The importance of editing dissertations

Writing a dissertation is the start of the final phase of graduation. For a student, it marks the transition from being a graduate to a research scholar. Writing a dissertation is a self-directed process, making it an interesting yet challenging task. It is the culmination of years of hard work and study.

However, writing a dissertation is only the first, albeit most important, part in a series of necessary actions that contributes to the final form of a dissertation. After the draft is complete, it is critical to submit it to a professional service provider for a thorough proofreading and editing process to ensure that the text reaches its final, refined, and presentable form.

An apposite editing of a dissertation involves several important steps. Although there is a temptation in this digital age to take recourse to an automated editing process by means of many available software, it is far more reliable to go in for a manual or physical editing service. A professional editor rectifies all inappropriate or incorrect usages with an astute eye on the spelling, punctuation, grammar, and formatting aspects of the dissertation. From this standpoint, a professional dissertation editing service is a crucial step before submitting the dissertation. In the process, there will be plenty of indicators on the quality of the dissertation and its chances of being accepted or rejected.

Here are some essential guidelines for refining your dissertation:

Don’t edit while writing the paper.
Editing the text while writing will not only break the flow of thoughts and words of the text, but it will also break your concentration in detecting any mistakes made. It is better to leave the editing of the text to the post-writing phase.

Self-evaluate your dissertation carefully. Contrary to popular belief, a quick reading of the whole dissertation does not suffice. Conversely, a thorough check on your part will help iron out many basic errors in the dissertation and can serve as the primary stage of editing your paper. This will help the professional editor to better understand your text and improve it further.

Edit your dissertation in sections. Breaking the whole text into sections and sub-sections is a great idea for the self-editing purpose. Editing chunks of the text with proper and timely breaks is more effective than continuously working on the dissertation.

Seek a peer-review. Family and friends, who constitute the most crucial system in your research journey, can be good reviewers of your paper. Sharing your text for a thorough reading might help detect many loopholes.

Hire a professional editor/editing service. A professional editor carries out a careful review of the dissertation to ensure that the thesis is clearly stated and is in accordance with the university guidelines. They would also check the consistency of sentences and flow between paragraphs. This brings greater clarity of the ideas in the text from a reader’s point of view. Often, a professional reader is able to identity many loopholes that a self-assessment or a peer review might miss.

How to resurrect a rejected manuscript?

Rejection of your research paper by a journal does not necessarily imply that your research is fundamentally unsuitable for publication. This is because rejection depends on several factors that might not be solely linked to the main thrust of your research. Besides, the reviewers who evaluate your paper are not familiar with your credentials and therefore might not emphasize the positive factors in your paper. Therefore, it is important that you do not get disheartened or overly disappointed. With certain modifications and perseverance, it is definitely possible to resurrect your research and see it through to publication.

In fact, there are several positive takeaways from a rejection. The well-known chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie carried out a systematic study of the rejection procedure and concluded that most manuscripts do not go through large-scale modifications on their way from a rejection to eventual publication. Therefore, a rejection does not signify that your paper is beyond redemption. In fact, there is every chance that the paper will ultimately find its destined forum for publication.

On the other hand, a study by Vincent Calcagno, ecologist at the French Institute for Agricultural Research in Sophia-Antipolis, has concluded that a research paper goes through several iterations and modifications from the time of its first submission until its final acceptance. These changes contribute significantly to the improvement of the research. The study also observed that research papers that have gone through one or more rejections before publication tend to be cited more than those that have been published following their first submission. This trend is evident after about three to six years following publication.

Calcagno argues that the influence of peer reviews and the inputs from referees and editors makes papers better and each rejection improves the quality of the manuscript from the last attempt. There is also a theory among certain editors to “reject more, because more rejections improve quality.”

Therefore, instead of giving in to despair, it is important to patiently evaluate the reasons for rejection and the associated comments, and to act on them in future submissions of the paper. You can also take recourse to professional editing services to refine your manuscript and help in the submission of the paper to other journals.

The following are some guidelines for first-time writers in making their papers more acceptable:

  • Select an innovative and interesting research topic.
  • Ensure that your writing is well-organized and lucid as it flows from its aim to the conclusion through the methodology, results, and discussion sections.
  • Stay away from plagiarized text and ensure that your research is original and unpublished.
  • Select the most suitable journal that has a good scope for your research topic.
  • Follow the reviewer’s suggestions on your paper in case of a rejection, so that it is in better shape for the next submission.

