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Writing The Biomedical Manuscript: A Systematic Approach. Christopher Dant Stanford Medical School. Manuscript Writing. Part I About writing and what makes a good paper Parts of a manuscript Figures and tables Writing strategies Part II Essentials of good writing Sentences-Paragraphs

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writing the biomedical manuscript a systematic approach
Writing The Biomedical Manuscript:A Systematic Approach

Christopher Dant

Stanford Medical School

manuscript writing
Manuscript Writing
  • Part I
    • About writing and what makes a good paper
    • Parts of a manuscript
    • Figures and tables
    • Writing strategies
  • Part II
    • Essentials of good writing
    • Sentences-Paragraphs
    • Common writing mistakes
medical communications today
Medical Communications Today
  • Medical science becoming increasing specialized
    • 1976: ~ 5,000 biomedical journals, only in libraries
    • 2006: >17,000 biomedical journals, electronic on internet
    • Subspecialties and new vocabularies has increaseddramatically over past 20 years
  • Biomedical research moving to interdisciplinary initiatives—The NIHRoadmap
  • Thus, readership increasingly specialized yet interdisciplinary, requiring an approach that is common, clear, simplified.

“We must strive to make our articles increasingly ‘reader friendly’ and cross-discipline in language…”

Dr. Jerome Kassirer, Former Editor, NEJM

a recognized problem
A Recognized Problem

“There is no form of prose more difficult to understand and more tedious to read than the average scientific paper!”

-Dr. Francis Crick, 1994The Astonishing Hypothesis

the avoidable downfall
The Avoidable Downfall

Your research

  • Carefully planned
  • Novel
  • Flawlessly designedandexecuted

Your paper

  • Poorly designed and written—rejected or delayed
  • The loss or delay of disseminating important critical information to the science community
journal editors agree
Journal Editors Agree
  • Good writing signals clear thinking and an organized approach
  • Clear direct English and logical, cohesive, organized writing are key to acceptance
  • Even the most novel and well-constructed study will be rejected if the writing is flawed
writing is an essential skill
Writing is an Essential Skill
  • The ability to communicate clearly and precisely through the written word is an essential skill for medical researchers
  • Delayed publications and denial of funding because of poorly written manuscripts and grants continues to plague researchers
  • The career of a researcher can depend heavily on this skill
key difficulties
Key Difficulties
  • Many papers are poorly constructed and written
    • Some scientists have not learned good manuscript writing techniques
    • Others do not enjoy writing, and do not take the time or effort to ensure that the prose is clear and logical.
  • Authors are typically so familiar with the material that it is difficult to step back and view it from the point of view of a reader not familiar with the science
    • Peer review is therefore critical
manuscript deficiencies
Manuscript Deficiencies

57 articles evaluated to Emerg Med—28 accepted, 29 rejected/pending

Of these 29:

Ambiguous methods 77%

Ambiguous results 68%

Conclusions not warranted by data 72%

Poor referencing 56%

Inadequate study design description 51%

Unclear tables 49%

Overly long discussion 49%

Inadequate definition of terms 49%

“Deficiencies in manuscript preparation are more frequent than mistakes in study design and execution. Specific training…in manuscript preparation is indicated.”

Taylor and Brown, Emerg Med 13(4):444-50, 2001

top 10 reasons manuscripts rejected
Top 10 Reasons Manuscripts Rejected

Avoidable

  • Wrong journal, format, preparation
  • Disorganized study design
  • Defective tables, figures
  • Poor organization throughout, writing, spelling
  • No hypothesis or problem statement
  • No or insufficient conclusion
  • Overinterpretation of results
  • Article unfocused, too verbose and long
  • Inappropriate statistical methods; methods not sufficient to repeat study
  • Poorly written abstract/title

Pierson DJ, Respiratory Care 49(10), 2004

Byrne DW, Publishing Medical Research Papers, Williams and Wilkins, 1998

the paper
The Paper
  • Writing and editing the paper is the last step in the research process
  • The paper tells the story from study inception, through data collection, statistical analysis, findings and and discussion
  • The process of writing the paper should be analogous to the research process—it requires attention to detail, time, and revision
manuscript reviews

Peer Reviewers

Masked review

Journal Decision Editor

Manuscript

Yes

Rejection - Outright

Revise-Acceptance ?

