each manuscript and works with the corresponding author to prepare the submission for the final acceptance stage. All authors must give their signed approval to the final revision.



After final acceptance of a paper, the authors are asked to provide an electronic copy and to sign a copyright transfer form. A copy editor then edits the manuscript with a view to clarity, brevity, style and accuracy. The careful scrutiny at the copyediting stage may reveal further areas where information is lacking or clarification is needed. The copyedited manuscript is sent to the corresponding author for approval.



A reprint order form is sent to the corresponding author with the copyedited manuscript. Authors of solicited articles receive complementary reprints.

After publication

CMAJ issues a press release before each publication date. A telephone number is given for the corresponding author of each article mentioned in the release. Authors are encouraged to make themselves available for interviews; they should remind journalists that any information released to the media is embargoed until 6 pm EST on the evening before the cover date.


Copyright 2001 Canadian Medical Association or its licensors