Understanding Research Paper Retraction

retraction
“The main purpose of retractions is to correct the literature and ensure its integrity rather than to punish authors who misbehave.”- COPE (Committee of Publication Ethics)

An author is expected to submit a paper after checking and rechecking the paper to ensure that it adheres to the journal guidelines and also complies with the general ethics. The paper is again peer reviewed by the journal for accuracy. However, in spite of so many checks, some papers get published with gross discrepancies and are subsequently retracted. Most often, the authors are asked to retract the paper.
A paper is bound to get retracted by editors for reasons such as:

1. Presentation of unreliable data due to misconduct or an honest error
2. Unethical research
3. Plagiarism
4. Re-presentation of data published earlier, for which the author has failed to provide proper referencing or obtain necessary permissions.

Action after detection

In many cases, the journal thoroughly investigates the kind of flaws present in the paper after issuing a warning, which is generally termed as ‘expression of concern.’ If very serious kinds of flaws, such as in correct representation of data or unethical research or plagiarism to an extent where it cannot be ignored is found then in such cases retraction of paper becomes essential. Before the editors of the journal take any action the authors are given an opportunity to retract the paper themselves without citing any reasons. Editors retract a paper as a last resort.

Information of retraction

After the decision to retract the paper has been made, the online version is marked and (or) the pdf version is watermarked ‘retracted.’ A statement is issued clearly stating all the related information about the paper and a valid reason for the retraction. The statement also states who retracted the article. Care is taken to avoid a defamatory statement and. any harmful repercussions that could mislead publications.

Effect of retraction

Retraction of a paper is a source of shame and disgrace for all stakeholders, including the author(s) and the journal. The journal has to bear the shame of not being able to filter the paper before publication and the author gets a black mark on his academic profile forever.

Purpose of retraction

Retraction is a mechanism for alerting the readers and the research fraternity about the publication of the erroneous data and findings published in the paper. It is also a warning against the use of flawed data by others.

Best time to retract

It is best to act as soon as the editor detects the flaws to avoid further damage. This will prevent readers and other researchers from being misled.

The adage “prevention is better than cure” holds true for retractions too. Therefore, the authors should take great care to check the paper carefully before submission to avoid discrepancies and the ignominy of having their paper retracted after publication.

The best time to employ an Editing Service

best time to employ English editing service
Each day, hundreds of researches are conducted around the world. These findings and discoveries need to be presented in a way that can be understood by all stakeholders in the relevant field of study. Therefore, the paper needs to be written in a language that clearly communicates the author’s intentions and simultaneously avoids ambiguities that hamper comprehension. This is essential because a well-written paper appeals to a larger audience and hence garners higher citations.
This is where a professional editing service can step in to iron out several crucial roadblocks on the publication route.

Overcome the language barrier

Often, the author belongs to a country where people are generally not proficient in English. This makes the job of the author harder because greater effort is needed to present the research in a lucid manner. If this is lacking, a brilliant discovery could very well be overshadowed by poor language. Consequently, the researcher’s painstaking work will largely go in vain.

Guarantee error-free language

Apart from the problem of communicating with their readers, authors are also susceptible to errors of omission and commission because they get very involved in the research content of the paper and have probably gone through the paper a hundred times from that point of view. Consequently, they tend to overlook spelling, grammatical and syntax errors. Only a fresh look by a professional reviewer can detect those errors. Conversely, if the paper is reviewed by a friend or a colleague, there are chances that they may not give an honest review.
Therefore, it is always advisable to employ the services of a good editing service. The trained eye of a professional editor can detect the errors in a manuscript and rectify them. Often, the editor also gives useful inputs to enhance the quality of the paper and thus minimise the chances of rejection by the target journal.From this vantage point, is it not better to employ the services of a professional editing service from the outset instead of seeking numerous reviews from other quarters?

Ensure compliance with journal guidelines

The primary objective of a research paper is to be published in a journal. Each journal specifies its own style guide, which needs to be strictly followed by the writer. This might be a difficult task for writers because their primary attention is on the research content. On the other hand, a professional editor keeps doing similar jobs day in and day out and is therefore well conversant with the specifications of various journals and better equipped to modify research papers according to journal guidelines. This saves the researchers considerable time and effort, which they can instead devote to enhance the research content. It will also help writers avoid the trap of aligning their current research with their past work, which increases the chances of rejection on the grounds of non-compliance with the stipulated journal guidelines.

Therefore, it is very important for a research paper to be presented in a manner that best justifies the research ideas of the writer, communicates clearly to the reader, and satisfies the guidelines of the target journal.

