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Types of journal articles

It is helpful to familiarise yourself with the different types of articles published by journals. Although it may appear there are a large number of types of articles published due to the wide variety of names they are published under, most articles published are one of the following types; Original Research, Review Articles, Short reports or Letters, Case Studies, Methodologies.

Original Research:

This is the most common type of journal manuscript used to publish full reports of data from research. It may be called an  Original Article, Research Article, Research, or just  Article, depending on the journal. The Original Research format is suitable for many different fields and different types of studies. It includes full Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections.

Short reports or Letters:

These papers communicate brief reports of data from original research that editors believe will be interesting to many researchers, and that will likely stimulate further research in the field. As they are relatively short the format is useful for scientists with results that are time sensitive (for example, those in highly competitive or quickly-changing disciplines). This format often has strict length limits, so some experimental details may not be published until the authors write a full Original Research manuscript. These papers are also sometimes called Brief communications .

Review Articles:

Review Articles provide a comprehensive summary of research on a certain topic, and a perspective on the state of the field and where it is heading. They are often written by leaders in a particular discipline after invitation from the editors of a journal. Reviews are often widely read (for example, by researchers looking for a full introduction to a field) and highly cited. Reviews commonly cite approximately 100 primary research articles.

TIP: If you would like to write a Review but have not been invited by a journal, be sure to check the journal website as some journals to not consider unsolicited Reviews. If the website does not mention whether Reviews are commissioned it is wise to send a pre-submission enquiry letter to the journal editor to propose your Review manuscript before you spend time writing it.  

Case Studies:

These articles report specific instances of interesting phenomena. A goal of Case Studies is to make other researchers aware of the possibility that a specific phenomenon might occur. This type of study is often used in medicine to report the occurrence of previously unknown or emerging pathologies.

Methodologies or Methods

These articles present a new experimental method, test or procedure. The method described may either be completely new, or may offer a better version of an existing method. The article should describe a demonstrable advance on what is currently available.

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Article types and preparation

At The BMJ , we offer authors the opportunity to submit a range of article types. You can find out more about preparing and submitting a particular style of article by clicking on the links below. Please take the time to explore these instructions before proceeding with a submission. Further details about each of these individual sections and article types are discussed further down this page.

Article Types at The BMJ

Requirements for all manuscripts.

Please ensure that anything you submit to The BMJ conforms to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors’ Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly work in Medical Journals  uniform recommendations for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals.

Before submitting an article, please ensure that you have followed all guidelines below. We recommend learning about our house style and ways to incorporate images into your submission .

Title page and authorship

The title should be informative and, for research papers, a subtitle with the study design (for example, "a phase III clinical trial" or "a systematic review and meta-analysis").

In this page, please provide for each author his or her name, affiliation (job title) at the time the paper was written, email and, for the corresponding author, the best contact address. All authors must fulfill the ICMJE criteria for authorship . If the number of authors is very large we may ask for confirmation that everyone listed met the ICMJE criteria for authorship . We also offer the option of joint first authorship when two authors meet criteria for such a designation. We reserve the right to require that authors form a group whose name will appear in the article byline. MEDLINE guidance explains that group authorship is acceptable, stating "When a group name for a specific consortium, committee, study group, or the like appears in an article byline, the personal names of the members of that group may be published in the article text. Such names are entered as collaborator names for the MEDLINE citation."

Further details about The BMJ 's stance on authorship, contributorship, and group authorship can be found on our Authorship and contributorship page.

Please note that from 30 November 2018 The BMJ is mandating ORCiD iDs for corresponding authors for all research articles if accepted, and this information will be required alongside submitted manuscripts. Co-authors and reviewers are strongly encouraged to also connect their ScholarOne accounts to ORCiD. We firmly believe that the increased use and integration of ORCiD iDs will be beneficial for the whole research community. For those who do not currently have an iD they will be required to register but this is free and takes a matter of seconds - we strongly encourage all authors to register for an ORCiD profile .

To learn more about ORCiD, please visit http://orcid.org/content/initiative

Contributor and guarantor information

Each contributorship statement should make clear who has contributed what to the planning, conduct, and reporting of the work described in the article, and should identify one, or occasionally more, contributor(s) as being responsible for the overall content as guarantor(s). The guarantor accepts full responsibility for the work and/or the conduct of the study, had access to the data, and controlled the decision to publish. The following line should also be included - "The corresponding author attests that all listed authors meet authorship criteria and that no others meeting the criteria have been omitted."

For articles in The BMJ that do not report original research - such as editorials, clinical reviews, and education and debate - please state who had the idea for the article, who performed the literature search, who wrote the article, and who is the guarantor (the contributor who accepts full responsibility for the finished article, had access to any data, and controlled the decision to publish). For non-research articles that include case reports such as lessons of the week, drug points, and interactive case reports, please also state who identified and/or managed the case(s). We encourage authors to fully acknowledge the contribution of patients and the public to their research where appropriate.

