Writing scientific papers: 3 Journal selection

peaceful for him right is your research interesting innovative enough to publish and I’ve got an example from the instructions to author from it from a journal that that’s coming up but a frequent reason for rejecting manuscripts is because the the editor does not consider that the research is sufficiently substantial you may have done an experiment for just one year and you want to publish it but the journal may expect you to be presenting results from two or three years research so this is quite common it’s a quite frequent reason for having manuscripts rejected and I I had a PhD student recently in Newcastle who was telling me that she thought it would be worthwhile to write up and publish some of the work that she had been doing with some of my wheat varieties in Newcastle and I was telling her well yes but people have been publishing research on this subject for 40 years and all you were doing is using different varieties but she said oh yes but it’s still going to be worthwhile then I was trying to explain to her that well you’ve got to find something new in the story that’s going to make it worthwhile to publish if there are going to be 50 other research publications looking at this subject which was salt responses in wheat and she’s got another ten genotypes of wheat that she’s looked at then nobody’s going to be interesting in publishing this unless there’s something special something that makes this interesting so ever think about that this final statement is worthwhile for you to consider as well if the journal accepts your manuscript for publication is it going to increase the journals impact factor and if after careful consideration you think well mmm I don’t know then maybe you should be looking for a different Journal or you should be redesigning the way that you present the information to make it more attractive to the journal now your research should be describing what’s in this world not the one on the left but I’ll show you the graph on the right hand side as well your research should be describing what’s on the right hand side the figure there but very often what is submitted to journals is represented by the figure on the left where we have poorly justified research poorly designed research poorly described research and little evidence of genuine progress in terms of an increase in the knowledge so you’ve got to make sure that what you are submitting to a journal is the figure on the right which is well justified research it needs to be done it is well designed research it is well described and there’s a clear impact clear increase in our knowledge as shown by the difference in the height of the two bars so the your target is the figure on the right hand side so let’s assume that you have something that is suitable for publishing I’m going to give now a few pieces of advice about journals to select and what and how to go to the next stage always start by reading the journals information for authors when I was doing most of my research I used to get that by going to the library and looking at the inside cover of the journals nowadays you do it all on their website first you need to identify whether it’s the right journal for your paper and here are some comments that I’ve taken from a number of journals in their section on information for authors and you can see the sort of comments that journals will make two guide authors in how to submit their manuscripts so here’s one that says descriptive reports in which no specific hypothesis is tested are unlikely to be accepted so how many of you write descriptive papers do any of you write papers just describing what you found rather than testing any particular hypothesis do you really do some oh but you get them published all right then we have field study results and more likely to be accepted if they use more than a single technique of data collection and analysis and we have papers must be original research and must not have already been published or be under consideration for publication elsewhere it’s like computers computer processing you can either have serial processing or you can have parallel processing now in terms of a scientific manuscript it has to be serial processing one after the other so if you write a paper you submitted to one journal and one journal only then when you get the results from that if it’s unsuccessful you submit it to another journal you do not submit your manuscript to two or three journals simultaneously I do know that that happens because I have seen through contacts that I have I have seen the essentially identical text appear in different publications so people are just copying pasting papers in several journals so once you have decided which journal you will submit the paper to you then have to read very carefully all of the instructions to authors which will give you guidance on how to write the text and I’ve got just one example that I’ll show you here which is annals of botany instructions for authors manuscript preparation and just focus on the text in in red it says for margins approximately 25 millimetre margins now this is a journal that’s published that is published in the UK and it uses the European metric system if you publish in an American Journal it will use the old imperial system feet and inches then it will tell you a margin of 1 inch for example this journal says all pages should be numbered sequentially and furthermore each line of the text should be numbered and it shows you how to find that in word under the the menu format and then it says further down make sure the language is English UK so you know there are different sorts of English there’s there’s my English which is UK English and then there’s American there’s US English and the Americans they don’t know how to spell there so a lot of their words are wrong and the Australians there they have their version of English as well so make sure