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.”

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.

The Knowledge Web: Illuminating Your Research

The scope of research is beyond measure and cannot be structured or contained in a single research guide for which knowledge web is need of the hour. Considering the vast well of information, researchers often face problems in zeroing-in on articles that are most suited for their research area. They often take recourse to the World Wide Web in their quest for articles of interest. In this process, researchers use the web crawlers of their favorite search engines. This generates hundreds of sites that store information on the topic of interest. Usually, the first few search results show articles that are cited repeatedly and are the most relevant references for the research. This leads researchers to the important journals and authors related to the field of interest and helps them adopt strategies accordingly.

Although the search results are displayed within few seconds, the researcher needs to devote considerable time in building a mental model of a research field and giving the most apt query for the search engine to return the best and most relevant results. Therefore, a mechanical search on the Web will be grossly insufficient. Instead, the researcher needs to conduct a search for material other than that found on the Web, and must follow up with a wide reading on the subject. That will help the researcher identify the precise data or information require from the search engine. Even after thorough scrutiny of the material, there is a high risk of information masking that could lead to missing out on an important piece of work.

The best way to obtain an overview of a research field is to conduct knowledge domain visualizations. This process expands the ability of researchers to recognize and analyze a knowledge area through several quantitative and qualitative methods. They are able to use tools such as visual analytics and information visualization to analyze data, retrieve information, and mine text from available sources. This process will answer most of their research queries and help avoid repeated searches on the Internet.

Knowledge domain visualizations save valuable time of the researcher in searching, indexing, and structuring data. Knowledge domain visualizations are not only beneficial for individual researchers or a single subject, but also provide a platform for accessing specific publications. It even provides a quick overview of a research field.

In searching for research material on the Web, the automated or mechanical procedure falls woefully sort. On the other hand, manual interventions can improve results significantly and lead to a more substantial research output.

Scientific Journals: The Knowledge Storehouse

Scientific journals date back to 1665, when the publication of research results began. A scientific journal publishes scientific data periodically on recent breakthroughs in the field of science.

Who benefits from scientific journals?

At present, there is widespread acceptance of scientific journals and articles published in them. This magnifies the importance of the researches brought to light in such publications. It has been proven that scientific journals are of great import for academicians, researchers, and students of science and allied fields. The journals also have a profound impact on the overall educational system.

Advantages derived from scientific journals

  • Scientific journals promote and develop active learning skills among students and researchers. In fact, current research shows that reading journal articles provides an impetus for deeper thinking.
  • As you start browsing different research articles in journals, you will notice that the findings are  well organized and the overall conclusions are backed by evidence. The scientific articles carry research-oriented analyses or findings of researchers as well as students.
  • The research papers tend to keep pace with recent developments in the relevant field.
  • Researchers or students can derive valuable information for their own research area because they come across timely updates through these publications.
  • Scientific journals widen the scope for exploring one’s own research subject.
  • They help readers gain in-depth knowledge, especially through citation of case studies that can act as a research base. This encourages a thorough analysis and often leads to the formulation of novel hypotheses.
  • Even if you are engaged in research toward the submission of your doctoral thesis, you can benefit from valuable feedback if you publish papers in relevant scientific journals.
  • It is possible to search for and access the latest research topics easily from scientific publications.
  • Academic credentials of researchers receive a major boost from published papers in scientific journals, which stands them in good stead for their career objectives.
  • Scientific journals provide a platform for research scholars to express and pen down their research ideas at length.
  • Scientific journals represent a varied spectrum because each journal represents a specific stream of research. Such scientific publications bridge the gap between articles and books by publishing the researches of different authors, thus creating a single interactive platform.

How does the publication cycle work?

What is the publication cycle?

The publication cycle is an inseparable and critical aspect that every researcher or writer needs to understand. This is because the publication cycle gives a tangible form to a theoretical concept, an idea, or an expression of writing talent. To use a commercial term, it is much like an assembly line where an idea passes through various inter-related processes and iterations before it develops into its final published form.

Content and medium: Two determinants of the publication cycle

The publication cycle differs based on two factors: the nature of content and the medium of publication. A writing output can belong to one of a myriad range of topics and publication mediums.  Some writers present their ideas in the form of research articles on various topics in, inter alia, journals, dissertations, conference papers, and scholarly books. Conversely, the output of other writers might be in the form of informal writings that appear in magazines catering to the general reader.

Apart from the nature of content, publications also differ in the medium selected for publication. Unlike most of the 20th century, publications are no longer limited to the print medium. In fact, the digital revolution and advent of the Internet have given an entirely new dimension to publishing with the popularity of articles and even books published on the web and in the electronic medium. Therefore, one needs to understand that the publication cycle, or the intervening processes for an idea to reach the reader, is determined by several factors. These factors determine the processes and the time cycle for a writing to be published in its final form.

Electronic publications include two categories. The first is the category of online publications on the World Wide Web. These include personal web pages of the author, individual blogs, online videos or presentations, as well as online research journals or periodicals. The second category includes electronic books, often referred to as e-books, which are bought and sold in the market, but the reader can access them only by using software on a digital device or a personal computer.

