Writing for Publication

Original Editor - Amanda Ager Top Contributors - Amanda Ager
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Introduction

Publication in peer-reviewed journals is the way to introduce new information that has clinical implications. However, clinicians may be reluctant to embark on the publication process because of lack of confidence or uncertainty about the process[1].  Successful production of a written product for submission to a peer‐reviewed scientific journal requires substantial effort[2] and the process of writing and securing journal acceptance of manuscripts should proceed along a well-defined pathway integrating all research and writing tasks[3]. This page aims to assist and encourage new researchers to get involved in publishing research.

The publication of a scientific manuscript is intended to communicate new information to a willing audience. Most scientific manuscripts are published in peer-reviewed journals, which are journals that incorporate a process by which an author's peers (recognized researchers or expert clinicians in the content area) evaluate a manuscript and recommend its publication, revision, or rejection. Peer-reviewed journals are the primary source of new information that impacts clinical decision-making and practice[1]

A publication should provide value through 1 of 4 possible mechanisms[1]:

  1. contribution - novel information that has the opportunity to change practice
  2. corroboration of information - lends support to earlier research findings
  3. contradiction of the literature - often a corroboration study that fails to find similar results
  4. critical review of the literature - evaluate the quality of published information and synthesize in a usable format

Find the right journal

The first step is finding the right journal for your paper. You may already know which journal you would like to publish in but if not some publishers will help you to match your paper with a suitable journal.

These tips form Elsevier will help you to selct the right journal:

  1. Learn about the aims and scope of the journal by visiting the journal homepage.
  2. Read the Guide for Authors which will help you understand the type of articles accepted. It also includes editorial team contact information, graphics specification, acceptable language and article length.
  3. Look at journal performance.
  4. Find out if the journal is invitation-only as some journals will only accept invited articles.
  5. Check to see if you want or need to publish your article as Open Access. Many journals now have Open Access options which can be found on their homepage and in the journal's Guide for Authors.  Learn more about Open Access options.
  6. Submit to only one journal at a time.

The Impact Factor

When you are looking at choosing the right journal for your article, one of the factors you should consider is the  Impact Factor (IF), or Journal Impact Factor (JIF). Although, please keep in mind that this should not be your only factor to consider when deciding the publishing path of your article. You have spend time and resources crafting your article, care should be taken when choosing the journal to publish your work.

What is the impact factor?

The impact factor (IF) is a measure of the frequency with which the average article in a journal has been cited in a particular year. It is used to measure the importance or rank of a journal by calculating the times it's articles are cited.[4]

How is it calculated?

The impact factor is based on a two-year period and looks at the number of times the article was cited, by the number of articles that are citable.

For example:

Calculation of 2010 IF of a journal: A = the number of times articles published in 2008 and 2009 were cited by indexed journals during 2010. B = the total number of "citable items" published in 2008 and 2009. A/B = 2010 impact factor[4]

Resources for your to consider:

For the Impact Factors for open-access journals, click here.

For the Impact Factors for rehabilitation related journals, click here.

Link to common rehabilitation journals:

Videos:

What is an impact factor with John Bond:

How to find the impact factor of a journal:

Prepare your paper

Each journal has its own aims & scope as well as requirements for publication so it is important you select a journal and download the Guide for Authors for that journal to prepare your paper.  Ensure that the format adheres to your target journal's submission requirements by following the author guidelines.  These can be found on the journal website, for example Manual Therapy and Physiotherapy.

Most scientific journals have adopted the IMRaD (introduction, methods, results, and discussion) format for the body of the manuscript. 

Self review

  1. It is important to review grammar, tense, and spelling prior to submission.  Ask a colleague to proof read for you.
  2. Use standardised checklists such as CONSORT, QUOROM, STARD, etc.  These checklists are designed to improve standards of scientific reporting. 

Submission process

  1. Submission is electronic and typically first the editor or deputy editor reviews for suitability, adherence to journal format, and quality of writing.
  2. If deemed suitable, the article is then sent out for blinded review by two reviewers with expertise in that area. Review typically takes 6–8 weeks, and all communication is via the editor.
  3. A decision is made then to either accept, accept with amendments to be made, reject but with advice to resubmit, or reject outright. In any re-submissions, the review teams' comments should be diligently addressed, either making the recommended changes or justifying why they have not been adopted. Common reasons for rejection of articles are given.
  4. Authors should (if requested) outline responses to each area identified by the reviewers and editor. It is appropriate to copy and paste reviewers' comments and then go through each one giving your responses and amendments, as you make changes to the manuscript.