they just use different words so make sure that you check which version of English you need to set your keyboard to for the journal that you’re going to be submitting to and not bothering to follow all the journals instructions it creates a bad impression from the start if I’m the journal editor and I have a quick look through your manuscript as it comes in to me and I find that you haven’t bothered to follow any of my journals instructions then it immediately puts me in in a bad mood it doesn’t make me favorable towards your manuscript so you’ve got to make sure you follow the instructions so this is your starting point question mark and that’s your finishing point question mark because at the beginning you don’t know how you’re going to start do you I was going to say you take the pen in your hand but nowadays you don’t actually use pens do you and I did I wrote most of my scientific papers were written with pen and paper well I started writing in the 1970s you see different century yes that shows you how old I am dear actually it was it was interesting maybe because when we were at school I remember this was in the sixth form we were taken on a special excursion this was a special sixth form student excursion to see a computer and we were driven in this minibus to this to this factory where they had this huge machine and they had all this paper going through wonderful yeah so I’ve got mine in my pocket right so that’s your starting point you don’t know where you’re going to start from you don’t know what the first word is going to be and you don’t really know where you’re going to end up but you’ve got to convert that from question mark into once upon a time d-dan d-dan d-dan you know their Chi biker and its got to finish up and they all lived happily ever after now the reason that I have used this analogy to the children’s story is it if you think about children’s stories they are written very simply as you turn the page of a children’s story book all of the text goes obviously clearly from the previous page doesn’t it it’s very easy to follow a children’s story it has to be easy otherwise the children can’t follow it you’ve got to take the same attitude when you are writing a scientific paper you don’t start your first sentence once upon a time I had this bright idea you may have had a good idea but but you’ve got to be thinking in that frame of mind because you’ve got to make sure that the way that you present the information is going to be easy even for a child to be able to understand so you’ve got to make sure that you start off the story with a clear definition of why it needs to be done then you describe what you did and then you summarize what the results are you say this is where we got to and this is therefore confirmed our original idea or our results have disproved this particular hypothesis but it’s a series of events that everybody can follow easily so let’s just assume that you have a good story to tell the secrets to writing and submitting a good-quality scientific paper which is actually true for any document the secrets are to be logical clear concise unambiguous consistent without factual errors and without any technical errors so you can do that then you’re writing a good-quality manuscript so I’ll explain what I mean by each of those if you don’t manage that you will find the reviewers will have difficulty reading and understanding what you wrote you will have comments on your reviewers report that say they couldn’t understand what you were doing it wasn’t clear and so on so what do I mean by each of those points logical it’s got to have flow it’s got to have obvious connection one step to the next so points need to go clearly from one to the next clear it has to be easy to read in a simple language in a simple language that’s easy to understand now I when I am correcting the English for scientists who sent me their manuscripts what I find myself doing very often with people from Serbia is that I’m cutting out a lot of the words because I find this is part of your culture it’s the way that you do it in Serbian if you’re writing a scientific manuscript you put in words that in English are not necessary so I spend a lot of my time going around mmm cutting it out and long sentences and very often you will use a phrase that is let’s say five words and I can reorganize that to use any two words so I find myself very often reorganizing sentences and making them shorter and therefore easier for others to read and to understand now I it’s easy for me to tell you this but it’s did it is a challenge for you to be able to follow that that approach but very often this will be a reason why manuscripts are rejected the the the English just doesn’t read nicely so I have got a few slides at the end of this part of the course on how to improve the English but in the time available I’m afraid it’s only one or two examples but it may it may help so concise no unnecessary words even a lot of english-speaking scientists from the UK they like to put in words which are not necessary and I’ve got one slide at the end which is an appendix of a book on scientific writing which will give you examples of the way that words are used unnecessarily and it will show you how you can just cut out the word you don’t need it because it has no information content I like to think about words in terms of their information content what information is it giving to the reader by having that word in and if the answer is it doesn’t tell you anything then it doesn’t need to be there so unambiguous only one way to interpret what you write consistent which means the same information every time you mention it table and figure data correctly reported in the text all the references cited in the reference in the text and in the reference list and so on and it should be without factual errors which means that you check for consistency between what the table shows the numbers in the tables and