How to compose good medical/bioscientific research manuscripts?
We will discuss here how to enhance the chance of publication of your manuscript by listing the essential requirements of each section of the manuscript. This demonstration is only for manuscripts written to describe the results of a research study. Manuscripts written as reviews, case reports, short reports have different styles.
The submitted manuscript should be accompanied by a cover letter (press here for an example provided by Word-Medex). Finally, we offer few tip on:
- First, set up the word-processor
- Title Page
- Figures and Figure Legends
Manuscripts that describe the results of a research study are usually composed of the following sections: Title Page, Summary, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, Acknowledgment, References, Tables and Figure legends. Before you start typing the manuscript, set up your word-processing file to the following format features:
- Type the entire manuscript double-spaced, with 2.5 cm (1") top, bottom, right and left margins.
- Each section of the manuscript should begin on a new page.
- Use a medium size font, e.g. Times size 13, Helvetica size 12, or Courier size 12.
- Set up a header or footer on every page containing the page number, and if you prefer, the name of the first author, followed byet al.(example,Kawakami et al., Page 1). Word-Medex has prepared a website demonstrating how to set up a page number header for your manuscript. Click here to go to that site.
- Use TAB at the start of each paragraph throughout the manuscript.
- The title page should contain:
Who should be listed as an author. Each author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for the content. Authorship credit should be based only on substantial contributions to:
- The title of the article, which should be concise but informative. It should describe the main findings or the purpose of the study. Spell out symbols rather than use symbol fonts, e.g. beta instead of b.
- First name, middle initial, and last name of each author, with highest academic degree(s) and institutional affiliations.
- Name of department(s) and institution(s) to which the work should be attributed.
- A short running head or foot line of no more than 40 characters (count letters and spaces).
- Source(s) of support in the form of grants, equipment, drugs, or all of these.
- Disclaimers, if any.
- Name and address of the author responsible for correspondence about the manuscript, including phone and fax numbers and e-mail address, if available.
- If different from (7) above, provide the name and address of the author to whom requests for reprints should be addressed or statement that reprints will not be available from the author.
- A header containing the surname of the first author followed by "et al., Page " and the page number. Word-Medex has prepared a website demonstrating how to set up a page number header for your manuscript. Click here to see that site.
Conditions (a), (b), and (c) must all be met. Participation solely in the acquisition of funding or the collection of data does not justify authorship. General supervision of the research group is not sufficient for authorship. Any part of an article critical to its main conclusions must be the responsibility of at least one author. The order of authorship should be a joint decision of the coauthors. The name of the head of the research group usually appears as the last author
- Conception and design, or analysis and interpretation of data.
- Drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content.
- Final approval of the version to be published.
Editors may require authors to justify the assignment of authorship. Increasingly, multicenter trials are attributed to a corporate author.
The second page should carry an abstract of the following style:
- It should not be more than 150 words for unstructured abstracts or 250 words for structured abstracts (those that contain the following sub-headings: Background/Aims/Purpose, Methods, Results, Conclusions).
- The abstract should provide a brief background, state the purpose(s) of the study or investigation, basic methods (selection of study subjects or laboratory animals; observational and analytical methods), main results (give specific data and their statistical significance, if possible), and the principal conclusions.
- Emphasize new and important aspects of the study.
- Below the abstract provide, and identify as such, 3 to 10 key words or short phrases that will assist indexers in cross-indexing the article and may be published with the abstract. Use terms from the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) list of Index Medicus.
- Do not cite reference(s) in this section.
- Define all abbreviations used in the Summary.
Materials and Methods
- Summarize what is known about the topic of the manuscript
- Do not make an exhaustive literature review. Give only strictly pertinent references.
- Do not include data or conclusions from the work being reported.
- Provide a statement of objectives and research plan.
- The use of present and past verbs is allowed.
- Avoid referring to your work only.
- End this section by describing the rationale for the study or observation, followed by a brief statement describing the most important finding of the study.
- Start with what you first did to answer your question and end by describing what you did last.
- Divide into subsections if long.
- Provide enough information to enable another investigator to replicate the work.
- The most important subsection is the protocol, which consists of:
- The independent variable (manipulated variable).
- The dependent variable (measured variable).
- All controls.
- Describe your selection of the observational or experimental subjects (patients or laboratory animals, including controls) clearly.
- Identify the methods, apparatus (manufacturer's name and address in parentheses), and procedures in sufficient detail to allow other workers to reproduce the results. Avoid the use of "the method is described elsewhere ..".