Copyright/license for publication

Since January 2000, The BMJ has not asked authors of journal articles to assign us their copyright and authors (or their employers) retain their copyright in the article. All we require from authors is an exclusive licence (or, from government employees who cannot grant this, a non-exclusive licence) that allows us to publish the article in The BMJ (including any derivative products) and any other BMJ products (such as the Student BMJ or overseas editions), and allows us to sublicense such rights and exploit all subsidiary rights.

We ask the corresponding author to grant this exclusive licence (or non-exclusive for government employees) on behalf of all authors by reading our licence and inserting in the manuscript on submission the following statement:

“The Corresponding Author has the right to grant on behalf of all authors and does grant on behalf of all authors, a worldwide licence to the Publishers and its licensees in perpetuity, in all forms, formats and media (whether known now or created in the future), to i) publish, reproduce, distribute, display and store the Contribution, ii) translate the Contribution into other languages, create adaptations, reprints, include within collections and create summaries, extracts and/or, abstracts of the Contribution, iii) create any other derivative work(s) based on the Contribution, iv) to exploit all subsidiary rights in the Contribution, v) the inclusion of electronic links from the Contribution to third party material where-ever it may be located; and, vi) licence any third party to do any or all of the above."

This licence allows authors to use their own articles for their own non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from us. Only if the use is commercial do we need to know about it. In addition, we will pay authors a royalty on certain commercial uses that we negotiate.

Information on permissions for authors and third parties for reuse can be found here .

Manuscripts authored or co-authored by one or more NIH employees must be submitted with a completed and signed NIH Publishing Agreement and Manuscript Cover Sheet according to NIH’s Employee Procedures .

Patient consent (if applicable)

Publication of any personal information about a patient in The BMJ - for example, in a case report or clinical photograph - will normally require the signed consent of the patient. If this is the case, please include a statement that any identifiable patients have provided their signed consent to publication and submit, as a supplemental file, The BMJ 's patient consent form that is available in several languages .

Competing interests declaration

A competing interest - often called a conflict of interest - exists when professional judgment concerning a primary interest (such as patients' welfare or the validity of research) may be influenced by a secondary interest (such as financial gain, academic promotion, or personal rivalry). It may arise for the authors of an article in The BMJ when they have a financial interest that may influence, probably without their knowing, their interpretation of their results or those of others.

We believe that, to make the best decision on how to deal with an article, we should know about any competing interests that authors may have, and that if we publish the article readers should know about them too. We are not aiming to eradicate such interests across all article types in The BMJ . However, certain articles (see below) fall under a stricter policy announced in 2014 . This means that authors whose financial conflicts of interest are judged to be relevant by the BMJ team are not permitted to write these articles. We also ask our staff and reviewers to declare any competing interests.

A declaration of interests for all authors must be received before an article can be reviewed and accepted for publication. It should take one of two forms, depending on what type of article you are submitting. The links to the relevant forms are provided at the end of this section.

For editorials and education articles (excluding State Of The Art reviews and Therapeutics articles)

Since 2014, The BMJ requires that such articles must be written by authors without relevant financial ties to industry . By "industry" we mean companies producing drugs, medical foods, nutraceuticals, devices, apps or tests; medical education companies; or other companies with a financial or reputational interest in the topic of the article. We consider the following relationships with industry to be relevant, making it unlikely that we would be able to publish your work: employment; ownership of stocks and shares (this excludes mutual funds or other situations in which the person is not in a position to control investment decisions) ; travel and accommodation expenses; paid consultancy or directorship; patent ownership; aid membership of speakers' panels or bureaus and advisory board; acting as an expert witness ; being in receipt of a fellowship, equipment, writing, or administrative support; writing or consulting for a medical education promotional or communications company. If you are in doubt about the relevance of any potential conflict of interest please discuss with the editor of the appropriate section before submission.

All authors must review the updated COI policy and complete The BMJ 's Education Declaration of Interests form . If the article is accepted for publication these completed forms will be stored and made available on request. The corresponding author should insert within their manuscript a summary statement derived from the information provided in the COI forms (link below): " I/We have read and understood BMJ policy on declaration of interests and declare the following interests: [list them or state that you have none]."

Examples of different sorts of summary statements:

No competing interests : "We have read and understood BMJ policy on declaration of interests and declare that we have no competing interests."

Competing interests disclosed: " We have read and understood BMJ policy on declaration of interests and declare the following interests: AA is an unpaid member of XX group developing guidelines for ZZ."

For Research and RMR papers

We ask authors of research papers to use a revised version of the ICMJE’s unified disclosure form . The unified form can be used for several journals. Each journal, will, however, integrate the form into its processes in different ways.

Authors must disclose three types of information:

Associations with commercial entities that provided support for the work reported in the submitted manuscript (the timeframe for disclosure in this section of the form is the lifespan of the work being reported).

Associations with commercial entities that could be viewed as having an interest in the general area of the submitted manuscript (in the three years before submission of the manuscript).

Non-financial associations that may be relevant or seen as relevant to the submitted manuscript.

All authors must complete the disclosure form and send it to the corresponding author who will use the information in the forms to craft the COI statement for the paper (examples provided below). The statement but not the forms must be included with the submission. and that must be included with the initial submission. If the paper is accepted, these forms will be required and will be published alongside the article.

