Choosing a journal: Open access or traditional publication?

journal selection : Open access or traditional publication

What is open access publishing?

Open access (OA) publishing provides researchers and readers free access to research articles online. In case of OA journals, an article processing fee is levied on the authors after acceptance of the paper. This charge is payable by the researcher, author or the institution the author is affiliated to. However, certain OA journals do not charge any fee and support their operations through sponsorship or subscriptions of the journals.

What is traditional publishing?

Traditional publishing refers to a type of contract between the author and the publisher. In this type of publishing, the author receives a portion of the revenue generated from sales of the journals. This is also known as the “royalty payment model.”

Which route to adopt?

Various factors play a determining role for authors adopting either the open access or the traditional route for publication.

Many researchers consider the open access model as economically unsustainable because it imposes an additional financial burden on them as well as on the institute they are affiliated to. But again, it comes with a basket-full of advantages, such as a much quicker publication process compared to the traditional mode and enhanced visibility of the research to a broader audience. On the other hand, traditional publications have incorporated many reforms in their business models. They ensure manuscript quality and a brand value.

Many publishing houses place the onus on the author. They give authors the choice of either disseminating the research to a wide research community through an OA publication, or opting for the traditional mode of publication.

With the advent of the Internet, we are habituated to rapid changes in business models of the publication industry. However, the journal publication business has been relatively more resistant to change. That is a function of the prevailing academic culture, where the importance of a publication is recognized through the brand value of journals and their ability to promote the publication and win research grants.

Preparing tables for research papers

How to effectively prepare tables for research papers

Tables and illustrations are important tools for efficiently communicating information and data contained in your research paper to the readers. They present complex results in a comprehensible and organized manner.

However, it is advisable to use tables and illustrations wisely so as to maximize the impact of your research.They should be organized in an easy-to-understand format to convey the information and findings collected in your research. The tabular information helps the reader identify the theme of the study more readily. Although data tables should be complete,they should not be too complex. Instead of including a large volume of data in a single unwieldy table, it is prudent to use small tables to help readers identify the important information easily.

Here are some points you should consider before drafting the tables in your research paper:

  • Finalize the results that are required to be presented in tabular form.
  • Include the data or results that are relevant to the main aim of the study without being choosy and including only those results that support your hypothesis.
  • Create each table in a lucid manner and style without cluttering it with in-table citations.
  • Number the tables in a sequence according to their occurrence in the text.
  • Don’t mix tables with figures. Maintain separate numbering systems for tables and figures.
  • Create tables in a storytelling manner. Remember that your tables communicate a story to the reader that runs parallel to the text.
  • If you are using or reproducing tables from other published articles, obtain permission from the copyright holder (usually the publisher) or/andacknowledge the source.
  • Do not repeat the tabular contents in the text again; that will create confusion among readers.
  • Use clear and informative text for each table title.
  • Take extra care while extending the data in your tables. If you have too many tables, consider using them as appendices or supplementary materials.
  • Create tables with sufficient spacing in the layout so that they do not look messy, crowded, or cluttered.
  • Do not forget to spell out abbreviations used in the tables, ideally in the footnotes.

For the reader, a research paper that is dense and text-heavy can be tiresome. Conversely, tables not only encapsulate your data lucidly, but also welcome a visual relief for the reader. They add value to the layout of your paper. Besides, and more importantly, reviewers often glance at your tabulated data and illustrations first before delving into the text. Therefore, tables can be the initial draw for a reviewer and deliver a positive impact about your research paper. If you can achieve an optimum balance among your text, tables, and illustrations, it can go a long way toward being published.

Preparing your figures for research papers

How to prepare your figures for research papers

Often a research paper is embedded with loads of data and complex results and it might not be viable to include all them in the space-constrained paper. Hence, this calls for effective presentation of the information in the form of figures or diagrams. In fact, figures are the most powerful tools that leave a strong visual impact for both reviewers and readers.

Here are few tips on how you can improve the presentation of figures in your research paper.