Use of flawless English brings the main idea of the paper to the fore, making it a paper worth reading for a large number of people interested in that field of study. To ensure such an outcome and enhance the chances of publication, it is critical for writers to hire a good English editor having sound knowledge in journal editing services.

Open Access Journals: The new era of publishing

benefits of open access journal
As the name suggests, the main benefit of an open access journal is that it is free for viewing by all. It can be viewed without making any payments and even downloaded for free. This is highly advantageous for libraries and researchers, who would otherwise have to access each journal through a paid subscription. With subscription rates usually very high, it became very difficult for budding researchers to subscribe to all relevant journals. Besides, researchers often have limited finance to access many journals. Conversely, with open access journals, researchers can access several journals, while libraries can add a large number of journals to their collections and thus benefit the research community as a whole.

Open access journals have high citation because they are freely accessible and referred by many people. For writers, too, open access journals give their papers much greater exposure than subscription based journals. It is also observed that there is a sustained number of downloads over a longer period, while non-open access articles have a shorter attention span. There is no need to pay subscription charge or pay-per-view charges to reach the full material. Open access journals are more likely to be indexed in databases and enlisted in search engines.

Some journals ask the author to pay for making their paper free to viewed, but this amount is nominal. After the manuscript has been accepted, the author also needs to pay a onetime charge for processing and handling. This sum is far smaller than the amount paid for publication in non-open access journals, both printed and online.

The best part of an open access journal is that it gives wider scope of access to researchers in developing countries. Since publication of papers is free in many journals, researchers from developing countries have a better chance to publish their papers and present the results of their study to a global readership.

In contrast to traditional journals, open access journals have a short production cycle, which enables quick publication of accepted papers. Some open access journals also offer fee waivers or discounts for authors from developing countries.

Sometimes, due to negligence or oversight, editors of traditional journals omit few good papers, but the chance of a similar occurrence in an open access journal is much less because the journal’s teams of editors carry out a rapid peer review so that the paper is published without delay.

There are advantages and disadvantages of open access journals, but the advantages surely outweigh the disadvantages. With the arrival of open access journals, accessibility to research papers has increased manifold. Besides, a wider audience prompts higher number of citations. Open access publications have thus come as a boon for researchers and libraries in developing countries.

Tips to enhance the visibility of your article

Writing an effective title
Writing an effective title
From the perspective of a search engine, the title is the most important part of a research paper. The search engine recognises the title as inclusive of all important words related to the topic. Thus, you need to choose the words of your title very carefully. Besides, the title is important from the perspective of the reader because it tells the reader whether the topic is relevant or not.
While conceiving the title of your paper, you need to keep the following principles in mind:

• Encapsulate the content and communicate its scope.
• Include words that are generally submitted to search engines when a user is looking up your topic or one similar to yours.
• Focus on words or phrases that occur frequently in your text and describe the content extensively.
• Use short and attractive titles to be more effective.
Hence, a good title should ideally be of 10-12 words containing descriptive words or phrases that accurately describe the core content of your paper.

Writing an effective abstract
The abstract gives a sneak peek into the full text of your paper. It conveys to the reader the basic idea about the content of the paper. Usually, the abstract is free to access and can be viewed by anyone. Therefore, it gives readers the chance to first understand the gist of your paper and then decide whether they want to continue reading or purchase a full copy of the paper. In a sense, the abstract is a marketing document for the full paper.
If you have submitted your paper for publication, the abstract assumes an even greater importance. Since it is the first section of the paper that journal editors and reviewers read, it plays a crucial role in the acceptance of the paper for publication. Sometimes the journal editors are very busy and prefer going through the abstract to determine whether the paper should be sent for peer review or rejected outright. Thus, reviewers form their first impressions about the paper from the abstract.
The abstract should be written in a way that captures the reader’s interest and attention and engages their mental abilities. It should give a brief overview of the main content.
The abstract should basically contain answers to the following questions:
• What is the objective or purpose?
• What is your methodology for accomplishing the objective?
• What are the findings or results?
• What are the implications for future research?
All these points are sequential and need to follow one another in the same order.

How to use keywords effectively
Keywords are used to classify papers by journals and search engines. Therefore, the visibility of your paper to the target group depends greatly on the keywords. An accurate list of keywords will ensure a higher citation count for the paper.
Words and phrases that occur repetitively in the main text and describe the content comprehensively should be among your keywords. Besides, you could also use some other words that are related to the topic and could potentially increase the visibility of your paper.

