Summary notes on talk given at AFCEM 2018 “Ten Commandments for getting your research published” by Dr Ellen Webber, Editor in Chief of Emergency Medicine Journal@emjeditor
A large proportion of studies/research is not published. Improve your chances of getting your chances noticed. Put your best foot forward from the beginning.
Always use a research checklist
Checklists assist you not only to organise your paper, but also to plan your research study. This also ensures that you collect all of the data from the outset. You can get more information and all checklists at the Equator Network, here.
Read and obey the instructions for authors
Does your article fit the mission of the journal and do they have a relevant article type for your research? Make sure you have met the requirements for each section.
Sell your research question(in the introduction)
Outline the problem(not lack of knowledge), and say why it is important(the problem, not your study) and what the knowledge gap is. Mention how your study helps the situation of the identified knowledge gap. Avoid taking too long to get to the point of your research question, keep it short. The whole introduction should lead into your research study.
Honour your methods
This is actually the most important part of your manuscript. The methods should demonstrate that you have done your study well by putting in enough detail that your study can be replicated from scratch(and use a checklist to guide the detail). Using sub-headings can assist with this.
5.1. Results: Who before what?
Begin with the demographics of the patients/participants that were involved in your study and this is normally reported in Table 1. If you lost patients to follow-up or similar be sure to show the demographic information of the group that was excluded to show that there was no selection bias.
5.2. Results: Match your methods and discussion
Make sure that you do not quote results that were not reported in your methods and vice versa. Do not use results in the discussion that was not reported in the results. Do not provide an interpretation of your results here. Stick to the facts only.
Discuss and don’t ramble
Provide a brief, plain English summary of what your most important findings are – no numbers – here in the first two sentences of your study. Contextualise your study and mention how your results or study is different from previous studies and how you add to previously published literature. In addition, can you explain why you are observing this. Here, you can especially highlight how your results(from the LMIC setting) is different from other studies(from HICs).
Discuss the limitations plainly and honestly. Mention explicitly the implications of your study(think press release). The implications should be specific and if“more research is needed” mention exactly what should be asked or done.
Sell the research question, but not the result! You should set up the question so that a positive or negative finding is important. Do not try and spin negative results either! Interestingly, negative data are often statistically more trustworthy than positive data.
Revise the abstract
Provide a short but compelling background statement. Your methods should generally be longer(dates, setting, inclusion criteria, outcomes and your type of analysis). For the results, firstly mention who is in your study and provide the result of your primary outcome. Your conclusion should in one or two sentences summarise your main result(as in the discussion) and one sentence regarding the implications of your result.
Give your paper to someone for constructive criticism who knows nothing about your study, but something about your field.
Check your work
Check for typos and grammar issues by reading it without track changes. Make sure your tables match text and that your references are complete and in the format of the journal. Make sure that your word counts are in line with the author instructions.
Submit and submit again
You have an ethical obligation to publish and disseminate your research. Research suggests that the number of submissions is not related to the quality of the research study. Most authors are not published because they give up too soon. Peer review should be considered as free mentoring, and learn from your mistakes.
[Note from the blog editors: Interesting discussion in questions afterwards about researchers who are not first language English speakers. Need to find mentors who are willing to look at language NOT be authors on papers! There are paid services for this but there are other options such as Authoraid. https://www.authoraid.info/ If you are looking for help on your paper or are willing to assist authors please check them out! You may also want to look at the authorship guidelines by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors that outline the conditions for authorship contributions on a research article, here.]