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How to write a journal article

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How to write a journal article

  1. 1. Prof. Dr. Khalid Mahmood University of the Punjab 1 HOW TO WRITE A JOURNAL ARTICLE
  2. 2.  Professor of Information Management at University of the Punjab  Post-doctoral research fellow at University of California, Loss Angeles, USA  150+ publications  Supervised many Ph.D., M.Phil. and master theses  Worked for many research journals as editor, reviewer and editorial board member  Conducted many trainings on research writing and publishing ABOUT ME 2
  3. 3. ACKNOWLEDGMENT I have prepared this presentation with the help of many books, presentations and Websites. I pay my sincere gratitude to all authors, professors and experts for their efforts and contributions. Particular thanks to Professor Barbara Gastel of Texas A&M University for allowing me to use her presentations shared on 3
  4. 4.  Journal – a channel for research communication  Preparing to write  Sources to identify a topic  Characteristics of a good topic  Doing the writing  Types of a journal article  Structure of a journal article  Order of reading and writing an article  How to write:  Title, authors, abstract, keywords, introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, references, acknowledgement  Guidelines for research writing  Ethics in writing  Revising your work  Checklist for review of an article 4 TODAY’S PRESENTATION
  5. 5. Writing up the findings of research into an article to be published in a scholarly journal is considered as “the most common method of scholarly communication” 34,000+ peer-reviewed journals in late 2014 Publishing 2.5 million articles per year Growth at 3 percent per year JOURNAL – A CHANNEL FOR RESEARCH COMMUNICATION 5
  6. 6.  Remember that you are writing to communicate, not to impress  Realize that journal editors and peer reviewers reading your work want you to do well. The purpose of their constructive criticism is to help you succeed  Select a journal for publication  Use published items as models  Read journal’s instructions to authors  Consult a style manual — for example, manuals made by:  American Medical Association  American Psychological Association  Modern Language Association  University of Chicago PREPARING TO WRITE 6
  7. 7. From advisors, students, collaborators Brainstorming with colleagues Review papers, listen to research talks Teach a course/Give a talk: forced to understand the details and think hard to prepare for tough questions Hot emerging fields that could lead to many publications or easier funding SOURCES TO IDENTIFY A TOPIC 7
  8. 8. Interesting to you Enhancement of previous research Areas of weakness in current research Current trends Not too broad or too narrow Workable Acceptable to the journal editor CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD TOPIC 8
  9. 9. Make an outline for your paper Break down the writing process into steps Schedule specific times to write Assign a due date for each step Make weekly and daily priority lists Start with whatever part you find easiest Use word processing to write more efficiently DOING THE WRITING 9
  10. 10. American Medical Association  Reports of original data  Review articles  Descriptive articles  Clinical practice guidelines and consensus statements  Articles of opinion  Other – Correspondence, book reviews, news articles, conference reports, etc. American Psychological Association  Empirical studies  Literature reviews  Theoretical articles  Methodological articles  Case studies  Other – Brief reports, comments, book reviews, etc. TYPES OF A JOURNAL ARTICLE 10
  11. 11. IMRaD Format Introduction: What was the question? Methods: How did you try to answer it? Results: What did you find? and Discussion: What does it mean? STRUCTURE OF A JOURNAL ARTICLE 11
  12. 12. 12 STRUCTURE OF A JOURNAL ARTICLE Title Authors Abstract Keywords Introduction Literature review Methods Results Discussion Conclusion References Acknowledgements Biographical sketch Appendices Complete Format
  13. 13. People read the sections of research articles in various orders You can write the sections in any order A convenient order to write: Methods Results Discussion Introduction ORDER OF READING AND WRITING AN ARTICLE 13
  14. 14. First thing which everybody reads Important in literature searching The fewest possible words that adequately indicate the contents of the paper Should not include extra words, such as “A Study of” or “Observations on” Should be specific enough Generally should not include abbreviations TITLE 14
  15. 15. Examples of Four Forms  Nominal  Relationship of interns’ working hours to medical errors  Compound  Treatment effect of dietary fiber on serum phosphorus and quality of life in hemodialysis patients with constipation: A randomized controlled trial  Full sentence  Full-face helmets provide greater protection in motorcycle accidents than other helmet designs  Question  Do full-face helmets provide greater protection in motorcycle accidents than other helmet designs? TITLE 15
  16. 16. Criteria for Authorship  Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND  Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND  Final approval of the version to be published; AND  Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors – ICMJE) AUTHORS 16
  17. 17.  Often listed from greatest contributions to least, irrespective of academic status  Order of the author should be a joint decision of the authors  A supervisor should be co-author, with the student as first author, in a paper based on thesis  Mere possession of an institutional position on its own, such as Head of the Research team, does not justify authorship  Field workers, language editors and statisticians are not co- authors  Important to list one’s name the same way on every paper  Also mention institutional affiliation of each author  Some journals also mention designation and academic degrees  Give contact detail of the corresponding author AUTHORS 17
