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Submission Preparation Checklist

The South African Medical Journal  is a monthly, peer reviewed, general medical journal publishing leading research impacting clinical care in southern Africa.  We do not consider submissions outside Southern Africa.

All submissions must meet the following requirements.

  • Please ensure you have submitted a regular version of the manuscript i.e. full text with author details and an anonymised version (author details remove). Failure to do so will result in your manuscript being returned to you.
  • The submission has not been previously published, nor is it before another journal for consideration (or an explanation has been provided in Comments to the Editor).
  • The submission file is in Microsoft Word document file format.
  • The text is single-spaced; uses a 12-point font; employs italics, rather than underlining (except with URL addresses); and all illustrations, figures, and tables are placed within the text at the appropriate points, rather than at the end.
  • The text adheres to the stylistic and bibliographic requirements outlined in the Author Guidelines.
  • Disclosure of whether any artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted technologies (such as Large Language Models [LLMs], chatbots, or image creators) has been used in the production of submitted work.


Guideline word limit: 4 000 words

Research articles describe the background, methods, results and conclusions of an original research study. The article should contain the following sections: introduction, methods, results, discussion and conclusion, and should include a structured abstract (see below). The introduction should be concise – no more than three paragraphs – on the background to the research question, and must include references to other relevant published studies that clearly lay out the rationale for conducting the study. Some common reasons for conducting a study are: to fill a gap in the literature, a logical extension of previous work, or to answer an important clinical question. If other papers related to the same study have been published previously, please make sure to refer to them specifically. Describe the study methods in as much detail as possible so that others would be able to replicate the study should they need to. Results should describe the study sample as well as the findings from the study itself, but all interpretation of findings must be kept in the discussion section, which should consider primary outcomes first before any secondary or tertiary findings or post-hoc analyses. The conclusion should briefly summarise the main message of the paper and provide recommendations for further study.

Select figures and tables for your paper carefully and sparingly. Use only those figures that provided added value to the paper, over and above what is written in the text.

Do not replicate data in tables and in text .

Structured abstract

  • This should be 250-400 words, with the following recommended headings:
    • Background: why the study is being done and how it relates to other published work.
    • Objectives: what the study intends to find out
    • Methods: must include study design, number of participants, description of the intervention, primary and secondary outcomes, any specific analyses that were done on the data.
    • Results: first sentence must be brief population and sample description; outline the results according to the methods described. Primary outcomes must be described first, even if they are not the most significant findings of the study.
    • Conclusion: must be supported by the data, include recommendations for further study/actions.
  • Please ensure that the structured abstract is complete, accurate and clear and has been approved by all authors.
  • Do not include any references in the abstracts.

Here is an example of a good abstract.

Please refer to these guidelines for further information on the format of a research article.


In Practice

Guideline word limit: 2 000 - 3 000words

This section includes articles that would previously have been accepted into the Forum section, and case reports.

In practice articles are those that draw attention to specific issues of clinical, economic or political interest regarding medicine and healthcare in southern Africa. They are assigned to a topic:

  • Case report
  • Clinical practice
  • Clinical alert
  • Issues in medicine
  • Issues in public health
  • Healthcare delivery
  • Medicine and the environment
  • Medicine and the law
  • Cochrane corner

An In Practice article should follow the following format – sub-headings are not necessary, but may be used for clarity:

  • Author affiliations and qualifications: to be the same as for Research. Provide all authors’ names and initials, qualifications and full affiliations, and corresponding author.
  • Short abstract: does not need to be structured, but should capture the essential features of the article
  • Introduction: the reason for the article and the issue being addressed
  • Recent research, discussion, local policy around the issue – include your own research where appropriate
  • All statements should be referenced and, if opinion only, this should be stated
  • Discussion: how this article adds to the discussion around a particular topic
  • If a clinical practice or policy point is at issue, this needs to be emphasised, using a box with highlights if appropriate.

Essentially In practice is an opportunity for a more discursive approach to topics of clinical, economic or political importance in southern African health systems. It is not an opportunity to put forward unsubstantiated opinions!

Guidelines for case reports can be found here.


Guideline word limit: 1 000 words

These opinion or comment articles are usually commissioned but we are happy to consider and peer review unsolicited editorials. Editorials should be accessible and interesting to readers without specialist knowledge of the subject under discussion and should have an element of topicality (why is a comment on this issue relevant now?) There should be a clear message to the piece, supported by evidence.

Please make clear the type of evidence that supports each key statement, e.g.:

  • expert opinion
  • personal clinical experience
  • observational studies
  • trials
  • systematic reviews.


CME is intended to provide readers with practical, up-to-date information on medical and related matters. It is aimed at those who are not specialists in the field.

From January 2016, all CME articles will be printed in full in the SAMJ. Please try to adhere strictly to the guidelines on word count as we have a page limit for the print issue of the SAMJ. We reserve the right to place some tables and reference lists online if this is necessary for space.

In practice, this means that each CME topic usually covers two issues of the print issue of the SAMJ.