The statement in the manuscript should take the following format:

"Competing interests: All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at http://www.icmje.org/disclosure-of-interest/ and declare: no support from any organisation for the submitted work [or describe if any]; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years [or describe if any]; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work [or describe if any].”

Examples of statements:

No competing interests: "All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at http://www.icmje.org/disclosure-of-interest/ and declare: no support from any organisation for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work."

Grant funding for research but no other competing interest: "All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at http://www.icmje.org/disclosure-of-interest/ and declare: all authors had financial support from ABC Company for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work."

Mixed competing interests: "All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at http://www.icmje.org/disclosure-of-interest/ and declare: no support from any organisation for the submitted work; AB has received research grants and honorariums from XYZ company, BF has been paid for developing and delivering educational presentations for BBB foundation, DF does consultancy for HHH and VVV companies; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work."

For all other papers

Complete The BMJ 's Disclosure form . We do not need to receive signed copies of the statements regarding competing interests or the licence to publication: these are for information only. When submitting your article (or a revised version of it) you will be prompted at our online editorial office to tick two boxes , confirming that you have read and complied with our policies on competing interests and licence to publication. Please also ensure that your manuscript, whether in original or revised form, also includes your written statements of competing interests and licence to publication.

Additional requirements by Article Type

In addition to the above, all of our articles have additional requirements which should be fulfilled before submitting. For more information on any of the requirements below, please contact [email protected] .

We have produced a checklist to help authors decide whether The BMJ is the right journal for their research. If the work does not seem to fit in The BMJ , it may be better sent straight to another journal with a more specialist or local readership or a higher acceptance rate.

To learn more about the kind of research articles we give priority to, and what services we offer to authors of research, please read the editorial "Publishing your research study in the BMJ ?" . Please note that we welcome studies - even with "negative" results - as long as their research questions are important, new, and relevant to general readers and their designs are appropriate and robust.

Word count and style

To encourage full and transparent reporting of research we do not set fixed word count limits for research articles. Nonetheless, we ask you to make your article concise and make every word count. You will be prompted to provide the word count for the main text (excluding the abstract, references, tables, boxes, or figures) when you submit your manuscript.

Original research articles should follow the IMRaD style (introduction, methods, results, and discussion) and should include a structured abstract (see below), a structured discussion, and a succinct introduction that focuses - in no more than three paragraphs - on the background to the research question.

For an intervention study, the manuscript should include enough information about the intervention(s) and comparator(s) (even if this was usual care) for reviewers and readers to understand fully what happened in the study. To enable readers to replicate your work or implement the interventions in their own practice, please also provide any relevant detailed descriptions and materials (uploaded as one or more supplemental files, including video and audio files where appropriate). Alternatively, please provide in the manuscript URLs to openly accessible websites where these materials can be found.

Please ensure that the discussion section of your article comprises no more than a page and a half and follows this overall structure, although you do not need to signpost these elements with subheadings:

• Statement of principal findings • Strengths and weaknesses of the study • Strengths and weaknesses in relation to other studies, discussing important differences in results • Meaning of the study: possible explanations and implications for clinicians and policymakers • Unanswered questions and future research

This video gives more detailed advice on writing each section of a research paper for The BMJ .

Structured abstract

Please ensure that the structured abstract is as complete, accurate, and clear as possible and has been approved by all authors. We may screen original research articles by reading only the abstract.

Abstracts should be 250- 300 words long: you may need up to 400 words, however, for a CONSORT or PRISMA style abstract. MEDLINE can now handle up to 600 words. Abstracts should include the following headings, but they may be modified for abstracts of clinical trials or systematic reviews and meta-analyses according to the requirements on the the CONSORT extension for abstracts and the PRISMA extension for abstracts , respectively.

• Objectives - a clear statement of the main aim of the study and the major hypothesis tested or research question posed • Design - including factors such as prospective, randomisation, blinding, placebo control, case control, crossover, criterion standards for diagnostic tests, etc. • Setting - include the level of care, eg primary, secondary; number of participating centres. Be general rather than give the name of the specific centre, but give the geographical location if this is important • Participants (instead of patients or subjects) - numbers entering and completing the study, sex, and ethnic group if appropriate. Give clear definitions of how selected, entry and exclusion criteria. • Interventions - what, how, when and for how long. This heading can be deleted if there were no interventions but should normally be included for randomised controlled trials, crossover trials, and before and after studies. • Main outcome measures - those planned in the protocol, those finally measured (if different, explain why). • Results - main results with (for quantitative studies) 95% confidence intervals and, where appropriate, the exact level of statistical significance and the number need to treat/harm. Whenever possible, state absolute rather than relative risks. • Conclusions - primary conclusions and their implications, suggesting areas for further research if appropriate. Do not go beyond the data in the article. Conclusions are important because this is often the only part that readers look at. • Trial registration - registry and number (for clinical trials and, if available, for observational studies and systematic reviews).

