HOW TO WRITE A ‘GOOD’ RESEARCH PAPER

Writing a good research paper and getting it published depends on many factors. It requires proper planning, preparation, and disciplined hard work to get published. However, by the end of the day, the quality and content of the article are what matters. Unless the article is of good quality, no journal will be willing to publish it.

Here are some basic tips on how to write a good article that is accepted by a journal.

Topic: Your topic is the first calling card for your article. You must choose your topic carefully based on the recent developments in your field. If you want to publish your article in a journal with a high impact factor, you must also understand that the editors will require an article that will be popular enough for its readers to maintain the high impact factor of the journal. The relevance of the topic and expressing it smartly via a suitable title is very crucial.

Core work: Your article may be based on your recent research activities, or maybe a pure review of the literature. In either case, it must be of top quality. For original research, the results you report are obviously the high-point of attraction. However, given there are many academicians working on the same topic, there has to be some differentiating factor in your research that will make it stand out from the rest. This depends not only on the research question or hypothesis you set for your experiments but also on what you’re finally present in your article. The same research can generate multiple publications depending on how you choose to present it before your audience.

Review of literature: Every publication requires a review of the literature section. While hard-core review papers are based solely on this factor, even research papers require a review of the literature section to set the context. Your review of the literature has to be up to date with the latest developments and ideas in your field. While writing a review of literature, the message is not about how extensively you have read up on your subject but really about the insights you derive from them. A review of literature is all about perspectives developed from existing literature and it should be conveyed in your article.

Understand your audience: For a successful publication, especially in a journal with a high impact factor, you have to write the article from a reader’s perspective. Figure out what would interest a reader to read your article. A good way to go about it is to understand what interested you as a reader when you were doing your research. Reading good articles not only helps develop knowledge on the subject matter but also teaches us how to write. Revisit your references to see how they were written, the language, the questions they addressed, and what attracted your attention in the first place.

Discipline: Proper formatting, referencing, indexing of content, labeling of charts and figures are the basic hygiene for any good article. It is best you inculcate these habits from the very start to avoid excessive revisions later.

Understanding manuscript evaluation by high impact journals

Every academician wants to publish their articles in high impact journals. This in turn makes it extremely challenging as all such journals are flooded with submissions. In fact, for many of these journals, it is a challenge for the editorial team to select suitable articles to publish from the sea of submissions.

As an author, while you already have clarity of what you want to convey via your article, you also need to understand what the editorial board of a high impact journal is looking for to publish. Therefore, it is important to understand the manuscript evaluation process of such journals.

What is manuscript evaluation: Essentially, A manuscript evaluation is an in-depth, developmental, and structural manuscript editing report developed by the editorial team of a journal. It provides a bigger picture of the manuscript by deeply analyzing its many facts and is shared by junior editors with senior colleagues. The manuscript evaluation covers technicalities, like whether the manuscript follows author guidelines, whether proper citations, indexing, and data labeling have been done, etc. All these can be covered by proper manuscript editing at the end of the author before submission.

The other critical aspect of manuscript evaluation is the qualitative assessment of the article. This looks into the structure and organization of the article, the clarity of ideas espoused, the brevity and consistency of the language in which it is written.

Do your basic hygiene check: every author must focus on manuscript editing to ensure a basic standard before submission, especially to high impact journals. Articles written badly, with poor language or paragraphing are automatically rejected. The manuscript should have a clear point of view of the research and should deviate in course of the narrative. Structure and organization of the article, be it in terms of sections, paragraph construction, the flow of a narrative from one section to the other, must be well planned and executed.

Evaluate your work from an editor’s point of view: any editor of a high-impact journal is very conscious of maintaining the high impact quotient of their publication. Therefore, they are not only looking for good quality papers but are also keen to publish papers that they feel will be widely quoted and cited. Therefore, they are also assessing the impact factor of your manuscript. Some of the criteria they have are:

  • Will other researchers be interested in reading the study?
  • Does the article match the journal’s present audience, or help reach out to newer audiences?
  • Does the importance of the advances offered in the article up to the standards of the journal?
  • Does the manuscript add additional value to any discourse or does it just add noise to an already busy field of study?

When you write your manuscript, relook it from the editor’s point of view and check if your research meets these criteria.

Lastly, do remember that it is only after the Chief Editor has passed your manuscript will it be shared for peer review. So, you need to clear it with editors before a field expert actually evaluates your article.

What Is a Good Impact factor of a Journal?

Any researcher looking to publish an article gets tangled in the web of journal impact factor and how to select the best journal to target. While it is easy to know the impact factor of a journal, it is altogether a different challenge as to how to interpret this number. Here is an easy guide to journal impact factor and what it means.

What is the impact factor of a journal?

