Research Writer’s Block: What is it and how to overcome?

It is very common in the research fraternity to hear discussions going on about the inability to put down their ideas and thoughts on paper. After the completion of their research work when researchers plan to put down their findings in pen and paper they realize that their hands are paralyzed and thoughts do not come to their mind. Most researchers do not know that such a condition is common and is known as writer’s block.

Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is more of a mental block that the writers experience. There are also some psychological researches that suggest that there is no such thing. But the fact that almost all researchers experience this cannot be denied. One of the main causes of writer’s block is anxiety and this problem can be aggravated if the researcher is not familiar with English, as this is the language that is generally used the world over.

Overcoming Writer’s Block

There are some common strategies followed by experienced researchers to overcome this mental block and complete their research writing within time.

Social Writing: It is a very good idea to join a support or writing group to stay motivated till the end. Social writing reduces the root cause of writer’s block – anxiety, which in turn stimulates writing. Writing while sitting in a group, discussing about the progress, sharing writing goals and achievements helps to understand writing better and increase the flow of creativity. Social writing generates realistic goal-setting and dedicated writing time. With social writing, the need for help or instruction may not be required.

Block Some Time of the Day Exclusively for Writing: Reserve some time of the day for writing, so that you write everyday and avoid the writer’s block setting in again. Morning is considered the best part of the day for writing, the mind is fresh and at its creative best. So, try to write in the morning before checking your email or surf the net to avoid any kind of distraction. The key idea is to write daily, even if it is for 15 minutes then gradually increase the time of writing.

Draft: First write down anything that comes to your mind, without worrying about the grammar and correctness of the sentence. First, jot down your ideas and the content that you want to include in your research paper and then refine it to convert it into your final copy.

So, we can say that the writer’s block is only the creation of the mind, which can be avoided by keeping calm, focused and consistent. All other things will fall into place if the brain is tricked to believe that the writing will be over within time and it will be up to the mark, without any data being missed.

Formatting tables, graphs, and other visuals in your research paper

The format in which you present your research data is very important because it helps you communicate your data to your reader and editors in the best possible way. Although there are many formats in which tables, graphs, and other figures can be presented, you need to choose the best format for your category of data, provided it is within the prescribed guidelines of the journal you are targeting for publication. Before reviewing a paper, many journal editors and reviewers first glance at the layout of the manuscript in terms of its text, tables, figures, and illustrations. Therefore, to make your presentation effective while presenting a large amount of information, a suitable distribution between text, tables, and figures comes handy.

How to use

Sometimes using too much text can get tiresome and confusing, making the reader lose interest or miss data. So encapsulating the information into visual representations can help summarize your analysis. Centralizing the important findings will help readers get the outline without reading the whole manuscript. However, excessive use of visuals can hinder the flow of text and make the whole presentation abrupt. To achieve the highest impact, a proportionate combination of text and visuals always pays off.

Understanding the message

The intension of using a chart, graph, or table is for one of four primary reasons. One illustration might be intended to show a relationship, while another wants to show the composition of a dataset. A third visual could be plotting distribution of data, while a fourth could be comparing various data points. Therefore, you need to understand the objective of the visual before choosing the format; one format may justify one goal but might not fit another.

A relationship is the correlation and connection between the variables of the data presented, like the value of a particular share today versus the value over the year.

A composition is the set of all variables present in the manuscript to make a conclusion, like the total sale of your product, sale online, sale in retail, and direct sales.

A distribution is a representation of all the correlated and non-related data to determine the connection and pattern if any, and the interaction between the variables.

A comparison is the process of finding out the similarities and differences between sets of variables.