  • Ensure that the components of the figures are clearly visible including the lines and text.
  • Always use a standard font style and size for the figure text.
  • Every figure needs to have a legend. The legend should support your figure entirely. The reader should be able to understand your figure, paired with its legend, without going to the results or method sections.
  • All abbreviations in the figure legends need to be consolidated and spelt out.
  • All parts of the figure need to be labelled. The symbols, lines, colors, abbreviations, error bars, scale bars, and other components need to be defined and described properly.
  • If you are using photographs of your human subjects, don’t forget to obtain an informed signed consent for the same.
  • Do not be afraid to use lengthy figure and table captions—better that than confusing or incomplete ones.
  • Do not forget to cite the figure that has been taken from another source and supports your present study. Use the same citation style throughout the paper.
  • All journals have their specific requirements for formatting figures, such as file format, font size, font style, image resolution, style of numbering, etc. Adhere to these guidelines before submission.
  • Cite figures in the main text at the appropriate place where the text is supported by a particular figure.

The figures in your research paper communicate a parallel story to the reader. In fact, the reader can derive a fairly good idea of your paper by just scanning the figures in the paper. Remember that figures are not just tools to beautify your text; they are the heart of your research and an intrinsic part of your research paper. This highlights the importance of organizing the figures well so that they are able to perform as an excellent prop for your text.

Research problem: A statement of intent

Research problem: A statement of intent
How do I devise my research problem?

A research problem is a statement based on the area of research, which is the first step in a research process. Devising an appropriate research problem depends on the in-depth knowledge, skills, and expertise of a researcher in their particular subject field. Therefore, a researcher needs to devote considerable time to select a suitable research problem.

Steps to formulate a research problem

There are two essential steps to follow while selection:

  • Identification of a research problem
  • Selection of a broad research topic and narrowing it down to a precise statement.

Sources to derive a research problem

Several factors, both extraneous and intrinsic to the research per se, help the researcher in identifying a research problem. They include the following:

  • Field conditions: The rich experiences in the field provide relevant ideas for developing an apt research problem.
  • Personal experience: This might help generate new ideas for formulating the research problem.
  • Previous related researches and theories, and critical review of the available literature: Relevant questions might crop up in our mind when we evaluate the articles, reports and reviews related to the subject area.
  • Expert advice: Subject matter experts are vastly experienced in the field of study. Hence, they may help the researcher find the current problem related to the research, and even devise a research problem.

What should be the nature of the research problem?

There are several guidelines that need to be followed while selecting a research problem. Your research problem needs to be:

  • An original and unique one.
  • An encapsulation of the nature of research.
  • Feasible vis-a-vis time required for its completion.
  • A realistic statement that can be achieved with the available financial resources.
  • Backed by support from your affiliated institution and peers.
  • Formulated in accordance with ethical considerations.
  • Based on recent or current problems persistent in the field of study.

Types of research problems

Research problems can vary according to the field of study and the scope of the research. Basically, there are three types of research problems:

  • Descriptive
  • Relative
  • Casual

A well-framed and appropriate research problem presents the researcher’s view in a clear and lucid manner, and helps readers understand the purpose of the research better.

Publication Pollution by Predatory Journals

Publication Pollution by open access publication mode

In a commentary published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings Journal New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan convokes scientists and physicians to take a stand against predatory publishing, plagiarism, and fraudulent publications, which are polluting the fields of science and medicine. He also warns that if the medical and scientific communities continue to remain in denial of these trends, the trustworthiness, utility, and value of science and medicine will be irreparably damaged.

In this era of digital publication of research works, the popularity of online scholarly journals has led to the emergence of an open-access publishing mode in which authors are often asked to pay to get their accepted papers published. This mode has become so widespread that some online journals have started misusing it. They use deceitful practices to cheat the author and pollute the network of scholarly publications. This is why they are categorized as predatory journals.

When the problem of predatory publications was posed to Jeffrey Beall, the well-known librarian and associate professor at Auraria Library in the University of Colorado in Denver, he stated that researchers, science communication, and science itself are the victims of this publication pollution.

How do such predatory journals thrive?

In the initial stage, these publishers approach authors through personalized and deceptive spam e-mails to persuade them to publish their research works in their journals. They also falsify impact factor rankings to allure researchers and authors. However, they hide the names of the owners, editors, and reviewers, and don’t even disclose their business address. They deliberately hide the fact that an article processing fee has to be paid prior to the publication of the paper. Thus, authors remain unaware about publication charges until they receive the invoice from the publication office. Later, they are forced to pay because of a sense of obligation and the urge to get their research published. This style of publishing pressurizes the author to search for alternative means to cover the unforeseen expense. The publishers also include a list of reviewers and editors on their journal pages without seeking their consent.  The journals pay no heed to the requests of authors to remove those names.

