How to write a scientific article?


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How to write a scientific article?

  1. 1. How to write a scientific article? Dr. A.A.M. Gerritsen, Epi Result 1
  2. 2. Overview lecture » Why a scientific format? » Sections of the article » Process of writing » Structure of a paragraph » Reporting and journal guidelines » Tips to improve your writing & useful resources 2
  3. 3. Why a scientific format? » Rigid structure facilitates: – Efficiently communicating scientific findings (uniform manner) – Allows the article to be read at different levels (skim titles, read title with abstract, look further to tables and figures etc. 3
  4. 4. Sections of the article (in general) » Title Page » Abstract » Introduction » Methods » Results » Discussion » Acknowledgements » References » Appendices 4
  5. 5. Title page » Title: describes the content/main result of the paper, time and place (key words for search) » Authors’ names, institutional affiliations, details for correspondence 5
  6. 6. Klik om de stijl te bewerken 6
  7. 7. Abstract (1) » Summarizes major aspects entire article » In general 200-300 words » Use 2-3 sentences per section of the paper (introduction, methods, results, discussion) » Information that is essential to the reader (to find the article, to decide what to read further or what is needed in case full article can’t be accessed) » First section, but last to be written 7
  8. 8. Abstract (2) » The question(s) you investigated (or purpose) (from Introduction) » The basic design and methods used (from Methods) » The major findings that answer the question(s) (from Results) » A brief summary of your interpretations and conclusions, including implications of the findings (from Discussion) No references, figures/tables. 8
  9. 9. Klik om de stijl te bewerken 9
  10. 10. Introduction (1) Should contain the following sections: » Problem statement » Rationale for the study » Significance of the study » Objectives of the study [From general (literature, practice) to specific (your study).] 10
  11. 11. Introduction (2) Problem statement: This is a concise description of the nature of the problem (the discrepancy between what is and what should be) and of the size, distribution and severity of the problem (who is affected, where, since when, and what are the consequences). Use a literature review (original research papers/review articles) to provide this context: general to specific e.g. HIV/AIDS, treatment, adherence ... and/or World, Africa, South Africa ... [Extensive descriptions of similar studies come in the Discussion.] 11
  12. 12. Introduction (3) Example problem statement: Gerritsen AA, Devillé WL. Gender differences in health and health care utilisation in various ethnic groups in the Netherlands: a cross-sectional study.BMC Public Health. 2009 Apr 20;9:109. 12
  13. 13. Introduction (4) Rationale for the study: This relates to the origin/source of the topic and the importance of the problem. A brief description of any solutions to the problem that have been tried in the past should be given, how well they have worked, and why further research is needed. Again, use literature to support this. 13
  14. 14. Introduction (5) Example rationale: 14
  15. 15. Introduction (6) Significance of the study: This is a description of the type of information expected to result from the project and a clarification of how this information will be used to help solve the problem (contribution to existing knowledge). Example: 15
  16. 16. Introduction (7) Objectives of the study: » General objective (general aim or purpose of the study which is derived from the research topic). » Specific objectives which are based on your general objective. Example: 16
  17. 17. Methods (1) » Study design » Study setting, population and sampling » Measurement instrument(s) » Data collection » Data-analysis » Ethics 17
  18. 18. Methods (2) Study design: Explain the design of your study e.g. cross-sectional, case-control, cohort study, randomized controlled trial. In case of an intervention study describe, if relevant, the method of randomization /concealment of treatment allocation. Example: A randomized controlled trial conducted from October 1998 to April 2000 at 13 neurological outpatient clinics in the Netherlands. Gerritsen AA, de Vet HC, Scholten RJ, Bertelsmann FW, de Krom MC, Bouter LM.Splinting vs surgery in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome: a randomized controlled trial.JAMA. 2002 Sep 11;288(10):1245-51 18
  19. 19. Methods (3) Study setting, population and sampling: Define the study setting (e.g. hospital), population (e.g. age, sex, place, condition, etc.), the sampling or selection method/criteria, and justification of sample size (power calculation). Intervention study: And add a section in which you describe the interventions that the treatment and control groups received. 19
