Instructions for Authors
For guidelines on policy and submission across our journals, please click on the links below:
Patient consent forms
Submission and production processes
The journal's policy is to use current knowledge of neurophysiology, anatomy and pathology to explain the clinical effects of acupuncture, i.e Western medical acupuncture. Traditional Asian concepts may be reported where they have been used to choose points, or where the concepts are themselves the subject of the research, but discussion of acupuncture mechanisms or clinical effects in terms of traditional explanations that are not evidence-based will not be acceptable.
*We ask the corresponding author to grant exclusive licence (or non exclusive for government employees) on behalf of all authors by reading our licence and inserting in the manuscript on submission the following statement:
"The Corresponding Author has the right to grant on behalf of all authors and does grant on behalf of all authors, an exclusive licence (or non-exclusive for government employees) on a worldwide basis to BMJ, and its Licensees to permit this article (if accepted) to be published in Acupuncture in Medicine and any other BMJ products and to exploit all subsidiary rights, as set out in our licence."
Describing acupuncture treatment
All acupuncture treatment should be described according to the current STRICTA recommendations on our website. Their basic principle is to ensure that the treatment can be replicated exactly by others.
The criteria should be referenced as: Revised STandards for Reporting Interventions in Clinical Trials of Acupuncture (STRICTA): extending the CONSORT statement. MacPherson H, Altman DG, Hammerschlag R, et al. Acupunct Med 2010;28:83-93
The following abbreviations for meridians should be used: LU, LI, ST, SP, HT, SI, BL, KI, PC, TE, GB, LR, GV, CV. Use Chinese names to describe extra points. This Code was agreed a meeting of the WHO in 1989, reported in Jenkins M. A new standard international acupuncture nomenclature. Acupunct Med 1990;7(1):21-3.
All Chinese technical terms should be in italics, for example de qi, Yin, Yang, Taiyang. Proper nouns should have capital letters, for example Wind-Damp, and Spleen meridian (though spleen when referring to the organ).
Authors can choose to have their article published Open Access for a fee of £600 (plus applicable VAT). Published letters are free to online access.
Colour images and figures
No payment is required for colour figure production in this journal. Please submit all figures in colour unless it is not possible to do so.
Article types and word counts
- Original papers
- Education and practice
- Clinical Observations
- Travel reports
- Trial registration
- Animal experimentation
The word count refers to the text only, excluding the title page, abstract, tables, acknowledgements and references. The following guidelines for maximum word count and numbers of tables and references may be exceeded when necessary in particular circumstances. There is no minimum word count and authors are encouraged to be as succinct as possible. Colour figures are particularly welcome. If you are not a native English speaker there is a professional editing service available.
These are commissioned only articles. Original papers should not be submitted under this article type.
Word count: up to 1000
Abstract: not required
Tables/illustrations: up to 2
References: up to 15
These articles report original research about acupuncture that is of interest to clinicians. Papers will report either clinical trials or laboratory studies that are likely to have clinical relevance or make a significant scientific advance. The journal's emphasis is on acupuncture including electroacupuncture, but reports of related techniques may be acceptable if of sufficient clinical interest, although injection of active substances (pharmacopuncture) is out of scope. Both primary and secondary research (systematic reviews) are welcome. This section may also contain papers reporting uncontrolled studies that address a research question and meet standards of scientific rigour such as independent ethical review. Our policy on animal experimentation is described below.
Reports of qualitative studies of acupuncture are welcome. Illustrative quotes are presented within the results section, but as they are equivalent to the data in quantitative reports, they will be excluded from the text word count of 2500 to 3000 words. They should be limited to the equivalent of 5 tables/figures, and may be subject to editorial control.
Word count: 2500-3000 words
Abstract (structured): up to 250 words
Tables/illustrations: up to 5 tables/figures - NB please refer to the table formatting guide if the main results table exceeds this length you will need to shorten it for inclusion in print
References: as appropriate, but when significantly more than 25 references are cited, authors should include the most important 25 in the full paper, and list the remainder in a web only supplement.
Review: papers in this section are double peer-reviewed
These articles are concerned with the provision or practice of acupuncture within a medical or allied clinical context. Their aim is to improve the theoretical understanding or practical application of acupuncture. This section also includes miscellaneous articles such as those presenting new hypotheses or discussing research methodology. Articles should use a conventional scientific approach, as articles simply describing the traditional Chinese theory or practice are not acceptable. Authors should make it clear which statements are based on evidence and which are opinion. Conventional subheadings (Introduction, Methods, Results, Conclusion) are often not relevant, in which case more appropriate subheadings can be used.
Word count: up to 2500 words
Abstract: up to 250 words
References: up to 25
Review: these articles are editorially reviewed and externally reviewed for specialist content where appropriate.
Differences of opinion can arise in many areas of acupuncture and related techniques, for example in relation to training, aspects of practice, or regulation. Authors are welcome to submit opinion articles for this section, and where appropriate the Editors will commission a response.
