Ten tips for reviewing scientific manuscripts and 5 red flags

Ten tips for reviewing

1. Ensure that the subject is within your purview of expertise: Thus, if you are an interventional cardiologist, it would probably be best if you declined an opportunity to review a manuscript involving the pathogenesis of an arrhythmia.

2. Read the abstract first to see if what the authors are stating makes logical sense and if it is written in a way that is comprehensible: Some manuscripts involve excellent work and interesting observations, but they are so poorly written that it is difficult to understand what the author is saying. This is a relatively common problem with authors whose native language is not English. If the work reported in the manuscript looks interesting and valuable, it should be sent back for editing by a native English speaker or professional translator.

3. Determine if the observation made and reported is something new or if it reproduces previously made observations? Clearly, the more original the observation, the more likely the manuscript should be accepted for publication.

4. Examine tables and figures to see if the legends are clear and if the tables and figures demonstrate the same thing that is stated in the text. Frequently, material placed in a table does not have to be reported in detail in the results section.

5. Look to see if the statistical analysis makes sense. Are the differences reported in the statistical analysis of sufficient magnitude to be of biological or clinical significance? Sometimes, a small statistically significant difference between two or more groups of patients is so small as to be “biologically insignificant.”

6. Examine the methods to make sure the authors knew what they were doing. If their laboratory analyses were just run on a commercial kit without input from someone in the hospital or medical school laboratory, these results may be of lower quality and higher variability. Make sure the study is based on a sufficient number of patients or measurements. Ask a biostatistician to review the manuscript if there is any question of the reliability of the analyses performed.

7. Read the discussion and see if it makes sense and if it reflects what the data in the article reports. Look for unnecessary conjecture or unfounded conclusions that are not based on the evidence presented.

8. Note whether the manuscript is concise and well organized. Most of the ones I receive could be shortened with improvement.

9. Note whether the quality of the figures or photos is adequate for accurate reproduction. If not,  ask the journal staff (for example, the managing editor) what is required. Then, as part of your review, you can recommend that the authors have an expert at their institution reformat the figures to meet the specified requirements.

10. Please take this job seriously. It is a professional honor to be invited to review a scientific manuscript; the journal’s reputation depends in part on this peer review process.

5 reasons to pause

Stop and contact the journal’s editorial staff if you can answer “yes” to any of these questions:

1. Has the author neglected to follow the instructions that are part of your journal’s submission criteria?

2. Are there potential conflicts of interest either declared or not declared but known by the reviewer? If the review is not blinded, i.e., you know who the authors are, do they have a “track record” of working in this area, and are they from a reputable institution?

3. Was there appropriate informed consent (human experiments) with documentation that a human or animal protection committee reviewed the protocol prior to the initiation of the study?

4. Is the manuscript full of typographical errors or mistakes in references, implying a sloppy job of putting it together?

5. Is there a chance that there is scientific fraud or plagiarism involved in this manuscript?  Subjectively, do you believe what the authors are telling you or do you suspect some consistent error in the hypothesis, methods, analysis of data, etc?

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Posted in Editing, Impact Factor, Journal article, Journal Selection, Review article, Scientific editing, Scientific writing

Ten things you need to know about the publishing process

1. Getting a paper published is a collaboration

If there is one point that I’d most like you take away from this talk, it’s that the process of getting a paper published is a collaboration among authors, reviewers and editors. Authors are sending them the final product of their hard work. Editors are trying to select and improve upon the best of the papers that come to them. And reviewers are upholding the standards in the field and making valuable suggestions to improve the paper they are reviewing. Throughout my talk, I will point out how interactions between these three parties come into play.

2. Tell a story

Set up the question you are trying to address and tell why it’s interesting and important. Remember that your introduction is not an annual review article. Instead, focus on telling the reader the basics that they need to know so they can understand and appreciate the story you are about to tell. Remember that the chronology of the experiments is not important. Keep the logic of the experiments and the story front and center. Editors take great care to select the very best work for their journals. For this reason, they will often recruit papers in addition to the volume they receive every day to have as large a pool as possible from which to select. Therefore your paper has to stand out.

