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How to write an Award-Winning Paper. Bessie Ann Young, NMRI Meeting April 19, 2013 Associate Professor University of Washington. Outline of Talk. Why are papers important in academia? Why should you write up your results What constitutes the basic outline for a great paper? Abstract
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How to write an Award-Winning Paper Bessie Ann Young, NMRI Meeting April 19, 2013 Associate Professor University of Washington
Outline of Talk • Why are papers important in academia? • Why should you write up your results • What constitutes the basic outline for a great paper? • Abstract • Introduction • Methods • Results • Discussion • Conclusions
Why are papers important in academia? • Manuscripts are the “Coin of the Realm” • It allows people to see how you think and how you write • Publishing is necessary to stay in academics • Papers are necessary for promotion • If you don’t want to be promoted, don’t write any papers! • Number of papers needed varies depending on your track • Clinician educators may not need as many and can do more reviews • Physician scientists need as many as possible and they need to be in good journals with high impact factors.
Why should you write up your results • If you don’t write up your results, either your mentor or someone else in your group will • or your competitor • It is a sign of productivity and accomplishment. • If your results are not written up and published, it is as if the study was never done. • It is important for your own sense of accomplishment to write up your results. • Publishing is important for grants, getting an academic position, and promotion.
What constitutes the basic outline for a great paper? • IMRaD: Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion • Or AIMRad • Abstract • Introduction • Methods • Results • Discussion • Conclusion
Abstract • Sometimes the easiest to write, but sometimes the most difficult piece of the paper • Abstracts are written early for submission to meetings • Usually very structured • Can write the initial abstract but should always review after you have written the paper • Results and conclusions in the abstract should be exactly the same as those presented in the results and conclusions sections. • This is important because it may be the only part of the paper editors read prior to make a decision regarding reviewing your paper!
Abstract • Background/Rationale • Why you are writing this paper and how does it contribute to the literature • Methods/materials • Clinical research-study design, populations, statistical methods used • Basic research- study design, animal vs cell culture vs other • Results • Concise and most important results • What should readers take away from this paper? • Summary • May or may not need to include in the abstract • Conclusion • Tell your audience why this piece of work is important!
Common Mistakes • Abstract is too long it should be approximately 250 words • Using a meeting abstract for the manuscript • Revise the manuscript abstract accordingly • Abstract is unnecessarily complicated • Remember: The abstract is a general summary of your manuscript! • Browner, Publishing and Presenting Clinical Research
Introduction: Why • Usually 3 paragraphs • Background and holes in the literature2 paragraphs • One paragraph to describe why you did your study and tentatively what you found • Briefly describe the problem and gap in the literature • Don’t describe all of the background literature here • Hypothesis, aim or goal: clearly describe what your hypothesis is and how this adds to the literature • Describe what you did and what question you answered with your study.
Checklist for the Introduction • Are the four major elements present • Background • Existing research • Problems with that research • Your improvements • After reading your abstract, could someone not familiar with the field be able to describe why your study was done and how your study will improve on existing knowledge? • Use an objective tone when criticizing prior work? • They may be your reviewers! • Does your study describe how it addresses previous gaps in the literature? • W.Browner
Methods: Who, What, Where and How Clinical Epidemiology or Health Services Paper • Population/subjects: describe who was in your study • Describe what type of study you conducted • Prospective, randomized controlled trial, cohort study, cross over study • Cross sectional, longitudinal study • What are your primary predictors • Exposure of interest, age, sex, race • What are your adjustment covariates? • Age, sex, race, other • What is your primary outcome variable(s) • Statistical Analysis • Chi-squared for categorical variables • Student-t test for means of continuous variables • Logistic regression for a binary dichotomous outcome • Linear regression for continuous outcomes • Time to Event, survival or Cox models for survival • Randomized controlled trial, other studies • IRB: include information on humans subject study approval
Materials and Methods: Basic Research • M/M include a descriptive summary of all materials used and the methods for each experiment. • Sections should be labeled or have sub-headings possibly based on experiments • May divide into experimental design and data collection. • One section should include animal guideline compliance. • All materials should have references to place of origin. • Experiments should be written such that someone could reproduce your results if they wanted to.