Post-submission actions: Editorial decision and peer review process

Post submission action : Peer Review

Annually, approximately 3-4 million manuscripts are submitted to various journals for publication. Each journal initiates the ensuing publication process with the screening of the manuscript before finalizing it for the peer-review process. Screening includes analysis of the paper based on the journal’s aim, scope, and reader’s interest. The decision is also influenced by the clarity of the content and adherence to journal instructions. In most journals, around 60-70% manuscripts are rejected during the initial screening process.

Once selected by the journal editors, the paper is sent to peer reviewers. Peer reviewing is a critical assessment of the manuscript by subject experts who are not part of the journal’s editorial team. Hence, journal editors carefully select the reviewers, also known as referees, based on the latter’s expertise in the subject area so that they are competent to review papers that include technical aspects. Some journals ask the authors to recommend both preferred and non-preferred reviewers to save their time while searching for appropriate reviewers for the paper.

Peer review has become an intrinsic part of the journal publication process because it gauges the quality of the paper and determines whether the manuscript is worth publishing. Generally, journals complete the peer-review process within 3-4 weeks; however, some journals have no time restrictions.

The peer review process is categorized into three types: single-blind, double-blind, and open. The first type hides the identity of the reviewers, whereas the second hides the identities of both the authors and the reviewers. Conversely, an open peer review reveals the identities of the authors to reviewers and vice versa.

Based on the feedback received from the reviewers, the journal arrives at the following decisions:

  • Acceptance. The manuscript can be published in the submitted format.
  • Rejection. The manuscript is rejected.
  • Acceptance with minor revisions. The manuscript needs minor revisions and can be published after incorporating the revisions.
  • Acceptance after major revisions. The manuscript needs major revisions by the authors and can be considered for acceptance after the revisions are incorporated.
  • Revision and resubmission. The paper requires additional statistical and/or editorial revision followed by resubmission.

Apart from these decisions, there are few more scenarios in which a manuscript can be published. Some journals follow a reject and resubmit policy. For the authors, this involves a repetition of the entire submission process after making fundamental changes in the paper as advised by the journal editor and peer reviewers. On the other hand, few publication houses reject the paper for the target journal and advice the authors to transfer the submission to another journal within the same publication house. This is referred to as the journal cascading process.

Even if the post-submission processes apparently showcase more cons than pros of the submitted manuscript, they eventually help enhance the quality of the manuscript.

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.

Self-Plagiarism : Unethical Practices in Scholarly Publications

Is it wrong to reproduce one’s own content partially or completely in another publication? The answer is YES, although many people believe to the contrary.

Self-plagiarism is an unethical practice, and is almost as undesirable as plagiarism somebody else’s work. In the world of journal publications, self-plagiarism—or plagiarism for that matter—leads to two major problems: duplicate publications and simultaneous publications. Let’s look at these terms in greater detail.

Self-plagiarism or simultaneous submissions is an unethical practice.

Publication of a paper that has substantial similarities with a paper already published in some other journal is known as a duplicate publication. In duplicate publications, authors source the contents from a prior publication of their own or from the work of others without proper permission. When sourcing any information from published papers, it is mandatory for you to seek prior permission from the publishers as they often hold the copyright to the published paper and not the author of the paper. Another alternative is to use the reproduced information within double quotation marks and clearly indicate the original source. However, the latter solution will only work when the reproduced text is just a sentence or two and used to support your own text.

Submission of the same manuscript to two or more journals at the same time without informing the publishers is known as simultaneous submissions.It is considered as an ‘unethical publishing behavior’ because it could engender a copyright dispute. In addition, publishing the paper at two separate places leads to waste of resources of the publishers and the scientific and academic fraternity as a whole. However, a paper written in a particular language can be translated and published in a different journal after acquiring the necessary permissions.

Duplicate publications and simultaneous submissions have serious consequences. An author engaging in such unethical practices is liable to be summarily rejected by the publishers. Worse still, the offenders could be banned from submitting any paper in the future or blacklisted, which means that they will not be able to get their paper published in any journal.

The scholarly ability and integrity of authors come under the scanner when they use such illegitimate means to get their work published. It is very important to keep the dos and don’ts in mind while publishing a paper and follow the guidelines specified by the target journal. If information published elsewhere is critical for your own research, you need to ensure that you do not violate the time-honoured code of publication ethics. This is because honest and ethical publications area sine qua non for the development of the scholar community.

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.

Take a step closer to publication by formatting your manuscript

puzzled with how to for your manuscript?