  20. 20. Methods (4) Example study setting, population and sampling: All patients with clinically suspected CTS had been referred to one of the participating neurologists and were examined for eligibility to participate in the study. Inclusion criteria were (1) pain, paresthesia, and/or hypoesthesia in the hand in the area innervated by the median nerve9; ... Exclusion criteria were (1) previous treatment with splinting or surgery; ... Sample-size calculation was based on the ability to detect a clinically important difference in success rates of 20% or more 3 months after randomization. A total sample size of 190 patients was required (2-sided α = .05, β = .20). 20
  21. 21. Methods (5) Measurement instrument(s): Describe the instrument(s) used for data collection (e.g. interview guide, questionnaire, checklist or data collection form). Describe the instrument(s) in detail e.g. questions/answers (including validity, reliability). For intervention studies: Is blinding applied (for caregivers, participants, outcome assessors) where relevant? 21
  22. 22. Methods (6) Example measurement instrument(s): » Patients completed questionnaires: General improvement was scored by the patient on a 6-point ordinal transition scale, ranging from "completely recovered" to "much worse."12 ... Mean (SD) scores were collected using the Symptom Severity Scale (11 questions about symptoms experienced during the past 2 weeks with 1 equaling mildest and 5 equaling most severe) ... » A research physiotherapist examined the patients: After a standardized historytaking and a physical examination, the overall severity of CTS complaints was scored by a research physiotherapist on an 11-point numerical rating scale with zero equaling no complaints and 10 equaling very severe complaints.12 .... 22
  23. 23. Methods (7) Data collection: Who collected what data, when? Example: Patients completed questionnaires and were examined by a trained research physiotherapist in the hospital at baseline and 3, 6, and 12 months after randomization. Although different research physiotherapists assessed the outcomes, most patients were seen by the same therapist each time they visited the hospital. In the remaining months, and 18 months after randomization, questionnaires were mailed. 23
  24. 24. Methods (8) Data analysis: This should cover: primary and secondary outcomes, how the data were summarized (e.g. means, %) and measures of variability (e.g. SD, 95% CI), the statistical techniques used; the programme used. 24
  25. 25. Methods (9) Example data analysis: To determine the long-term effects, the assessment time of 18 months after randomization was chosen. Differences in success rates between the treatment groups along with 95% confidence intervals were calculated using χ2 tests. Continuous outcomes were analyzed as change scores (difference between baseline assessment and each follow-up assessment). Subsequently, differences in improvement between the groups (mean change score in surgery group minus mean change score in splint group) along with 95% confidence intervals were calculated using t tests. Multivariate analyses (logistic or linear regression) were performed to adjust for the influence of eventual differences between the groups at baseline in prognostic indicators ... Data were analyzed using SPSS statistical software (Version 10.1; SPSS Inc, Chicago Ill). 25
  26. 26. Methods (10) Ethics: Review by ethics committee (number). Use of informed consent. Example: The medical ethics committees of the 13 participating hospitals approved the study protocol of this multicenter RCT. After they had provided written informed consent, patients were included in the study. 26
  27. 27. Results (1) » Function: Objectively (and concisely) present key results, without interpretation (see Discussion). » Organisation: – Develop Tables/Figures based on your analysis; place these in a logical sequence following your objectives. – Add text that highlights one or two findings (e.g. trends, differences, similarities, correlations ...) that can be found in each Table/Figure (don’t repeat the information) 27
  28. 28. Results (2) » Details: – Report your results with name of the statistical test and result (e.g. 95% CI or difference , and p-value, and n) – Report negative results as well – Don’t feel obliged to report on all the results in one article (make a decision based on objectives addressed in this article) – Use appendices if needed 28
  29. 29. Klik om de stijl te bewerken Gwetu TP, Gerritsen AA, Akinsola HA.Forced migration and health--diarrhoea among adult Zimbabwean immigrants in Limpopo.S Afr Med J. 2011 Apr;101(4):246-7. 29
  30. 30. Klik om de stijl te bewerken Gerritsen AA, Mitchell JS, Johnson SM, Delva W. Challenges with using estimates when calculating ART need among adults in South Africa.S Afr Med J. 2012 Aug 24;102(10):798-9. 30
