Guidelines for Writing Research Paper


Dr. B R Londhe
Faculty Member
IBS, Pune

Research and academics are inseparable, Research ahs immense value in education. Research occupies dominant role in professional education it helps in bringing firm, field and live ness in class room. Having said so but it is not easy to write research paper and get published in reputed national as well as international journals. In order to help my colleges a humble attempt to suggest few guide lines for entering in to the field of research.

Crafting a good title takes time

The title of your research paper is your initial opportunity to attract potential readers.  This is the first thing readers see when they scan the table of contents of the journal, do literature searches, and read your curriculum vitae, grant applications, progress reports, and renewals.  The title should be a concise statement of the paper's content.  There should be enough information in the title so the reader can determine their interest in the article. A declarative title will attract attention, but, in making a brief statement about the core message of the manuscript, be very cautious not to overstate your conclusions in the title.  Spend a considerable amount of time developing the title because it is so important for current and future interest in our work. One way to develop a title is to craft a series of statements that declare the key messages from your work, trying to focus it sequentially as you mix and match terms and phrases from your previous draft title.  Another method is to list the key terms that you would consider for the title and then select from the list to develop a series of drat title, from which you choose the best.  The process of developing a title may stretch over more than one day as you "sleep on": different possibilities.

Your abstract is second only to your title as an opportunity to attract readers

Each journal will have specific requirements regarding the length, content, and format (e.g. structured or unstructured) of abstracts.  Abstract should be written for a general audience and should briefly describe the background and purpose of the study, methods, results, discussion, conclusions, and speculation. Following are the guidelines for writing a research article.  You should avoid abbreviations and jargon.

The introduction sets the stage in three subparts

The introduction talks about the background for your research.  It specifies the questions and goals of the research and shows how these developed from previous research.  You should write your introduction so that the reader considers your research the next necessary step in the field.   It will typically consist of three subsections, though these will not usually have subheadings.  The first, usually single paragraphs described as the contextual significance of the work, defines any terms that may be critical to the study.  The second subsection is usually one or more paragraphs (rarely more than three) in length and provides the historical background to, and previous literature directly relevant to primary topic or purpose of this work.  For this reason, this second subsection of the introduction is usually more heavily referenced than the first or third, but it is important not to bring in material that more correctly belongs in the discussion.  The third subsection describes the purpose of the study and may include a very brief description of the results and, therefore, is a partial abstract of the work, containing the core message of the paper; its hypothesis (purpose) and brief data summary.

Your methods section should represent a logical experimental approach

The methods or materials and methods section should be written in enough detail so that anyone can repeat your study. It is best to break this section up with specific subheadings organized according to the design or logic of the study.  You should include a description of the relevant attributes your research.

The results section should build rationally toward you logical conclusions

The results describe data summarized in tables and figures and may be organized by subheadings ordered according to the study design.  Do not present the same data as both a table and a figure.  The statistical measures used should be specified ( e.g. standard deviation or standard error of the mean).  You should be rigorous in your statistical analysis (e.g. there is no such this as " almost significant" you set the level of significance required and your data either meet the level of significance or they do not).

Expound rationally and succinctly in your discussion

The discussion provides an interpretation of findings and their importance within the context of the literature. Typically, the discussion will be organized into three subsections. 

1. The first, usually one to several paragraphs in length, will summarize the results of the study, logically developing the argument for how the data address the hypotheses and fulfill the purpose of the study.

2. The second subsection of the discussion will describe how your work fits into the work of others and contributes to the knowledge in the field.  This section may be as necessary.  You should describe the limitations of previous research and how current findings improve or clarify issues.  Specify how your research confirms previous findings or provide possible explanations for different results from previous work. The major limitations of your research work should be specified.

3. The third subsection is usually only one paragraph long and prides a capsule summary of the research work conclusions and any speculations or impact on clinical practice, as well as any future directions for your research work.  Be cautious not to overstate your conclusions or to speculate excessively.

The reference section should be checked carefully for accuracy

You should follow the journal format for the references, and be sure of the accuracy of the reference citations.  To check the accuracy of references, go back to the original articles yourself.  Also, clarify the journal's policy for citation of in press, submitted, in preparation, and personal communication, since these policies vary among different publications.  Some journals require copies of manuscripts that are in press or submitted.  Some journals require a letterform the person cited a personal communication.

Good figures attract attention to your work

Tables and figures should contain enough information to stand on their own.  You can use figures to sell your manuscript, especially if you invest in color.  Some journals have the policy of accepting one or more color figures per article free of charge. A number of journals have a color figure on the cover of each issue.  By submitting a color figure with your manuscript, you are in the running for the cover.  If your figure is selected as the cover, you should request a copy of the issue.  You may want to frame the cover to hand in your office.  You should also list the reference in your curriculum vitae as the full reference and add "with cover." A cover figure is an excellent vehicle for marketing your research.