any information you put from the table in the text and without technical errors checked with the journal style to make sure that the formatting is consistent and this business of formatting I maybe I’m just very very strong but I like to see consistent formatting because I believe it it reflects the personality of the people who are writing the manuscript if they are inconsistent in the way that they type the information so that they have paragraph you know you starter for paragraph with the indent if they don’t if they’re not consistent in the spaces between lines if they’re not consistent in the way that they present the references then it tells me that their brains are not functioning in the right way to be a good quality scientist so I believe that consistency especially in formatting is a sign of a good quality researcher and no spelling mistakes you well know maybe you wouldn’t be surprised but I find a large number of manuscripts that are sent to me for checking to improve the English they have simple spelling mistakes in them so English words are not spelt correctly now the reason for that is that you are typing in Serbian when you’re typing English words but on a Serbian keyboard with your language in the computer wherever it’s set in my laptop it’s set up at the top you are typing in a keyboard that’s not an English keyboard and therefore when you are if you’re using words and I would imagine most people will use word you don’t see all the little red underlining for all the mistakes because your computer sets a Serbian so I mean every words a mistake as far as your computer is concerned but if you set the the language to English UK or us or whatever is needed then it will identify a few when you are typing a word that’s not in the computer’s memory then if it’s a simple English word that you’ve just typed the wrong letters for then it will tell you so you can identify that oh yes okay that’s that slide and again I said if I’m an editor of a journal I haven’t been an editor of a journal but I’ve been on editorial review boards if I’m the journal editor and the first page of your manuscript that I look at I find there’s got mistakes spelling errors formatting doesn’t look good then it automatically creates a bad impression on the quality of your research I already know that the quality of your manuscripts not going to be very good but because I believe this to be a quality of you as a researcher or you and your team as a researcher then I believe it’s important for you to make a good impression at the beginning so if there’s lack of care in putting your manuscript together that implies to me it suggests to me that there could be lack of care in doing the research you see so think about this very carefully and if there’s lack of care with the research maybe you’re not getting the truth maybe your manuscript reflects research like the left hand figure where the bars disappeared in Mugler rather than the one on the right hand side

Writing scientific papers: 3 Journal selection

peaceful for him right is your research interesting innovative enough to publish and I’ve got an example from the instructions to author from it from a journal that that’s coming up but a frequent reason for rejecting manuscripts is because the the editor does not consider that the research is sufficiently substantial you may have done an experiment for just one year and you want to publish it but the journal may expect you to be presenting results from two or three years research so this is quite common it’s a quite frequent reason for having manuscripts rejected and I I had a PhD student recently in Newcastle who was telling me that she thought it would be worthwhile to write up and publish some of the work that she had been doing with some of my wheat varieties in Newcastle and I was telling her well yes but people have been publishing research on this subject for 40 years and all you were doing is using different varieties but she said oh yes but it’s still going to be worthwhile then I was trying to explain to her that well you’ve got to find something new in the story that’s going to make it worthwhile to publish if there are going to be 50 other research publications looking at this subject which was salt responses in wheat and she’s got another ten genotypes of wheat that she’s looked at then nobody’s going to be interesting in publishing this unless there’s something special something that makes this interesting so ever think about that this final statement is worthwhile for you to consider as well if the journal accepts your manuscript for publication is it going to increase the journals impact factor and if after careful consideration you think well mmm I don’t know then maybe you should be looking for a different Journal or you should be redesigning the way that you present the information to make it more attractive to the journal now your research should be describing what’s in this world not the one on the left but I’ll show you the graph on the right hand side as well your research should be describing what’s on the right hand side the figure there but very often what is submitted to journals is represented by the figure on the left where we have poorly justified research poorly designed research poorly described research and little evidence of genuine progress in terms of an increase in the knowledge so you’ve got to make sure that what you are submitting to a journal is the figure on the right which is well justified research it needs to be done it is well designed research it is well described and there’s a clear impact clear increase in our knowledge as shown by the difference in the height of the two bars so the your target is the figure on the right hand side so let’s assume that you have something that is suitable for publishing I’m going to give now a few pieces of advice about journals to select and what and how to go to the next stage always start by reading the