This trauma adds to the highly stressful experience of authors as they struggle to publish their research for better job prospects. In a bid to make their CVs more impressive by increasing the list of published works under their belt, authors fall easy prey to predatory journals.

The eagerness to publish articles has led many authors to the path of open-access publishers operating hundreds of journals. Barely four years earlier, the market share was dominated by larger, long-established institutions, each with 100 or more different journals in the field of science. However, according to a survey mentioned by Cenyu Shen and BoChrister Bjork in their research on predatory publications, approximately 8,000 journals of 963 predatory publishers have published nearly 420,000 articles.

These predatory journals are not only deceiving the authors, but are also polluting the academic and scientific research world. Here are some glaring problems in these predatory publications.

Misconduct in Research

Predatory journals encourage plagiarism, self-plagiarism, image and data manipulation, salami slicing of one research into several papers, and host and honorary authorship. Though some of these practices also occur in legit journals, the frequency is much more in fake ones because the prime driver of spurious journals is revenue growth. Therefore, predatory journals publish articles without subjecting them to a stringent review process. As a result, non-science and fake research articles are published in science journals with manipulative data and findings. This weakens the process of academic research. Moreover, the whole scientific research world experiences a breakdown when such articles are cited in other scientific articles in cyclical effect.

Subpar publications

Predatory journals gradually turn out to be a tool for unscrupulous authors who desperately want to obtain the annual published articles margin in their names. With fake journals offering to publish articles within a short span of time, the complicit authors succeed in publishing subpar articles. They don’t even hesitate to publish articles authored by others in their name.

Sudden blackout of such journals

In case the journal disappears from the academic community, authors not only lose their publishing fee, but also their published research work.

Therefore, in order to shield yourself from this pollution, you must carefully review contracts with your publishers and assess the publisher’s rights and assertions. That will help you ensure a long and durable relationship with your publishers. Even if the process of getting your paper published in well-known real journals is tedious and painstaking, it is definitely worth it to protect your research from being misused.

How to promote your published articles for maximum impact

Tips and ways to promote your published research articles

Now-a-days, you need to utilize various online mediums to get the added eyeballs for your research articles and promote your research findings and publications to a wider audience. These mediums include social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and blogs.

Nearly one million scholarly articles are published each year. However, for authors like you, that should not be an end in itself. You must promote your published articles and increase the impact of your research and cultivate a stronger reputation as a researcher. That added exposure can help you move your career forward

Here are some effective ways to promote your published research.

Leverage your social media presence

Once your paper is published, take advantage of the many social media platforms to inform your close peer groups, followers, and other academicians in your network to read and follow your research. If you have an account on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, you can update your research status by sending them a message. Some social media also offer features to track feedback and count “likes” generated by your article.

Connect with scholarly reference platforms

The top rated scholarly or academic reference managing platforms such as Academia.edu, MyNetResearch, ResearchGate, and Mendeley help keep scholars of the same discipline or research branch connected and updated about their latest achievements.

Link your publication to your academic profile

Provide links to your latest articles on your institutional website and online academic curriculum vitae. Interested readers can read, follow, and cite your latest research and publications.

Blog

Maintain your own academic blog and link your article to your blog to enhance the chances of discoverability on web crawlers and search engines. Moreover, post small write-ups about your published research works. Every day, scholarly articles are receiving approximately 12,000 mentions via blogs, otherwise known as Altmetrics. You could be among them.

Attend scientific conventions

Present your papers at conventions. That will enable not only fellow researchers, but also the journalists covering the conventions, to access your research and promote your publications.

Apart from these post-publication tips, you can also promote your article even before it is published. You can use SEO tools for increasing the number of hits. Use clear and widely searched keywords, especially in the title and the abstract. You can add these keywords while creating headings and subheadings for better visibility in search results. But you need to avoid overdoing this because unnecessary repetitions can have a detrimental effect on the visibility in search results.

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.

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.

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.