Tips for Publication

These tips have been written by experienced researchers and journal editors[1]. Following these tips should improve the outcome of the submission:

  1. The title and topic of the manuscript need to be relevant to manual therapy and representative of the content of the study/manuscript.
  2. Single case design studies should be used only for rare or unusual cases, or for new techniques for uncommon diagnoses. If the condition is common, the authors should perform a clinical trial.
  3. For clinical trials, make sure to register the trial. Trial registration is a requirement of the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals.
  4. Select a good idea, one that concerns a gap in the literature. Pick a topic to investigate that can impact manual therapy clinical practice. Make sure the study aim is clear and the design is suitable to answer the question.
  5. The abstract is a critical part of the submitted material and should meet the requirements for word count and structure. If it includes a population of subjects, it is helpful to indicate if the subjects were symptomatic or asymptomatic, plus the gender and the age range of the population. It should accurately summarize information and contain the primary findings of the manuscript, including whether statistically significant results were obtained. The abstract is crucial; do not create it as an afterthought.
  6. Authors need to point out in the introduction/background what is new and original about their study. It should be brief, be relevant to the purpose(s) of the study, and include a clear statement of the purpose(s) of the study.
  7. Follow the format of the journal for all sections of the manuscript, including word count, numbering of references, and numbering and quantity of tables and figures. Be sure to have the manuscript proofread by someone fluent in the English language.
  8. Follow dedicated guidelines (e.g., CONSORT, QUOROM, MOOSE) and indicate that the document was created with the guidelines. For systematic reviews, ensure reliable data extraction. Study details should be presented in tables, whereas the text should summarize overall findings. Use qualitative (i.e., Cochrane levels of evidence) or quantitative (meta-analysis) methods to summarize the results, which are related to study quality. For qualitative studies, use purposive sampling and saturation for numbers; validate data analysis (i.e., blinded coding), define how a theme was developed (i.e., >50% of participants), provide definition and examples of final themes, and include a clear audit trail.
  9. The Methods section should provide adequate information to allow duplication of the study. Information concerning institutional review board acceptance and obtaining informed consent should be included if the study involves human subjects.
  10. There should be no interpretation in the Results section of the manuscript.
  11. The Discussion is often a weak spot in manuscripts. Keep the discussion short and focused. The discussion should cover the implications of the key findings, comparison to previous literature, strengths and weaknesses, and possible mechanisms and explanations for the findings.
  12. However, avoid unsubstantiated claims not supported by the data. Avoid repeating what is in the previous sections but do explain the findings and emphasize the study's contribution to the larger body of evidence. Focus on effect sizes and clinical importance, not just statistical significance. The clinical applicability of the findings should be discussed in the Discussion section.
  13. If you are not sure if a discussion point is needed, do not include it. Reviewers can always ask for more discussion on a point.
  14. Don't assume your study explains everything. Use the Limitations section to outline weaknesses and methods you have used to control for those weaknesses.
  15. The Conclusion should be succinct and include only those statements that are supported by the study's findings. Avoid irrelevant extrapolations and personal opinions.

Publishing responsibilities of authors

The publication of an article in a peer-reviewed journal is an essential building block in the development of a coherent and respected network of knowledge. It is a direct reflection of the quality of work of the author and the institutions that support them. Peer-reviewed articles support and embody the scientific method. It is therefore important to agree upon standards of expected ethical behavior.

This Ethics Toolkit from Elsevier explains more about how to publsih ethically. 

Authors’ Rights

Publishers maintain that policies and procedures are in places help to protect the integrity of scholarly works. Author's rights to reuse and post their own articles are often defined by the publishers copyright policy. The type of copyright agreement used may depend on the author's choice of publication, for example Elsevier state:

  • For subscription articles: These rights are determined by a copyright transfer, where authors retain scholarly rights to post and use their articles.
  • For open access articles: These rights are determined by an exclusive license agreement, which applies to all our open access content.

Find out more about authors rights

Resources

There are many articles that provide information on how to write a scientific article for the health care literature[2][1][3][5].

More background information can be found in this comprehensive guide Understanding the publishing process. It covers topics such as using EES, Authors' Rights, Ethics & Plagiarism, the Impact Factor and other so-called bibliometric indicators.

Elsevier provides authors with multiple resources, from fact sheets and bite-sized webinars to quizzes on all areas of publication in health, science and medical journals.

Often publishers will provide author services such as language assistance, translation services, illustration services, tracking your submission.

Early career researchers can find useful advice from obtaining funding to networking here plus there are a number of webcasts that you will find useful.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Chad Cook, Jean-Michel Brismée, Carol Courtney, Mark Hancock and Stephen May. Publishing a Scientific Manuscript on Manual Therapy. J Man Manip Ther. 2009; 17(3): 141–147.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Barbara J. Hoogenboom and Robert C. Manske. How to write a scientific article. Int J Sports Phys Ther. Oct 2012; 7(5): 512–517.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Roederer M1, Marciniak MW, O'Connor SK, Eckel SF. An integrated approach to research and manuscript development. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2013 Jul 15;70(14):1211-8.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Definition retrieved from: . https://researchguides.uic.edu/if/impact (25 August 2018)
  5. Terry L. Grindstaff and Susan A. Saliba. Avoiding Manuscript Mistakes. Int J Sports Phys Ther. Oct 2012; 7(5): 518–524.