Best format for you

Graphics are best for putting your point forward while tables work fine for providing a structure to numerical information. Different formats that work best for various situations are:

  • A bar chart or bar graph shows correlation between distinct categories. One axis shows the particular categories being compared, and the other axis depicts a calculated value. Some bar graphs show bars bunched together in groups of more than one, showing the values of multiple measured variables.
  • Pie charts are generally applied to represent the rate and proportionality of information, and the rate of percentage depicted by every category is marked next to the corresponding portion of the full pie.
  • Line graphs can be used for more than one variable to show the change over time simultaneously.
  • Scatter plots and line graphs are alike, as both use horizontal axes and vertical axes to plot data information points. Scatter plots are used to show the degree to which one variable is affected by another variable, or the connection between them.

Understanding the Structure and Purpose of Systematic Reviews

Defining systematic review:

A systematic review is a well-planned literature review that basically answers a focused research problem, with pre-defined inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Steps involved in systematic review:

The first step involved in drafting a systematic review is identification of the REAL research problem. For this you need to search for valid literatures dealing with your subject area and locate the research gaps in those studies. This will assist you in devising an appropriate research question. In general, researchers use the PICO framework to define the question scope. Its anatomic parts are as follows:

P-Problem/Population

I-Intervention

C-Comparison, and

O-Outcome

The second step involves setting the inclusion and exclusion criteria that will further determine which studies are you going to include in the systematic review. Here are few parameters that are taken into consideration while zeroing down on a relevant study:

– Population

– Study design

– Type of intervention

– Grouping

– Outcomes of the study, and so on.

Thirdly, you need to carry out the real work of spotting out those inclusive studies by taking help of databases, such as online libraries, online searches, and so on. Then simply insert this retrieved information into a reference manager, such as EndNote, Cite This For Me, Reference Generator, and so on.

The next approach will be to extract data from these studies by using a tool, software or excel sheet. This will assist the researcher in evaluating the study bias if any. For this, you can use a risk of bias tool, such as Cochrane tool, for assessment of potential study or sample bias.

Finally, the results have to be presented along with the methodology section, which includes the criteria of selection, strategies, and so on. A meta-analysis is done, if necessary. Future recommendations can also be cited in this section, regarding any change in the policy or clinical/non-clinical practice.

In this blog, we have tried to summarize the complete process of writing a systematic review in a uncomplicated manner, and along with this, we have also tried to explain the quality elements included in each step of systematic review.

How Social Media Can Act as an Effective Promotional Tool for your Research?

Web-based social media or social networking platforms have redesigned the collective sharing of thoughts by means of online sites, groups, and networks. It is an open access medium for the researchers, authors, and scientists to connect with the world and advance their work. It has now effectively turned into a marketing platform that offers benefits to researchers as well as their intended research group.

Social media platforms can offer a significantly more prominent reach compared to a seminars or conference. The most ideal approach for research promotion on social media is to ensure knowledge upgradation of the target audience regarding the subject area you deal with. Researchers can demonstrate how their research or experiment is being performed. This can include anything like audio and video recordings or updates on how a specific research work is making headway.

In addition to this, a researcher needs to be active on social platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Slideshare, Google+, and so on. Being a dynamic participant in these sites will enable you to promote your research adequately.  As a researcher, you can advance your research by making short recordings that are important for presenting figures or any relevant findings in a live form. A kindred researcher will always get attracted toward any such interactive recordings. There are various software that can assist you in developing a good video. After you have prepared your recording, you can then share it social networking sites that will surely draw millions of eyes towards your research.

Blogging bridges the distinction between the present real world and scholarly community. Researchers can blog about their focused research area topics or talk about the subtle elements of a research after it has been completed and published. Blogging is a controlled approach to grandstand your scientific skills and logical abilities to the academic groups. It is easy to share a tweet about your published article, but a more detailed synopsis of your work can be listed on your blog.

Citation Management Tools can store and manage references to academic works that you have been reading. Some of them likewise have the additional feature of being social networking destinations like Mendeley and CiteULike.

The ideas for marketing or promotion of scientific contents mentioned above are only a couple of the numerous ways you can advance your research on social media platform. If the promotion is strategized and carried forward in a well-planned manner, it will surely gain you accolades from the scholarly community.

