Recognising the importance for young academics of getting published in internationally respected journals, two professors at Damascus University have published a paper outlining the basics of how to write and publish research.
The professors, Raneem Husam Darkazali and Omar Hamadah, also describe helpful factors that will increase young academics’ chances of getting their papers accepted for publication by a journal in their field.
The full paper can be downloaded from the Telegram channel at this link: t.me/practical_guide_in_oral_medicine. Following is a summary of some of its highlights.
Choose the Right Journal
Before you start writing, you must first determine the journal you intend to publish your research in. This is important in terms of format and writing style, since your style should suit your targeted readers. For instance, if you are targeting a specialist journal, you can expect your readers to be experts in that particular field. If you are targeting a general medical journal, then readers’ expertise may be in other areas. This has implications in terms of the magnitude or the type of information your article should include.
Scientific Papers’ Main Sections
The majority of scientific research papers follow the “IMRaD” format, which consists of four main sections: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Of course, there are exceptions to this format, so you should always read the instructions for authors at your chosen journal and make sure your paper conforms to the format needed.
Besides the four main sections, your paper should include an abstract, tables, illustrations and a bibliography.
“Do not hesitate to write about any negative findings. A well-conducted study that produces no positive findings is still an addition to scientific knowledge.”
The introduction is of crucial importance to attract readers’ attention. In it, you should explain why you decided to undertake this study, what you wished to achieve, and how your research could contribute to the current scientific evidence on the subject.
Start by briefly explaining what is already known about the topic, using appropriate references. Then narrow down to what areas are still ambiguous, citing past (and even conflicting) data wherever possible. This should lead to a description of the obvious gap in the literature that you hope to fill through your study. This is a key element in demonstrating your research’s value.
Next, you should clarify a practical theory, elaborate it with goals, and then briefly mention the strategy you followed to achieve these goals.
You should also explain your reasons for doing your research, going into as much detail as is appropriate for your target audience. Try to avoid deviating from the topic at hand, so that each sentence should serve one of the goals.
Many journals limit the length of the introduction section, so you should carefully review the journal’s instructions. If you cannot find clear instructions about the introduction’s length, consider keeping it to about a page or a page and a half.
The goal of the Methods section is to describe exactly what you did and how you conducted your research. Each finding listed in the Results section must have a method listed in this section. For example, you cannot state a test or an analysis result unless you have mentioned the method behind it in this section.
“If you pick a poorly worded title, your paper will be difficult to find in search results, and therefore will not be cited by others.”
In this section, you should also make a short note regarding the ethical considerations of your study. For example, briefly state that you obtained ethical approval from your institution’s research ethics committee (if not, elaborate why). If your research involves human participants, you should also state that you obtained informed consent from each participant, their next of kin, or their representative.
The point of the results section is to describe what you observed, without any comment or discussion. In this section, you should only give results, to make your paper easily readable and trackable. It would be good to put the results in the same order as mentioned in the Methods section.
Likewise, breaking the Results section into subtitled sections can help. The model results paragraph should start with a reminder of the analysis pattern before you expand on the results you observed. Here, you should include relevant tables and figures.
In general, results that can be easily described in a line or two should be presented as written text. Use tables to present larger lists of data, such as baseline data, results, and treatments.
In this section, you explain the significance of the results you obtained, and how these results relate what has been previously observed about the topic you tackled.
The Discussion should begin with a brief summary of the study’s main findings, followed by an explanation of the result.
You should compare your findings with what was previously mentioned in the scientific literature on the same topic. If your results are different from others, you must reasonably explain that difference. You also should state whether any differences in conditions, samples, and methods could explain why you got such observations.
“It is your ethical and professional responsibility to document your work appropriately, and to be clear and transparent in assigning references.”
Do not hesitate to write about any negative findings. A well-conducted study that produces no positive findings is still an addition to scientific knowledge. You can discuss what the repercussions might be.
The abstract is a short summary of the entire article. The abstract is used for reference purposes in bibliographic databases. Therefore, it should constitute a separate unit that can be understood as a text in its own right, without the need to refer to the full text. The abstract is also the first item the reviewer sees when they are invited to review your paper for publication in a journal.
Choosing the Right Title
The title should include keywords that reflect your paper’s main concern. It should attract readers’ interest and make them want to finish reading your work.
If you pick a poorly worded title, your paper will be difficult to find in search results, and therefore will not be cited by others.
Make your title as specific as possible. If your paper’s title is similar to dozens, or even hundreds of others, it must be distinguished from them in some way.
The bibliography section lists the references you used while preparing your hypothesis and building your research.
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It is your ethical and professional responsibility to document your work appropriately, and to be clear and transparent in assigning references. It is mandatory to cite the references upon which you based your hypotheses to prove that they are valid.
References also support your work, placing it in the context of other research on the same topic, and at the same time providing a guide for readers who want to read more about the same topic.