ABSTRACT: Medical writing, although earlier an ignored and less explored field, is gaining momentum and importance over the years as is the field of clinical research. It is not only important to undertake quality research but documentation of the same and publishing them in indexed journals is also equally important and a mandatory field in academics. It’s important to understand certain factors that are necessary to bring forth a quality article as per international standards making it more likely to be published in indexed journals. This article intends to enlighten the researchers on the various factors that influence the manuscript quality.
One of the most important factors to document the quality research and bring forth the same to the global medical fraternity is to write a high quality manuscript. Research is introduced as a mandatory subject in the PG and PhD syllabi to encourage the young researchers into the field and this also has an important role to bridge the gap between academic research and teaching. It is expected and usually mandatory for the young researcher to write articles during the course and publish in various indexed journals.
There are few reports in the scientific literature on the factors taken into account by journal editors in deciding to accept or reject a scientific paper(1).
Every journal seeks high quality manuscripts that contribute knowledge to the respective fields. For an author’s work to be published, it needs to exhibit qualities that characterize well-conceived and well reported research studies (2). The quality of the manuscript would also affect the editor’s decision whether to accept or reject the manuscript.
In this article, the factors affecting the quality of scientific articles, especially relating to the clinical research, are discussed.
FACTORS CONSIDERED TO EVALUATE MANUSCRIPT
Format of manuscript
There are formally accepted formats to write articles on different research studies. To write articles on different types of research studies, the researchers should strictly abide by the guidelines prescribed and followed for such studies, at international level. The format depends on the type of study conducted and the type of article that the researcher intends to write, for example, CONSORT, which stands for Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials, are used to access the quality of RCT’s (4).
Structure of article
This is closely related to the format in which a good article needs to be written and commonly includes title, authorship, abstract, keywords, introduction, material and methods, results, discussion, conclusion, acknowledgements and references (5).
Good command of language
The language in which the research paper is written plays an important role in determining the quality of the manuscript. It would make the whole effort put into the research fruitless, if the researcher is unable to draft the manuscript in understandable, clear and easy to follow, yet scientifically apt words. As most of the indexed journals publish articles in English and researchers all over the world come from various cultural backgrounds, it may be challenging for many of them to have an article written in English. However, they can take assistance of their colleagues who are proficient in the job. Also it’s important to keep in mind to avoid using words that may be difficult to perceive. Manuscripts written in poor language, and with spelling mistakes or grammatical errors will cause rejection. Typographical errors and spelling mistakes are considered unprofessional by the reviewers and editors (6).
Clearly explained and appropriately used terms
Terms that are not likely to be understood by many readers must be avoided. Complex sentence structures can be demanding for readers and can make good readers look like poor readers, slowing down their reading speed(7). Explanations must be provided for use of familiar terms innon-normative ways. When the words that could be interpreted in several ways are used, it’s the writers ‘responsibility to make sure that the readers would understand clearly of what the authors interpret. Avoid using contradictory statements or words (8).
Clarity of titles
The title should be simple but eye-catching, brief but convey essence of the study along with important key phrases. Manuscripts having long, overstated titles along with adjectives, abbreviations or having unclear ambiguous meanings should be avoided (9). An ideal title should be brief precise, concise, focused, attractive, informative, interesting and meaningful (5).
Length of the article
Most of the journals prescribe maximum word limits to each section of the article and the authors should abide by such instructions. However, compiling the work in the most appropriate way in the frame reflects the quality of the manuscript and also the writing capability for the same. Unusual length of the article and failure to summarize briefly suggest a poor quality work (7).
Type of journal and its area of interest
The editors consider the relevance of the manuscript for the journal and send it to appropriate reviewers. Articles not relevant to the journals area of interest are often rejected (10).
So, the authors before sending articles to a particular journal should go through the information about the journal given in its website and decide if their articles will be entertained or not.
Inclusion of appropriate purpose and rationale
“The purpose statement should provide a specific and accurate synopsis of the overall purpose of the study” (11).If the purpose is not clear to the writer, it cannot be clear to the reader (12).It should be well established on how this particular study can contribute important information to the field. If similar studies have been undertaken previously, provide an explanation on the need for a second study and how that would be beneficial(13).
Inclusion of research components
This includes a clear research question and appropriate information on the materials and methods used like study population, sample size, design of study, study tools, interventions used, procedures used for data collection, statistical tools used , results of the study including interpretation of findings through statistical analysis etc. (5).
High quality writing / multilevel quality check
Provide helpful transitions so the manuscript flows well from one section to another. Develop ideas rather than listing collections of thoughts in paragraph form. Ask colleagues or employ editors to correct errors in grammar, spellings and sentence structure (2).Instructions for authors (IFAs) or authors’ guidelines which can be downloaded will tell you everything that the editorial board will be expecting to see in your paper, including word counts, style guides etc. and ensure your manuscript conforms to them. Authors should read the editorial policies before submitting the research paper (14).
Pre-quality check is the plagiarism check after receiving the final manuscript. In a good quality manuscript, the author should stay away from all kinds of ethically unsound practices. If any ethically unsound practice is found, then the manuscript is liable to be rejected by the editors of the journal. One of the most frequently seen ethical misconduct in scientific writings is plagiarism and lack of citations. When using direct quotations provide not only the number of citations, but the page where the quote was found (15).
There are many referencing styles adopted in different streams. In biomedical field, usually two methods are followed, i.e. Vancouver and Harvard styles. Vancouver style was promoted by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). In this method, references are numbered chronologically in the order in which they are mentioned in the text of the article. Harvard method was introduced by the American Psychological Association. In this method, citations are given in the text of the article, mentioning the surname of author and year of publication in parenthesis. The details of how to present references vary from journal to journal. So, it is always advisable to follow the reference style of your target journal (5). Citing articles from predatory or pseudo-journals should always be avoided. Secondly, to minimize citation errors, references given in the article should be verified from either an electronic bibliographic source, such as PubMed, or print copies from original sources.
As a medical author, you must try to be the following: original, honest, innovative, organized, careful, clear, modest, fair-minded, frank, persistent, rigorous and realistic (16).It is always advisable to strictly follow the guidelines of the journal you have decided to submit the article, in order to maintain the quality of the article. Medical writing is an art and the only way to master it is thorough practice of reading maximum articles, learning from the past mistakes and venturing into medical writing at an early phase of the career as a graduate or postgraduate.
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Xinix Xavier1*, Chaturbhuja Nayak2
1Research Officer (Homoeopathy), National Homoeopathy Research Institute in Mental Health (NHRIMH), Kottayam- 686532, Kerala, India
2Former Director General, Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy and former President of Homoeopathy University, Jaipur- 302029,Rajasthan, India
*Address for correspondence:
Dr.XinixXavier, Research Officer (Homoeopathy)
National Homoeopathy Research Institute in Mental Health (NHRIMH), Kottayam- 686532, Kerala, India.