Funding your Research: A Far-reaching Aspect

In a research scholar’s career, the main hurdle to his/her accomplishment is the lack of grants for his/her research. At times, the scholars spend sleepless nights worrying about finding funding resources for their research studies.

Testing or developing theories calls for an in-depth research, with that comes huge funding needs. Hence, here are some of the suggestions that will surely mitigate the funding burden on the research scholars and help them to focus more on their research findings.

Suitable funding resources

National Institutes of Health (NIH): It is the largest public funding organisation for biomedical research in the world, which invests billions of dollars every year with an aim to enhance life, and reduce illness and disability through frequent innovative researches. NIH has funded varied studies that proved as breakthroughs in treatment and prevention, and helping people sustain longer, lead healthy life, and building a foundation for discoveries.

Grants.Gov: It is considered as one of the largest funding sources for research works in the USA.

National Science Foundation (NSF): It is a funding resource for scientists and researchers desiring federal grants for their research studies. NSF has gained fame in providing financial support to academic institutions for basic research and experiments. It has surpassed the margin marked by NIH.

Newton’s List: It is one of the globally available resources providing grants for basic experiments and research works in agricultural sciences, engineering, natural sciences, social sciences, or technology.

Terra Viva Grants Directory: It is a better option of funding resource with both information and opportunities for researchers seeking project grants for fields like agriculture, energy, environment, and natural resources.

Office of Extramural Research (OER) at NIH: It is one of the biggest sources of research grants in category of scientific research across the word. They do not restrict their assistance to funding only, instead they also guide the researcher with their leadership skills, oversight view, and tools required in administering and managing the NIH grants policies and operations.

The Spencer Foundation: It is the best place to approach for funding scientists and researchers who are initiating their studies on a low scale based only on the novelty of the research work.

Universities or Institutes: If you are affiliated with the University, You can directly visit your university office or the department head. Many recognized universities have offices that deal with sponsored programs. They can coordinate your request for grants and helps you unearth the various opportunities available with them.

Fiscal sponsorship: You can also enquire about the funding sources from your colleagues or peers. They can help you find out certain non-profit organization who shares your research interest. In this case, you might get hold of more grant opportunities.

Bibliometric/Scientometric Indicators

Bibliometrics is a group of mathematical and statistical methods that are used to analyse and measure the quantity and quality of different forms of publications. Basically there are three types of bibliometric indicators:

  • Quantity indicators: These measure the productivity of a researcher.
  • Quality indicators: These measure the performance of a researcher.
  • Structural indicators: These measure the connection between publications, authors, and areas of research.

Bibliometric indicators influence funding decisions, appointments, and promotions of researchers; therefore, it is important for scholars as well as organisations.

Journal-level Bibliometric

Impact Factor

Journal Impact Factor is the most prevalent bibliometric indicator among journals. It is an assessment of how frequently articles published in a particular journal are cited on an average in the two years following their publication. The greater the impact factor, the more prominent the journal. The other well-known and widely accepted bibliometric indicators are:

SCImago Journal Ranking (SJR)

SJR takes into account both the number of citations received and the significance of the journals from where such citations are sourced. SJR computation uses an algorithm similar to Google PageRank.

Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP)

SNIP assesses the impact of contextual citation by measuring citations based on the total number of citations in a particular field of study. SNIP is defined as the ratio of a journal’s citation count per paper and the citation potential in its subject field.

Impact per Publication (IPP)

This mode of measurement calculates the ratio of citations in a year (Y) to scholarly papers published in the three previous years (Y-1, Y-2, Y-3) divided by the number of scholarly papers published in those same years (Y-1, Y-2, Y-3).

Author-level Bibliometric

Bibliometric indicators measuring the impact of individual authors are known as author-level metrics.