When writing your abstract, use the active voice but avoid "we did" or "we found". Numbers over 10 do not need spelling out at the start of sentences. p-values should always be accompanied by supporting data, and denominators should be given for percentages. Confidence intervals should be written in the format (15 to 27) within parentheses, using the word "to" rather than a hyphen. Abstracts do not need references.

Statistical issues

We want your piece to be easy to read but also as scientifically accurate as possible. We encourage authors to review the "Statistical Analyses and Methods in the Published Literature or The SAMPL Guidelines" while preparing their manuscript.

Whenever possible, state absolute rather than relative risks. Please include in the results section of your structured abstract (and in the article's results section) the following terms, as appropriate:

For a clinical trial:

• Absolute event rates among experimental and control groups. • RRR (relative risk reduction). • NNT or NNH (number needed to treat or harm) and its 95% confidence interval (or, if the trial is of a public health intervention, number helped per 1000 or 100,000).

For a cohort study:

• Absolute event rates over time (eg 10 years) among exposed and non-exposed groups • RRR (relative risk reduction)

For a case control study:

• OR (odds ratio) for strength of association between exposure and outcome

For a study of a diagnostic test:

• Sensitivity and specificity • PPV and NPV (positive and negative predictive values)

The box stating 'what is known' and 'what this study adds' should also reflect accurately the above information. Under what this study adds, please give the one most useful summary statistic eg NNT.

Please do not use the term 'negative' to describe studies that have not found statistically significant differences, perhaps because they were too small. There will always be some uncertainty, and we hope you will be as explicit as possible in reporting what you have found in your study. Using wording such as "our results are compatible with a decrease of this much or an increase of this much" or 'this study found no effect' is more accurate and helpful to readers than "there was no effect/no difference." Please use such wording throughout the article, including the structured abstract and the box stating what the paper adds.

Provide one or more references for the statistical package(s) used to analyse the data - for example, RevMan for a systematic review. There is no need to provide a formal reference for a very widely used package that will be familiar to general readers - for example, Stata - but please say in the text which version you used.

Reporting guidelines

Reporting guidelines promote clear reporting of methods and results to allow critical appraisal of the manuscript. We ask that all manuscripts be written in accordance with the appropriate reporting guideline. Please submit as supplemental material the appropriate reporting guideline checklist showing on which page of your manuscript each checklist item appears. A complete list of guidelines can be found in the website of the Equator Network . Below is the list of most often used checklists but others may apply.

For a clinical trials , use the CONSORT checklist and also include a structured abstract that follows the CONSORT extension for abstract checklist, the CONSORT flowchart and, where applicable, the appropriate CONSORT extension statements (for example, for cluster RCTs, pragmatic trials, etc.). A completed TIDieR checklist is also helpful as this helps to ensure that trial interventions are fully described in ways that are reproducible, usable by other clinicians, and clear enough for systematic reviewers and guideline writers.

For systematic reviews or meta-analysis of randomised trials and other evaluation studies, use the PRISMA checklist and flowchart and use the PRISMA structured abstract checklist when writing the structured abstract.

For studies of diagnostic accuracy , use the STARD checklist and flowchart.

For observational studies , use the STROBE checklist and any appropriate extension STROBE extensions.

For genetic risk prediction studies, use GRIPS .

For economic evaluation studies , use CHEERS .

For studies developing, validating or updating a prediction model , use TRIPOD .

For articles that include explicit statements of the quality of evidence and strength of recommendations, we prefer reporting using the GRADE system.

For studies using data from electronic health records, please use CODE-EHR .

Cover letter

A cover letter is your opportunity to introduce your study to the editor, highlighting the most important findings and novelty. Please also include in the letter the following information:

Mandatory patient and public involvement reporting

The BMJ is encouraging active patient and public involvement in clinical research as part of its patient partnership strategy . This is research which is "co produced" with patients, carers, or members of the public. Patient involvement in this context is not about being a research participant, answering surveys, or being an interviewee. It encompasses setting research priorities, defining research questions and outcome measures, providing input into study design and conduct, dissemination of results, and evaluation.

To support co production of research we request that authors provide a short paragraph as a subsection within the methods section of their papers entitled Patient and Public Involvement detailing how they involved the patients and the public in their research. We request this to both encourage the movement and ensure that BMJ readers can easily see whether, and if so how, patients and the public were involved in the research. If they were not involved in any way this information should be formally documented in the Patient and Public Involvement section.

As co production of research with patients and the public is relatively new we appreciate that not all authors will have involved them in their studies. We also appreciate that patient / public involvement may not be feasible or appropriate for all papers. We therefore continue to consider papers where they were not involved.

The Patient and Public Involvement section should provide a brief response to the following questions, tailored as appropriate for the study design reported:

• At what stage in the research process were patients/public first involved in the research and how? • How were the research question(s) and outcome measures developed and informed by their priorities, experience, and preferences? • How were patients/public involved in the design of this study? • How were they involved in the recruitment to and conduct of the study? • Were they asked to assess the burden of the intervention and time required to participate in the research? • How were (or will) patients and the public be involved in choosing the methods and agreeing plans for dissemination of the study results to participants and wider relevant communities? You may find this link helpful.