  18. 18.  An important part of the paper  Relatively widely read  Used to decide whether to read the rest of the paper  Gives editors, reviewers, others a first impression  Briefly summarizes the paper  Usually a single paragraph  Should be organized like the paper (for example, in sort of a mini- IMRaD format)  Some journals use structured abstracts (with standardized headings)  Word limit varies from journal to journal (usually 150 – 200 words for unstructured and 250 words for structured abstracts) ABSTRACT 18
  19. 19.  3 to 10 keywords  Selected from the title and abstract  Can be selected from a standard list (e.g., Medical Subject Headings – MeSH) KEYWORDS 19
  20. 20. Purposes To provide background of the study In order to help readers understand the paper In order to help readers appreciate the importance of the research To identify the question(s) the research addressed Sometimes stated as a thesis or hypothesis INTRODUCTION 20
  21. 21. Contents Information on importance of topic Highlights of relevant previous research Identification of what is lacking in the current knowledge Approach you used to fill the gap in knowledge In some cases, the main findings INTRODUCTION 21
  22. 22. INTRODUCTION First paragraph Middle paragraphs Final paragraph Topic of paper Literature review Justification & road map 22
  23. 23.  Usually a part of ‘Introduction’ but sometimes, a separate section  Not a comprehensive review of literature; Only a few major papers  Try to use primary sources  Mostly use past tense  Arrange mostly in chronological order  Make logical connections between studies  Sometime, summary table is useful for comparing studies LITERATURE REVIEW 23
  24. 24. Purposes To allow others to replicate what you did In order to test it In order to do further research To allow others to evaluate what you did To determine whether the conclusions seem valid To determine whether the findings seem applicable to other situations METHODS 24
  25. 25. Contents  Describe the context and setting of the study  Specify the study design  Describe the ‘population’ (patients, doctors, hospitals, etc.)  Describe the sampling strategy  Describe the intervention, if applicable  Identify the main study variables  Describe data collection instruments and procedures  Outline data analysis methods METHODS 25
  26. 26. Amount of Detail to Use For well-known methods Name of method, citation of reference For methods previously described but not well known Brief description of method, citation of reference For methods that you yourself devise Relatively detailed description METHODS 26
  27. 27. Guidelines Should be written in past tense Some journals use subheads May include tables and figures — for example: Flowcharts Diagrams of apparatus Tables of experimental conditions METHODS 27
  28. 28.  The core of the paper  Report on data collection and recruitment (response rate, etc.)  Describe participants (demographic, clinical condition, etc.)  Present key findings with respect to the central research question  Present secondary findings (secondary outcomes, subgroup analyses, etc.)  Often include tables and figures  Should present results but not comment on them  Some journals, however, combine the Results and the Discussion RESULTS 28
  29. 29. Verb Tense: Past Examples: A total of 417 samples were analyzed. _____ increased, but _____ decreased. The median salary of these surgeons was _____. Three of the mixtures exploded. This difference was not statistically significant. RESULTS 29
  30. 30. Tables and Figures  How much should the information in the text overlap that in the tables and figures?  Not extensive overlap  In general, text should present only the main points from the tables and figures  Also include a few of the most important data  Detail should be clear from the table or figure  Remember to mention every table and figure in the text.  Example: Researchers who attended the workshop published twice as many papers per year (Table 3). RESULTS 30
  31. 31. Common Mistakes  Illogical sequence of data presentation  Inaccurate data  Repetition of data  Misplaced information between the methods and results sections  Inappropriate presentation of data – overuse and abuse of tables and figures  Attempts to draw conclusions – this should be covered in the discussion section RESULTS 31
  32. 32. One of the most difficult parts to write, because have more choice of what to say Often should begin with a brief summary of the main findings Should answer the question(s) stated in the introduction (or address the hypotheses stated in the introduction DISCUSSION 32
  33. 33. Possible Contents Strengths of the study  For example, superior methods, extensive data Limitations of the study Small sample size, short follow-up, incomplete data, possible sources of bias, problems with experimental procedures If the limitations seem unlikely to affect the conclusions, can explain why DISCUSSION 33
  34. 34. Possible Contents (cont…) Relationship to findings of other research — for example: Similarities to previous findings (your own and others’) Differences from previous findings Possible reasons for similarities and differences DISCUSSION 34
  35. 35. Possible Contents (cont…) Applications and implications — for example: Possible uses of the findings in policy and practice Relationship of the findings to theories or models:  Do the findings support them?  Do they refute them?  Do they suggest modifications? DISCUSSION 35
  36. 36. Possible Contents (cont…) Other research needed — for example: To address questions still unanswered To address new questions raised by the findings Sometimes, summary of findings and recommendations form a separate section as ‘Conclusion’ DISCUSSION 36