3. Sell your story

Your paper has to sell your work. Before submitting your paper, recruit colleagues outside of your area to review it, and ask for an honest appraisal. Is the flow of logic clear? Is all the jargon defined? Do the experiments support the conclusions? If English is your second language, ask a native English speaker to check for grammar and clarity of meaning. Pre-submission inquiries are a good idea if you want to gauge the level of enthusiasm for the work at different journals.

4. Avoid overloading

Authors try to impress editors and reviewers by packing the paper with all the experiments that were done in the main part of the paper as well as the supplementary information. Sometimes more is not better. In fact, with too many side stories, the major points can get lost. Again, think about the story you are trying to tell and whether the piece of data you are including is absolutely necessary to support that story. Sometimes reviewers will ask for additional experiments whether those experiments are necessary to make this story stronger or whether those experiments are best left for a follow-up paper.

5. Keep it simple

No reviewer has ever complained, “This paper was too simple to read,” but many have commented on how often papers are difficult to read. Authors worry that their paper will be seen as too simplistic if it is presented simply. Science is difficult enough – you don’t need the language to be complicated to make the research meaningful. Use words you would typically use when describing something. Avoid unnecessary jargon and buzzwords. Your paper needs to get past the editors to be sent out for review. If they can’t understand it, it won’t make the cut.

6. Don’t obsess about Impact Factor

Blockbuster papers may increase the Journal Impact Factor, but a growing number of methods are being used to measure the impact of research papers that take into account metrics such as downloads, views and share metrics.

7. Spend time crafting your cover letter

This is the attention getting “elevator pitch” that will help sell your research to the editor. Summarize how your work builds upon what’s been done before and how it advances work in the field. Be precise. Be honest. Let them know what the work does not do. Tell them about competition. Make reviewer suggestions and exclusions here. If your paper has been reviewed at another Cell Press journal, you can let them know so that we can use those reviewers’ comments. You can also decide to start the review process afresh.

8. What happens once your paper is received?

At Cell Reports every paper is read by one of their four science editors, who writes an assessment about whether it merits consideration for review. This assessment is then shared and discussed with the other scientific editors, and a consensus is reached about whether or not the paper is a strong candidate for formal review, or if a consult would be helpful. Cell Reports receives over 100 submissions per month. Since Cell Reports is so broad, they sometimes consult their editorial board, the in-house editors at other Cell Press journals, or other scientists about whether a paper is a strong candidate for Cell Reports. About half the papers received are sent out for review, and they typically publish about 25-30 papers a month.

9. Who are the reviewers, and what do they do?

Reviewers are researchers from academia and industry who have authored similar papers on related topics. Review periods are typically between 10 to 15 business days, during which the reviewers look carefully at each paper, commenting on the experimental design, how well the experiments support the conclusions, whether further experiments are needed, and the level of scientific advance the work represents. They ask reviewers to identify potential conflicts of interest before they receive the paper to review, based on the title and abstract.

10.  What goes into the decision letter?

The editors spend time carefully reading the reviewers’ comments and deciding whether the authors should be invited to submit a revision or not. This is not a matter of simply counting up votes. Instead, they come back together as a group to discuss decisions. When the reviewers’ comments vary widely, they go back to the reviewers and ask them to assess each other’s comments anonymously to help them better gauge the level of importance of certain experiments or reservations they may have. Then they write a clear letter to the authors to explain which experiments or text changes need to be made in the revision. Alternatively, if the decision is negative, they hope that the reviewers’ comments prove useful to them in revising the paper for publication elsewhere. Even when the outcome is not positive, it is their hope that the author finds the process fast, fair and useful.

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Posted in Impact Factor, Journal article, Journal Selection, Review article, Scientific editing, Scientific writing

8 reasons why journal accepts your article

It’s the responsibility of every editor-in-chief to maintain and develop their journal’s profile and reputation. The editor also has the final responsibility for content, ensuring that it meets the aims and scope of the journal and reflects changes in the field by presenting new and emerging research.

1. It provides insight into an important issue – for example, by explaining a wide variance when numbers are spread out from the mean or expected value, or by shedding light on an unsolved problem that affects a lot of people.

2. The insight is useful to people who make decisions – particularly long-term organizational decisions or, in a particular field, family decisions.