journals information for authors when I was doing most of my research I used to get that by going to the library and looking at the inside cover of the journals nowadays you do it all on their website first you need to identify whether it’s the right journal for your paper and here are some comments that I’ve taken from a number of journals in their section on information for authors and you can see the sort of comments that journals will make two guide authors in how to submit their manuscripts so here’s one that says descriptive reports in which no specific hypothesis is tested are unlikely to be accepted so how many of you write descriptive papers do any of you write papers just describing what you found rather than testing any particular hypothesis do you really do some oh but you get them published all right then we have field study results and more likely to be accepted if they use more than a single technique of data collection and analysis and we have papers must be original research and must not have already been published or be under consideration for publication elsewhere it’s like computers computer processing you can either have serial processing or you can have parallel processing now in terms of a scientific manuscript it has to be serial processing one after the other so if you write a paper you submitted to one journal and one journal only then when you get the results from that if it’s unsuccessful you submit it to another journal you do not submit your manuscript to two or three journals simultaneously I do know that that happens because I have seen through contacts that I have I have seen the essentially identical text appear in different publications so people are just copying pasting papers in several journals so once you have decided which journal you will submit the paper to you then have to read very carefully all of the instructions to authors which will give you guidance on how to write the text and I’ve got just one example that I’ll show you here which is annals of botany instructions for authors manuscript preparation and just focus on the text in in red it says for margins approximately 25 millimetre margins now this is a journal that’s published that is published in the UK and it uses the European metric system if you publish in an American Journal it will use the old imperial system feet and inches then it will tell you a margin of 1 inch for example this journal says all pages should be numbered sequentially and furthermore each line of the text should be numbered and it shows you how to find that in word under the the menu format and then it says further down make sure the language is English UK so you know there are different sorts of English there’s there’s my English which is UK English and then there’s American there’s US English and the Americans they don’t know how to spell there so a lot of their words are wrong and the Australians there they have their version of English as well so make sure they just use different words so make sure that you check which version of English you need to set your keyboard to for the journal that you’re going to be submitting to and not bothering to follow all the journals instructions it creates a bad impression from the start if I’m the journal editor and I have a quick look through your manuscript as it comes in to me and I find that you haven’t bothered to follow any of my journals instructions then it immediately puts me in in a bad mood it doesn’t make me favorable towards your manuscript so you’ve got to make sure you follow the instructions so this is your starting point question mark and that’s your finishing point question mark because at the beginning you don’t know how you’re going to start do you I was going to say you take the pen in your hand but nowadays you don’t actually use pens do you and I did I wrote most of my scientific papers were written with pen and paper well I started writing in the 1970s you see different century yes that shows you how old I am dear actually it was it was interesting maybe because when we were at school I remember this was in the sixth form we were taken on a special excursion this was a special sixth form student excursion to see a computer and we were driven in this minibus to this to this factory where they had this huge machine and they had all this paper going through wonderful yeah so I’ve got mine in my pocket right so that’s your starting point you don’t know where you’re going to start from you don’t know what the first word is going to be and you don’t really know where you’re going to end up but you’ve got to convert that from question mark into once upon a time d-dan d-dan d-dan you know their Chi biker and its got to finish up and they all lived happily ever after now the reason that I have used this analogy to the children’s story is it if you think about children’s stories they are written very simply as you turn the page of a children’s story book all of the text goes obviously clearly from the previous page doesn’t it it’s very easy to follow a children’s story it has to be easy otherwise the children can’t follow it you’ve got to take the same attitude when you are writing a scientific paper you don’t start your first sentence once upon a time I had this bright idea you may have had a good idea but but you’ve got to be thinking in that frame of mind because you’ve got to make sure that the way that you present the information is going to be easy even for a child to be able to understand so you’ve got to make sure that you start off the story with a clear definition of why it needs to be done then you describe what you did and then you summarize what the results are you say this is where we got to and this is therefore confirmed our original idea or our results have disproved this particular hypothesis but it’s a series of events that everybody can follow easily so let’s just assume that you have a good story to tell the secrets to