Receipt of manuscript by editorial asst

No - DOA

Revise-Accepted

Acceptance - Outright

Manuscript Reviews

Editor

Title & Abstract

Headings

References

Tables/Figures

Read Through

Appropriate to journal?

Conform to guidelines?

Editor Reports

Summary of peer reviews

Summary of editor’s review

start with outline
Start with Outline
  • Outline each segment of the paper using traditional outline: I, II, III, A, B, 1, 2, a
  • Forces logical thought and order
  • Eliminates unorganized thinking and writing
  • Uncovers flaws in arguments
  • Reduces wordiness
  • Makes writing easier
  • Include your draft figures, tables
outline
Outline
  • Introduction
  • Zinc plays a critical role in biochemical functions in cells
    • Mitochondrial function (Billings)
    • Cell motility (Jones, Smith)
  • Zn concentrations affected by physiological changes in pregnancy (Billings)
  • Zn deficiency increases spontaneous abortions and pregnancy complications
    • Rhesus monkeys (Putter)
    • White rats (Michaels, Reiss)
  • In humans, the role of Zn deficiency in pregnancy outcome is unclear (Brown)
  • Objective: we evaluated whether Zn supplementation during pregnancy is associated with changes in birth outcomes.
journal editor what s a good manuscript
Journal Editor: What’s A Good Manuscript?

Titledescriptive and specific

Abstractdescriptive, specific, and correct length

Introduction and background short and strong

Research question clearly stated

Literature cited is comprehensive and relevant

Methods descriptive enough to be replicated; appropriate statistical analyses

Figures and Tablesstand on their own, support conclusions, well constructed

Citations relevant to topic

Discussionwithin boundaries of findings; demonstrate how findings have helped resolve stated problem; implications and future work addressed

Writing clear, terse, logical

Manuscript follows journal guidelines

the title17
The Title
  • First reviewed by Journal Editors before abstract
  • Short
  • Specific, Relevant, Descriptive
  • Write last—your findings and conclusions may alter your title
title ask yourself
Title: Ask Yourself
  • What is the single most important point of this study?
  • How would I tell my colleague, in one short descriptive sentence:

what’s this study about?

  • A descriptive, specific title perfectly framing your study will be apparent only after you’ve written the paper and abstract.
    • Start with a short descriptive working title
unnecessary title phrases
Unnecessary Title Phrases
  • A Study of… A Study to Determine Results of…
  • An Innovative Method…
  • Contributions to (of)…
  • Investigations on (concerning, about)…
  • Observations on…
  • A Trial Comparing…
title specific descriptive
Title—Specific & Descriptive
  • A Study Involving Medical Imaging with Genetic Patients and Turner’s Syndrome

MRI Brain Imaging in Children With Turner’s Syndrome and Other X Chromosome Abnormalities

  • Nerve Growth Factors and Sodium Channels in Pancreatic Cells

Nerve Growth Factor Increases Sodium Channel Expression in Pancreatic (Beta) Cells: Implications for Insulin Secretion

title specific descriptive21
Title—Specific & Descriptive
  • Down Syndrome—Where we are today: A Review

Down Syndrome: Genetic, Behavior, and Functional Neuroimaging Research 2000-2006

  • Aldosterone and Heart Failure

Aldosterone Plasma Concentrations Increase with Severity of Congestive Heart Failure

  • A study of MI in older Americans 1994-1999

Epidemiological survey of MI in Community-Dwelling American Males Over 65 years

  • Lazarus arise! Life and Death Issues in Intensive Care

End-of-Life Care Issues for Critically Ill Patients in Intensive Care Hospitals

title specific descriptive22
Title—Specific & Descriptive
  • Hepatitis C virus associated membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis: A tale of Mice and Men

