Research ethics board: A test of quality

Academic research is founded on trust. Researchers work on the premise that the work reported by others reflects an honest attempt and will aid them accurately. Hence, it is imperative that all research must be approved by a formally constituted research ethics board. This body evaluates the ethical aspects of any submitted work that involves human participants, regardless of the descriptive label given to that work including research, audit, and sometimes debate.

Besides deciding whether the participants in a study have provided their consent, which is a very important factor, an appraisal of the ethical issues in a manuscript also evaluates whether the overall design and conduct of each entity involved in the work is morally acceptable.

In the case of a medical research, the committee investigates the following questions:

–          How much does the study deviate from the current normal clinical practice?

–          Is there any obligation imposed on the patients?

–          Are there any additional risks to the patients involved?

–          What are the benefits for the patients, if any?

–          What are the potential benefits for future patients as well as for the society at large?

Authors need to state clearly that their study was approved by the relevant research ethics committee or institutional review board. If human participants were involved, the manuscripts must be accompanied by a statement certifying that the experiments were undertaken with the informed consent of each. In case of animals used for experiments, the ‘Materials and Methods’ section must clearly specify the details of animal care and confirm that they were not harmed in any manner.

Even when a study has been approved by a research ethics committee or an institutional review board, editors may still have doubts on the authenticity of the submitted work. They may then ask the authors for more detailed information justifying the ethical conduct of the work. The credentials of the research ethics board that reviewed the work may also be sought in case the journal requires further information and justification from that committee. The editors can reject papers if there is any doubt regarding adherence to proper procedures.

If a paper has been submitted from a country where there is no research ethics board, editors should use their own experience and judgment to determine whether the paper should be published. If deemed fit for publication, the manuscript must include a short statement explaining the situation.

Importance of an apt title for your research paper

Writing a research paper with innovative and groundbreaking findings might be a difficult task in itself, but a carefully formulated title is also just as important.

A Good Research Paper TitleBy its sheer positioning at the top, the title occupies a pristine position in your research paper and readers, reviewers, and editors are inadvertently drawn to it first. This makes it imperative on your part to give considerable time and thought to go through several iterations before finalizing the title of your research paper. The title needs to be clear, concise, and indicative of the research topic.

Often, readers consider the title as the primary parameter to check the suitability and importance of a research work. Hence, the title should be enticing without being verbose, so that the reader is persuaded to read the abstract that follows the title. Much like the cover of a book, it is the main heading of a research paper that leaves an indelible imprint in the reader’s mind. Besides, in this age of Internet search queries, the title can technically act as a metadata string that highlights the aim of your research and helps other researchers locate your paper when they use a web crawler.

The following are some tips for making your title more meaningful and easily discoverable by search engines:

  • Use proper sentence structure in the title.
  • Consider the target audience of your paper before selecting words for the title and structure them accordingly.
  • Think of a short title that best expresses the salient features of your paper.
  • Avoid descriptive, interrogative, or rhetoric titles for scientific research papers.
  • Try to include the fine points of the subject population (e.g., children with autism and alcohol-withdrawn patients, etc.).
  • Focus of the title should be on the outcome of the study.
  • Restrict the use of abbreviations unless they are exceptionally common.
  • Never construct the title on the basis of statistical findings of the paper.
  • Use punctuations wisely.

Title tells the objective of the paperA title of an article or a paper, irrespective of its type and genre, should be able to express the main objective of the paper in order to be useful for readers or researchers. That will lead more web searches to your research paper and increase the chances of it being cited in other research work.

The Editor: A vital role barely talked about

One of the most crucial roles in the domain of manuscript publishing is that of the editor. While a manuscript undergoes a series of steps that finally leads to its publication in a journal of the author’s choice, editing is the first stage that breathes life into a raw document. An editor polishes the knowledge and skills of a writer and even supplements the manuscript with new material that a writer might not have, might not know how to use, or fail to see its relevance in the work. In short, an editor assembles the pieces of a manuscript to create a fascinating and appealing picture that the readers will want to explore in depth.