  37. 37. Common Mistakes  Repetition of data presented in the results section  Incorrect interpretation of the findings  Importance of results inadequately discussed or omitted  Conclusions not supported by findings  Irrelevant and faulty discussion points  Failure to identify any weakness  Omission of key and relevant references  Explanations are too long or verbose DISCUSSION 37
  38. 38. Purposes To give credit to others for their work To add credibility to your work by showing that you used valid information sources To help show how your work is related to previous work To help readers find further information REFERENCES 38
  39. 39. Formats Various formats exist for citation in text — for example: Accuracy of references is important (Day & Gastel, 2011). Accuracy of references is important.3 Various formats exist for items in reference lists — for example: Pineda D. 2003. Communication of science in Colombia. Sci. Ed. 26:91-92. Pineda D. Communication of science in Colombia. Sci Ed 2003;26:91-2. REFERENCES 39
  40. 40. Citation Management Software Examples: EndNote, Reference Manager, RefWorks, Zotero Allows you to keep a database of references In many cases, provides the citations and references in the proper format for your target journal REFERENCES 40
  41. 41. A place to thank people who helped with the work but did not make contributions deserving authorship Sometimes the place where sources of financial support are stated ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 41
  42. 42. “The preparation of a scientific paper has less to do with literary skill than with organization” Robert Day GUIDELINES FOR RESEARCH WRITING 42
  43. 43.  Write simply, clearly and concisely  Use common words  Follow instructions (and conventions) regarding structure  Use subheadings to guide readers  Organize information carefully at all levels  Provide overviews before details  Avoid very long paragraphs  Avoid very long sentences  Define terms that might be unfamiliar to readers  Remember to define acronyms  Avoid the use of passive voice  Write in the first person (“i,” “we”) GUIDELINES FOR RESEARCH WRITING 43
  44. 44.  Authenticity (not fabrication)  Accuracy  Providing complete data (not only those supporting your hypothesis)  Using appropriate statistical procedures  Originality (Not republishing the same findings)  Credit  Citing sources of information and ideas  Avoiding excessive use of others’ words  Observing copyright and obtaining needed permissions  Good treatment of humans and animals  Disclosure of conflicts of interest ETHICS IN WRITING 44
  45. 45. Good writing is largely a matter of good revising First revise your writing yourself. Then get feedback from others and revise more Consider having a mentor or volunteer/commercial editor for help Avoid the temptation to keep revising your writing forever REVISING YOUR WORK 45
  46. 46. 1. Does the title reflect accurately the content of the paper? 2. Are the significant words in the title near the beginning to catch a reader’s attention? 3. Does the Introduction begin with the big issue of topical/scientific interest and then narrow down to the specific topic of the paper? 4. Does the Introduction locate the study effectively within the recent international literature in the field? 5. Does the Introduction highlight a gap that the research fills, or present a need to extend knowledge in a particular area? (Does it say why the work was done?) CHECKLIST FOR REVIEW OF AN ARTICLE 46
  47. 47. 6. Does the Introduction end with a clear statement of the aim/hypothesis of the research or summarize the main activity of the paper (depending on the field and relevant journal conventions)? 7. Are the methods, including statistical analysis, appropriate for the questions addressed and the study conducted? 8. Are the methods given in enough detail to convince a reader of the credibility of the results? 9. Do the results provide answers to the questions raised in the Introduction, or fulfill the objectives given? 10. Are the results presented in a logical order (either similar to the order of presenting the aims or methods, or similar to the order in which the Discussion is presented)? CHECKLIST FOR REVIEW OF AN ARTICLE 47
  48. 48. 11. Are all the tables and figures needed to tell the story of the paper? Could any be combined or deleted? 12. Do all the tables and figures stand alone? (i.e., can readers understand them without going back to read the text of the paper?) 13. Does the Discussion begin with a reference to the original aim/ hypothesis/ question? 14. Are the results compared with other relevant findings from the literature? Are you aware of any other comparisons that could be made? Are appropriate explanations/ speculations included about reasons for observed similarities, differences, and other outcomes? 15. Are appropriate statements made about the wider significance of the results, their limitations, and/or their implications for practice and/or future research directions? 16. Does the paper end with an appropriate concluding paragraph or section that emphasizes the key message(s) and their significance to the field? CHECKLIST FOR REVIEW OF AN ARTICLE 48
  49. 49. 17.Is the list of references complete (all the works in the list are referred to in the paper, and all the works referred to in the paper are in the list)? 18.Are the reference list and in-text references formatted accurately and in the right style for the target journal? 19.Does the Abstract include all the information required by the journal, and does it highlight appropriately the key results and their significance? 20.Does the Abstract adhere to the word limit and follow the prescribed format of the target journal? 21.Are the selected keywords those that will best allow the article to be located by the full range of its prospective readers? 22.What additional comments do you have for strengthening the paper? CHECKLIST FOR REVIEW OF AN ARTICLE 49
  50. 50. Good luck for your writing career! 50