Membranoproliferative Glomerulonephritis Associated with Hepatitis C Virus in F39(b) Nude Mice: Applicability to Humans

  • Isolated unilateral tubular sclerosis-associated severe late-stage renal cystic disease in neonates

Severe, Late-Stage Renal Cystic Disease in Neonates Associated with Isolated Unilateral Tubular Sclerosis

  • Drug trial comparing systemic beta blocker with calcium-channel blocker in CHF

Open-label Comparison of Altenolol and Propranolol versus Nifedipine in Patients with CHF: Beta Blocker and Calcium-Channel Blocker Mechanisms

don t stack adjectives
Don’t Stack Adjectives
  • Female but not male serotonin reuptake transporter (5-HTT) model knockoutmice exhibit bladder instability: Implications

5-HTT female (not male) knockout mice have unstable bladders: Implications for Stress Urinary Incontinence Treatment

good titles sentences
Good Titles—Sentences
  • Intellectual impairments occur in children with blood lead concentrations above 10 mg per deciliter
  • Increased 17b-estradiol suppresses PTHrP gene expression in breast cancer cell lines
  • Spinal cord stimulation attenuates visceromotor reflexes in a rat model of post-inflammatory colonic hypersensitivity
  • Rhinovirus challenge decreases antioxidant enzymes in respiratory epithelial cells
not sentences but good titles
Not Sentences But Good Titles
  • Comparison of MRI and CT for Detection of Acute Intracerebral Hemorrhage
  • Extracranial Thrombotically Active Carotid Plaque as a Risk for Ischemic Stroke
  • Annual Revaccination Against Influenza and Mortality Risk in Community-Dwelling Elderly Persons
  • Effect of Antihypertensive Agents on Cardiovascular Events in Patients With Coronary Disease and Normal Blood Pressure. The CAMELOT Study: A Randomized Controlled Trial
the abstract27
The Abstract
  • 1st Impression to journal editor and the reader!
  • Follow the Journal’s Guidelines
  • Most abstracts are often too long: ≤250 words: Cannot upload your paper!
  • Structure it (outline it)

“The abstract is the single most important part of a manuscript, yet the most often poorly written” -JAMA Editor

the abstract28
The Abstract
  • First looked at by editors/sometimes only thing read by readers
  • Sometimes only part available electronically—KEY words!
  • Summarizes the main points succinctly:
    • Background/Significance
    • Objective
    • Study design, method
    • Primary germane results
    • Principal conclusions, implications
  • Do NOT be vague—be substantive and brief
    • NOT “The implications are summarized”
    • INSTEAD Summarize the implications!
abstract
Abstract
  • Emphasize methods, main results, and conclusion
  • Introduction/purpose: 1 short sentence
  • Put objective as imperative style:
    • Objective: To evaluate whether zinc supplementation during pregnancy affects infant birth measures.
  • Methods, Results: 2-4 sentences
  • Conclusion: 1-2 sentences
structured abstract
Structured Abstract

Context—Summarize the study rationale and provide clinical (or other) reason for the study question.

Objective—State the purpose or question asked. If more than one objective, state primary objective and key secondary objectives.

Design—Describe basic design, including relevant details.

Setting—General community, primary care, hospital, etc.

Patient or other population—describe demographics, disorders, inclusion/exclusion criteria, etc.

Interventions—name, dose, dosage

Main outcome measure(s)

Results

Conclusions

the effect of zinc supplementation on pregnancy outcome
The Effect of Zinc Supplementation on Pregnancy Outcome

Objective—To evaluate whether zinc supplementation during pregnancy affects infant birth measures.

Design—Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Setting—Outpatient clinic at University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Patients—580 healthy African-American pregnant women with plasma zinc levels below normal levels, randomized at 19 weeks’ gestational age and divided by median body mass of 26 kg/m2 into placebo and zinc supplement groups.