The guest editor, in consultation with the editor, is responsible for convening a team of authors, deciding on the subjects to be covered and for reviewing the manuscripts submitted. The suggestion is for 4 - 5 articles, although there is some room for flexibility contingent on discussions with the editor.

For queries about these guidelines please feel free to contact the CME editor, Dr Bridget Farham, by email ([email protected]) or telephone (+27 (0)82 452 2860)

Review process

The guest editor reviews the articles and returns them to the CME editor for review and final approval.

Guest editorials

Guideline word limit: 1 000 words

  • Include the guest editor’s personal details (qualifications, positions, affiliation, e-mail address, and a short personal profile (50words)).
  • If possible, include a photograph of the author(s) at high enough resolution for print. It is preferable to provide two guest editorials, one for each issue, so that the content of the articles in each issue is covered.


Guideline word limit: 2 000 - 3 000 words

  • Each article requires an abstract of ±200 words.
  • The editor reserves the right to shorten articles but will send a substantially shortened article back for author approval.

Personal details

Please supply: Your qualifications, position and affiliations and MP number (used for CPD points); Address, telephone number and fax number, and your e-mail address; and a short personal profile (50words)and a few words about your current fields of interest.


Guideline word limit: 4 000 words

These are welcome, but should be either commissioned or discussed with the Editor before submission. A review article should provide a clear, up-to-date account of the topic and be aimed at non-specialist hospital doctors and general practitioners.

Please ensure that your article includes:

  • Abstract: unstructured, of about 100-150 words, explaining the review and why it is important
  • Methods: Outline the sources and selection methods, including search strategy and keywords used for identifying references from online bibliographic databases. Discuss the quality of evidence.
  • When writing: clarify the evidence you used for key statements and the strength of the evidence. Do not present statements or opinions without such evidence, or if you have to, say that there is little or no evidence and that this is opinion. Avoid specialist jargon and abbreviations, and provide advice specific to southern Africa.
  • Personal details: Please supply your qualifications, position and affiliations and MP number (used for CPD points); address, telephone number and fax number, and your e-mail address; and a short personal profile (50 words) and a few words about your current fields of interest.


Guideline word limit: 500 words

 Letters to the editor should relate either to a paper or article published by the SAMJ or to a topical issue of particular relevance to the journal’s readership

  • May include only one illustration or table
  • Must include a correspondence address.


Should be offered within the first year of the practitioner’s death, and may be accompanied by a photograph.

Book Review

Guideline word limit: 400 words

Should be about 400 words and must be accompanied by the publication details of the book. Provide a hi-res image of the cover if possible (with permission from the copyright holder).

Clinical trials

Guideline word limit: 4000 words

 As per the recommendations published by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), clinical trial research is any research that assigns individuals to an intervention, with or without a concurrent comparison/control group to study the cause-and-effect relationship between the intervention and health outcomes. All clinical trials should be registered with the appropriate national clinical trial registry (or any international primary register, if relevant), and the trial registration number should be cited at the end of the abstract. Since 1st December 2005, all clinical trials conducted in South Africa have been required to be registered in the South African National Clinical Trials Register. The SAMJ therefore requires that clinical trials be registered in the relevant public trials registry at or before the time of first patient enrollment as a condition for publication. The trial registry name and registration number must be included in the manuscript.

Please refer to the general guidelines for all papers at the top of this article for additional requirements with respect to ethics approval, funding, author contributions, etc. The format of original research articles should be followed for reporting of clinical trial results.


Guidelines should always be discussed with the Editor prior to submission.

Because of the intensive review process required to ensure Guidelines are independent, evidence-based and free from commercial bias, they are usually published as a supplement to the SAMJ, the costs of which must be covered by sponsorship, advertising or payment by the guideline authors/association. We will provide a quote based on the expected length of the guideline and whether it is to appear online only, or in print, which must be accepted by the body putting the guidelines together before submitting the work to the SAMJ.

The Editor reserves the right to determine the scheduling of supplements. Understandably, a delay in publication must be anticipated dependent upon editorial workflow.

All guidelines should include a clear, transparent statement about all sources of funding and an explicit, clear statement of conflicts of interest of any of the participants in the guidelines about industry funding for lectures, research, conference participation etc. 

All guidelines should be structured according to Agree II.

Please access this website before putting the guidelines together, download the Agree 11 instrument and use this to put the guidelines together.

All submitted guidelines will be sent to the local Agree II appraisal committee for review and must be endorsed by an appropriate body prior to consideration and all conflicts of interest expressed.

A structured abstract not exceeding 400 words (recommended sub-headings: Background, Recommendations, Conclusion) is required. Sections and sub-sections must be numbered consecutively (e.g. 1. Introduction; 1.1 Definitions; 2.etc.) and summarised in a Table of Contents.

Privacy Statement

The SAMJ is committed to protecting the privacy of the users of this journal website. The names, personal particulars and email addresses entered in this website will be used only for the stated purposes of this journal and will not be made available to third parties without the user’s permission or due process. Users consent to receive communication from the SAMJ for the stated purposes of the journal. Queries with regard to privacy may be directed to [email protected]