- Give references to established methods, including statistical methods (see below); provide references and brief descriptions for methods that have been published but are not well known; describe new or substantially modified methods, give reasons for using them, and evaluate 'their limitations.
- Identify precisely all drugs and chemicals used, including generic name(s), dose(s), and route(s) of administration.
- Ethics. When reporting experiments on human subjects, indicate whether the procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional or regional) or with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 1983. Do not use patients' names, initials, or hospital numbers, especially in illustrative material. When reporting "experiments on animals, indicate whether the institution's or the National Research Council's guide for, or any national law on, the care and use of laboratory animals was followed.
- Statistical methods: (see also Word-Medex link on Statistical Analysis)
- Describe statistical methods with enough detail to enable a knowledgeable reader with access to the original data to verify the reported results.
- Avoid sole reliance on statistical hypothesis testing, such as the use of P values, which fails to convey important quantitative information.
- Give details about randomization.
- Describe the methods for and success of any blinding of observations.
- References for study design and statistical methods should be to standard works (with pages stated) when possible rather than to papers in which the designs or methods were originally reported.
- Specify any general-use computer programs used.
- Put general description of methods in the Methods' section.
- Avoid nontechnical uses of technical terms in statistics, such as "random" (which implies a randomizing device), "normal," "significant correlations," and "sample." Define statistical terms, abbreviations, and most symbols.
- This section is the core of the paper. Make a straightforward presentation of the data.
- Describe the most important results first, followed by less important results.
- Do not compare the present data with previously published results.
- Avoid using descriptive words (markedly, greatly, prominent, etc...).
- Statistical analysis: (see also Word-Medex link on Statistical Analysis)
- Adhere to describing comparisons as significant or not-significant.
- Avoid using different levels of statistical significance. A p < 0.05 is sufficient to convince the reader to the presence of a significant difference, rather than cluttering the text with different p values (e.g., p<0.01, p<0.001, p<0.0001, etc).
- Give numbers of observations.
- When possible, quantify findings and present them with appropriate indicators of measurement error or uncertainty (such as confidence intervals). Describe whether the number that follows the mean value is SD or SEM.
- Present results in logical sequence in the text, tables, and illustrations.
- Either present data that support the results or cite figures or tables that present data. Do not duplicate data in text and tables or illustrations. Use graphs as an alternative to tables with many entries.
- Check that for every result in this section there is a method in the Methods section
- Emphasize or summarize only important observations.
- Include test and control data.
- Report losses to observation (such as dropouts from a clinical trial).
- Report treatment complications.
- Restrict tables and figures to those needed to explain the argument of the paper and to assess its support.
- Refer to the Figures and Tables in the text, discussing the information provided.
- Do not use abbreviations in the figures, if possible. Expand all abbreviations in the figure legend.
- Illustrations must be good-quality, unmounted glossy prints, usually 127 x 173 mm (5x7 in), but no larger than 203 x 254 mm (8 x 10 in).
- Simplify Figures.
- Check that numbers in Figures match the information provided in the text and Abstract.
- Expand all abbreviations.
- The legend should tell the reader about the most important thing displayed in the Figure.
- Avoid using more than 4-5 figures.
- If several Figures look the same, group them into one Figure.
- Type of Figures:
- Realistic or schematic illustrations.
- Photographs or drawing of experimental setup.
- Polygraph recordings.
- Gel electrophoretograms.
- X-Y plots. In most circumstances, there is no need to include the regression equation, but provide the regression coefficient and p value of the regression.
- Bar graphs. Use different patterns for bars of different groups, e.g., open and closed bars.
- Lines graph
- 3-D graphs
Word-Medex has prepared a website demonstrating how to format tables in your manuscript. Click here to go that site.
- Use a descriptive title.
- Avoid using long Tables.
- Expand all abbreviations in the legend.
- Do not use more than one level of statistical comparisons. If this becomes necessary, do not use multiples of *, e.g., *, **, ***, ****, but rather use different symbols.
- First state the answer to the question placed at the end of the Introduction.
- Provide evidence in support of the answer.
- Describe complications
- Describe conflicting results and reasons for such differences.
- Establish the newness of your findings.
- Limitations of the methods, weaknesses in study design, validity of assumptions.
- End with a reinforcing message.
- Discuss whether these results are new, unique, similar or different to previously published results.
- The use of past and present verbs is allowed.