writing and submitting a good-quality scientific paper which is actually true for any document the secrets are to be logical clear concise unambiguous consistent without factual errors and without any technical errors so you can do that then you’re writing a good-quality manuscript so I’ll explain what I mean by each of those if you don’t manage that you will find the reviewers will have difficulty reading and understanding what you wrote you will have comments on your reviewers report that say they couldn’t understand what you were doing it wasn’t clear and so on so what do I mean by each of those points logical it’s got to have flow it’s got to have obvious connection one step to the next so points need to go clearly from one to the next clear it has to be easy to read in a simple language in a simple language that’s easy to understand now I when I am correcting the English for scientists who sent me their manuscripts what I find myself doing very often with people from Serbia is that I’m cutting out a lot of the words because I find this is part of your culture it’s the way that you do it in Serbian if you’re writing a scientific manuscript you put in words that in English are not necessary so I spend a lot of my time going around mmm cutting it out and long sentences and very often you will use a phrase that is let’s say five words and I can reorganize that to use any two words so I find myself very often reorganizing sentences and making them shorter and therefore easier for others to read and to understand now I it’s easy for me to tell you this but it’s did it is a challenge for you to be able to follow that that approach but very often this will be a reason why manuscripts are rejected the the the English just doesn’t read nicely so I have got a few slides at the end of this part of the course on how to improve the English but in the time available I’m afraid it’s only one or two examples but it may it may help so concise no unnecessary words even a lot of english-speaking scientists from the UK they like to put in words which are not necessary and I’ve got one slide at the end which is an appendix of a book on scientific writing which will give you examples of the way that words are used unnecessarily and it will show you how you can just cut out the word you don’t need it because it has no information content I like to think about words in terms of their information content what information is it giving to the reader by having that word in and if the answer is it doesn’t tell you anything then it doesn’t need to be there so unambiguous only one way to interpret what you write consistent which means the same information every time you mention it table and figure data correctly reported in the text all the references cited in the reference in the text and in the reference list and so on and it should be without factual errors which means that you check for consistency between what the table shows the numbers in the tables and any information you put from the table in the text and without technical errors checked with the journal style to make sure that the formatting is consistent and this business of formatting I maybe I’m just very very strong but I like to see consistent formatting because I believe it it reflects the personality of the people who are writing the manuscript if they are inconsistent in the way that they type the information so that they have paragraph you know you starter for paragraph with the indent if they don’t if they’re not consistent in the spaces between lines if they’re not consistent in the way that they present the references then it tells me that their brains are not functioning in the right way to be a good quality scientist so I believe that consistency especially in formatting is a sign of a good quality researcher and no spelling mistakes you well know maybe you wouldn’t be surprised but I find a large number of manuscripts that are sent to me for checking to improve the English they have simple spelling mistakes in them so English words are not spelt correctly now the reason for that is that you are typing in Serbian when you’re typing English words but on a Serbian keyboard with your language in the computer wherever it’s set in my laptop it’s set up at the top you are typing in a keyboard that’s not an English keyboard and therefore when you are if you’re using words and I would imagine most people will use word you don’t see all the little red underlining for all the mistakes because your computer sets a Serbian so I mean every words a mistake as far as your computer is concerned but if you set the the language to English UK or us or whatever is needed then it will identify a few when you are typing a word that’s not in the computer’s memory then if it’s a simple English word that you’ve just typed the wrong letters for then it will tell you so you can identify that oh yes okay that’s that slide and again I said if I’m an editor of a journal I haven’t been an editor of a journal but I’ve been on editorial review boards if I’m the journal editor and the first page of your manuscript that I look at I find there’s got mistakes spelling errors formatting doesn’t look good then it automatically creates a bad impression on the quality of your research I already know that the quality of your manuscripts not going to be very good but because I believe this to be a quality of you as a researcher or you and your team as a researcher then I believe it’s important for you to make a good impression at the beginning so if there’s lack of care in putting your manuscript together that implies to me it suggests to me that there could be lack of care in doing the research you see so think about this very carefully and if there’s lack of care with the research maybe you’re not getting the truth maybe your manuscript reflects research like the left hand figure where the bars disappeared in Mugler rather than the one on the right hand side