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Preparing your manuscript for the machine reader: How to ensure your article content is discoverable

In this age of digital publishing and exciting advances in AI and machine learning technology, it is important to keep in mind that your research is being read not only by human readers but also by machines.

Publishers in the STEM fields are using machine learning technology to develop innovative tools and features on their platforms to meet the needs of academic and industry researchers, practitioners, and students. For instance, just as Amazon and Netflix make recommendations to users based on their buying choices and search history, publishers are using algorithms to mine the content on their platforms (such as ScienceDirect and SpringerLink) to make customized recommendations based on the individual user’s activity. These features are designed to help researchers stay up to date with content relevant to their current research problems. Publishers are also developing uses for machine learning in the areas of manuscript peer review, plagiarism detection, scholarly social networking and career development, and information retrieval to answer specific research questions.

Search algorithms are becoming more and more sophisticated, designed to surface laser-focused, relevant results for both text and image queries. You can assist publishers in preparing your article for search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure that your article content is found and ranked highly by search engines such as Google and Google Scholar.

Tips for increasing discoverability: Below are tips for optimizing four essential structural components of your article. A key strategy for ensuring that the machines reading your article will pick up specific, relevant content targeted toward your intended audience is to treat these components as separate items that are able to function independently from each other and the main text.

1. Title. Give your article a concise, specific, no-frills title that succinctly conveys the article’s main subject. Include keywords in your title.

2. Abstract. Limit your abstract to 250 words or less. (Be sure to consult your target journal’s submission guideline for specific requirements.) Include keywords in the abstract, and make sure to include them in the first few sentences, as these are the sentences that are displayed in search engine results.

3. Keywords. Carefully choose 4–8 keywords that are specific to your article content and to your research field and subfield and list them following the abstract. (Again, consult your target journal for specific requirements.)

4. Figure and table legends. Figures and tables should be able to be understood without the help of the body of the manuscript. Many readers will peruse the figures and tables to quickly see results before deciding to read further. Follow the three tips below to ensure your figures and tables are fully discoverable and usable by both human and machine readers.

Following the simple strategies outlined above will increase your chances of having your article accepted for publication by your target journal and help maximize your article’s discoverability once published. As a thank you, your machine readers will make sure to share your research content with the appropriate humans.

Further Reading and Works Consulted:

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