In case the reviewers cite the reason of unsuitability of your research for the target journal, it is important to prepare and resubmit it to another more suitable journal. If it gets rejected again, keep working on your paper and make repeated attempts at submission until it gets accepted. After all, patience and perseverance are two important virtues of any writer. As the well-known 19th-century American writer Elbert Hubbard said, “A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.”

Use of passive voice in scientific writing

While writing research papers, scientists, researchers, or scholars are faced with the challenge of sentence construction. Most grammar perfectionists advise the use of active rather than passive voice while writing. The “voice” refers to the relationship of the subject with the object and the verb in a sentence. When the emphasis is on the subject, the sentence is in the active voice; when the emphasis is on the object, the sentence is said to be in the passive voice.

First, passive constructions are functional when the agent or the subject is unknown, or when the agent is obvious or unnecessary. For example, the sentence, ‘Equipment was damaged during the experiment’ can be composed without referring to the person behind the action.

Occasionally, passive constructions also help evade responsibility. For example, the sentence, ‘The judgment was taken for this case’ can be written without citing who made the decision. This construction focuses on the investigation only, i.e. on the object of the sentence and not on the investigator or the agent of the sentence.

Alternatively, if we choose the active voice to portray the investigator and the investigation of a research, it would become monotonous and might make the content dreary.

Second, the passive voice allows one to convey a notion of objectivity. Thus we can say, ‘the experiment was completed, and the data was analyzed’ rather than ‘I completed the experiment, and I analyzed the data.’ This concept of reflecting objectivity in scientific writing might be the reason for scientists to settle on the passive and not the active voice and first-person pronouns.

Finally, passive constructions sometimes reduce the clarity of a sentence. This is obviously a negative aspect, yet it is apt for writing where researchers or scientific writers are unsure of their thoughts and the medium to express them. Currently, usage of the passive voice has become a trend in scientific writing where writers often modify their active sentences to passive ones.

The passive voice is especially useful in technical and scientific writing. It reduces the word count of sentences in comparison with those in the active voice, and sometimes contributes to a concise piece of writing.

While recognizing the value of the passive voice, it is advisable to balance the usage of the active voice and the passive voice in your writing. While a rigorous use of the active voice often makes sentences arduous and complex, it is also equally true that an overuse of the passive voice might make the writing just as difficult to comprehend.

Conflict of Interest Disclosure

A fundamental requisite of a publication in any reputed journal is the need to provide readers with unbiased and unambiguous research. Toward this objective, a published article should disclose whether the author or authors had any competing interest or conflict of interest while preparing the article. Consequently, the onus is on the journal to publish such disclosures in the paper so that readers, who include researchers, professionals, practitioners and scholars, are aware of them while evaluating the paper.

According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), there is a case of “competing interest” or “conflict of interest” when professional judgment concerning a primary interest (such as patients’ welfare or the validity of research) may be influenced by a secondary interest (such as financial gain). Such conflict is likely to affect the credibility of the journal as well as that of the author(s).

Conflict of interest may arise from potential relationships or allegiances, or from hostilities against particular groups or organizations. It may occur when a specific factor influences one’s judgments or actions significantly. In such situations, personal gain has an ascendancy over scholarly output.

Today, most journals publish papers that are not only based on the output of the authors, but also largely impacted by the inputs of peer reviewers, editors, and editorial board members of the journals. All such participants, who play a critical role in the process of finalizing a paper for publication, also need to seek any disclosure from the authors that could be perceived as a potential conflict of interest.

The general format of the conflict of interest form includes:

  • Author and co-authors’ conflict of interest.
  • Statements declaring whether the supporting sources are involved in the study design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data.
  • Explanation regarding the authors’ access to the study data, including the nature and extent of the authors’ access and validity.

Declaration of any conflict of interest is an ethical requirement for researchers at the time of submitting their manuscripts for publication. Being upfront about any potential conflict of interest is likely to increase the trust of the readers in the publication and places them in a position to make an honest evaluation of any likely bias in the research findings.

Retraction of Publications

Your published articles give you recognition as a writer and boost your academic credentials. However, there are special circumstances when an article might be withdrawn or cancelled even after its publication. This process is called retraction of publications.