3. The insight is used to develop a framework or theory – either a new theory or advancing an existing one.

4. The insight stimulates new, important questions.

5. The methods used to explore the issue are appropriate (for example, data collection and analysis of data).

6. The methods used are applied rigorously and explain why and how the data support the conclusions.

7. Connections to prior work in the field or from other fields are made and serve to make the article’s arguments clear.

8. The article tells a good story – meaning it is well written and easy to understand, the arguments are logical and not internally contradictory.

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Posted in Case report, Journal article, Journal Selection, Scientific editing, Writing

Eight reasons why journal rejects your article

When a manuscript is submitted to a high-quality scholarly journal, it goes through intense scrutiny  — even before it’s seen by the editor-in-chief and selected for peer review. A journal editor reveals the top reasons so many manuscripts don’t make it to the peer review process.

1. It fails the technical screening

Before they even go to the editor-in-chief, articles are checked for technical elements. The main reasons they are rejected are:

  • The article contains elements that are suspected to be plagiarized, or it is currently under review at another journal. (Republishing articles or parts of articles, submitting to one or more journals at the same time or using text or images without permission is not allowed.)
  • The manuscript is not complete; it may be lacking key elements such as the title, authors, affiliations, keywords, main text, references and all tables and figures.
  • The English is not sufficient for the peer review process.
  • The figures are not complete or are not clear enough to read.
  • The article does not conform to the Guide for Authors for the journal it is submitted to.
  • References are incomplete or very old.

2.  It does not fall within the Aims and Scope

  • For the journal Carbon, the material studied may contain carbon, but is not carbon.
  • The study uses a carbon material but the focus is on something different.
  • There is no new carbon science.

3.  It’s incomplete

  • The article contains observations but is not a full study.
  • It discusses findings in relation to some of the work in the field but ignores other important work.

4.  The procedures and/or analysis of the data is seen to be defective

  • The study lacked clear control groups or other comparison metrics.
  • The study did not conform to recognized procedures or methodology that can be repeated.
  • The analysis is not statistically valid or does not follow the norms of the field.

5.  The conclusions cannot be justified on the basis of the rest of the paper

  • The arguments are illogical, unstructured or invalid.
  • The data does not support the conclusions.
  • The conclusions ignore large portions of the literature.

6.  It’s is simply a small extension of a different paper, often from the same authors

  • Findings are incremental and do not advance the field.
  • The work is clearly part of a larger study, chopped up to make as many articles as possible.

7.  It’s incomprehensible

  • The language, structure, or figures are so poor that the merit can’t be assessed.

8.  It’s boring

  • It is archival, incremental or of marginal interest to the field (see point 6).
  • The question behind the work is not of interest in the field.
  • The work is not of interest to the readers of the specific journals.

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Posted in Impact Factor, Journal article, Journal Selection, Scientific editing, Scientific writing

How to write a case report?

Research has become an integral part of medical careers. A case report is a way of communicating information to the medical world
about a rare or unreported feature, condition, complication, or intervention by publishing it in a medical journal.

When to start?

Be on the look out for a case report from the start of your basic surgical or medical training. This will introduce you to the research
world, and if your report is published it will be an asset to your CV. Any kind of research entails a lot of hard work and persistence.
Your thought processes should be geared towards research in your postgraduate career, and you should use every opportunity you get for writing a report. So if you come across something unusual, discuss it with a consultant, particularly one who is keen on research. Many consultants have huge amounts of material in the top drawers of their desks, waiting to be published. All they want is an enthusiastic medic who will help share their load in writing and getting it published. They are usually helpful if you ask them about this.

How to start?

A senior doctor’s help is a must from the beginning. He or she may know from their experience what cases are suitable for publication. Do an extensive literature search—PubMed, Medline, Ovid, Embase, and even search engines like Google will give you a vast amount of information related to the condition or feature you are after. Narrow down the search to your actual topic. If this comes up with very few search results, it means (assuming your search method is correct) that the case is rare and the report is therefore more likely to be published.

Your hospital library staff can help (especially in the beginning) by doing your searches for you and then getting relevant literature from other sources, if necessary. So don’t be afraid to ask them. It is always useful to read in a standard textbook or appropriate journal everything about the topic that your case report relates to. Note down or photocopy important references at the end of the chapter or article and follow them up.

Obtaining consent from the patient is not only good medical practice but also mandatory for some journals, such as the BMJ (which has its own consent form on bmj.com). If there is no standard form, make up your own. It is useful to have the patient’s contact details on the form just in case you want to trace him or her later. It is also polite to ask permission from the doctor in charge of the patient’s management.