H-index

H-index measures both the productivity and impact of the published work of a researcher. It is the most well-known author-level metric at present.
However, h-index has the following shortcomings:
• It does not account for highly cited papers, i.e. the h-index of the author remains the same whether their most highly cited paper has 100 or 10 citations.
• It does not take into consideration the career span of the author. This is because it is only dependent on productivity and impact. Therefore, authors with longer career spans and more publications will always have higher scores.

To overcome these shortcomings of h-index, the following variants were proposed:

G-index

It is an author-level metric for quantifying scientific productivity based on publication record. G-index is found by analysing the distribution of citations received by a specific researcher’s publications.

M-index

It is defined as the h-index divided by the number of years the researcher has been publishing papers.

Ranking of referees for effective peer review process

The peer review process is important for all scientific publications. After a manuscript is accepted, it is sent to the journal-assigned peer reviewer, who evaluates its quality and factual accuracy. For an effective reviewing process, a behavioral economics journal initiated a process of ranking the peer-reviewers.

The peer review process includes analysis of the paper to check its suitability for the target journal based on the journal requirements and scope of publication of the research article. The main goal is to identify the uniqueness of the conducted study. The reviewer also checks the relevance of the citations in the text as well as those in the bibliography. The process also comprises verification of the accuracy of statistical analyses done in the study and proper presentation of the data in the paper.

The peer review process helps generate good and qualitative publications by working on the improvisation of factual contents. It also provides a logical justification for the research paper. Besides, it enables authors to use the critical feedback received from the reviewer to refine their manuscripts in a more productive or constructive manner by incorporating the revisions in the research paper.

Exemplar peer-reviewers ranking

Although the peer-review process is a crucial step, it sometimes becomes long and cumbersome, which impedes the publication cycle. To encourage an efficient reviewing process and to appreciate the reviewers’ work, the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics is in the news for its new strategy to release its referee list in descending order on its webpage.

The order will be judged based on the reviewing speed computed from the time of accepting the invitation to the time of submission. However, the journal has no plans to disclose the facts and figures of the ranking on its website. By ranking the reviewers, the journal aims to create an urge amongst peer reviewers to complete their reviewing process in time with high accuracy in order to be recognized by the journal on an online forum.

It is likely that the idea of speeding up the peer review process by a ranking system will soon catch on. If that happens, it could crunch the peer-review process followed by journals and increase the rate of submission and acceptance of papers.

Survey analysis using Likert scale

Likert scale
Likert scale is a psychometric scale (i.e. a scale which measures individual differences) that is commonly used in survey research involving questionnaires (i.e. instrument). Each question or statement of the questionnaire forms the “Likert item”. Likert item measures the participants’ level of agreement to a statement, such as “strongly agree” or “neutral” or “disagree” which are orderly numbered. Generally 5 levels of responses are used i.e.   1. Strongly disagree, 2. Disagree, 3. Neither agrees nor disagrees, 4. Agree 5. Strongly agree. However, more than 5 levels i.e. 7 and 9 levels are also sometimes used.

Before analyzing the Likert scale data, the reliability of the instrument or scale is performed. This is achieved by three different ways. First, the uniformity in response within the instrument (i.e. internal consistency) is measured by estimating the Cronbach’s alpha. A Cronbach’s alpha value of ≥0.7 is accepted. Second, the test-retest reliability is calculated.  In SPSS, the test-retest is calculated by bivariate correlation which is denoted by the Pearson’s correlation coefficient (r). Third, the inter-rater reliability is also estimated as test-retest in SPSS.

After determining the reliability of the instrument, analysis of Likert data is carried out. Each Likert item can be analyzed either separately (also called as Likert-type data) or summed to create a score for a group of items (summative scales, Likert scales). Each Likert scale consists of at least four or more Likert-type items, all measuring a single variable.