  31. 31. Discussion (1) » Organisation: – Give an answer to the objectives of the study. Interpret all important results (refer to other studies if needed). Also unexpected findings. – Compare results with other studies done on the topic: similarities/differences (explain the latter) – Highlight limitations (and consequences thereof) and strengths of your study – Implications of the results and way forward (research, practice, policy) – Concluding sentence 31
  32. 32. Discussion (2) » Details: – Information needed in general on other studies in order to compare with current study: Year conducted (or published), study design, location/setting, population (age, gender, number), most important findings. – Do not present any new results here (need to go into the Results section) – From specific (your study) to general (literature, practice) [Note: Introduction the other way around.] 32
  33. 33. Discussion (3) Example answer objectives, interpret results: Gerritsen AA, Bramsen I, Devillé W, van Willigen LH, Hovens JE, van der Ploeg HM. Use of health care services by Afghan, Iranian, and Somali refugees and asylum seekers living in The Netherlands.Eur J Public Health. 2006 Aug;16(4):394-9. 33
  34. 34. Discussion (4) Example compare results with other studies: Gerritsen AA, Devillé WL. Gender differences in health and health care utilisation in various ethnic groups in the Netherlands: a crosssectional study.BMC Public Health. 2009 Apr 20;9:109. 34
  35. 35. Discussion (5) Example strengths and limitations: Gerritsen AA, Devillé WL. Gender differences in health and health care utilisation in various ethnic groups in the Netherlands: a crosssectional study.BMC Public Health. 2009 Apr 20;9:109. 35
  36. 36. Discussion (6) Examples implications of the results/way forward: Gerritsen AA, Bramsen I, Devillé W, van Willigen LH, Hovens JE, van der Ploeg HM. Use of health care services by Afghan, Iranian, and Somali refugees and asylum seekers living in The Netherlands.Eur J Public Health. 2006 Aug;16(4):394-9. Gerritsen AA, Devillé WL. Gender differences in health and health care utilisation in various ethnic groups in the Netherlands: a crosssectional study.BMC Public Health. 2009 Apr 20;9:109. 36
  37. 37. Discussion (7) Example concluding sentence: Gerritsen AA, Bramsen I, Devillé W, van Willigen LH, Hovens JE, van der Ploeg HM. Use of health care services by Afghan, Iranian, and Somali refugees and asylum seekers living in The Netherlands.Eur J Public Health. 2006 Aug;16(4):394-9. 37
  38. 38. Acknowledgements » Name persons that are not an author but which assisted you when conducting the research, writing up the article etc. » Mention sources of funding that supported the research. Example: 38
  39. 39. References » Use an accepted reference format e.g. : – Vancouver (use of sequential numbers in the text that link with endnotes) e.g. Women generally experience poorer health than men1 ... – Harvard (use of name, year in the text and an alphabetical list at the end) e.g. Women generally experience poorer health than men (Fernandez, 1999) ... » Use a referencing programme (e.g. Endnote, Reference manager). » Adhere to the guidelines of the journal. 39
  40. 40. Appendices Contains information that is not essential to the understanding of the paper, but that e.g. further clarifies a point without burdening the body of the presentation. An appendix is an optional part of the paper, and more and more used for online publications. Examples of what might be put in an appendix: » large tables, figures, maps » raw data » explanation of 'new' statistical/ mathematical procedures 40
  41. 41. Process of writing these sections/the article » Start with an outline (subheadings, paragraphs, key words on what is covered) » Then write a first draft (change key words into sentences, develop tables/figures). » Put it aside, revise it, etc. » Finalize article for internal review (supervisor(s), co-authors). » Revise according to comments, send out for a second (or final) internal review. » Finalize journal choice and adapt the article according to requirements. [Can also be done at an earlier stage.] 41
  42. 42. Structure of a paragraph within a section » Each paragraph should have a coherent topic sentence, most often as the lead sentence. » In each paragraph the other sentences should support the topic sentence. » The transitions between paragraphs should be logical and smooth. In general, limited the number of words, but say what you need to say. 42
  43. 43. Reporting guidelines (1) 43
  44. 44. Reporting guidelines (2) 44
  45. 45. Journal guidelines 45
  46. 46. Tips on how to improve your writing » Use guidelines (general, specific research design, journal) » “Copy and paste” format from existing articles on a similar topic » Read a lot of articles » Have your article checked by an experienced writer » Have your article checked by a language editor 46
  47. 47. Useful resources » EQUATOR Network website - the resource centre for good reporting of health research studies » Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals » Newsletters San Francisco Edit » How to write a paper in scientific journal style and format 47