How to collect information related to the case?

After you have done the groundwork, collect all the material for the case report. Use the patient’s notes to record the details of all the
events in the patient’s care—that is, history, examination findings, results of investigations with dates, and operative findings, if any,
together with the details of the actual intervention and follow ups. Get copies—do not take the originals (they are the patient’s only
records for future reference). You are allowed to have copies only of radiographs, slides, photographs, and so on, but in this electronic
age it is better to use a digital camera for your personal copies of radiographs and clinical photographs. This avoids many potential
problems and saves a lot of time. Make sure you return the notes and radiographs to their original source. You should also visit the patient again and make sure you have got the facts right.

Which journal to choose?

Again, the advice of your supervising consultant is useful. Select a journal that you think would be the most appropriate for your case
report. For example, unusual injury presentations are more likely to be accepted in the journals such as Trauma rather than more mainstream, general interest journal. The BMJ does not publish case reports, only Lesson of the Week. In other words, be sensible in
choosing the journal. Download or copy the information for authors for that particular journal and keep the hard copy safely in a folder with all the other information about the case. It is also useful to have a copy of any case report from a previous issue of the journal to get an idea of the presentation. It is extremely important to understand the basic format required by the journal. Your case report may be rejected because it does not conform to the standard format, no matter how good the content is. Margins, spacing, figure numbering, and style of references (Vancouver, Harvard, and so on), all are important aspects.

How many colleagues should be included?

The honest answer is not many: the supervising consultant and maybe one or two other colleagues, depending on how sincere and
helpful they have been in collecting information or literature. You or your consultant (discuss with him or her) must be the first author. Do not ever give photographs or any other material related to your case report to anyone who you think might misplace them.

How do I write it?

It is best to write everything in one stretch. Piecemeal writing consumes time because you have to go over everything repeatedly. The
following format is the most common way of writing a case report.

Introduction

Describe your case report in one sentence. Also mention how rare it is.

Case report

You have to summarize the information that you have gathered: a brief history and important and relevant positive and negative findings with details of investigations, treatment, and the condition of the patient after treatment. Don’t include unnecessary details.
Remember, this part should read like an interesting story, which your reader should enjoy.

One common form of presentation is to divide it into separate paragraphs with history, examination, investigation, treatment, and
outcome in separate paragraphs—a textbook style of presentation without the headings.

Discussion

Remember that the probability of getting any research work published in a reputable journal is determined primarily by how well
your arguments are presented scientifically that is, how your report is supported or discussed. The first paragraph may explain
the objective of reporting the case.

You must subsequently describe what others have written before about the condition or any related feature. Be generous in quoting
the literature but don’t go into unnecessary details.

The third and most important stage in the discussion is to substantiate the message you are trying to convey. Your reviewers want proof of the rarity of the condition and the scientific explanations for it. If you don’t do this, they are likely to reject your report immediately. So you must be able to describe the cause of the condition or why a particular procedure or feature was chosen. How did it influence the outcome? How does it differ from usual and what are your recommendations? Are there any lessons to be learnt? All (or at least, most) of these questions need to be answered in the discussion.

Box 1: Stages in writing a case report

● Finding a rare case
● Literature search
● Collecting information related to the case, including consent
● Summarizing and writing
● Revising and editing

Box 2: Format for writing a case report

  • Introduction
  • Case report—the real story History
    Clinical features
    Investigations
    Treatment and outcome
    Progress
  • Discussion—review of
    literature
    Arguments
    Message
    Recommendations, if any
  • References

Conclusion

This is not always necessary in a case report but if it is, summarize your message in a few sentences.

References

The reference section is boring and time consuming but extremely important. Keep to the style (Vancouver, Harvard, etc) that your journal requires. The references should be in the form of numbers as you go along (usually 1, 2, 3, etc, as superscripts or in brackets in the order of appearance, as required by your journal). It is useful to put the same number on your hard copy of the reference.