Word count: 1500 to 2000
Abstract: up to 250 words
References: up to 25
Review: debate articles are subject to editorial review.
This section contains substantial reports of patients’ responses to acupuncture, usually in the form of a case series or audit.
Reports may for example describe the response to acupuncture among patients with one particular condition, or using a particular
type of acupuncture. Conclusions, if any, should be cautious because of the lack of controls.
Case series are often descriptions of a group of similar patients identified retrospectively based on clinical observation arising in routine practice, rather than addressing a research question. However, a case series might be considered as an Original paper if it is prospective and addresses a research question, in which case it is likely to have ethics committee approval, to use a standardised intervention and strict methodology particularly for assessing outcomes, and to use the term 'participants' than 'patients'.
Audits are usually retrospective and typically describe the effects of treatment on a series of patients and present the results combined, not individually.
Case reports will (from January 2014) normally be published as Letters, see below: online access to letters is free.
However, the Clinical observations section is appropriate for case reports whose complexity requires detailed presentation or discussion. The clinical response must be plausible in relation to acupuncture, and a brief discussion of mechanisms should be included. In such cases, please organise the case report according to our guidelines published at http://aim.bmj.com/content/22/2/83.full.pdf.
Authors who are in doubt as to which section would be more appropriate for their case report are welcome to contact the Editor for advice.
Patient consent must be provided for all case reports, using our standard form.
Word count: maximum of 2000 words.
Abstract: up to 250 words:
References: up to 15
Review: case reports are subject to editorial review.
We welcome reports of journeys or visits which involve acupuncture in some way and are of potential interest to our readers. They can be accompanied by high resolution photographs, preferably in colour.
Word count: up to 2000.
Abstract: up to 250 words.
Tables/illustrations: up to 3
References: not usually applicable
Review: travel reports are subject to editorial review
Letters to the editor are welcome and online access to letters is free. These may relate to an article in a previous issue, or may describe a case report, or may report a small study that does not justify a full Original paper.
Reports of case histories that are novel, particularly interesting, or educational including adverse events related to acupuncture, are welcome. They do not require an abstract. The required format is: one to three sentences of introduction, summarising why this case is being reported; Case history – including description of patient, presentation and history, physical examination findings, any investigations, diagnosis, treatment using STRICTA guidelines, and outcome over time; ensure date (month year) of presentation and final follow up are included; and Discussion – including other literature and comments. Use subheadings as appropriate.
Case reports that are considered implausible may be rejected on those grounds alone. Patient consent must be provided for all case reports, using our standard form.
Word count: up to 1000.
Tables/illustrations: up to 2
References: up to 5
Review: letters are subject to editorial review.
We welcome Obituaries of outstanding members of the BMAS who have contributed particularly to the development of Western medical acupuncture, or non-members who are internationally renowned for their work in the field, accompanied by a high resolution colour photograph.
Word count: up to 500 words.
Clinical trials are defined for this purpose as trials "where human participants are prospectively assigned to one or more health-related interventions to evaluate the effects on health outcomes". The patient is not free to choose their treatment, but is allocated to it.
Acupuncture in Medicine fully supports the policy on trial registration of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) in ICMJE uniform requirements, and at some time in the future will only consider reports of clinical trials if they were registered prospectively before patient recruitment.
In the interim period, AiM will also consider reports of clinical trials that have been registered retrospectively, in an accepted primary registry, before they are submitted to AiM. The registries that are acceptable are listed by ICMJE at: ICMJE and on the WHO website). Any primary registry listed on those sites is acceptable to AiM, for example .
The Editors of Acupuncture in Medicine are willing to accept reports on laboratory research only if they are satisfied that the research has been conducted ethically. The Editors urge researchers, authors and reviewers to work to ensure such standards themselves and encourage the adoption of high standards globally. These standards should be applied by Researchers when designing studies, by Authors when reporting, and by Reviewers when reviewing submitted papers.
The overriding principle is expressed as the 3Rs: Replacement, Refinement, Reduction. The documents recommended here are available on the website of National Centre for 3Rs, www.nc3rs.org.uk.
The high standards of the UK’s Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) are described in the document: Responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research, available at:
The particularly relevant sections are: Principles and procedures of the funding bodies’ (p13-14); Animal health and welfare (p18); Humane endpoints (p 20); and Staff training (p 20).
Authors who have conducted ethical laboratory research should report it according to the international ARRIVE guidelines, applied with common sense, available at:
Peer reviewers and editors will critically assess the validity, necessity and justification of the research, typically asking these questions:
The benefits of the research for human health must be clear; authors must argue the case. (“Would it matter if this result was not known?”)
The information provided by the study cannot be obtained by any other methods; authors must state why they believe this to be true.
The number of animals used must be the minimum necessary.
Pain suffering and distress (if any) must be reduced to the minimum possible: authors should describe the methods used to achieve this.
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).
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.
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