Results: what you found • The results section should contain results! • No interpretations, no references to other work! • Describe what you found and do not present conclusions here. • For clinical research: • Table 1 should be your demographics of your study or characteristics of study participants • Additional tables may describe additional characteristics by exposure variables or by the outcome • Last paragraphs should describe all results from multivariable or other statistical analyses. • Add figures to clarify results
Results: what you found • The results section should contain results! • No interpretations, no references to other work! • Describe what you found and do not present conclusions here. • For Basic research: • Report all results. • Include tables or graphs if it makes the data clearer • Present original data gels, blots, histology
Discussion: interpretation of the results Clinical Epi or Health Services • Describe briefly what you found in the first paragraph (1 paragraph). • Compare your results to what is out there in the literature (2-4 paragraphs). • Do not present a complete literature review, but keep your comments focused. • Include relevant studies • Mechanisms why do you think you found your specific results? • Limitations: list up front what the limitations of your study are or else reviewers will do it for you. • Power • Limited number of variables • Cross-sectional data, not a randomized trial • May include strengths as well
Discussion: interpretation of the results Basic Research • First paragraph should interpret findings and state whether the hypothesis has been proven or rejected. • Further interpretation of results compared to the existing literature • Not a literature review • Outline conclusions • Can be a separate section of conclusions • Outline where you as the researcher intend to go next with your studies
Conclusions • Outline all of your conclusions • Briefly confirm what your study found • How does your study compare to other studies in the literature • Where should the field go next? • What studies do you plan next • But don’t give too much away!
Acknowledgements • Include people who helped you with the paper, but may not have contributed enough to be an author. • Make sure to include people on the paper who should be included • Each journal has criteria for authorship • JAMA has detailed criteria for authorship • Anyone acknowledged should be told
Title • Start with a draft title. • May want to finalize after the paper is written • Needs to be interesting but not too journalistic • There are several types of titles: • The Description • How to write an award-winning Scientific Paper • The Topic/Description • Scientific Paper: How to write an award-winning one • The Statement • Writing an award-winning scientific paper is easy if you know how • The Question • How do you write an award-winning scientific paper?
References • Use an reference library to do your literature review and add references to your paper • Examples are • Reference manager (? Is it still around) • Endnote-now with a web version you can use anywhere • They come out with new versions every couple of years that require you to learn how to use it again. • Look at the journal you are going to submit your paper to and change the references accordingly. • Follow directions.
Bessie’s Rules • Give yourself time to write the paper • Block out time on your schedule • Start with an outline of your sections and fill in the blanks • IMRaD: Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion • Start with topic sentences for your outline and you have already written a large section of the paper • “Write the paper before you start the experiment” • Write the introduction, methods, and parts of the discussion before you start the experiment • Write the paper as you do your experiments • Write a little each day if possible • Give your manuscript to your colleagues for feedback and editing • Give your mentor enough time to read the paper and respond
Other Comments • Writing well does not come easy to most people • Read what you have written and revise before you give it to other people to read. • Make your sentences clear • Shorter is better (most always) • Use linking words: • However, indeed, rather, moreover, on the other hand, by contrast, in comparison, surprisingly, and consistent with… • Use the correct verb tense in each manuscript section • Introduction present tense • Methods and results past tense • Discussion past tense for your results you just presented
Overcoming Writer’s Block • WBInability to put thoughts about a project into words • Browner • Many people have writer’s block. • Approach systematically • Make a list of what needs to be accomplished • Assemble materials in a single folder or computer file • Set aside time every day to write (30minutes) • Set a goal for each day Give yourself a deadline • Write the easy sections first methods or results
Summary • Manuscripts (and grants) are the academic currency; we live and die by them. • Scientific paper writing should follow a format/structure that allows for ease of writing. • Develop a strategy to allow yourself time for writing. • Give yourself deadlines for portions of the paper • Write sections of the paper • Give yourself adequate time to write the paper • Refer to references for style • Write up your results in a timely fashion. • If English is not your first language or you have difficulty with grammar, get editorial help from native speakers • Develop a thick skin
Books and Style Guides • Strunk and White, The Elements of Style • Day R, How to write and publish a scientific paper • Iverson, AMA Manuel of Style • Huth, Writing and Publishing in Medicine • The Economist,Style Guide • Sheen,Breathing Life Into Medical Writing: a Handbook • Browner W, Publishing and Presenting Clinical Research
References • Van Way, C. Writing a Scientific Paper. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 2007, 22:636-640. • Alexandrov, A. How to Write a Research Paper. Cerebrovasc Disease, 2004; 18:135-38. • Pololi, Lz. Facilitating Scholarly Writing in Academic Medicine, J Gen In Medicine, 2004;19:64-68.
Grammar… • “I had to re-write your paper so that I could read it!” • W. Couser • Edward Good, A Grammar Book for You and I (Oops, Me): All the Grammar You Need to Succeed in Life • “Procrastination behaviors can be attributed to a fear that the manuscript will be rejected.” • Browner