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Posted in Editing, Formatting, Journal Selection, Manuscript format, Scientific editing

Problems and concerns commonly cited by reviewers

There is a list of the most common reasons cited by reviewers for an application’s lack of success:

  • Lack of significance to the scientific issue being addressed.
  • Lack of original or new ideas.
  • Proposal of an unrealistically large amount of work (i.e., an overambitious research plan).
  • Scientific rationale not valid.
  • Project too diffuse or superficial or lacks focus.
  • Proposed project a fishing expedition lacking solid scientific basis (i.e., no basic scientific question being addressed).

  • Studies based on a shaky hypothesis or on shaky data, or alternative hypotheses not considered.
  • Proposed experiments simply descriptive and do not test a specific hypothesis.
  • The proposal is technology driven rather than hypothesis driven (i.e., a method in search of a problem).
  • Rationale for experiments not provided (why important, or how relevant to the hypothesis).
  • Direction or sense of priority not clearly defined, i.e., the experiments do not follow from one another, and lack a clear starting or finishing point.
  • Lack of alternative methodological approaches in case the primary approach does not work out.
  • Insufficient methodological detail to convince reviewers the investigator knows what he or she is doing (no recognition of potential problems and pitfalls).
  • Most experiments depend on success of an initial proposed experiment (so all remaining experiments may be worthless if the first is not successful).
  • The proposed model system is not appropriate to address the proposed questions (i.e., proposing to study T-cell gene expression in a B-cell line).
  • The proposed experiments do not include all relevant controls.
  • Proposal innovative but lacking enough preliminary data.
  • Preliminary data do not support the feasibility of the project or the hypothesis.
  • Investigator does not have experience (i.e., publications or appropriate preliminary data) with the proposed techniques or has not recruited a collaborator who does.
  • The proposal lacks critical literature references causing reviewers to think that the applicant either does not know the literature or has purposely neglected critical published material.
  • Not clear which data were obtained by the investigator and which have been reported by others.

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Posted in Editing, Scientific editing

How to choose the right journal for your manuscript?

Choosing the right journal for a manuscript can be a challenging exercise, and many factors are likely to influence the final decision. Factors involved include the visibility of the journal, the focus of the journal and how well it matches the topic of the manuscript, the impact factor of the journal, the timeliness of the editorial office process and whether feedback is constructive, journal accessibility, author costs, and the governance of the journal. Among these, the impact factor plays a particularly significant role in choosing a journal, and yet it is also one of the more controversial areas in terms of the way it is utilized. Having a set of guidelines to assess which journals will suit your manuscript best is invaluable and may make a significant difference to your publication success.It is important to be clear about what is motivating the decision to publish and to have a set of criteria by which the merits of a journal can be assessed, thus maximizing the chance that the author’s expectations will be met. Finally, a system or checklist to actually help choose the best journal for one’s manuscript can be invaluable.

Positive features of a good journal

The factors that contribute to a journal being successful and being valued are many and varied, and there is also a complex interplay between authors, editorial office, publisher, sponsoring organizations, and citation rates and, if working positively, will create a perpetual cycle that enhances the reputation of the journal (Figure 1).

HTPIARJ

Figure 1. Interactions that influence a successful publication and can create a perpetual cycling.

Recognition Factor

If a journal is well known and readily recognized by one’s peer group or target audience, then the published material is likely to be seen, read, and acted on by the same groups. What characterizes such a journal? It is usually highly valued by the author’s peers and mentors (and so is mentioned in conversation and at scientific presentations), and it is usually readily accessible. There will often be a
built-in readership, such as the members of a sponsoring Society. It will need to be listed in Medline and in other search engines and be present in libraries and on institutional electronic access systems. Not infrequently, such journals will have access to good public relations services, and so the published data will often be visible in the popular press. There are probably other elements that provide populist appeal but are hard to define and may reflect the mix of publications and the general ethos and philosophy of the journal in question.