- Include in the Discussion the implications of the findings and their limitations, including implications for future research.
- Relate the observations to other relevant studies.
- Link the conclusions with the goals of the study but avoid unqualified statements and conclusions not completely supported by your data.
- Avoid claiming priority and alluding to work that has not been completed.
- State new hypotheses when warranted, but clearly label them as such.
- Recommendations, when appropriate, may be included.
- Always end this section with a concluding summary or the future direction of research.
- Do not:
- Begin the Discussion with a summary of the results or a repeat of the Introduction section.
- Begin the Discussion with secondary information.
- Use subtitles.
- Write a long Discussion. The length should not exceed one fifth of the total text material.
- Make too many speculations.
- Make an exhaustive review of the literature. Avoid using more than 25 citations.
- Acknowledge people who contributed to the completion the study and preparation of the manuscript.
- Contributions that need acknowledging but do not justify authorship, such as general support by a departmental chair.
- Acknowledgments of technical help.
- Acknowledgments of financial and material support, specifying the nature of the support.
- Financial relationships that may pose a conflict of interest.
- Persons who have contributed intellectually to the paper but whose contributions do not justify authorship may be named and their function or contribution described-for example, "scientific adviser," "critical review of study proposal ...... data collection," or "participation in clinical trial." Such persons must have given their permission to be named.
- Authors are responsible for obtaining written permission from persons acknowledged by name, because readers may infer their endorsement of the data and conclusions.
- Technical help should be acknowledged in a paragraph separate from those acknowledging other contributions.
How to enhance the publication of your manuscript:
- Check the style required by the selected journal.
- Numbering of references depends on the journal selected for submission of the manuscript. Some journals require numbering the references consecutively in the order in which they are first mentioned in the text. Other journals require listing the references alphabetically based on the surname of the first author.
- Citation of the references in the text of the manuscript also differs from one journal to other. For example, some journals require identification of references in text, tables, and legends by Arabic numerals in parentheses, e.g. (1) or (1, 4), or (3-9, 11, 16-18). In the latter case DO NOT use (3,4,5,6,7,8,9,11,16,17,18). However, other journals require the use of the name of the first author followed by the year of publication, e.g., (Richard et al., 1991; Smith et al., 1993), (Richard and Smith 1995).
- References cited only in tables or in legends to figures should be numbered in accordance with a sequence established by the first identification in the text of the particular table or figure.
- The format of the reference may also vary depending on the journal selected for submission of the manuscript. The most common formats are:
- Issa FG, Morrison D, Hadjuk E, Iyer R, Feroah T, Remmers J. Digital monitoring of sleep disordered breathing using snoring sound and arterial oxygen saturation. Am Rev Respir Dis 1993;148:1023-1029.
- Issa, F.G., D. Morrison, E. Hadjuk, R. Iyer, T. Feroah, and J. Remmers. Digital monitoring of sleep disordered breathing using snoring sound and arterial oxygen saturation. Am. Rev. Respir. Dis. 148:1023-1029 (1993).
- Avoid the use of abstracts as references.
- "unpublished observations" and "personal communications" may not be used as references, although references to written, not oral, communications may be inserted (in parentheses) in the text.
- Include in the references papers accepted but not yet published designate the journal and add "In press".
- Information from manuscripts submitted but not yet accepted should be cited in the text as (unpublished observations).
- The references must be verified by the author(s) against the original documents.
- Word-Medex provides a comprehensive list showing examples of correct forms of references.
- The most important step is a good scientific experimental design.
- Write a manuscript that describes a comprehensible story with a clear message.
- Select the most appropriate journal for publication of your manuscript (a clinical journal for clinical studies, research-oriented journal for animal studies). If you do not know all journals that publish articles in your field, then visit the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) for a complete list of all medical/bioscience journals.
- Read the Instructions for Authors of the selected journal. If you cannot obtain a copy of the journal, then visit the web site of that journal, if available, and search for the Instructions for Authors. For a list of some of the journals that maintain web sites containing Instructions for Authors, visit our list of medical journals.
- Seek the help of a scientific editor. Scientific editing improves the readability of the article and diminishes the chance of rejection by the reviewers. The editor should be preferably a scientific individual and not English-language editor only (see Word-Medex Pty Ltd, for example). The editor should also be reliable and provide a fast and confidential service.
- Badly written manuscripts are those that do not tell a clear story and only describe overwhelming details about what others have done or found rather than describe and discuss the major findings of the study.