A properly formatted manuscript is likely to be preferred by a journal editor compared to an unorganized alternate version. Hence, instead of submitting a manuscript with your data and text in a disorderly stack, it is crucial to format your manuscript according to the guidelines of the targeted journal before submission.

You should ensure that your manuscript is properly formatted to reduce the publication time. On the other hand, an unorganized manuscript is often returned by the journal house weeks after submission with instructions to adhere to the formatting guidelines. That entails lost time in the publication process.

The following are some basic rules of formatting:

  • Page size: Use 8½ x 11-inch size of normal sheet.
  • Page margin: Keep all margins within 1 to 1½ inch. Avoid using end-of-the-line hyphenation or justified margins.
  • Spacing: Use single or double spacing uniformly for the entire manuscript.
  • Font: Use 12-point font size of Times New Roman or Arial. Try to avoid fancy fonts.
  • Page numbering: Number each page of the manuscript according to the guidelines given by the target journal.
  • Manuscript sections: Divide your manuscript into clear sections such as title page, main text, references, appendices, footnotes, acknowledgements, tables, figures, and figure legends.

format your manuscript by your own

In addition, take care of the following extra minutes:

  • On the title page, provide your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address of the corresponding author. It is a good practice to mention the word count of the abstract and main text, and the number of figures and tables.
  • Check whether the journal guidelines call for a blinded manuscript for the peer review process. If yes, ensure that your manuscript is prepared in a way that does not give away the authors’ identity.
  • Maintain a sequential pattern of headings and sub-headings. Mixed-up sections can confuse editors and peer reviewers.
  • Follow the house style of the journal for both in-text and end-text references.
  • Journals often ask for signed copyright transfer agreements, conflict-of-interest forms, patient consent forms, funding information, and ethical approval related data. Cross-check the forms before submission. Non-complying manuscripts can be returned for corrections months after the submission, which results in unnecessary delay in publication.

Manuscript formatting is quick and easy. If you conform to the aforementioned details, you can prepare an attractively formatted manuscript that is likely to be welcomed by the journal editors. If you face any obstacles in the formatting process, seek the services of professional manuscript editors who can tailor the format of your manuscript to fit perfectly with the target journal’s guidelines.

Authorship Disputes: Tips to avoid conflicts

Tips to avoid Authorship DisputesAuthorship’ denotes the practice of providing truthful credits for intellectual contributions and innovative concepts. It not only helps authors acquire the credit for the work, but also ensures that they assume responsibility for the research conducted and presented. Moreover, it is perceived as a tool for personal satisfaction, prestige, and especially, a stepping stone in a writer’s academic career. Though the term sounds interesting, it involves high risks and problems in practice.

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) often receives disputes regarding authorship. These cases usually involve disputes like the omission of a deserving junior researcher’s name from the authors’ list or a proposal by a sponsor for including the name of a non-contributing author. However, it also received a shocking complaint from a female author, who said that her name was replaced with that of her boss in the final version when she was away on maternity leave.

Apart from having a direct impact on the publication in question, authorship disputes can also have repercussions on a writer’s fair credit, collegial relationships, future collaborations, and reputations.

Following the adage that prevention is better than cure, the following are some guiding principles to avoid conflicting situations like authorship disputes.

  • Adhere to the authorship criteria of the publication

Each publisher follows specific authorship guidelines enunciated by organizations such as the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), World Association of Medical Editors (WAME), Council of Science Editors (CSE), Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), and Good Publication Practice (GPP2). Non-compliance with the concerned guidelines—i.e., unequal application of authorship criteria, granting authorship to undeserving individuals, and/or omitting authorship to deserving individuals—is considered to be a serious offense in the academic world and can be construed as  research misconduct.

  • Hold prior discussions with co-authors

All the authors of a paper should discuss and finalize the authorship order and contributions along with respective responsibilities before beginning to prepare a manuscript and, if possible, even before starting a study.

  • Stick to the plan of action

In few cases, it has been observed that even if the authors have agreed to the sequence of authorship and contributions, fraudulent authors make last-minute changes in the manuscript or research paper just before submission. This leads to conflicts in publishing the paper, and some even end with retraction of the paper. To avoid such anomalies and unpleasant situations, it is advisable to comply with the agreement made between the author and co-authors.

However, even the best plans sometimes fail. So it is better to track and revisit the issues and monitor any changes or modifications in authorship or contributions. If one discovers any changes before publication, it can be revised after discussions with the co-authors. Conversely, if the detection is made post-publication, one can contact the journal along with the written agreements and evidence of contributions, and request for a correction or a retraction of the paper.