Citation and Impact Factor

Citations and impact factor play a major role in how journals are perceived by authors and by external agencies such as granting bodies and universities. The impact factor was devised by Eugene Garfield, the founder of the Institute for Scientific Information, now part of Thomson Scientific, a large, worldwide, US-based publisher. Impact factors are calculated  each year by the Institute for Scientific Information for the journals it indexes, and the factors and indexes are published in Journal Citation Reports. The validity of the impact factor is controversial because many extraneous factors that are not necessarily directly linked to the quality of the publications of a journal can influence the rating achieved. Nevertheless, it remains the default method for assessing the publishing success of a journal. The impact factor is calculated by dividing the number of citations to publications in the previous 2 years by the number of articles published. The impact factor reflects the citation rate of the average article in a journal and not a specific article. Published critical appraisal of the impact factor is limited. There appears to be a weak relationship between the impact factor of a journal and the subsequent citation rate of a given article. In recent times, many new journals have had an increase in their impact factor, while many journals with long standing reputations have not, and in some cases their impact factor has fallen. Journals with an increasing impact factor cite active recruitment of better articles from researchers, offering better author services, boosting the journals media profile, and more careful article selection. Editors frequently report mixed feelings about using the impact factor to evaluate journals. There is limited information on how scientific information is distributed among journals. Only a few journals out of many have contributed significantly to a specific topic or area, and not surprisingly these are mainly journals that are topic based rather than being general. Recent citation analyses in the sciences have revealed that 150 journals account for 25% of publications and 50% of citations, while 2,000 journals account for 85% of publications and 95% of citations However the core group of significant journals is not static, and its composition is changing constantly. There is a proliferation of new journals and the Institute for Scientific  Information reviews 2,000 new journal titles annually but selects only 10 to 12%  or longer-term impact factor evaluation. Other methods of assessing journals and their publications exist, such as overall citation rate, citation half-life, and immediacy factor, but these have not gained much traction as yet. Within any one journal, the percentage of articles being cited can vary. One study has reported that approximately 17% of articles accrued 50% of the total citations for the journals studied. These authors have also argued strongly for quoting the non-citation rate of a journal because it is independent of the total number of citations. Despite diversity of opinion on the merits of the impact factor, it remains an important variable in choosing the journal in which to publish. Furthermore, it is sensible to try to assess which journals are on the ascent with respect to impact factor and which are not.

 Checklist for choosing a suitable journal for your research work

  • Will the journal meet the author’s aspirations in terms of publishing his or her work?
  • Is the impact factor and the prestige factor of the journal sufficient for the authors?
  • Is the focus of the journal similar to the main theme of the manuscript?
  • Is the review process supportive, both in terms of timeliness and in providing constructive and useful criticism?
  • Is their some rapport with the journal staff?
  • Is there a desire to support the organization that sponsors the journal?
  • Is cost or rapidity of publication an issue?

Publishing and Distribution Factors

In the final analysis, how a manuscript is presented by the journal will have a significant impact on readership, and therefore the quality of the layout, the typeface and paper quality, and the way figures and tables are handled are important. Communication between the authors and the publisher with respect to galley proofs is important, as well as whether free print or portable document format (PDF) copies are available, or if there is the freedom to post articles on one’s own Web site. As with the editorial office process, timeliness in publishing is important, with the increasing use of electronic prepublication being fundamental in ensuring that readers have timely access to an accepted manuscript. How readily available the journal is will influence its visibility and accessibility; journals should be available in print format and electronically, in libraries, and in prepublication systems. Copyrighting and grant body demands are an area of some conflict, but this is slowly being resolved. Some journals are more active than others in dealing with this.

Principles and advice for choosing the most appropriate journal

  1. Is the manuscript basic science or clinical, and is it of a general nature or very specific?
  2. Aim for the highest possible journal in terms of visibility and quality
  3. Balance the use of top-quality journals with the need for rapid publication in possibly lesser journals
  4. Read instructions to authors and ensure they meet your requirements
  5. Look at recent issues of the journal and make sure you understand journal style
  6. Consult your peers and mentors for advice
  7. Be cautious about new journals; will they survive?

Governance and Funding of the Journal

This can subtly influence submission decision making. Will the manuscript be treated in a fair and equitable manner? The stature of the editorial board may provide some reassurance as to the standard of the journal both in terms of governance and journal stature. The processes in place for managing publishing ethics may influence some authors and certainly can reflect on the overall way the journal is managed. How the editor is appointed and who monitors the editor’s performance are other less visible factors that sometimes can become an issue. For journals that are new or not well known, the financial security of the journal may be important in terms of its longevity, and those journals supported by organizations with a strong financial support base are more likely to survive long term.

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Posted in Formatting, Impact Factor, Journal Selection, Manuscript format

What is Impact Factor?