  • A writer can employ specific services and specialist editors; the choice depends on the stage in which the manuscript is in the publishing cycle:
  • A structural or stylist editor gives shape and expression to the work.
  • A proofreading editor examines and corrects the spelling, punctuation, and grammatical elements of the work.
  • A copyeditor typically reads the text and checks it for sense, clarity, and grammatical accuracy, and conformity with the guidelines provided by the writer.
  • A manuscript editor focuses on the structure and flow of the work as a whole.

An editor serves the project, the author, and the reader. Therefore an editor should preferably be a native English speaker or someone who is very well-versed with the nuances of the language. One of the primary functions of an editor is to correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation and simultaneously be aware of the target journal guidelines. It is essential for an editor to maintain consistency and logic (ensuring the need of the target audience), and verify headings, statistics, graphs, and footnote entries. An editor captures the writer’s voice and sensibilities and presents the work in the best possible manner to meet the expectations of the audience. All in all, an editor balances the writer’s intent with the publisher’s standards and the reader’s expectations and finds a way to satisfy all three requisites.

Editors are sticklers for perfection. They have a great eye for detail, a strong vocabulary, and in-depth knowledge of grammar rules and conventions. Language is their forte and they are aware of its impact and significance. Hence, it becomes imperative to know the background and credentials of the editor you are entrusting your work to. Requesting testimonies and work samples is a good approach to know more about the editor and make an informed choice. By researching and being clear on the expectations and outcomes, one can be in control and convey the right message to the editor to ensure that the manuscript reaches its apt destination. A great editor is ideally supposed to make the journey toward publication a pleasurable one. Conversely, a poor editor will have an adverse effect both on the quality and the time taken to see the project reach a logical conclusion.

As Stephen King rightly put it, “To write is human, to edit is divine.”

Why opt for professional editing services?

Importance of professional editing

Professional editing services provide a broad spectrum of services such as basic and advanced copy editing, proofreading, and substantive editing. Substantive editing can be opted for by an author when the paper requires in-depth editing, restructuring, and rephrasing, or if the sentences lack clarity. In such cases of high-level editing, professional editors rephrase and rewrite the convoluted and imprecise sentences and paragraphs. This input considerably enhances the presentation of your manuscript and improves the chances of publication. Advanced copyediting is a less rigorous editing process that often encompasses an expanded copyediting service to fix minor errors in your paper. The service also includes rewriting of certain unclear sentences, but the amount of editing remains modest. Basic copyediting entails correction of general grammatical and syntax errors and improving word choice to enhance the manuscript in terms of presentation and clarity. Proofreading involves checking of overall errors in the manuscript including grammar, punctuation marks, capitalization, and better word choice at certain places to improve the quality of the paper. It constitutes the basic level of editing and polishes a manuscript. To avail such professional editing services, one needs to hire an editor who is well-versed with the aforementioned editing categories. The benefits of hiring a professional editor include the following:

  • Authors who have excellent ideas but find it difficult to express them on paper can gain substantially.
  • Professional editing services save the author’s time.
  • The chances of publication of the manuscript are enhanced manifold.
  • Minor as well as major errors in your manuscript are identified and ironed out.
  • Authors get acquainted with the general writing conventions, grammar rules, and proper usage of punctuation marks, which helps them avoid convoluted and incorrect sentences in their writing.
  • Professionally edited manuscripts have an edge in the peer review process.

Professionally edit for publication

Although professional editors can polish the manuscript by pointing out gaps in the paper, the onus of the research paper lies on the author. Therefore, a professional editor can ably serve as a helping hand in the publication process, but cannot assure publication of the manuscript. Nonetheless, if the author is able to take note of all suggestions by the editor and provide the necessary information, the paper has a much greater chance of success.

