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IADSR International Conference 2012 Post Conference Workshop Lahore, Pakistan 1 May 2012.

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Presentation on theme: "IADSR International Conference 2012 Post Conference Workshop Lahore, Pakistan 1 May 2012."— Presentation transcript:

1 IADSR International Conference 2012 Post Conference Workshop Lahore, Pakistan 1 May 2012

2 Writing a Journal Article: Section by Section Barbara Gastel, MD, MPH AuthorAID at INASP ( and Texas A&M University

3 Overview Using journals’ instructions to authors Structuring a journal article Writing effectively in English Learning more: some resources Along the way: –Open discussion –Small-group work

4 Preliminary Questions Experience –Have you written an article reporting research? –Have you published such an article? Materials—have you brought the following? –The instructions to authors from a journal in which you hope to publish a paper –An example of a paper published in this journal –A draft of a paper about your own research

5 Using a Journal’s Instructions to Authors Read the instructions to authors before starting to prepare your paper. Consult the instructions while preparing your paper. Check the instructions again before submitting your paper.

6 What are some questions that a journal’s instructions may answer?

7 Some Questions the Instructions May Answer What categories of article does the journal publish? What is the maximum length of articles? What is the maximum length of abstracts? What sections should the article include? What are the guidelines for each? What guidelines for writing style should be followed?

8 Some Questions (cont) How many figures and tables are allowed? What are the requirements for them? In what format should references appear? Is there a maximum number of references? In what electronic format should the paper be prepared? How should the paper be submitted?

9 Some Browsing A resource: Instructions to Authors in the Health Sciences ( Examples of journals’ instructions to authors Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals (

10 Small-Group Exercise Look at some instructions to authors that you or others brought or accessed. –What kinds of information do they contain? –What else do you notice about them? Note and discuss questions you have about instructions to authors. Be ready to present observations and questions to the full group.

11 Discussion of the Small-Group Exercise

12 Beyond the Instructions Look at some recent issues of the journal. In the journal, look at some papers that present research analogous to yours. Using such articles as models can help you gear your paper to the journal.

13 Small-Group Exercise Look at a journal article that you or someone else brought or accessed. What are some things about this article that might be good to imitate if you write an article for the same journal?

14 Discussion of the Small-Group Exercise

15 Structuring a Journal Article

16 Preparing a journal article: largely a matter of organization

17 A Common Format for Journal Articles: IMRAD Introduction:What was the question? Methods:How did you try to answer it? Results:What did you find? And Discussion:What does it mean?

18 A More Complete View (Title) (Authors) (Abstract) Introduction Methods Results Discussion (Acknowledgments) (References)

19 Some Other Structures IRDAM (with methods at end) IMRAD RAD RAD... (with combined or alternating results and discussion) Other

20 Questions What is the usual structure of journal articles in your research field? What is the structure of an article that you or a group member brought?

21 Title The fewest possible words that adequately indicate the contents of the paper Important in literature searching Should not include extra words, such as “A Study of” or “Observations on” Should be specific enough Generally should not include abbreviations (Running title: short version of title—appears at tops of pages)

22 Mini-Exercise Look at the title of a journal article that you or a group member brought. Do you think it’s a good title? Why or why not?

23 Authors Those with important intellectual contributions to the work Often listed from greatest contributions to least In some fields, head of research group often is listed last In some fields, listed alphabetically Useful to list one’s name the same way on every paper

24 The Abstract An important part of the paper –Relatively widely read –Used to decide whether to read the rest of the paper –Gives editors, reviewers, others a first impression Briefly summarizes the paper Should be organized like the paper (for example, in a miniature version of the IMRAD format) Some journals have structured abstracts (with standardized headings).

25 Mini-Exercise Look at the abstract of a journal article that you or a group member brought. Is it structured (with headings in it) or unstructured? How is it organized?

26 A Note on Abstracts First to be read Last to be written or revised

27 Orders of Reading and Writing Sections of a Paper People read the sections of journal papers in various orders. (What does that imply for how to write such papers?) You can write the sections of a paper in any order. A convenient order in which to write the main sections: methods, results, discussion, introduction

28 Methods

29 Purposes of the Methods Section To allow others to replicate what you did –In order to test it –In order to do further research To allow others to evaluate what you did –To determine whether the conclusions seem valid –To determine whether the findings seem applicable to other situations

30 Methods: Basic Information to Include In most cases, overview of study design Identification of (if applicable) –Equipment, organisms, reagents, etc used (and sources thereof) –Populations –Approval of human or animal research by an appropriate committee –Statistical methods

31 Methods: Amount of Detail to Use For well-known methods: name of method, citation of reference For methods previously described but not well known: brief description of method, citation of reference For methods that you yourself devise: relatively detailed description

32 Methods: The Words and More Should be written in past tense In some journals, may include subheads (which can help readers) May include tables and figures—for example: –Flowcharts –Diagrams of apparatus –Tables of experimental conditions

33 Questions? Comments? Additions?

34 Results

35 The Results Section The core of the paper Often includes tables, figures, or both Should summarize findings rather than providing data in great detail Should present results but not comment on them (Note: Some journals combine the Results and the Discussion.)