Intervention—Women receiving a non-zinc-containing prenatal vitamin tablet were randomized to 25 mg/day zinc or placebo.

Outcome Measures—Birth weight, gestational age at birth, head circumference at birth.

Results—Infants from zinc supplement group had greater birth weight (p<0.01) and head circumference (p=0.02) than those in placebo group. Women with body mass ≤ 26 kg/m2 had infants with significantly higher birth weights (median 245 g, p<0.001) and larger head circumference (median 0.7 cm, p=0.003).

Conclusions—Daily zinc supplementation in women with low plasma zinc concentrations in early pregnancy is associated with greater birth weights and head circumferences, with the effect occurring in women with body mass index ≤26 kg/m2. The specific effects of zinc on the fetus are unknown, and future work is focusing on zinc effects on embryonic cells in vitro.

192 words

abstract be specific
Abstract: Be Specific
  • The principles of reconstruction of the traumatic losses of the external ear are presented, with emphasis on effective treatment of the acutely injured ear. The steps necessary for obtaining satisfactory reconstruction are discussed, including two new techniques.
  • In the past decade, advances in soft tissue surgical techniques have allowed surgeons to successfully reconstruct detached ears. We present two new surgical reconstruction techniques of the acutely injured detached ear. These include the use of local and distant tissues to obtain soft-tissue coverage, and the recent use of Silastic cartilage for structural support…
introduction
Introduction
  • Why did you carry out this research? State the specific purpose or rationale for the study.
  • What is the existing state of knowledge of this topic? Synthesize information tracing the development of the problem and summarize its current state…ie, the background. You ask (with citations):
    • What’s known?
    • What’s unknown?
    • What are the gaps in knowledge this study will fill?
  • What are you going to do and what do you expect to find?

State your hypothesis or question clearly (Objectives, Aims)

  • Give only strictly pertinent references.
introduction35
Introduction
  • This is a vital part of your paper—it convinces (or not) the reader whether your study:
    • Has merit and asks important research questions
    • Is focused and supported by relevant recent citations
    • Is ultimately important to human health and human disease
  • Reviewers and editors will judge the paper’s importance in the introduction.
  • You will better focus your introduction AFTER you construct your findings (results) and consider them (discussion).
  • Your research question is the most important part—in your discussion, you will address whether the question or hypothesis was answered based on your data.
introduction structure
Introduction Structure
  • What is the general problem or current situation?

Zinc plays a critical role in many biochemical functions, including nucleic acid metabolism and is critical in early development.

  • What is the specific problem or controversy? Its significance?

Zinc deficiency is associated with increase metabolic problems in fetuses. Studies evaluating relationship between zinc intake and pregnancy outcomes have produced conflicting results for many reasons…

  • What are our hypotheses/questions, and how will we answer them?

To clarify the relationship between zinc levels in the mother’s diet and pregnancy outcomes, we undertook a randomized placebo-controlled trial of zinc supplementation.

Our objective was to determine if zinc supplementation was associated with higher birth weight.

Our findings will help to provide continuing nutritional guidelines in pregnancy.

methods are critical editors responses

How frequently do Editors encounter manuscript problems?

Poorly written, excessive jargon

Inadequate/inappropriate presentation

Poor description of design

Excessive zeal and self promotion

Rationale confused, contradictory

Essential data omitted, ignored

Boring

Important work of others ignored

Seldom Occasionally Frequently

Methods are Critical: Editors’ Responses

What section contains the most flaws?

What section responsible for outright rejection?

