Presentation on theme: "Preparing Manuscripts and Responding to Referees’ Reports Preparing Manuscripts and Responding to Referees’ Reports Ian Stolerman Tom Babor Robert West."— Presentation transcript:
Preparing Manuscripts and Responding to Referees’ Reports Preparing Manuscripts and Responding to Referees’ Reports Ian Stolerman Tom Babor Robert West
What Editors Want Quality Originality Good methods A good fit to the journal No trouble
Final Decisions Depend On: oImportance, originality oReviewers’ concerns oFatal flaws oJournal Philosophy oSpace Available oEditorial work required
Triage: Rejection Before Peer Review Journals have a duty to avoid wasting referee time and undue delays in responding to authors
Triage: Rejection Before Peer Review Outside scope of the journal (e.g. not about addiction). Manuscript type unacceptable (e.g. review sent to a journal that publishes new data papers only). Ignores instructions to authors. Major methodological weakness (e.g. too few subjects). Clear ethical problems (waste of animals). Purely descriptive, parochial, no hypotheses, no conclusions. Statistical analysis lacking. Nothing new in it. Reasons for instant rejections:
Triage and Beyond The Balance between Innovation and Rigour If the approach to a problem or the type of study is very innovative, with much heuristic potential, you may succeed with less convincing data. If there is not very much that is new, but your study is the first one with an adequate design, then you need really clear and convincing data. The perfect paper has important new ideas backed up by sound data from thoroughly validated methods. In real papers there is a trade-off between innovation and quality of data. Large, representative sample, high response rate. Valid measures, minimal procedural biases. Good intervention integrity. Appropriate controls. Minimal confounding
Comply with Details of Instructions to Authors 1. Introduction to the Paper Indicate at the outset the problem that is addressed - get the reader interested! Ensure the Introduction summarises previous work adequately. State the objectives of work: Doing something because it has not been done before is not enough. Why does it need to be done? State hypotheses to be tested. How will they be tested - outline of plan of work. Don’t include conclusions in the Introduction.
Instructions to Authors: 2. Methods Recruitment procedures. Criteria for inclusion/exclusion. Reference previous uses of measuring instruments and techniques. Don’t just say what you did, explain why you did it that way (e.g. how drug doses were chosen). Include as much detail as possible in the space. Specify statistical methods and software used. Convince readers the methods are valid. Study the Methods sections of recent published papers using similar techniques. Very common to neglect sample identification process and loss of subjects. Many samples are not representative, low response rates.
Common Problems with Results Sections Results are mixed with descriptions of methods and conclusions, and are not linked to questions asked. Claims are made but the data are not shown. The data are not described, just the results of statistical analyses. Boring to read because the important findings are left to the end or not emphasised enough. Insufficiently graphical presentation. Try to make figures understandable without reading the text. Excessive detail in Tables and Figures obscures the message and wastes space. Do not duplicate.
Common Data Analysis Issues Failure to deal adequately with confounding variables. Claims to find something without a directly supporting statistical test. Inappropriate conclusions from ‘non- significant’ associations/differences. Failure to control for multiple comparisons.
Common Problems with Discussions Opening paragraph is only a summary of results. Select the main data and emphasise 2-3 important conclusions in relation to the data. Does not focus on aims as stated in Introduction. Does not place findings in context of previous knowledge. Every paragraph should compare and contrast your data with relevant previous findings, indicating what is new and what is confirmatory. Addresses too many issues and is too long. Does not consider alternative interpretations or acknowledge major limitations of the work. Descends into politics and polemics. Wastes space discussing ‘trends’
Responding to Referee Reports Construct a detailed reply to referees. Reply with numbered sections corresponding to referees’ points. Make revisions to deal with most criticisms; then explain why you have not dealt with the rest. Describe briefly each change you make, refer the reader to the relevant page in the revised manuscript. Referees are human: be prepared to make some minor changes that you don’t feel are really necessary. If there are important or major changes recommended that you are absolutely sure are wrong, then present a polite, logically-argued rebuttal. If you don’t want to make any of the changes, take a break and look at it again another day.
Responding to Referee Reports If you have made major changes by rewriting whole sections, state you have done that. If you have just inserted or deleted a few words, make clear which words so that referees can see something has been done. If you are asked to shorten something, do so to at least some extent and perhaps state by how much. Engender trust: never claim to have made changes when you have not done so.
Responding to Referee Reports Keep your reply as short as possible, e.g. 1-3 single- spaced pages. If the referee writes three lines and you need a page to rebut it, your argument will not be convincing. If the referee cannot understand your point, try to see how the misunderstanding has arisen and make changes so it will not happen again. If one person does not follow what you have written the same may apply to others. Answer questions raised by the referee in the manuscript, not in the cover letter.
Responding to Referee Reports Spend a significant amount of time getting your reply to referees as near perfect as you can. Maximise and stress agreements with what they write, acknowledge their contribution. Minimise disagreements (but not to the point of dishonesty). If you feel a referee shows a bias to a theoretical approach that differs from yours, you can explain that there are different approaches, that yours is equally valid, there is a genuine difference of opinion and you have a different but scientifically legitimate view. Don’t do this unless you have a strong case.
Common Problems with Discussions Opening paragraph is only a summary of results. Select the main data and emphasise 2-3 important conclusions in relation to the data. Does not focus on aims as stated in Introduction. Does not place findings in context of previous knowledge. Every paragraph should compare and contrast your data with relevant previous findings, indicating what is new and what is confirmatory. Addresses too many issues and is too long. Does not consider alternative interpretations or acknowledge major limitations of the work. Descends into politics and polemics. Wastes space discussing ‘trends’ P < 0.10 ‘trends’; no difference = no effect.
Summary: Optimizing your Chances Match the Journal’s: Mission Quality Read the instructions! Provide good abstract Revise: Thoroughly Quickly