In addition to considering the points above we advise authors to look at guidance for best reporting of patient and public involvement as set out in the GRIPP2 reporting checklist.  

If information detailing whether there was patient and public involvement, or not, is missing in the submitted manuscript we will request authors to provide it.

Where they have been involved we consider it good practice for authors to name and thank them in the contributorship statement after seeking their permission to do so; and to clearly identify them as patient/public contributors. When they have contributed substantially and meet authorship criteria they should be invited to coauthor the manuscript.

Links to selected examples of Patient and Public Involvement statements in published BMJ research papers showing patient and carer involvement at various stages of the research process.

Comparison of the two most commonly used treatments for pyoderma gangrenosum: results of the STOP GAP randomised controlled trial

Evidence based community mobilization for dengue prevention in Nicaragua and Mexico

Computerised cognitive behaviour therapy (cCBT) as treatment for depression in primary care (REEACT trial): large scale pragmatic randomised controlled trial .

Real world effectiveness of warfarin among ischemic stroke patients with atrial fibrillation: observational analysis from Patient-Centered Research into Outcomes Stroke Patients Prefer and Effectiveness Research (PROSPER) study.

Example PPI statements to adapt for use in a paper

Examples to guide the wording for PPI statements

Data sharing

We require a data sharing statement for all research papers. For papers that do not report a trial, we do not require that the authors agree to share the data, just that they say whether they will.

For reports of clinical trials, we ask that the authors commit to making the relevant anonymised patient level data available on reasonable request (see editorial ). This policy applies to any research article that reports the main endpoints of a randomised controlled trial of one or more drugs or medical devices in current use, whether or not the trial was funded by industry.

"Relevant data" encompasses all anonymised data on individual patients on which the analysis, results, and conclusions reported in the paper are based. As for "reasonable request," The BMJ is not in a position to adjudicate, but we will expect requesters to submit a protocol for their re-analysis to the authors and to commit to making their results public. We will encourage those requesting data to send a rapid response to thebmj.com, describing what they are looking for. If the request is refused we will ask the authors of the paper to explain why.

In addition, we will follow the new ICMJE data sharing policy that goes into place on July 1, 2018 (see editorial ): manuscripts submitted to ICMJE journals that report the results of clinical trials must contain a data sharing statement that indicates whether individual de-identified participant data (including data dictionaries) will be shared; what data in particular will be shared; whether additional, related documents will be available (study protocol, statistical analysis plan, etc); when the data will become available and for how long; by what access criteria data will be shared (including with whom, for what types of analyses, and by what mechanism). Clinical trials that begin enrolling participants on or after January 1, 2019 must also include a data sharing plan in the trial’s registration. If the data sharing plan changes after registration this should be reflected in the statement submitted and published with the manuscript, and updated in the registry record.

We encourage authors of all research articles in The BMJ to link their articles to the raw data from their studies. For clinical trials, we require data sharing on request as a minimum and- if authors of such trials are willing to go further and share the data openly, so much the better. The BMJ has partnered with the Dryad digital repository datadryad.org to make open deposition easy and to allow direct linkage by doi from the dataset to The BMJ 's article and back (for The BMJ 's articles' datasets see here ).

Data requesters should do the following: • Submit a rapid response to the paper and email the corresponding author for the paper to request the relevant data. • Be prepared to provide the authors of the paper a detailed protocol for your proposed study, and to supply information about the funding and resources you have to carry out the study. • If appropriate, invite the original author[s] to participate in the re-analysis. • If a month elapses without a response from the authors, please email the head of research for The BMJ (presently [email protected] ) and cc [email protected] . • The BMJ will assess the request and if appropriate we will encourage the authors or their institution to share the data, although we are not in a position to compel data release or broker agreements. Our role is limited to making the request process public, and all correspondence related to the request may be made public through rapid responses to the paper.

Mandatory disaggregation of research data by sex and gender

The BMJ requires that research data be disaggregated by sex and gender. If that is not possible, please include a detailed explanation of the reasons for this, and mention it as a limitation in the discussion section.

Statements that must be included in Research submissions (Ethics approval, funding, and transparency)

Ethics approval

All research studies published in The BMJ should be morally acceptable, and must follow the World Medical Association's Declaration of Helsinki . To ensure this, we aim to appraise the ethical aspects of any submitted work that involves human participants, whatever descriptive label is given to that work including research, audit, and sometimes debate. This policy also applies on the very rare occasions that we publish work done with animal participants. The manuscript must include a statement that the study obtained ethics approval (or a statement that it was not required), including the name of the ethics committee(s) or institutional review board(s), the number/ID of the approval(s), and a statement that participants gave informed consent before taking part.

Transparency statement

Please include in your manuscript a transparency declaration : a statement that the lead author (the manuscript's guarantor) affirms that the manuscript is an honest, accurate, and transparent account of the study being reported; that no important aspects of the study have been omitted; and that any discrepancies from the study as originally planned (and, if relevant, registered) have been explained.

