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.

Does Journal Acceptance Rates Matter?

Generally, journal acceptance rates or rejection rates are journal tools to assess the trend of rejection or acceptance, and also, to monitor any discrepancies occurring in it. These rates are an internal quality control benchmark, whereas the impact factor is an external benchmark.

Factors affecting journal acceptance rates

A lot of factors determine the journal acceptance rate. The two most important factors have been listed below:

  • Quality check: The rates depend on the quality of papers submitted to a journal.
  • Number of papers in the pipeline: It is the number of papers under review and not the papers submitted that is taken into consideration while calculating acceptance rates.

Most of the journals avoid publishing the journal acceptance rate on their website as they are of the view that authors might be put off by a lower rate of acceptance. Those journals that do mention do so mostly in their “About Us” or “Overview” section. Journal editors reject papers for various reasons like low novelty value or the standard of research is not up to the mark. The Editors or peer reviewers provide useful comments to authors as feedback. Most editor review papers only on the basis of scientific content ignoring the language part; but if they feel that the paper stands a chance for publishing after revision, then they also advise authors to seek professional help to improve the language of the paper. Hence, authors should not use acceptance/rejection rates as a basis for selecting a journal. However, a general conclusion can be drawn stating that higher the acceptance rate, higher is the probability of a paper being accepted.

In spite of smaller speciality and open access journals having a higher acceptance rate, most researchers prefer to submit in high impact factor journals as they have higher visibility. It is very evident that journals with high impact factor tend to uphold their quality, and hence, are very particular about the quality of research and also the paper. This leads to higher rejection rate or lower acceptance. Sometimes it also happens that authors submit their papers to high impact factor journals in the hope of getting published, even when they are aware that their paper is not a perfect match to that particular journal, thus decreasing the journal’s acceptance rate.

Journal acceptance rates do not hold much relevance in the era of open access publication. It is upon the researchers as to what matters the most to them- is it the journal acceptance rate or the journal impact factor?

Publication Cycle: An Overview

Every manuscript submitted to a journal has to progress through the complete publication cycle before it finally gets published. The publication cycle takes genesis with the research idea. The researchers take this idea to a new horizon by conducting experiments, taking into account the previous publications that deal with similar topic. The research draft is then submitted to a journal that is followed by the assessment, reviewing, and further production processing before being published. Let’s discuss the different phases in detail so that we can get a bird’s eye view of the entire publication process.

How publication cycle works?

After the manuscript is submitted, it is first screened by the Editor-in-chief; if rejected, the paper is returned to the author, and if accepted, it goes to the next level. Here, the paper is checked for plagiarism, and conformity to the journal guidelines. Once the manuscript clears this technical round it is then sent for review by a panel of reviewers, who are subject experts. Here, the reviewers either reject the paper for lack of novelty or other reasons that might be study specific or they could either accept the paper or suggest revisions before acceptance. The paper with revisions is sent to the Editor-in-chief for approval, before being sent for a second and final round of review. At times, the paper gets rejected even after coming this far. If the paper is accepted it then goes through the in-house publication process, before finally getting published.

Some journals forego this time taking and tedious process and instead publish all manuscripts after checking it for novelty, relevance to the field of study and compliance to the style guide of the journal. This ensures a shorter review time and faster publication.

How long can a publication cycle run?

The publication cycle time of a journal cannot be assessed unless and until it is specified by the journal. Hence, it is difficult to know which journals have a fast publication cycle. Some journals take months before they give their first decision whereas some let their first decision known in a couple of weeks. Generally, the time gap between submission and first decision varies between 2-3 weeks.

What if the publication cycle is slow-moving?

The slow decision process becomes mentally tasking for researchers, as they spent many anxious months and even years before they actually get to know if their manuscript has been published or not. If their manuscript does not get published they have to again go through the same process of preparing their manuscript according to the guidelines of a new journal, submit it there and again wait for its decision. This cycle sometimes goes on for a few years before the manuscript gets published. In this process sometimes it so happens that the relevance of the paper or the research gets outdated by the time it is accepted for publication, thereby making the efforts of the researcher futile.

It is for these reasons that the researchers earnestly want a fast publication cycle, where they do not have to wait for so long to get a decision on their manuscript. Also, the publication houses are trying their best to formulate ways to make the publication process faster so that good and relevant researches do not become irrelevant. However, the authors need to be aware of the millions of predatory journals luring them for publishing within a very short duration. The authors are the best person to judge their options and choose the one that helps their research best.

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.

Usage of machine translation software in academic writing

The number of research articles submitted by non-native English speaking authors is increasing rapidly. However, the language barrier and time constraints are hindering their publication in English journals. With an intention to expand the reach of such innovative researches to other scholars and researchers, automated or machine translation software is a trending tool among academicians.

Akin to online proofreading software, the machine translation system is readily available on the web at little or no fee. Software such as Google Translate, Bing Translator, and Babel Fish are widely used in translating content through the rules-based systems. These systems are based on the translation techniques that analyze word patterns in the text in the documents that have been previously published or translated.

Cons of machine translation

Though useful to some extent, machine translation causes several errors in the document, thus affecting comprehension. Some serious mistakes recorded till date include:

  • Unnecessary fragments of the sentences in the translated material
  • Redundant and lengthy sentences creating confusion
  • Phrases ordered in an illogical manner
  • Word-by-word translation instead of contextual translation

The poor sentence structure along with errors in syntax and terminologies result in lack of clarity in the content and affect readability and comprehension. Eventually, the translated manuscripts or articles get rejected by journal editors because of a lack of clarity and coherence.

Machine translation software vs. Human Translators

Automated translation systems have been used for several years with the aforementioned drawbacks. Hence, the idea of utilizing machine translation software, i.e., Google Translate, Bing Translator, and Babel Fish, etc., is a risky one. Conversely, it is more advisable to use the expertise of academic translators to maintain or even enhance the integrity of the research material. Even if more expensive, manual translation services are worth it because they add credence to your manuscript.

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.

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.