Conversely, the more conventional publications in print include research papers or reports published in journals, magazines, and books.

What does the publication cycle involve?

The publication cycle starts with the generation of an idea by the author or writer. This first step toward publication is basically an individualistic approach in the sense that it is a creative process and not a time-bound phenomenon.

After an idea takes root in the writer’s mind, the next step is to undertake the research that will help develop that idea into a well-constructed piece of writing. In this step, the authors search for existing literature on the relevant subject and identify the lacunae in such writing. This helps them make a useful contribution to their area of research.

The research work is followed by an informal communication among the authors (in case of multiple authors) that includes regular conversations on the phone and meetings for discussion of their research output. This stage provides a common platform for different authors to share ideas and views on a particular topic or idea of research.

The next major step involves report research. This could either be an informal approach adopted by the author or authors to share their research on their individual blogs or web pages, or a formal approach that includes white paper publications, report publications such as lab or research reports, and presentations at conferences and colloquia.

The next step is to report the findings as a publication in journals and/or magazines. Such publications provide a platform for popularization of the authors’ work, or to bring the research to the notice of a wider readership.

The culminating point of the publication cycle of a research idea occurs in a book or encyclopedia publication.  This is the most formalized medium of publishing a research work, and is recognized as the ultimate achievement for a researcher.

Each stage of the publication cycle is relevant because it constitutes a step in the ladder toward the final form of a research idea. Considered holistically, an understanding of the publication cycle facilitates the development of an efficient strategy for publication of a research work in an organized manner.

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.

Importance of Statistical Review of manuscripts

Statistics: It is a branch of mathematics that deals with the collection of data, its analysis, interpretation, presentation and sequential organization. In simple terms, it deals with philosophy, logic, and expression of data.

Who does the statistical review?

Statistical review is basically done by the expert statisticians or authors and journal editors with statistical knowledge. It comprises of statistical and even methodological questions that are to be answered by the author or even the journal editors that are put forward by the reviewer.

Role of the statistical reviewers:

  • The statistical reviewers find out the possible statistical error sources in the manuscript, in turn increasing the statistical accuracy of the paper as well as ensuring quicker publication of the manuscript.
  • All forms of statistical data checking is performed by the statistical reviewers like checking the missing data, checking whether correct statistical methods were followed or not, checking whether the statistical methods were used appropriately or not, checking for statistical errors like error in level of significance during analysis of the data, checking whether appropriate name of the statistical package is mentioned or not along with the version used, checking whether the measurable units are properly mentioned or not, checking whether the tables and figures displayed in the manuscript hold a proper self-explanatory footnote or not, and so on.
  • They ensure proper statistical presentation of data throughout the manuscript; proper use of statistical language is also ensured by the reviewer in the data presentation section.
  • The reviewer also checks whether the conclusion section in the manuscript is justified or not with regard to the presented data.
  • They also cross check the feasibility of the discussion section based on the results.

Significance of statistical review:

  • If there is any kind of major statistical errors found in the data presentation section, then it may lead to the rejection of the research paper. So, reviewing of the statistical data and its proper presentation is of utmost importance for the author. The frequent statistical problems in the manuscript are found in data interpretation and presentation, its analysis and the study design.
  • Sound statistics is the foundation to high-quality research work interpreting quantitative studies.

Gift authorship: A provocative issue

Assigning authorship for the real contributors can be a tricky business for the scientific or the academic writers.

What is gift authorship? In simple terms, it is defined as the co-authorship, conferred to those having a little or no intellectual contribution in the study. Gift authorship provides just an authority stamp for the non-contributors.

Authorship criteria: The person affiliated under this type of authorship, do not meet the authorship criteria defined by various international bodies. According to one of the giant international body, known as International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), authorship criteria are stated as follows:

(i) Substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition or collection, analysis and interpretation of data;

(ii) Drafting or revising the article, critically for important intellectual content; and

(iii) Giving the final approval of the edited version of the article, to be published.

Ethical viewpoint of gift authorship: Gift authorship is regarded as highly unethical and irrelevant, as the author honored with the title of authorship holds no contributing hands, neither in the designing nor in data analysis; he/she do not meet the authorship criteria. He/she may not have expertise in the field to which the study is related, which may bring dismay to the institute or the publishing journal. This kind of authorship has cropped up in an intense way in the medical writing field, demanding an immediate action to be taken against this illegal authorship, as this dilutes the credentials of the authors who have done the real work, related to the study protocol.

Reasons for researchers opting for gift authorship: There are many identified reasons that put the precocious researchers to opt for the option of gift authorship.  Some of the most cited reasons are:

(i) Superiority complex of the guide or the lead supervisor. They do not allow any research article publication by their junior counterparts; and

(ii) Certain researchers believe that assigning the names of their head supervisor or institutional head can lead to increased readability and help in publication of their articles.

The researchers should think of undermining such authorship that leads to the loss in the credibility of the real contributing authors and diluting their work profile.