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Scientific Writing: Getting Started

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  1. Scientific Writing: Getting Started Arash Etemadi, MD PhD Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Tehran University of Medical Sciences aetemadi@tums.ac.ir

  2. contributes knowledge ensures scientific rigor allows feedback (improves work) Promotes career document productivity document impact on field/reputation Advertises your lab for future trainees improves chances of funding fulfills an obligation (public monies) Why Publish?

  3. Evaluating a CV- Paper Emphasis • number of papers • rate of publication • quality of journals • length of papers • position in list of authors • focus

  4. Publish or Perish!

  5. TUMS workshops on scientific writing • Level 1: Basics • Level 2: Focus on international publications • Level 3: Practice in writing

  6. An overview

  7. The traditional IMRaD • Introduction • Methods • Results • Discussion

  8. Introduction: Why did you start? • Methods: What did you do? • Results: What did you find? • Discussion: What does it all mean?

  9. A full paper consists of: • Title • Authors and Affiliation • Abstract • Introduction • Methods • Results • Discussion • Acknowledgments (optional) • References

  10. How to write a paper • Most papers are not that exceptional • Good writing makes significant difference • Better to say little clearly, than saying too much unclearly

  11. Types of Medical articles • Editorial • Original Article • Review Article • Short Communication (short papers) • Case Reports • Letter to Editor • Personal Views

  12. Letter • Stick to the point • State the problem, issue or hypothesis • Give the context • Outline your comment, solution, viewpoint • Give a strong conclusion • Note limitations

  13. Editorial • Write for your readership (broad?) • Be controversial and thought provoking • Being subtle is often more powerful

  14. Short communication • Increasingly common • Concise introduction • Present data and discuss it shortly • Only a few tables or figures • Number of words limitations

  15. Is your paper a paper, a brief or a research letter? • Easier to get letters & briefs accepted (space). They are indexed! • Decide whether you should submit it as a brief or letter

  16. Case Reports • Medical history of a single patient in a story form. • Lots of information given which may not be seen in a trial or a survey. • Often written and published fast compared to studies • e.g. Thalidomide

  17. Secondary Studies

  18. The Hierarchy of Evidence • Systematic reviews & meta-analyses • Randomised controlled trials • Cohort studies • Case-control studies • Cross sectional surveys • Case reports • Expert opinion • Anecdotal

  19. Start Here!

  20. Planning the study • Identifies the problem • Formulates the hypothesis • Thinks about the design of the study

  21. Design of the study • Involve a methodologist • Study type • Sample size • Interventions • Outcomes • Ethics

  22. Politics first!

  23. Authorship • Decide on authors, and their order, as early as possible • Preferably before starting the project • Authors should only include those who made substantive intellectual contribution to the project reported, and can defend the data and conclusions publicly.

  24. Authorship credit should be based on • 1) substantial contributions to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; • 2) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; • and 3) final approval of the version to be published. • Authors should meet conditions 1, 2, and 3.

  25. Choosing a journal • Choose an appropriate journal (not always the most prestigious). • Check which journals have an interest in the particular topic. This will probably be apparent from the references you have already read in the field, but sometimes editorials identify topics that the journal would like to cover more deeply. • Diabetes Care vs. Diabetologia vs. Diabetic Medicine

  26. How do I decide where to publish? Is it the right area? Is my paper appropriate to the journal? Does it reach the right audience?

  27. Publishing in good journals

  28. Read a few recent papers from that journal for ideas of the style of the papers. Are they provocative? Or are they Short and pithy? Or long and detailed? • Importantly… Read and follow the journal’s instructions.

  29. What else should I check? • The editor and their reputation • The speed of publication – how long will it take to publish my paper? • Links to societies • Coverage in A&I databases

  30. Target your paper at a particular journal • Familiarise yourself thoroughly with potential journals • what sort of papers do they publish? (original articles, briefs, reviews, commentaries, iconoclastic pieces?) • What is the “culture” of the journal? • National or international focus? • Write for that journal

  31. The editorial process

  32. Editorial decision • Accepted as it is (rare) • Accepted on the condition of certain amendments (back to cycle) • Reconsidered if reviewers’ comments met (back to cycle) • Rejected

  33. Rejection rate: 15% (pay journals) to 60% (specialist journals) to 90% (NEJM, The Lancet) • How long does it take? (Choice of journal) • BMJ: 70 days • JAMA: 117 days • Iranian journals?

  34. RULES OF THUMBS • bad research is almost always rejected • sensational research usually accepted - even if badly written • BUT most papers are neither: in gray zone

  35. Questions journals ask • Is the research question important? • Is it interesting to our readers? • Is it valid? A scientifically sound study.

  36. What editors look for • Short, clear, precise title • Good abstract • Good design and methods • Clear conclusions • Brevity • Follow instructions

  37. What reviewers look for • Good design and methods • Simple tables and figures • Logical organisation • Brevity • Balance • Appropriate statistics • Their papers

  38. What reviewers look for • Good design and methods • Simple tables and figures • Logical organisation • Brevity • Balance • Appropriate statistics • Their papers

  39. Design well • Decide politics • Choose journal • Read instructions to authors/papers • Set framework • Prepare drafts • Distribute • Polish • Submit

  40. Order of writing? • Results • Methods • Introduction • Discussion • Abstract • References

  41. Order of writing? • Methods • Results • Introduction • Discussion • Abstract • References

  42. More reading • Hall GM, ed. How to write a paper. London: BMJ Publishing Group. • Peat J. Scientific Writing Easy when you know how. BMJ Publishing Group. 2002. • The Vancouver Group. Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedial journals.www.icmje.org

  43. Title • First thing that readers and editors see and read. • Key elements that advertises the paper’s contents • Informative and Specific • Maybe helpful to choose the title when the paper is complete

  44. Title • Short and simple • State subject, not conclusion • Include study design • Include time and place if necessary • Begin with a keyword • Avoid abbreviations • Remove empty phrases such as “ A study of…” • Use Subtitles (notice number of words) “Exercise and Coronary Heart Disease: Framingham Offspring Study”

  45. Introduction • General, concise description of problem • background to the work • previous research • where that work is deficient • how your research will be better • State the hypothesis

  46. Inverted pyramid Oxidative stress plays an important role in.... When LDL particles are oxidized ... Antioxidants are important... ...Paraoxonase...

  47. Introduction • Don’t make it a review article • Don’t put down every all previous studies • Don’t explain pathophysiology irrelevant to your study • Define specialized terms or abbreviations you want to use

  48. Methods • Allows reader to judge the quality of the work • Identifies weaknesses • Allows repetition of the study • State the study design

  49. Methods • WWWWWH • Define variables • Patient inclusion • Dates • Randomisation • Ethics/ consent • Treatments • Outcomes and endpoints • Statistical methods • power