The impact factor was devised by ‘Eugene Garfield’, the founder of the ‘Institute for Scientific Information’ (ISI), now part of ‘Thomson Reuters’. Impact factors are calculated yearly for those journals that are indexed in ‘Thomson Reuters’ ‘Journal Citation Reports’ (JCR). JCR provides quantitative tools for evaluating, categorizing and comparing journals. The impact factor (IF) is a measure of average number of citations to the articles published in science and social science journals. It is a measure of the frequency with which the average article in a journal has been cited in a given period of time. The annual JCR impact factor is a ratio between citations and recent citable items published. The impact factor for a journal is calculated based on a three-year period and can be considered to be the average number of times published papers are cited up to two years after publication. In general high impact factor journals are recognized as the most influential as compared to the other journals published in the same field. The IF is used to compare different journals within a certain field. The ‘Institute for Scientific Information’ indexes more than 11,000 science and social science journals.

A) Calculation of yearly impact factor based on three year period.
X=Total cites in 2012
Y= 2012 cites to articles published in 1907-11 (This is subset of X)
Z= Number of articles published in 1907-11
IF=Y/Z=2012 impact factor

Actual Calculation of impact factor in 2013
Cites in 2012 to articles published in:
2011 = 586
2010 = 596
Total = 1182

Number of articles published in:
2011 = 125
2010 = 122
Total = 247
Impact factor = cites to recent articles/number of recent articles = 1182/247=4.78

B) Calculation of five year impact factor
X= Citations in 2012 over the 2007-2011
Y= Articles published over the years 2007-2011
Z= X/Y = Five year impact factor

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Scientific writing for a target journal

It is beneficial to decide on a target journal during the very early stages of writing an article, rather than first preparing an article and then considering where to send it. Analyze potential journals and choose one. Write your article with your target journal in mind. This is useful because different journals have different perceptions of science as well as differing opinions on how articles ought to be written. By writing directly for your target journal, you will ensure the right type of approach and speed up your writing process. If you wish to be even wiser, you may also choose a secondary target journal for the case that your primary option fails.

The number of scientific journals is vast and is growing steadily, which means that there are plenty of publishing opportunities. The fundamental reason behind the growing number of journals is the increasing number of researchers globally. Quite often you can hear researchers complaining that there are no scientific journals for their specific narrow research field. Most often this is not true. Journals exist for wide and varying topical fields. Should you find it difficult to find a suitable one, try considering potential applications for your results. Consequently, think who might benefit of your results and how. It may also be possible to publish your results in an applied journal instead of what you initially thought as your own field.

Noteworthy is that different publication mediums are valued differently within the scientific community. Also, universities are ranked based on the number and level of publications. Journal articles are commonly recognized above conference papers, even if many of the conference publications use peer review practices. It is recommended that a researcher, even at early stages, should start the learning process of writing for journals. Once experience is gained, one should raise his ambition level step-by-step and aim towards publishing in increasingly better journals. The impact factor is one way to measure the level of journals. Note that this is not an absolute measure and there are differences among different fields of science. A researcher should see conferences as an additional medium for networking and as an avenue to obtain more face-to-face feedback. However, the ultimate goal should be eventually publishing the work in a journal. A researcher should consider his ambition level and assess the level of his own research when choosing the publication medium.

When selecting your target journal it is beneficial to conduct an analysis of the purpose and mission of the journal, and examine what type of articles they typically publish. Pay special attention on the topics, the structure and the research methods. Conduct a deeper analysis on about five recent articles in the target journal. If the journal does not seem suitable, choose another one and conduct a similar analysis. Browse through the editorial board and previous authors and pay attention to their nationalities. For a European author, it may be beneficial if some of the authors and editorial board members are European. As an example, a pure US board may in some cases prefer American authors

Especially a starting researcher, or a PhD student, ought to pay attention to the journal’s turnaround time. Turnaround time means the time from submission to receiving feedback from reviewers. The shorter the turnaround time, the quicker the learning process is for the author. Slow turnaround, in the worst case, may postpone obtaining one’s doctoral degree, which typically depends on the “accepted status” of the articles constituting a compilation dissertation.

One can find out the turnaround time by:

  • checking articles published in the journal. Some journals print the essential dates of the articles, enabling interpreting the turnaround.
  • checking the web pages of journals.
  • sending a polite e-mail to the editor-in-chief.

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Posted in Medical Writing, Scientific writing, Writing

How to Write a Critical Analysis Paper?