Research articles go through a review process prior to publication. However, there are occasions when major errors are detected in a research paper after it is published. In such circumstances, the journal is forced to issue a retraction notice to withdraw the publication. Retraction enables journals to alert or inform readers about the errors in the findings or conclusions of the paper. Some journals, however, retract papers without citing specific reasons because they fear a loss of credibility in the journal. In recent months, there is a discernible increase in the retraction rate in the publication industry.

According to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), publications can be retracted by journal editors if:

  • They have clear evidence that the findings are unreliable, either as a result of misconduct (e.g., data fabrication) or honest error (e.g., miscalculation or experimental error).
  • The findings have previously been published elsewhere without proper cross-referencing, permission or justification (i.e., cases of redundant publication).
  • It constitutes plagiarism.
  • It reports unethical research.

Even though retraction of a publication is the decision of the journal’s editor, sometimes the author of the paper may also be asked by the editor to formally issue the retraction. In some journals, both the editor and the author issue the retraction notice. Nevertheless, the journal’s editor can retract the published paper unilaterally in case the author refuses to do so.

The retraction notice should cite the reasons for the retraction and clarify whether the retraction is for misconduct or for honest and genuine mistakes. The notice also needs to mention whether the publication is being retracted by the editor or the author. Retracted publications should not be removed either from online or printed copies of the journal; instead, the status of the retraction should be clearly indicated in the publication.

Retraction of publications is likely to have an adverse impact on the credentials of both the author and the journal. Therefore, it is important to take precautionary measures to avoid such a scenario.

Open Access Publication and its Significance

Hundreds and thousands of articles are published every year irrespective of their category and subject in about 25,000 journals worldwide. Published research works and articles help in laying a foundation for future progress in medicine and healthcare developments. This aim of publicizing the new successful researches is possible when the articles published in journals are accessed by the people without any restrictions. The open access can help in disseminating knowledge by promoting the innovations and the solutions to the prevailing incurable problems in medicine and healthcare.

The readership of the open access journals are more in comparison to the subscription mode of publication. This mode of publication increases the number of readers and significantly increases the citations per article rate.

The more the research articles are freely accessible, the more are its utilizations by the health care providers, clinicians, researchers and students along with the public. This free access to the articles is technically termed as Open Access Publication. This mode of publication make research works more useful by allowing an easy access to it for study or further analyzation and creating a chance for further researches, manipulation and mining of the study/research.

Generally, the research works target those health problems which lack solutions. Even if any researcher or medicine practitioner addresses the proposed solutions to such incurable health problems after conducting numerous researches for it, the result or the findings remains unapproachable by the public and other health care practitioners due to the restrictions on the access of the article by the journals by the subscription mode of publication. One who can subscribe the journal or pay for the article can only access those valuable inventions done in the field of medicine and health care.

Nowadays, the prices of the subscription mode are no longer reasonable for a new researcher, academician or student. Some university libraries pay large amount of fees for subscribing to these journals in order to make their students have an easy access to the journal articles on-line. In some countries, the journal subscription prices are so high that the institutions are incapable of accessing those published up-to-date research articles.

Keeping all these points in mind, some journals have shifted to only open access mode of publications, i.e., they have become Open Access Journal. Such journals make their articles available for free through charging for the publication services before publication, rather than after publication through subscriptions. This initiative might now put an impact of the economic aspects of the research work. As the open access publication charges can be included in research funding, the charge for access is handled by the research funder and not the institute’s library.

We hope this detailed portrayal of the open access publication will be a guide for understanding its impact on the field of research and findings.

Ghostwriting: The Paid Writing

Those who are new to this term should not apprehend it as writings by Ghost!!! However, medical researchers’, authors’ and editors’ fraternity are well-versed with this term.

Ghostwriting denotes to the practice of writing for and in the name of someone else especially a named author or writer. This practice has become a widespread trend these days.

Ghostwriters, as it sounds, are definitely not the ghosts but are those hired writers who do not claim their own creative works. They are the individuals who usually make significant contributions to the research or writing of a manuscript for the medical fraternity or institutions. They are heavily paid for selling their creativity.

Despite of its widespread usage, it is difficult to track down the ghostwriting practice in the medical writings, journals and research papers. No wonder, the secret behind the term coined is its invisible omnipresence.