Discussion

Discussion

Results

Results

Methods

Methods

Introduction

Introduction

Byrne DW, Publishing Medical Research Papers, Williams and Wilkins, 1998

methods
Methods
  • Editors judge the study on whether your methods are adequate to answer your specific aim or hypothesis
    • Rationale for choosing procedures/tests
    • The pivotal point to judge whether the results are valid
  • Don’t suggest a method you have no expertise with
    • Your peer reviewer may uncover this
    • Use consultants for methods you have no experience with, stating this in paper
  • Methods usually the weakest section
    • Often deficient in detail, not providing enough information to replicate the study
    • Statistical shortcomings
methods40
Methods
  • Study design or analysis type and period of study
  • Condition or disease studied
  • Human subjects approval
  • Details of sample (number, recruiting methods of study subjects, patients, how organized)
  • Interventions, outcome measures, statistical analyses
  • Include the locations and times that data were collected
  • Give enough information to replicate the study; don’t assume only the specialist in your field will read it
methods41
Methods
  • Balance between brevity and completeness
    • Sometimes reference an often-used method
  • Use figures and tables (eg, flow diagram)
  • Naming things—be consistent
    • Acronyms—spell out first time, use consistently throughout
    • Specialized tests, terms—use identical name in text, figs, tables
  • Develop list of frequently used terms
  • Present in logical order and your subsequent results should follow that same order
method procedures
Method—Procedures

Method diagrams communicate schedule of procedures, enrollment, study design, mechanisms of action, guidelines, algorithms to reduce text and increase comprehension.

results the beginning
Results—The Beginning
  • The heart of your paper
  • Writeafter figures and tables are constructed
    • Consider your data critically
    • Construct tables, figures and include them in outline
    • Write the results
    • Use subheadings
  • Results determine
    • Whether you’ve answered your original question(s)
    • Your direction for future studies
    • Both of which belong in the discussion
results the beginning45
Results—The Beginning
  • State ALL the findings
    • Whether significant or not
    • Without bias or interpretation
    • Do not include weaknesses, strengths of study, ie don’t discuss results
  • List experiments in order listed in methods
  • Use logical headers and group your findings
    • Characteristics of study subjects
    • Findings in order listed in methods
    • General to specific
  • Use past tense
  • Results confirm or reject your hypothesis: they do not prove anything.
results
Results
  • Short and to the point—Main or most important findings first
  • Present only data directly relevant to the study—focus
  • Don’t repeat methods but you may remind the reader briefly how you measured something.
  • Allow the data to speak for itself—use tables/figures —construct them first and use as a basis for writing
  • In Tables and Figures, be descriptive, specific. Do not repeat the obvious:
    • NO: Results of the kidney lead analysis are shown in Table 1.
    • YES: Kidney lead concentrations increased in group 1 over the first 10 study weeks (Table 1).
  • Present absolute numbers and percentages so reviewers can judge the significance of the findings.
  • Statistical significance ≠ clinical significance
results or data
Results or Data?

Results

Mean translational movements in the X (left to right), Y (back to front) and Z (bottom to top) head directions were 0.10 ± 0.11 mm, 0.16 ± 0.03 mm, and 0.65 ± 0.58 mm, respectively. Mean rotational movements about the three axes were 0.44 ± 0.42 degrees, 0.24 ± 0.26 degrees, and 0.18 ± 0.17 degrees, respectively. Movement was not significantly correlated with age for translation in the X (r = -0.09; p = 0.69), Y (r = 0.21; p = 0.35) or Z (r = -1.02; p = 0.64) directions. Movement was not significantly correlated with age for rotation in the X (r = 0.15; p = 0.51), Y (r = -0.20; p = 0.35) or Z (r = 0.02; p = 0.94) directions.

results don t regurgitate data
Results—Don’t Regurgitate Data
  • As shown in Table 1, the mean age of participants was 20.4 ± 2 years, and 80% of patients were Caucasian. Treatment group contained 40 patients, whereas control group contained 45 patients. Table 2 shows the demographics of women in these groups. There were 24 women in the control group, and 33 women in the treatment group...
  • There were no significant differences in treatment and control patient intake demographics (Table 1), although a significantly greater number of patients in the treatment group dropped from the study for a variety of reasons, mostly relating to adverse reactions. However, analysis of patients in this group later revealed that those dropped patients had significant disease at intake (Table 2). In comparing the two treatment groups (Figure 1), we found that...
don t state the obvious
Don’t State the Obvious

Figure 1 is a graph illustrating the plasma zinc levels (µmoL/L) over the 37 weeks versus gestational age in both the zinc supplement group and placebo group. The placebo and the zinc group both decreased over the 37 weeks of the study, but the differences were significant for the zinc group.

state what s important
State What’s Important

We measured mothers’ plasma zinc levels before randomization (week 19) and at 26, 32, and 37 weeks’ gestational age (Fig 1).