Critical writing is not just about acquiring data, memorizing facts, or reiterating what someone else thinks, but is a learned skill that involves active participation by the individual to understand the topic well enough to write a balanced and well communicated paper.

In order to write a critical analysis paper, you should learn two things: (1) how to think critically and (2) how to read critically. Critical thinking is defined as the “intellectually disciplined process of actively analyzing and evaluating information gathered from experience, observation, or communication as a guide to belief and action”. This means gathering available information regarding a topic, interpreting the relevancy of the sources, and processing the information into an intelligent way of thinking about it. The ability to think critically is a skill that is required for everyone, because problem solving is needed throughout life. Essays and papers that you will write during your academic career will require you to perform the task of first thinking critically about a specific topic before you begin to write about it. For example, under the heading of biomedical research there are several subtopics that you can explore. You may write about a family member or friend who has been helped because of a particular scientific discovery, or the laws and regulations regarding animal research or recent medical advances that seem intriguing to you. As you start your research, another entirely different idea may present itself to you.

critical writing depends on critical reading.” In other words, there is a certain way to process information you read in order to complete an essay or paper. When you begin to research a particular topic, you should skim through sources the first time around to get a feeling for the overall content. Then go back and reread the article, several times, to pick out details relevant to your subject matter. The key point is not to read for just information, but to look for unique ways of thinking in regard to your topic. Remember, you are not writing a book report. Instead, you are evaluating the information and making sure it accounts for the conclusions it
contains. Afterwards, you are required to make your own judgments and create your own arguments based on the information that you have read.

Research your topic by going to the library and using a variety of sources. Do not rely solely on the Internet for your references. In addition, only use Internet sources that are reputable. As you critically read each article, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why am I writing this down?
  • What is especially interesting about this particular information?
  • Can I see any relationship between this information and what I have already written down and learned?

The last question is especially important because writing an essay should enable you to delve deeply into a topic and develop a scholarly aptitude about it. It is best to take short notes on note cards because then you can make certain that you are not copying down entire sentences from your sources and that it is your ideas that you are conveying, not a plagiarized copy of what you have read. Next, sort these cards out according to the ideas on them and begin the first draft of your paper. Your first draft should be written on a pad of paper and not with the computer. In these days of the Internet, you may be tempted to copy and paste all kinds of sentences from various sources into a document and call it your own. Unfortunately this is not only unethical, but it is preventing any kind of critical thought process from happening and will hinder the proper development of your topic. Besides, your readers will recognize this. You must be able to understand the concepts that you are discussing and realize that there are several ways an issue can be viewed in regards to the subject that you are writing about. If you only present a portion of the story it will not create an effective argument for your conclusions.

The flow of your entire paper or essay is important. Your introductory paragraph should set the stage for what follows. Use a catchy first line to grab the reader’s attention and keep the reader in mind as you continue to write so you don’t lose them with unnecessary details or missing information that they might need in order to understand your position on the topic you have chosen. Each
paragraph should contain a specific point of your argument and should transition to the next point. Every paragraph should follow this particular pattern:

  • The topic sentence should come at or near the beginning.
  • The succeeding sentences should explain, establish or develop the statement made in the topic sentence.
  • The final sentence should either emphasize the thought of the topic sentence or state some important consequence

An important part of any writing assignment is the editing process. Once you have your initial draft on paper, then if it is not legible to someone else, you should type your paper on the computer before you edit it. Never rely on spell check alone because it will not catch homonyms like “whether” and “weather”, “to”, “two” and “too”, and sentences in general that don’t combine into an intelligent argument and paragraphs that don’t flow well. You also should have at least two other people proofread your paper for grammatical errors. Be sure to include someone that has no expertise in the area that your topic is covering. Editing is an integral part in the
writing process and usually, due to poor planning, a step that many people tend to skip. Avoid this mistake because the reader will not take your arguments seriously if you use improper words throughout the body of your paper. How your paper reads is as important as what your paper says.

To properly finish your paper you must create a bibliography in order to:

  • Give credit to all authors and sources that you have used in your research.
  • Provide information in case someone would like to delve further into your topic.

All bibliographies should be double-spaced and arranged alphabetically by author, or if no author is disclosed, by title.

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Posted in Medical Writing, Scientific writing, Writing
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