36 Verb Tense for the Results Section: Past Tense Examples: –A total of 417 patients showed _____. –_____ increased, but _____ decreased. –The average depth was _____. –In all, 93% of the dental students and 77% of the medical students indicated that ______. –The difference in _____ was not statistically significant.

37 Results Sections of Papers with Tables or Figures How much should the information in the text overlap that in the tables and figures? –Not extensive overlap –In general, text should present only the main points from the tables and figures –Perhaps also include a few of the most important data Remember to mention each table or figure. Do so as soon as readers might want to see it.

38 Mentioning Tables and Figures: Some Writing Advice In citing tables and figures, emphasize the finding, not the table or figure. –Not so good: Table 3 shows that researchers who attended the workshop published twice as many papers per year. –Better: Researchers who attended the workshop published twice as many papers per year (Table 3).

39 Tables: A Few Suggestions Use tables only if text will not suffice. Design tables to be understandable without the text. If a paper includes a series of tables, use the same format for each. Be sure to follow the instructions to authors.

40 Figures: A Few Suggestions Use figures (graphs, diagrams, maps, photographs, etc) only if they will help convey your information. Avoid including too much information in one figure. Make sure that any lettering will be large enough once published. Follow the journal’s instructions.

41 Small-Group Exercise: Methods and Results Sections Note the most important points presented about the methods section and results section. Note and discuss any questions you may have. Look at published papers that group members brought. See how they compare with what was said about the methods and results sections. If you brought a draft of a paper, consider the methods and results sections in light of the lecture material. Consider what you would keep the same and what changes you would make.

42 Discussion of Small-Group Exercise

43 The Introduction

44 Purposes of the Introduction To provide background –In order to help readers understand the paper –In order to help readers appreciate the importance of the research To identify the question or questions that the research addressed (or the hypothesis or hypotheses that the research tested)

45 Length of Introduction Articles in some fields tend to have short introductions (a few paragraphs or less) Articles in some other fields tend to have long introductions or to also include related sections (for example, literature review) What about introductions in your field?

46 Gearing the Introduction to the Audience Papers in relatively general journals: Introduction must provide basic background information. Papers in specialized journals in your field: Introduction can assume that readers have more knowledge about the field.

47 Structure of the Introduction Introduction typically should be funnel- shaped, moving from general to specific A common structure: –Information on importance of topic –Highlights of relevant previous research –Identification of unanswered question(s) –Approach you used to seek the answer(s) –(In some fields) your main findings

48 Discussion

49 One of the more difficult parts to write, because have more choice of what to say Often should begin with a brief summary of the main findings Should answer the question(s) stated in the introduction (or address the hypothesis or hypotheses) Sometimes is followed by a conclusions section

50 The Discussion: Some Possible Content Strengths of the study –For example, superior methods, extensive data Limitations of the study –For example: small sample size, short follow-up, incomplete data, possible sources of bias, problems with experimental procedures –Better to mention limitations than for peer reviewers and readers to think that you’re unaware of them –If the limitations seem unlikely to affect the conclusions, can explain why

51 The Discussion: Possible Content (cont) Relationship to findings of other research—for example: –Similarities to previous findings (your own, others’, or both) –Differences from previous findings –Possible reasons for similarities and differences

52 The Discussion: Possible Content (cont) Applications and implications—for example: –Possible uses of the findings (in clinical practice, in policy, or otherwise) –Relationship of the findings to theories or models: Do the findings support them? Do they refute them? Do they suggest modifications?

53 The Discussion: Possible Content (cont) Other research needed—for example: –To address questions still unanswered –To address new questions raised by the findings Other

54 The Discussion: Structure Typically should move from specific to general (opposite of introduction) Beware of excessive length

55 IMRAD Structure: Like an Hourglass Introduction: starts by talking broadly about your topic and then narrows down to your own research Methods: narrow—focuses on your research Results: narrow—focuses on your research Discussion: starts narrow (with your own research) and then broadens to discuss others’ research and then wider implications

56 Small-Group Exercise: Introduction and Discussion Note the most important points presented about the introduction and discussion. Note and discuss any questions you may have. Look at published papers that group members brought. See how they compare with what was said about the introduction and discussion. If you brought a draft of a paper, consider the introduction and discussion in light of the lecture material. Consider what you would keep the same and what changes you would make.