Beginning as early as 26 weeks and at each timepoint, differences in plasma zinc levels between placebo and zinc supplement groups were statistically significant (P≤0.05) after randomization.

results major mistakes
Results—Major Mistakes
  • Failure to provide all the data critical to answering the research question
  • Interpreting or commenting on results
    • “Six of the 20 patients required intubation, illustrating the seriousness of this problem” (belongs in Discussion)
    • “Over 40% of treated rats exhibited a decreased inflammatory response, an unexpected finding” (belongs in Discussion)
  • Failure to adequately address statistical methods
  • Tables and figures inappropriate, unbalanced
  • Tables and figures poorly constructed
discussion construction
Discussion Construction
  • Summarize major findings—1st paragraph
  • Explain how your findings relate to those of others—what do they mean?
  • Clinical relevance of the findings?
  • Limitations and how this influenced your study?
    • How will you overcome these in the next studies?
  • Explain the implications of findings
  • What future direction(s) will you take?
discussion getting carried away
Discussion: Getting Carried Away
  • Few studies make discoveries changing the course of scientific direction, and so authors:
    • Attempt to overly state or the importance of their findings
    • Come to erroneous or unsupported conclusions
    • Uncritically accept statistical results
  • This all distracts from work’s importance and signals to the reviewer problems with the research
  • Also results in excessive length, a common problem
  • Authors should let the data speak for themselves
discussion common mistakes
Discussion—Common Mistakes
  • Unwarranted speculations
  • Injecting tangential issues
  • Conclusions not supported by the data
  • Not suggesting future directions for research

hypothesis Ô study Ô data/results Ô conclusions

TIGHT PACKAGE

sections unbalanced
Sections Unbalanced

Article 3650 words

tables and figures
Tables and Figures
  • Critical to a paper—Editors and readers look at these before reading the paper!
  • Editors judge your paper on how well these are constructed
  • Stand alone and tell a complete story
  • Unambiguous—immediately clear
  • Eliminate numerical data and long explanations in text
  • Figures display important trends, procedures, simplify detailed data, and show basic methodologies.
tables
Tables

This requires a table!

tables61
Tables

This result does NOT require a table!

Growth medium aeration was essential for the growth of S. coelicolor. At room temperature (24°C), no growth was measurable in stationary cultures, whereas in aerated cultures, we measured substantial growth (78 Klett units).

tables result
Tables & Result

In women with BMI <26 kg/m2, zinc supplementation was associated with a significant increase in birth weight of 248 g (P=0.005), an increase in head circumference of 0.7 cm (P=0.005), and increase in arm length of 0.3 cm (P=0.03). The other outcome measures all favored the zinc supplement group but the differences were not statistically significant (Table 2).

table result
Table & Result

Table 3 shows the mean birth weight by the BMI categories recommended by the NIH Institute of Medicine. The lower the BMI, the greater the effect of zinc supplementation on birth weight.

patient disposition results
Patient Disposition (Results)

Complex Study Design Simplified

bar or line graphs colors
Bar or Line Graphs-Colors?

