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Producing scientific research is demanding, but at the same time truly stimulating and rewarding. Beyond other necessary and exacting steps in the publication process, such as planning your study design, data collection and analysis, the ultimate task of a researcher is to finally publish his/her data, since an unpublished paper can be considered to correspond to a work not done. Publishing your work in scientific journals needs considerable effort, but also provides several benefits, including the possibility to have a stimulating academic career or other attractive job positions, and to increase your exposure within the scientific community. Moreover, publishing is a virtuous cycle: the more you publish, the more you will publish, as opinion leaders are frequently invited to publish original or review articles in prestigious journals, as well as to take part in groundbreaking clinical trials. In this article, a young and a senior researcher from the faculty will give some advice, according to their personal views, regarding how to increase your chances to be successful with your publications.
The first step before starting your research project is to read, and get to know, the scientific literature that relates to your research topic. You need to have a thorough knowledge about what is known and what is not known in your research area, and to identify gaps in the literature. It is also necessary to read scientific papers in order to learn the structure and style of good (and bad…) research papers, thereby increasing the quality of your own writing style. Moreover, based on your knowledge about the research field, it is of vital importance for the success of your project to plan the study carefully and to optimize the research methodology before starting the project.
Basically, the most common issues related to the success of a paper belong to its content and to its style. Content-related issues include the topic, the target journal, the methods and, of course, the results of our research. Not all fields of research are equally gratifying: studying a cutting-edge topic, although potentially more demanding, will likely increase your chances of having your paper published in a highly ranked journal. Nevertheless, science cannot be successfully done without passion. So, choose your field of research balancing scientific allure with your personal preferences. Moreover, not all journals are equal, either in terms of scientific ranking, or in terms of scope of the journal. So, choose your target journal carefully. First consider the topic of your paper and avoid sending a basic science paper to journals interested only in clinical topics and vice versa; then be honest with yourself and go for a highly ranked journal only if you think your paper has a reasonable chance of being accepted in that journal.
The most important feature of your research paper is of course the scientific content, and studies need a beautiful design to give beautiful results. Thorough planning of your study, although demanding, will be time-saving in the long run. First, make sure, through an extensive bibliographical search, that your study will provide the answer to an unsolved research question, or at least expand the existing scientific knowledge. Thereafter, meticulously define the aim of your study and your research hypotheses, and base your methods carefully on these, in order to avoid the bad habit of ‘fishing’ for results without a clear research hypothesis. Once the results have been obtained, discuss them and try to identify reliable explanations for your findings, highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your study, and compare your results with similar papers published previously.
All data need to be presented in a reader-friendly way to be successfully published; a poorly presented piece of work is unlikely to be taken into consideration by editors and reviewers, even if it contains fantastic data. So, the style of your paper matters.
As a first requirement, the English syntax of your paper should be irreproachable. Therefore, dedicate a substantial part of your time to learning how to be confident in writing adequately in English, or consider using external language editing. Beyond syntax, be sure that your paper follows the rules of scientific writing. Your text should be concise, straightforward, and with a well-structured description of methods and results. In a nutshell, the paper should be easily comprehensible by every reader, and before submitting your manuscript to a scientific journal, ask colleagues who are not directly involved in the project to read your manuscript and ask them for comments about writing style and understandability. However, your paper should not be only clear, but also attractive. A catchy title, which summarizes your main findings or your research question, together with self-explanatory tables and figures, will definitely help to catch the reader’s attention.
Before you submit your manuscript, which is hopefully both scientifically interesting and straightforward, you should format your text according to the requirements of the journal, without being sloppy. Check the journal’s guidelines for manuscript preparation, including preferred language (e.g. American or British English), style of references and tables, word limit, suggested headings, use of supplementary material, and other recommendations. Few things will annoy an editor more than if you submit a manuscript where you ignore the journal’s guidelines. This reveals a sloppy and ignorant attitude, and raises suspicions that the science may also have been performed in a sloppy manner.
Finally, remember to be polite to the people who are going to spend their time reviewing your manuscript. Firstly, write a respectful and clear cover letter to the editor of the journal. Secondly, if you have been invited to submit a revised version of your manuscript based on comments obtained during the peer review process, try to respond to the comments from the reviewers as carefully as possible, or provide a trustworthy explanation when you cannot do this.
Finally, the more you practice, the more successful you will be with your publications. In this context, the UEG offers its young members a number of opportunities to improve their scientific skills, starting with the UEG week, where you can learn the tricks of the trade from top-notch researchers in gastroenterology, and continuing with the Young Investigator Meeting, which enables young researchers to gain confidence in the different steps in research. Last but not least, the UEG and the Young Talent Group can offer a Visiting Fellowship Programme for researchers, which allows five young GI researchers to spend two weeks at a prestigious European training centre in order to improve their scientific skills.
To conclude, getting your work published requires dedication and a lot of work. You will have to dedicate much time and effort to the research process, and you will probably not succeed with everything at your first attempt. However, the excitement you will feel after receiving the acceptance letter is definitely worth the struggle.