57 Discussion of Small-Group Exercise

58 Acknowledgments The place to thank people who contributed to the research but whose contributions don’t qualify them for authorship Obtain permission before listing people Sometimes also the place to mention sources of financial support

59 References

60 Functions of References To give credit to others for their work To add credibility to your work by showing that you used valid information sources To help show how your work relates to previous work To help readers find further information

61 References: Importance of Accuracy Studies show that many references are inaccurate. For references to fulfill their functions, they must be accurate. Therefore –Make sure that you accurately state what the cited material says. –Make sure that all information in the citation (for example, author list, article title, journal title, volume, year, pages) is accurate.

62 Another Reason Your References Should Be Accurate Often, authors whose work you cite will be chosen as your peer reviewers. Inaccurate references to their work will not impress them favorably.

63 Formats Various formats exist for citation in text—for example: –Accuracy of references is important (Day and Gastel, 2011). –Accuracy of references is important. 3 Various formats exist for items in reference lists—for example: –Pineda D Communication of science in Colombia. Sci. Ed. 26: –Pineda D. Communication of science in Colombia. Sci Ed 2003;26:91-2.

64 A Reminder Be sure to use the format used by your target journal. –For the citations in the text –For the reference list

65 Citation Management Software Examples: EndNote, Reference Manager, RefWorks Allows you to keep a database of references Provides the citations and references in the proper format for your target journal

66 Placement of Citations Ambiguous: –This disease has been reported in humans, dogs, rabbits, and squirrels (Cumming and Gastel, 1997; Khan and Chaudhry, 2008; Zhang, 2002). –This disease has been reported in humans, dogs, rabbits, and squirrels. 1,4,7 Clear: –This disease has been reported in humans (Cumming and Gastel, 1997), dogs (Khan and Chaudhry, 2008), and rabbits and squirrels (Zhang, 2002). –This disease has been reported in humans, 1 dogs, 4 rabbits, 7 and squirrels. 7

67 Other Advice on References Cite only items that you have read. Check each reference against the original source. Carefully follow the journal’s instructions to authors. Use other articles in the same journal as models.

68 Before Submitting Your Paper Make sure the abstract is consistent with the rest of your paper. Revise, revise, revise the paper. Show the paper to other people, and revise it some more. Re-check the journal’s instructions to authors.

69 Writing Effectively in English

70 The Essentials The essentials are content, organization, and clarity. If a paper has excellent content, is well organized, and is clear, it is likely to be accepted even if the English is so-so. If a paper has poor content, is badly organized, or is unclear, it is likely to be rejected even if the English is excellent.

71 Cultural Differences to Consider Directness of expression? Amount of detail? Attitudes toward time? Attitudes toward using material taken from others’ writing? Other?

72 Some Common Language Challenges Verb tenses Prepositions Articles Sentence structure Sentence length Other What language challenges, if any, do people in Pakistan face when writing in English?

73 Some Strategies Compiling lists of words and phrases commonly used in your field Writing simply Having people with a strong command of English review your drafts Using a professional editor (if possible, one familiar with your field) Other

74 Writing Readably In general, avoid –Very long paragraphs –Very long sentences Perhaps use –Headings –Bulleted or numbered lists –Italics and boldface (but don’t overuse these) –Easy-to-understand graphics

75 Writing Readably (cont) Where feasible, –Use simple, common words. attempt→fundamental→ –Delete needless words. red in color→totally destroyed→ –Condense wordy phrases. at this point in time→in the event that→ –Use verbs, not nouns made from them. produce relief of→provide an explanation→

76 Questions? Comments? Additions?

77 Learning More: Some Resources

78 Some General Resources OneLook Dictionary Search ( Academic Phrasebank ( Grammar Girl ( University writing centers (search online) Books on scientific writing—for example: –Research Writing in Dentistry, by J. Anthony von Fraunhofer –How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, 7th ed, by Robert A. Day and Barbara Gastel

79 AuthorAID at INASP ( A project mainly to help researchers in developing countries to write about and publish their work Main components –Mentoring –Workshops –Openly accessible content –Small travel grants and workshop grants

80 Questions and Answers

81 Closing Items

82 Thank you!

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