Pay Careful Attention to Reviewers Comments

Chris was a new faculty member, feeling pressure to publish. Chris was wise enough to ask several senior faculty members to review a manuscript before submission. All of the faculty members agreed that Chris needed a lot more data to support the conclusions. Chris dismissed their suggestion and submitted the manuscript. The first journal rejected the manuscript, and the two reviewers made point similar to the suggestions made by the seniors faculty members. The second journal returned the manuscript to Chris without review, saying that the manuscript was inappropriate for that journal. The third journal had one positive review and one negative review. The editor of the third journal rejected the manuscript. Chris called the editor of third journal and requested a third reviewer, since there had been one positive review. The editor agreed to contact a third reviewer. The third reviewer had previously reviewed Chris' manuscript for the first journal. In the comments to the editor, this reviewer was adamant that the manuscript be rejected, and that the author be told to make the changes this reviewer had recommended in their initial review for the first journal. By refusing to listen to the advice of senior faculty members, reviewers, and editors, Chris was on the way to establishing a very negative reputation. Senior professors would be unwilling to review future manuscripts. Reviewers would remember Chris' lack of substance when reviewing future manuscripts, abstracts for scientific meetings, or grant proposals. Editors would remember Chris' lack of responsiveness when deciding whether Chris' lack of responsiveness when deciding whether Chris' future manuscripts were appropriate for their journal and when considering potential reviewers for manuscripts in Chris's filed.

Read the Editor's Letter as Carefully as the Reviewers' Comments

The editor will send you a letter with the reviewers' comments.  Read the editor's letter carefully and make all feasible changes requested.  Frequently, the editor may be giving you a message about which of the reviewers' suggestions is most important for you to address.

Make the Easy Changes and Negotiate the Tough Ones

Read the reviewer's comments carefully and make all changes that you can to improve the manuscript, such as following the instructions for authors; spelling, grammar, and nomenclature conventions; stylistic changes; additional information when available; additional data when feasible; and restructuring the discussion to truly reflect the data.  There are some changes that you may find difficult to make; such these data may be the basis for your next manuscript, or restructuring the paper to reflect a different point of view, which may be consistent with the opinion of the reviewers or the editor, but may not fit with your ideas.  Such a change in your position regarding a controversy, model etc., could have serious consequences to your future work.  Therefore, do not mould your opinion just to gain acceptance in a more prestigious journal.


Instruction for Authors, to select proper journal to publish your article

Know the Type of Journal You Are Targeting

Before you selecting a specific journal, you need to consider the type of journal in which you are interested. Do you want a scientific or a clinical journal? Are you concerned with sharing fundamental information or do you want to impact on practice? Do you want a general or specialty journal? Would you like to have a broader impact, beyond the limits of your subspecialty, or does your work have a specific focus within a particular subspecialty? Do you want to publish in a new journal or an established one? A new journal may have a quicker turnaround time, less time between submission and publication.

Pick Three Journals

Once you decide on a specific type of journal, you need to consider the level of prestige in which you are interested. You should select three journals at three different levels of prestige. First, submit your manuscript to a journal that you feel is extremely competitive and which may be out of reach of your work. Your second choice should be one where you are reasonably sure that your manuscript will be accepted. In case this journal does not accept your manuscript, determine a third journal where you know you are guaranteed acceptance. Having this list of three journals before your initial submission will help protect you from delayed resubmission if your manuscript is rejected by your first or second choice.  In developing this list, you are aiming high, because if you do not try for the highly competitive, prestigious journals, then your work will not be published there.  Also, you are recognizing that manuscript review is capricious and rejection does not reflect personally on you.  This consideration at the outset will help you turn around a manuscript more rapidly if it is rejected.

In addition to weighing prestige, you need to consider the length of time from submission to publication.  Look at current issues to determine this turnaround time.  Remember that five years from now, June or August of the same year will make no difference, while December of one year is clearly different from January of the next year.  You can negotiate with the editor of the journal for an expedited review, whether or not the journal has a policy of expedited review.

When you select your three journals at different levels of prestige, consider any major differences in format.  Be prepared to quickly reformat your initial submission to conform to the instructions for authors of your second choice.  Keep a copy of the complete references to facilitate this resubmission using a software package for managing references.  If you are turned down by your first-choice journal, make any changes you can that are recommended in the reviews, change the format, and submit to your second-choice journal within the week.

Know the Current Editorial Policies for the Journals You Select

When you review the instructions for authors, pay special attention to editorial policy.  Can you submit your manuscript to a specific editor who knows your work?  Are authors able to recommend reviewers? You cannot recommend those with who you have personal or professional relationships (e.g., family members, your mentors, or department chair), but you should suggest leaders in your field and those who know your work.  Even if the journal does not ask you to recommend reviewers, you can always specify that your mortal enemy should not be allowed to review you manuscript.  You do not have to give a reason.  Manuscripts have been delayed or rejected by editors or reviewers who are competitors or friends of competitors.

You should seek the advice of senior faculty in your field regarding your selection of journals.  Such recent issues of the journal to see whether they publish articles in the format in which you wish to submit.  Even if the editorial policy states that they accept review articles, if none have been published in the past six months, you should not submit one.  If the journal has recently published an article on your topic, that suggests that they may be interested, but, on the other hand, some journals do not want too many articles on the same topic.