This is the easiest question to answer! The Journal impact factor is a measured frequency-based on citation numbers of articles from a journal in a particular year. First introduced by Eugene Garfield, the founder of the Institute for Scientific Information, the simple formula is Impact factor =A/B for any given year (X), where A is the number of citation of articles published in years (X-1 & X-2) by indexed journals during Year X; and B is the total number of citable items like articles and reviews published by that journal in the years (X-1 & X-2). Impact factors are calculated each year by Thomson Scientific for those journals that it indexes (it was 12,298 for 2017) and are published in JournalCitation Reports.

So, what are the caveats?

  • Remember, the impact factor is always dated back 3 years; one cannot know the impact factor of the present year as it will come after 2 years.
  • Impact factor analysis is limited to the 12,298 journals indexed for the JournalCitation Reports covering 27 research disciplines only. Impact factor can be calculated only after completing the minimum of 3 years of publication and therefore it cannot be calculated for a brand new journal
  • The impact factor only denotes citation of journals and not individual articles That is done by other measures like the H-index.

How do we interpret the value of a journal’s impact factor?

This is where things start getting tricky! In most fields, the impact factor of 10 or greater is considered an excellent score while 3 is flagged as good and the average score is less than 1.

However, the impact factor is best read in terms of subject matter in the form of the 27 research disciplines identified in the JournalCitation Reports. Some science streams have higher frequencies of citation while some subjects like streams in humanities may have a lower frequency of citation.

The best means of judging a journal based on the impact factor is noting the comparative score of the journal with others in the same field. So, if a journal A has a score of (say) 5 while the next journal B has a score of 2, that is different from a journal C having a score of 10 while the next journal D has a score of 9. It is the relative score that matters while choosing a journal for publication.

In Conclusion

The impact factor of a journal, although the most credible metric for judging journals, must be properly contextualized. There are other factors too must be considered for articles published in any journal.

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.

Correlation between impact factor and rejection rate: Myth or fact?

impact-factor

Impact factor (IF) is a measure of the reputation and health of a journal, but not the sole determinant. Therefore, authors must not consider it as a be-all, end-all yardstick or stricture while finding the right journal for their paper. The scope of a journal, its audience, and types of articles it publishes are equally, if not more, significant than the IF.

Grading the authors based on the merit of their publication portfolios is an arduous and tricky task. Several institutional committees often rank the authors based on their previous achievements for promotions, funding, and honors. In many academic circles, the IF of a journal is adopted as a parameter for assessing the quality of a published article, thereby sidestepping a comprehensive review of the article.

In scholarly publishing, a general perception among authors is that journals ranked with a high IF are highly selective and follow strict criteria for paper selection. It is also conjectured that these journals accept only those manuscripts that have extremely significant and novel outcomes, and hence more likely to attract many citations.

However, several past studies have established that there is no correlation between rejection rate and IF. These studies have cited instances of journals that have low IF and high rejection rates, which prove that IF is a poor predictor of the rejection rate and merit of a journal.

Frontiers, a leading open access publisher, plotted the IFs of 570 journals against their rejection rates and found absolutely no prime correlation between the two elements. Several studies have an alternative explanation for journals that have a high IF and a high 90-95% rejection rate. According to these studies, the high rejection rate is because the journals give precedence to prominent authors and select works that are likely to attract broad acceptance from the target audience. Consequently, many papers are rejected by them when submitted at the first go.

The way the IF is mishandled or misapplied by authors/selection committees constitutes a blemished metric in several ways. Therefore, it is important to avoid the long misconstrued notion that authors with many publications in journals that have high IFs and high rejection rates are more meritorious and bigger achievers than others who have publications in journals with medium or low IF.

Journal Impact Factor: All That Matters

The impact factor, often abbreviated as IF, is a measure reflecting the average number of citations that a paper published in a journal receives over a defined period of time. Conceptually developed in the 1960s by Eugene Garfield, founder of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), IF is now frequently used as a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field. Journal impact factors are published annually in Science Citation Index (SCI) Reports.

Researchers are often conditioned to believe that IF matters the most. Publication in journals with a high IF is regarded as an indication of the quality of the research published, and by implication, the quality of its authors. Therefore, it is not surprising that publishing in high IF journals is an aspiration for most scientists as it often plays an important role in their career prospects and progression.

High IF journals are widely read. But there has been a discrepancy regarding the importance of journal IF among researchers. Journal ranking systems have evolved in the present-day world and allow for better comparisons. Sadly, they are often ignored even when such rankings may benefit a given journal. But even these systems are not foolproof and can be quite flawed, especially those assuming that the scientific value or quality is less if the scope of a discussion is small. A more appropriate approach could be to say that the best journals are those that can rank high in one or more categories or ranking systems, rather than reducing the overall journal quality and usefulness to a single number.

IF, originally designed for purposes other than the individual evaluation of the quality of research, is undoubtedly a useful tool provided its interpretation is not stretched far beyond its limits of validity. Having said that, the research quality cannot be measured solely using IF. It should be used with caution, and should not be the dominant or only factor accounting for the credibility of a research.