A study done by journal PLoS Medicine revealed the rise in the practice of ghostwriting. This paid form of writing has raised both ethical and legal aspects in medical journals. It puts an impact on the integrity of the scientific facts and figures used for a particular medical research. Fingers are now being pointed on the ethics of the medical journal publications.

Moreover, it is now considered as a legal offense and can bring misconduct to the researchers or authors or writers paying for such malpractice. Legal experts are accounting such writing as professional fraud and misconduct.

The Internal Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) has finally designed some guidelines to curb this ghostwriting trend and provide the credit to its original writer/author only. As per these guidelines, the authorship of a research paper is judged on the basis of:

  1. Substantial contributions to conception and design, 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.

We hope this article will surely help you in understanding the present practice of ghostwriting, which is gradually becoming a burden for the journals, especially medical journals.

Impact Factor: Criterion to evaluate a journal’s quality

Researchers, writers and authors start scratching their heads when it comes to select a journal to get their articles or manuscripts published. The present article will surely help you in this regard and turn out to be a guide before selecting a journal.

Selecting an appropriate journal and publication type is a challenging job. Getting it right increases the chances of having a successful publication of your article. Eugene Garfield, the founder of Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), proposed a tool to evaluate the journals’ impact within a particular discipline both quantitatively and qualitatively in the year 1955. Finally, Journal Impact Factor (JIF) was indexed in 1975 for analyzing the journal’s quality.

The journal impact factor refers to the average number of citations of the previously published articles in a journal; it may be books, case studies, reports, thesis or web documents, etc. Practically, higher the impact factor of a journal, higher is its influence. The value of the impact factor of a journal is regulated by two elements. Firstly, the sociological aspect comprising of journal’s subject area and the type of journal and article. The journal impact factor keeps deviating in accordance with the quantity of citations in different journals and the type of articles in them. Secondly, element constitutes of size of the journal, i.e., the quantity of articles published in the journal within a span of time. Usually, citations between two and five years are two benchmarks used to judge the size of the journal.

At times, the authors or researchers consider journals with the least acceptance rate. They have very strict procedures to select the best article before publication and, eventually, such journals show to have the highest impact factor.

Journal impact factor is a very useful aid for evaluation of journals; nevertheless, impact factor is said to have some demerits too. Factors like peer review process, editorial board members and the article rejection rates are some of the considerable features along with the impact factor to help you out during the journal selections.

Whatever may be its influence, bad or good, impact factor is going to prevail for a long duration as other options are no better in its comparison.

We hope this article will surely help you in judging the journals before you select one for publishing your article.

Is self-plagiarism ethical?

Research papers or journals are the medium of spreading knowledge and new ideas evolved. Innovative and original piece of work would certainly be more educative and admirable. Nevertheless, authors and writers are often found to be reusing their old piece of work or some extracts from their previous published papers while writing a new research paper.

When questions are raised against this content reuse, authors claim that those stuffs are their own works and materials, and thus, they can reuse them as they wish, and it cannot be termed as plagiarism since they have not stolen the ideas from any other author or source.

The ethics of plagiarism are not applicable to such reuse, as a result of which it has been overlooked till date. While the discussion is whether this reuse is ethical or not, the publications and the journals, on the other hand, have set certain guidelines for such works citing it as Self-plagiarism.

What is self-plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism is a form of plagiarism where the writer reuses his/her own previously published work in portions or entirely while creating a new study paper. It can breach the publisher’s copyright on those published work when it is reused in the new study papers without appropriate citations. Let us now know more about the ethical aspects of self-plagiarism.

Self-plagiarism can be detected when:

a)  A published paper is used to republish elsewhere without the consent of the co-authors and the publisher of the paper or work.

b)  A paper of a large study is published in small sections with an intention to increase the number of publications.

c)  A previously written work either published or not is reused again in portions in the new study papers.

Although the laws of self-plagiarism are not enforced, it somehow reflects the dishonesty of the author. Moreover, the journals and the publishers are rejecting such copy-paste works as they are seeking writings based on original research findings and proper citations of all the references.

Nowadays, journals are also pointing out questions on the reuse of one’s own work. In order to avoid self-plagiarism, one should try to keep his/her work original, and in case it is necessary to include any portion from his/her previous works, it should be then properly cited with proper references. I hope this article will surely help you in detecting prospective self-plagiarism before submitting your paper or work to publications or journals.