Guidelines to write an effective abstract

The abstract, which is a concise portrayal of the research work, is a decisive factor for the target journal or reader. It is not only essential to encourage people to read your paper, but also to persuade them to cite it in their research work. Thus, it is worth investing some extra time to write an attractive yet simple abstract.

First, it is important to read the main text several times to mentally absorb and retain the whole research work. Thereafter, attempt a draft that does not merely copy the sentences from the main text of the paper. Instead, the abstract should encapsulate the research concisely. Going through several iterations is a good way of improving an abstract.

The first few sentences of the abstract should illustrate the background and the purpose of the research work. These sentences should grab the reader’s attention and create an inquisitiveness to read in greater depth. The next couple of sentences should focus on the methodology of the research. Finally, the abstract should end with the result and conclusion part, which should be summarized in just 3-5 sentences. This part should be concise and emphasize the significant results and not the statistics.

Once the draft is done, proofread the draft to refine it as much as possible. Avoid verbose writing and verify the text for coherence of the information provided and proper usage of grammar. Besides text, scientific journals have come up with a new idea of summarizing their research paper through a graphical abstract. A graphical abstract is a single, concise, pictorial and visual summary of the main findings of the article. It could either be the concluding figure from the article or a figure that captures the content of the article for readers at a single glance. These days, researchers and scientists find abstract writing to be a cumbersome process and instead opt for a graphical abstract.

Regardless of the type of the abstract, it is an essential part of your manuscript that persuades editors, reviewers, and other researchers to absorb your research in detail.

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.

Journal Impact Factor: All That Matters

The impact factor, often abbreviated as IF, is a measure reflecting the average number of citations that a paper published in a journal receives over a defined period of time. Conceptually developed in the 1960s by Eugene Garfield, founder of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), IF is now frequently used as a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field. Journal impact factors are published annually in Science Citation Index (SCI) Reports.

Researchers are often conditioned to believe that IF matters the most. Publication in journals with a high IF is regarded as an indication of the quality of the research published, and by implication, the quality of its authors. Therefore, it is not surprising that publishing in high IF journals is an aspiration for most scientists as it often plays an important role in their career prospects and progression.

High IF journals are widely read. But there has been a discrepancy regarding the importance of journal IF among researchers. Journal ranking systems have evolved in the present-day world and allow for better comparisons. Sadly, they are often ignored even when such rankings may benefit a given journal. But even these systems are not foolproof and can be quite flawed, especially those assuming that the scientific value or quality is less if the scope of a discussion is small. A more appropriate approach could be to say that the best journals are those that can rank high in one or more categories or ranking systems, rather than reducing the overall journal quality and usefulness to a single number.

IF, originally designed for purposes other than the individual evaluation of the quality of research, is undoubtedly a useful tool provided its interpretation is not stretched far beyond its limits of validity. Having said that, the research quality cannot be measured solely using IF. It should be used with caution, and should not be the dominant or only factor accounting for the credibility of a research.

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.”

Why journal articles face rejection?

When a manuscript is submitted to a journal, it undergoes a thorough quality check under the peer review process before being sent to the chief editor. Most articles face rejection during this process. There are several reasons for this.

1. The article is beyond the scope of the journal

Your article can be immediately rejected if it is not appropriate for the journal’s readership and does not meet the journal’s aims and scope. Besides, it is also likely to be rejected by the editorial board if it does not match the specified journal format. For example, if a review article is submitted to a journal that does not have the scope for publication of such articles, the editorial board is likely to reject the paper summarily.

2. The paper lacks key elements

The paper is unlikely to be approved if it is incomplete and lacks any important information, such as author’s affiliations, e-mail address, keywords, figures and tables, in-text citation of figures and tables, references, a proper structure, etc.

Lack of novelty and originality in the paper or suspicion of plagiarized information can also lead to an almost instantaneous rejection. Incomprehensible articles that show poor language skills of the author are also not acceptable.