The BMJ is committed to making the editorial process transparent and ethical. The BMJ ’s transparency policies are accessible from this link .

Role of the funding source

Please include in the manuscript a statement giving the details of all sources of funding for the study. As appropriate, the statement must include a description of the role of the study sponsor(s) or funder(s), if any, in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the article for publication. In addition, the statement must confirm the independence of researchers from funders and that all authors, external and internal, had full access to all of the data (including statistical reports and tables) in the study and can take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis is also required.

If you are submitting an original article reporting an industry sponsored clinical trial, postmarketing study, or other observational study please follow the guidelines on good publication practice (GPP2) and on properly reporting the role of professional medical writers. Another resource, the Authors' Submission Toolkit: A practical guide to getting your research published summarises general tips and best practices to increase awareness of journals' editorial requirements, how to choose the right journal, submission processes, publication ethics, peer review, and effective communication with editors - much of which has traditionally been seen as mysterious to authors.

The BMJ will not consider for publication any study that is partly or wholly funded by the tobacco industry, as explained in this editorial .

Patient and Public Involvement statement

Within the Methods section of your paper, please state if and how patients and the public were involved in the research you are describing. For more information, please see the specific guidance on mandatory reporting of patient and public involvement above. If patients and the public were not involved this information should be formally documented in the Patient and Public Involvement statement.

Dissemination to participants and related patient and public communities

For accepted papers we will ask you to confirm when and how the results of your study were (or will be) sent to research participants and whether they are also being sent to relevant patient and public communities, as applicable. If you have not disseminated and have no plans to do so, please state why.

Summary boxes

Please produce a box offering a thumbnail sketch of what your article adds to the literature. The box should be divided into two short sections, each with 1-3 short sentences.

Section 1: What is already known on this topic

In two or three single sentence bullet points, please summarise the state of scientific knowledge on this topicbefore you did your study, and why this study needed to be done. Be clear and specific, not vague.

Section 2: What this study adds

In one or two single sentence bullet points, give a simple answer to the question “What do we now know as a result of this study that we did not know before?” Be brief, succinct, specific, and accurate. For example: "Our study suggests that tea drinking has no overall benefit in depression." You might use the last sentence to summarise any implications for practice, research, policy, or public health. For example, your study might have asked and answered a new question (one whose relevance has only recently become clear); contradicted a belief, dogma, or previous evidence provided a new perspective on something that is already known in general; or provided evidence of higher methodological quality for a message that is already known. DO not make statements that are not directly supported by your data.

Additional information that must be included with reports of Clinical Trials

Trial registration

In accordance with the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors' Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals , The BMJ will not consider reports of clinical trials unless they were registered prospectively before recruitment of any participants. This policy on prospective registration applies to trials that started after 1 July 2005; for older trials retrospective registration will be acceptable, but only if completed before submission of the manuscript to the journal. The trial registration number and name of register should be included as the last line of the structured abstract. The BMJ accepts registration in any registry that is a primary register of the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) or in ClinicalTrials.gov , which is a data provider to the WHO ICTRP.

In your submission, please include details about registration: registry, date registered, affirmation that registration was prospective before enrolling the first patient (if applicable) and registry number. The BMJ relies on information contained in trial registries. If authors believe that information in the registry is incorrect they should make their case to registry officials.

Eligible trials have been defined by ICMJE since 1 July 2008 as trials "where human participants are prospectively assigned to one or more health-related interventions (including health services and behavioural interventions) to evaluate the effects on health outcomes," and before that were defined more narrowly as trials "where human participants are prospectively assigned to investigate the cause and effect relationship between a medical intervention and health outcome." The ICMJE further states that, "Some trials assign healthcare providers, rather than patients, to intervention and comparison/control groups. If the purpose of the trial is to examine the effect of the provider intervention on the health outcomes of the providers' patients, then investigators should register the trial. If the purpose is to examine the effect only on the providers (for example, provider knowledge or attitudes), then registration is not necessary." We will take these definitions into account when evaluating if trials were adequately registered.

The BMJ does not consider posting of protocols and results in clinical trial registries to be prior publication. We also will consider research articles that have been posted on preprint servers, provided this is clearly disclosed on submission of the paper.

The BMJ encourages but does not require registration of protocols and posting of results in publicly accessible registries for studies that are not clinical trials if they involve human participants, particularly observational studies . If the study was registered, please provide the registration details, explaining whether the study was registered before data acquisition or analysis began.

The BMJ expects authors of clinical trials to report their findings in accordance with the outcomes listed in the trial registry. Outcomes that were not pre-specified in the registration should be identified as such in the text of the paper and in any tables. All registered outcomes should be described in the BMJ paper. If results for any outcomes will be or have been reported in another publication this should be made clear to readers. The timing and reasons for any changes in registered outcomes should also be disclosed.

