The Take-Home Message

One of the most important keys to getting your manuscript published is the clear presentation of your "take-home message", that is, the single most important piece of information produced by your research in this particular manuscript.  The take-home message is the succinct answer to your research question based on your findings and its relevance to the general topic. The take-home message should be clearly stated in the Abstract and in the Discussion of your manuscript. A clearly presented take-home message allows the reader to understand the importance of your research. A clearly presented take-home message will help reviewers to quickly grasp the results of your study and how they pertain to the larger questions in the field.

Present your research question and the importance of its answer in a few concise sentences in the first paragraph of the Introduction to engage the reader and make the reader want to know more. The Introduction should compel the reader to continue on to the Materials and Methods to see how you approached this intriguing question.  To keep the reader engaged, wait for the Discussion to present the conclusion of the study. The Results section should present the data as simply as possible.  Keep your question in mind as you write the Results to present only the data that pertain to your main question. The Discussion section allows you to present your various interpretations and thoughts, but should focus on the take-home message and clarify whether your data answer the main question or lead to new questions.  You hooked the reader with your question in the Introduction; it is important that you end the Discussion with your take-home message; that is, the answer to your question, its relevance to the general topic, and a possible next step.

The take-home message should also appear in the cover letter to the editor.  Stating the take-home message in the cover letter will quickly express to the editor the importance of your findings.  The cover letter that accompanies the submission of the manuscript to the journal serves not only to initiate the review process by introducing the manuscript to the editor, but must also sell the manuscript to the editor by capturing the editor's interest.  A properly chosen take-home message will achieve this goal.

Taking the time to identify your take-home message will provide a clear path to understanding the importance of your findings.  Doing so will ease the burden of the editor, reviewers, and readers, thereby expediting the publishing process.