Do Not Violate a Prepublication Embargo

Some journals have a prepublication embargo. There cannot be any prepublication publicity about your work if you want your manuscript published in the journal, and this may even include presenting an abstract at a scientific meeting.


Be Sure You Information about the Journal Is Current

You should get the most recent version of the instructions for authors.  Most journals post these on the Internet.  Be sure that you follow the typing instructions and the general and reference formats.  Some editorial offices will return manuscripts that do not confirm to the instructions, causing unnecessary delays.  In addition, if you use the wrong general or reference format the editors may think you first submitted the article elsewhere and are resubmitting it without careful revision.

Transmit Your Manuscript Properly

When you submit the manuscript, be sure you use the correct address.  Some journals welcome electronic or fax submission of manuscripts.  This speeds the review process.  Other journals will accept a disk, and still others want both a paper and a disk version.

Follow the Instructions Regarding Copyright

Do you need to make a statement about copyright in the letter of transmittal? Do you need to submit a form signed by each author?

Communicate Effectively and Let the Editors Know How to Contact You

If the journal requests a hard copy or disk version, then submit your manuscript using a reliable overnight delivery system. You will have a receipt that enables you to track your submission, and the editorial office staff will take notice of your submission.  If the journal requests electronic submission, be sure that you have acknowledgment of receipt. Include your telephone and fax numbers and your e-mail address so that the editorial office can contact you as needed.  You would not want publication of your manuscript held up because the publisher could not contact you with a question.

Maintain Communication with Your Coauthors

Prior to submission, your coauthors need to receive the manuscript with a deadline for their comments.  Indicate that if you have not heard from them by the deadline, you will assume that they have no suggestions for changes.  When you submit the manuscript, send them a final copy with the date of submission.  If you need revise and resubmit the manuscript, you should send them copies of the reviewers' comments and the letter form the editor along with your revised manuscript for their review.  Send them a copy of the article when it is accepted and send them at least five original reprints when they come.  Just like you, they need to know the status of the manuscript for their curriculum vitae, promotion and tenure, and for citations in their own manuscripts.  It is very frustrating to discover that you are a coauthor on a published paper of which you are unaware.  To learn about any papers that were submitted without your knowledge, you should do a literature search for yourself at least once a year.

Keep Track of the Timeline for the Process after Submission

Once the manuscript has been submitted, you should receive an acknowledgement of receipt from the editorial office within two weeks.  If you don't contact the editorial office to be sure that they received the manuscript.  If you don't hear from the editor within two months of submission, contact the editorial office to determine the status of the manuscript.

Selection of Co authorship

Authorship requires substantive contribution

Deciding who should be included as an author, and in what order, is often a point of contention in the preparation of manuscripts.  Each author should have made a substantive contribution to the manuscript, not just perform menial tasks as part of their job.  Technicians should be included if they have contributed original thought or extraordinary effort.  Physicians providing clinical material should be included if they have provided clinical insight in diagnosing the patient and an intellectual contribution to the research. Your boss, the clinic director, or the laboratory director should not be automatic coauthors if their contributions don not extend beyond their administrative roles; i.e being the boss is not sufficient for authorship without substantive involvement in the research. In order to obtain independent grant support of your research, you need to have publications without your boss or mentor to demonstrate your actual independence.  The acknowledgements section can be used to thank such individuals instead of making them coauthors.  The acknowledgements should also include grant support relevant to the performance of this research. You will be asked to submit publications as part of your annual report and your competing renewal of your grant.  You should also include any affiliation or support from industry, especially if there is the possibility for the perception of a conflict of interest. Coauthor ship carries responsibility.

Peer-reviewed research articles should take priority

Sam was flattered to be asked to writer a chapter by Dr. Smith, a senior faculty member in Sam's department, for a new book Dr. Smith was editing.  The topic was slightly outside Sam's research area. but Sam decided the extra research needed to write the chapter was worthwhile.  Sam delayed the preparation of several research manuscripts in order to do the library research and writing of the chapter.  Sam submitted the chapter on schedule.  Six months later, he realized that there had been no communication from Dr. Smith regarding the book.  When Sam approached Dr. Smith, Dr. Smith said that the publisher had gone bankrupt and the book would not be published. Sam removed the chapter form his curriculum vitae and tried to make up for lost time on the preparation of research manuscripts.  When Sam's curriculum vitae were reviewed for promotion, he was criticized for having too few research publications.  Not only wasn't the chapter on Sam's list of publications, all of his work on the chapter had delayed preparation of critical research publications.  You can imagine Sam's dismay when two years later; Dr. Smith told him there was good news about the book for which Sam had written the chapter.  A new publisher had acquired the rights to the book and wanted to publish the book.  Dr. Smith indicated that Sam would have to update the chapter.  Sam debated whether he should withdraw the chapter or put in a lot of work to update it.  Sam chose a compromise.  He added a few new references with a minimal amount of rewriting.  Sam also vowed not to agree to write any other chapters unless the publisher was reputable, the editor had an extensive track record of successful books, and the chapter was in Sam's area of expertise.


Dr. B R Londhe
Faculty Member
IBS, Pune

Source: E-mail August 1, 2006


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