3. The paper failed the technical screening process

If you have submitted your paper to more than one journal simultaneously, a particular journal might consider it unethical. Consequently, the paper is likely to fail the technical screening process. Even papers that do not meet the technical standards of the preferred journals are also rejected in the screening process. For example, a paper might be rejected for non-compliance with certain points in the submission checklist.

4. The paper is conceptually weak

While conceptualizing the paper, the author might fail to resolve certain fundamental problems that could result in unoriginal or impractical results. These problems include flaws in the study design, incomplete data analysis, use of an inappropriate method for statistical analysis or a poorly formulated research question. These basic defects might lead to rejection of the paper.

5. The paper is not well prepared for the journal

A paper is liable to be rejected if it is not formatted according to the journal guidelines. Disregarding such guidelines might result in excessive use of jargons, deviation from the focus of the journal, improper formatting of figures and tables, poor organization of contents, inadequate description of the methodology, poor writing standards, complex and convoluted sentences, and frequent grammatical errors. These factors will have a negative impact on the reviewers and will probably contribute to a rejection.

6. The journal is overloaded with submissions

Sometimes, a journal receives a flood of submissions within a short period. This restricts the available space to include papers in several forthcoming issues. Consequently, rejection is inevitable for many submissions, including some high-quality manuscripts. Conversely, a journal might receive several papers on the same or related topic. In such a situation, the journal will be forced to cherry pick and might return some well-conceptualized papers in the process.

7. Journals have their decision-making policy

Rejection of the paper also depends on a journal’s decision-making policy, which varies from journal to journal. Some journals forward the paper for a second screening if they are unsure about the quality of the manuscript. On the other hand, editors of certain journals aim to publish papers that are related to current research topics and their acceptance rate is directly proportional to the number of articles received in this genre.

As evident, there is a gamut of reasons for the rejection of a paper and the author needs to take cognizance of these facts for a better understanding of the rejection process. The author needs to keep in mind that the quality of a paper is not the sole reason for rejection; several other reasons can also contribute to the rejection of a submitted paper.

Effective Peer Reviewing

What do you mean by “Peer Reviewing”?

A peer review is a planned and well-organized process that aims to improve the quality of a research paper. It is the most effective feedback-generation system that takes place during the development of a research paper.

Who is considered as a “peer”?

A peer is someone who is related to the field of study, doing similar kind of research, and an expert in the mentioned area of research. A peer is neither the author nor the person who has provided grants for successful completion of the research paper.

Types of Peer Review:

In broader terms, peer reviews are classified into two types: internal peer review (which includes the editorial team members) and external peer review (which includes experts in the particular field of study).

The peer review process looks for:

  • Suitability of the paper for the target journal, which may include cross checking with the journal requirements and scope of publication of the research article. The reviewer’s objective is to identify the uniqueness of the conducted study.
  • Relevance of the intext citations as well as those in the reference section.
  • Accuracy of the statistical analysis and correct presentation of the data.
  • Proper and accurate formatting of the text, tables, figures, references, etc.
  • Confirmation of the inclusion of the conflict of interest disclosure, copyright forms duly signed by the authors, citation of the ethical consideration, etc.
  • Relevant citation in the conclusion.

There are several advantages of peer reviewing. The process:

  • Leads to the generation of a high-quality publication by improving the contents.
  • Helps in the improvement of the structure of the paper.
  • Provides a logical view of the research paper.
  • Enables the author to use critical feedback in a productive or constructive manner by incorporating important changes in the research paper.
  • Helps authors by pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the research work.
  • Helps authors in their learning process for future research.

Conversely, an inadequate or below-par peer review might lead to the following problems:

  • Poor error and fraud detection.
  • Slower process for finalizing the paper.

 

Nonetheless, the advantages far outweigh the cons. Therefore, the peer review process needs to be adopted by research writers as it helps them improve the quality of the research writing.