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.

APA style: Author names

The American Psychological Association mainly developed the APA Style CENTRAL for academic institutions. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association APA (American Psychological Association) is most commonly used citation style used within the social sciences. This APA Citation Guide, revised according to the sixth edition of the APA manual, presents the standard format for in-text citations and the reference page. The APA style is most popular and used by many writers across the globe because it is simple and concise in comparison to the other style guides.

APA style has a number of key rules for using author names as part of the author-date system. Here are some common examples:

In-text citation

A Work by Two Authors: When citing a work by two authors, the APA style suggests naming both authors in the signal phrase or in the parentheses each time at all appearances in the text. The word “and” should be used between the authors’ names within the text and ampersand”&” must be used when the author names appear within the parentheses.

 

For instance: Study conducted by Rosemary and Paul (1997) supports…

(Rosemary & Paul, 1997)

References styling

The last names and initials must be used and the ampersand instead of “and.”

Paul, D. T., & Soll, R. E. (1996).Title of the study. Journal of XXXXX, 66, 1034-1048.

In-text citation

A Work by Three to Five Authors: The APA style requires that the authors be listed in the signal phrase or in parentheses on the first time the source is cited in the text. When cited in the text, the word “and” should be used between the authors’ names and ampersand should be used when cited within the  parentheses.

For instance: (Paul, Cornell, Soll, Springer, & Harlow, 2016)

In subsequent citations, only the first author’s last name followed by “et al.” should be mentioned in the signal phrase or in parentheses. the et al should never be followed by a period.

For instance: (Paul et al, 2016)

References styling

List by last names and initials. Commas must be used to separate author names and  the last author name is preceded again by ampersand.

Paul, M. H., Cornell, D. P., Soll, C. R., Mohanty, A., Harlow, T., & Bill, J. S. (1996). Title of the study. Journal of XXXX, 62, 1170-1304.

In-text citation

A work by Six or More Authors: Mention the first author’s name followed by et al. in the signal phrase or in parentheses.

For instance: Paul et al. (2001) argued…

(Paul et al., 2001)

References styling

List by last names and initials and commas must be used to separate author names. After the name of the sixth author, ellipses must be inserted in place of the author names. Then provide the name of the final author is written.

Kohli, F. H., Choi, M. J., Kaur, L. L., Desai, A. A., Sterling, J. A., Thomas, S. T., . . . Paul, L. H. (2009). Title of the study. Journal name, 57, 323-335.

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.

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.

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.

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.