  1. Likert-type data is an ordinal data, i.e. we can only say that one score is higher than another. Due to the ordinal nature of the data, generally parametric tests (i.e. t-test, ANOVA) are not applied. Rather, non-parametric tests such as Mann Whitney-U test, Wilcoxon signed-rank test, Kruskal-Wallis test should be used. Descriptive statistics used for Likert-type data includes mode or median for measuring central tendency and frequencies for variability. Further analysis appropriate for ordinal scale items includes the chi-square measure of association, Kendall Tau B, and Kendall Tau C.
  2. Likert scale data, on the other hand, are analyzed as interval data. Since the data are of interval, parametric tests are used for analysis of Likert scale. Analysis that can be performed includes mean for central tendency, standard deviations for variability, Pearson’s r for bivariate analysis, t-test and ANOVA for comparing group means, and regression procedures for associations.
  3. When Likert-type or Likert scale data can be reduced to nominal level i.e. yes vs. no, agree vs. disagree, then, chi-square test, Cochran Q test, and Mc Nemar test can also be performed.

Further, Likert scales may be subject to biases from several causes. Central tendency bias occurs when respondents may avoid using extreme response categories; acquiescence bias occurs when respondents agree with statements as presented and social desirability bias occurs when respondents try to represent themselves or their institution more positively. All the biases can be checked by conducting a pilot survey before the actual study. If any biases are observed the questionnaire can be modified accordingly.  Crafting a scale with an equal number of positive and negative statements can counteract the problem of acquiescence bias. Central tendency bias can be avoided by either making the survey questionnaire short or by forcing comparable rating i.e and/or by randomizing the questions. Social desirability bias can be prevented by implementing the all the above methods i.e. to minimize central tendency bias and acquiescence bias and also by making the questions indirect.

Trump releases his 100 days plan- What for Science?

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Electing Donald Trump as the 45th American President will bring about scads of policy reforms, even faster than the people realize. Starting from freezing the employee recruitments to the scrapping of Obamacare initiatives are all on the list! In addition, the breakneck statements and views of Donald Trump on various scientific facts have also sparked strong reactions among academics. However, the term “Science” has turned out to be a jargon for the Republicans and has found no special mention in the 100 days plan. However, we will have a bird’s eye view on the Trump’s blueprint that he would gift the Americans and the world community this New Year, and figure out if the science facts have been addressed to.

Trump – Throwing on off Policy fetters
Trump’s hard-line positions on immigration — including his commitment towards barring Muslims or terror-prone nationals from entering the US, a plan for wall building across the Mexico borders, imbibing visa restrictions, prioritizing American workers, and the termination of job programs for foreign youths, have surely perturbed the research advocates. Such decisions could sidetrack many talented international students or researchers from studying or working at US institutions. The future of foreign research scholars in the USA could be jeopardized due to such visa restrictions.

Science Facts vs. Trump’s Contradiction- Will it affect R&D funding?
The US has been a major investor of federal dollars in the field of R&D. “The entire business of the US academic biomedical research enterprise is based on federal dollars. Without that, it would collapse,” says Ethan Weiss, an associate professor, University of California. Trump’s shockingly ignorant views on vaccination for children with autism, and calling climate change a hoax and data to be unrealistic, pulling out US (the second most carbon generator) from the Paris climate change submit), curtailing the funds to UN for supporting climate change initiatives, and calling NASA as a logistics agency, have surely put him under the scanner of the intellectuals.
As per the statement released in September, by Donald Trump, he says that “there are increasing demands to curtail spending and to balance the federal budget; we must make the commitment to invest in science, engineering, healthcare and other areas that will make the lives of Americans better, safer and more prosperous.” In an interview by sciencedebate.org, Trump added that “scientific advances do require long-term investment.” In spite of such speculations, the fate of R&D industry is too early to predict. However, before the commencement of 2017, the present US Congress Govt. could approve spending bills before Christmas. These bills will raise the National Institute of Health funding as well as the NSF budget. During the first year of Trump’s presidency, the public funding will be secured.

Uncertain change in the climate
Trump’s election could factor into climate negotiations and be a setback for the upcoming climate change meets. When the world is thinking of implementing Paris agreement, the exit of the US from the Paris summit can be an unfortunate development and the pledge of 800 million USD as the annual contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change may cease. However, legally Trump would not be able to sign off the Summit within his four years tenure.