The BMJ requires authors of clinical trials to upload a protocol for their study. This protocol will be published alongside other materials if the article is accepted. Any discrepancies between the protocol-specified outcomes and those listed in the trial registry or reported in the paper should be explained in the paper. In cases where pre-specified outcomes differ between the trial registration and the protocol, our policy is to consider the outcomes listed in the registry as pre-specified. Outcomes listed in the protocol but not the trial registry can be reported in the paper, but should be identified as post-hoc outcomes. Protocols vary in completeness and content. There are often multiple versions of a protocol and the timing of decisions about outcomes in relation to the onset of a trial cannot easily be determined. This is in contrast to trial registries, where date stamps are reliable and can be easily verified by readers.Trial registry entries should be updated if new outcomes are added or existing ones deleted, promoted, or demoted.

The BMJ requires authors of clinical trials to upload a statistical analysis plan (SAP) for their study. The SAP will be published alongside other materials if the article is accepted. A SAP provides more detailed information about statistical analysis than a protocol, including detailed descriptions of procedures used to execute the analyses. Please follow the guidance on producing a SAP contained in the table of this document: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2666509

Open access

Research papers in The BMJ are published with open access. Moreover, The BMJ immediately fulfils the requirements of the US National Institutes of Health, the UK Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and other funding bodies by making the full text of publicly funded research freely available to all on bmj.com and sending it directly to PubMed Central, the National Library of Medicine's full text archive. The BMJ occasionally publishes as open access other types of (non-research) articles arising from work funded by a funder who mandates open access publication.

Open access articles may be reused according to the relevant Creative Commons licence. The BMJ 's default licence for open access publication of research is the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial licence (CC BY-NC 4.0) . But where the funder requires it the author can select the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence during the submission process (funders who mandate CC BY include the Wellcome Trust, RCUK, and MRC).

To support this, we ask authors to pay an open access article processing charge - you can find our author charges for open access here . We can offer discounts and waivers for authors who cannot pay. Consideration of the paper is not related to whether authors can or cannot pay the fee. We will ask for the fee only once we have accepted a paper, and we will send an invoice only once authors tell us (via [email protected] ) they can claim the fee. Seeking and processing fees will not delay editing or publication. Please do not contact editors about open access fees: neither editors nor reviewers will know whether a fee is payable, and administrative staff will handle payments and all associated correspondence. For non-research articles published with open access we will ask authors to pay the open access fee. We do not offer refunds for Open Access once articles have been published. For further information, contact [email protected] .

A number of institutions have open access institutional memberships with BMJ (the publishing group), which either cover the whole cost of open access publishing for authors at participating institutions or allow authors to receive a discount on the article processing charge. For a list of member institutions and their policies on how to receive a discount or to publish free of charge, please visit http://journals.bmj.com/site/authors/openaccess.xhtml

For articles not published with open access, The BMJ 's publication licence allows each author to post their article's URL (provided above) on either their own or their employer's website, thereby giving users free access to the full text of the article on bmj.com. Authors will need to use the toll free link to ensure visitors have free access to the article. Alternatively, authors can post the full text of their published article on their own website or their employer's website.

For additional information, please see the section of instructions to authors on copyright, open access, and permission to reuse .

Living systematic reviews

The BMJ will pilot a small number of living systematic reviews

Duration : We will typically host a living systematic review which is live for up to 2 years after initial publication. The triggers for updates, and their frequency, will be decided with authors on a case by case basis. Communication : The title will reflect the living nature of the review and the most recent update will become the default publication on bmj.com. Reviews will have a single digital object identifier (DOI) to keep the information in one place. However, previous versions will remain available as data supplements. An updates table will be included in the review to make tracking the history of the review easier and to signal planned changes. Updates will be flagged on bmj.com, including in rapid responses. They will also be communicated to third parties including PubMed and PubMedCentral. Updates : Updates should be submitted as a “track changes” version of the final MIcrosoft Word version of the previous iteration of the review. A clean version should also be submitted via the ScholarOne manuscript system. Subsequent internal or external peer review reports will be added to the pre-publication history tab on bmj.com with each version of the paper. The approach to any authorship changes should be negotiated before the first version of the paper is published. Resources : The usual BMJ article open access processing fee will be charged for the initial version of the review and an additional fee will be added to cover the cost of up to three updates per year (£2000 per update). After the first year the price may be revised based on the scope of the revisions and the work done on each one.

Preliminary reporting guidance for living reviews

COVER LETTER: This should explain and defend the need for the review to be “living.” Briefly describe other extant reviews, in particular any other living systematic reviews that have recently been published. The cover letter should acknowledge the authors’ acceptance of the following special conditions that apply to living reviews: 1) the need to provide current conflict of interest declarations or updates for all authors at each revision; 2) the single DOI for the paper and updates; agreement that open access fees cannot be waived for living reviews and that additional fees apply to cover the extra work of producing and maintaining living reviews.

TITLE: The phrase “living systematic review” should appear in the title. If additional terms apply, those may be included as appropriate (e.g. “network meta-analysis,” “meta-analysis,” “critical appraisal,” etc.).