This graph will appear in the journal like this:

  • Journals DO NOT allow color graphs unless they are necessary for understanding the graph
simple graph
Simple Graph
  • Use graphing software in word/powerpoint to create: KISS
  • No more than 3-4 groups
  • Keep all lines solid, few symbols
  • Put in SD and P values if relevant
prepare your manuscript carefully
Prepare Your Manuscript Carefully
  • Incorrect style irritates reviewers and editors, and the wrong style suggests that another journal previously rejected the paper.
  • Edit carefully
    • Eliminate spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors
    • Good writing requires rewriting
  • Check accuracy of references with original sources
    • Incorrect citations inconvenience the publisher and are a disservice to the reader
  • Double-check numerical data!
    • Numbers in abstract, text, tables, figures, ledends, and text must be consistent and correct
avoid repetition
Avoid Repetition
  • Do not disclose results in introduction
  • Do not repeat the Introduction in Discussion
  • In text
    • Do not repeat figure legends, table titles, or contents of the tables themselves
  • Use tables sparingly
    • Presenting a few facts in text takes less space than a table
    • Do not use tables for presenting simple lists
  • Abbreviations, definitions, symbols in figures and tables must be explained in legends and footnotes
    • Never refer a reader back to text for such information
journal review
Journal Review
  • Full review and decision takes ~1 month
  • Editors make decision based on arguments; they don’t count votes from Peer Reviewers
  • Most papers undergo 2 rounds before publication
  • For borderline decisions, a goal is to avoid multiple rounds of review
  • Pressure to publish quickly may lead to rejection if further experiments are needed
what helps or hinders the paper
What Helps or Hinders the Paper?

What Helps?

  • New data — to a point
  • Referee or Editor made factual errors (easy to prove)
  • Careful and accurate response to criticisms (table)
  • Telling the editor that reviews were helpful in improving the paper
  • Knowing how to submit to the journal electronically — Practice!

What Doesn’t?

  • Referees were “unfair” and the criticisms were largely “not valid”
  • Guesses at referee identity followed by personal attacks
  • Specific evidence of bias by referee (difficult to prove)
  • Endorsements or (positive) statements about your standing and reputation
the paper is cohesive
The Paper Is Cohesive
  • Question (objective, specific aim) is posed in Introduction
  • Methods tell how you propose to answer these aims
  • Results presented answer (or not) the question
  • Discussion should be within the bounds of the results
  • Conclusions directly answer the original questions in the Introduction
  • Each section should refer back to one another
evaluate your paper
Evaluate Your Paper
  • To understand and evaluate your paper, the editor will ask (and so should you):
  • What specific questions/aims does the paper address?
  • Are the methods/design adequate to answer your questions?
  • What are the main conclusions?
  • What specific evidence (data) supports those conclusions?
  • What is the quality of that evidence?
  • Conclusions: what is the study’s significance…what insights or new directions are evident?
my suggestions
My Suggestions
  • Put the manuscript away for a couple of days
  • Read troublesome areas aloud
  • Don’t try to edit a mangled paragraph—delete and rewrite it
  • Your colleagues reviews of writing and table/figures are valuable—don’t be defensive about edits
  • Let go of “academic” writing habits and don’t imitate others’ writing. Develop your own clear, direct style
writing deficiencies
Writing Deficiencies

Most commonly cited by journal editors

  • Wordiness and redundancies
  • Poor flow of ideas
  • Poor syntax and grammar
  • Excessive abstraction
  • Unnecessary complexity
  • Excessive compression
  • Unnecessary qualification
  • Cut, condense, combine
  • Outline to catch logic problems
  • Consult an editor
  • Be specific and descriptive
  • Keep it simple and direct
  • Do not overly compress writing
  • Qualify statements as necessary

Byrne, D. Science Editor 23:2, 2000

summary
Summary
  • Outline your paper
  • Startearly as your data is being analyzed
  • Look at your data and decide how to organize and present your results: tables, figures, text
  • Patterns and clues will emerge to guide your argument
  • Start with results then introduction and discussion/conclusions
  • Write title and abstract last
  • Put it away, re-read, give to your colleagues to read
  • Revise, revise, and re-revise
  • Adhere to journal guidelines!
  • Critically evaluate your paper with an editor’s eye
  • Write clearly, logically, and simply!