Donald trump on Healthcare reforms
The Affordable Care Act, an initiative by Obama, which is in its current incarnation, won’t survive if Trump makes good on his campaign promises. By this logic, the funds linked to birth control programs would fade away, though not immediately. Trump may defund Obamacare and associated programs like state grant for medical care. A Trumpian shift to insurance premium deductions and insurance plans sales and the opening of tax-free Health Savings Accounts may not remedy the ultimate problem of high-cost health care services in the US.

Tech Boost and Trump
The Silicon Valley may be benefitted by the manufacturing revival initiative by Trump’s govt. “There are several things that a Trump administration could do that would be beneficial to tech,” says Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. The export industry will flourish over the import, which will be part and parcel of the shifting away from the traditional start-up model and the adjusted tax and trade policy.

We know very little
The research policies and development across a wide spectrum in the US political scenario are still up in the air and have kept the scientific community optimistic (though cautiously). The outcomes of Trump’s immigration policies are also not clear. This is considered as the central pillar of his campaign, which might or might not affect research. Leighton Ku, a professor at George Washington University, said that “it’s likely that the kinds of highly-skilled scientists who immigrate to the US for school or work would still be welcome. But will they want to come?” This is a billion dollar question that still remains unanswered.

Making a Book out of your Research Paper

Making a Book out of your Research Paper
Publishing a research paper as a book is every researcher’s dream, but it is a herculean task. It requires considerable effort and perseverance to get a book published. However, in spite of the apparent difficulties, researchers must realize that by writing the research paper, they have completed a big chunk of the work required for publishing a book.

Most researchers consider their research paper to be a final product and lose sight of the fact that they already have a proofread and peer reviewed manuscript in hand, which can be developed into a book. In the process of submission and publication of their research papers, the authors already have a very good idea of the changes needed to enhance the quality of the research. Besides, they receive feedback on their research from readers, editors, and peers, which could be fruitfully utilized to develop their search into a full-fledged book. Based on the number of citations garnered by the paper and the feedbacks received, the authors gain good insights about the demand for the topic in the market. They also find it easier to identify their target audience and market. Armed with all the information, the authors will be well-positioned to market the book at the right place for their targeted audience.

However, it is important to recognize the difference between a research paper and a book, and proceed accordingly. For instance, a paper prepared for a research journal is completely different from a manuscript prepared for publication as a book. A journal basically targets a select group, such as academicians, researchers or professionals related to that field of study, so there is extensive use of jargons that would be understood by its readers. Conversely, a book is targeted at a bigger audience and should be written in a language that can be understood even by the laity. Therefore, jargons should be used sparingly and properly explained in the context.

In contrast to the tone of a research paper in a journal, a book should be written in a lucid style with a fluid and smooth narration. It requires careful chapterization, preferably with small chapters so that it retains the reader’s interest till the end. Footnotes and citations should be minimized to prevent readers from being distracted. In a book, the focus should be on the bibliography. It is a good idea to include as many relevant images as possible in the book, so as to make it interesting and provide some visual relief to the reader. Attention needs to be devoted to designing and layout, with a good cover design to boot.
Generally, the first impression of a book is formed from its title. Therefore, it is important to choose a title that attracts readers as well as conveys the theme of the book. This helps market the book to a wider readership.

It is also crucial to seek the services of a professional editing house to give the book a stamp of flawless composition. Although there are many editing services available, it is important to choose the most appropriate professional group for your book. In fact, finding a good editor could be the hardest part in the process of publishing a book.
Finally, marketing the book is an essential part of the post-publication process. As the author, the onus of marketing and popularizing the book lies squarely on your shoulders. With social media marketing playing an increasingly important role in promotions and awareness building, you could use platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook at almost zero cost. You could even set up a dedicated website to open new markets for your book.