ABSTRACT: The abstract should include: 1) A statement of the research question or objective, including a statement that one objective is to provide regular updates and keep the review live. 2) The rationale for a living systematic review should be described, e.g. rapidly evolving evidence base, anticipated impact on policy or practice, etc. 3) A “Readers’ note” at the end of the abstract that provides information about the version of the paper, the date it went live, and gives notice of planned updates. For example: “Readers’ note: This article is a living systematic review that will be updated periodically over the next 2 years to reflect emerging evidence. This version is update XXX of the original article published XXXXXX (give BMJ DOI), and previous updates can be found as data supplements (give link). When citing this paper please consider adding the version number and date of access for clarity.”

MAIN PAPER: Please address the following matters in the appropriate section of the paper: Introduction: -- Include the information required in the abstract (see above paragraph) at the end of the introduction section. -- In updates, consider including a short paragraph that describes how the living review has evolved. For example, what are the key developments since the previous version of the review, and what developments might be expected? Methods -- Mention and include a reference to any published or publicly available protocol for this review. If not registered, consider registering the review. -- Describe the methods that will be used to keep the review living, including the processes that will be used to search for new evidence, anticipated triggers for updates, and the circumstances under which the review might end before the 2 year time limit for BMJ Living Reviews. -- In updated versions of the review, make clear when and why any methods have evolved over time. If these descriptions are lengthy or complex, consider doing this in a table that can be included in an appendix or supplemental file. Such a table will ideally describe important changes to the review protocol, statistical analyses, or other aspects of the review, along with the dates of these changes. -- A table at the end of the discussion section might be used to highlight new evidence that was not included in the review. Results -- Clearly state the updated dates of the search. Discussion -- Consider additional subheadings to separate, e.g. What remain the important findings so far? Versus what are the main new findings to highlight? -- Consider additional table updates to this article. This will make clear historical and anticipated change. Columns trigger, date and action. Declaration of competing interests -- All authors must complete the ICMJE Competing Interests form with the initial submission. At each revision, we will ask the corresponding author to state whether there have been any changes to competing interests among any of the existing authors. If there are changes or if new authors have been added, the corresponding author is responsible for ensuring the this information is up to date. Otherwise there will be no change to the declaration of interests. Supplementary files -- Previous versions of the paper

Please contact Dr. Elizabeth Loder ( [email protected] ) with any questions.

Supplemental material, video

You may submit the following materials as supplemental files if you think they will help the authors and reviewers make a decision or readers better understand your study:

Original raw data if you think they will help our reviewers (and maybe readers), or if we specifically request them. Please note our policy on data sharing, explained above.

Video and audio files that will add educational value to your article, for example by explaining the intervention in a trial.

A video abstract that summarizes your findings and that will be posted on bmj.com with your paper. You can find additional information about video abstracts here and here .

Public and patient involvement materials used in your research.

Copies of any non-standard questionnaires and assessment schedules used in the research.

Copies of patient information sheets used to obtain informed consent for the study or to comprise or deliver the intervention in a clinical trial.

Copies of closely related articles you have published (this is particularly important when details of the study methods are published elsewhere).

Copies of any previous reviewers' reports on this article . We appreciate that authors may have tried other journals before sending their work to The BMJ , and find it helpful if you let us know how you have responded to previous reviewers' comments.

Research Methods and Reporting (RMR)

We are willing to consider papers that present new or updated research reporting guidelines, but only if the guideline pertains to a study type that we publish in The BMJ. The checklist itself must be included as part of the paper. We prefer to be the only journal publishing the guideline, but under some circumstances we will consider co-publication with up to two other journals. For an example of how to format a reporting guideline to appear in our research methods and reporting section, see http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f1049.full.pdf+html .

Preparing a RMR article

Word count We do not set fixed word count limits for RMR articles. Nonetheless, we ask you to make your article concise and make every word count. For some submissions this might be published in full on bmj.com with a shorter version in the print BMJ 

Overall structure Research Methods and Reporting should have the following elements:

Title and standfirst A short title is followed by an 100-150 word italicised single sentence (the standfirst) which encapsulates the article’s central message.

Introduction Articles should begin with a brief paragraph that captures readers’ attention and explains the aim of the piece.

Text The body of the text should be broken up under subheadings that provide a logical narrative structure. Avoid acronyms and abbreviations unless they are universally recognised e.g. DNA. The evidence on which key statements are based should be explicit and referenced, and the strength of the evidence (published trials, systematic reviews, observational studies, expert opinion etc.) addressed.

Boxes, tables and figures Include tables, boxes, or illustrations (clinical photographs, imaging, line drawings, and figures) to enhance the text and add to or substantiate key points made in the body of the article. Figures may be in color. Worked out examples that use specific methods under discussion can be included as additional boxes. If appropriate, include a box of linked information such as website urls for those who want to pursue the subject in more depth.

Web extras We may be able to publish on bmj.com some additional boxes, figures, and references (in a separate reference list numbered w1, w2,w3, etc. and marked as such in the main text of the article). Also may include suggestions for linked podcasts or video clips, as appropriate.

Contributors and sources We ask for a 100-150 word supplementary paragraph (excluded from word count) to explain the article’s provenance. It should include the relevant experience and expertise of each author, his or her contribution to the paper, and the sources of information used to prepare it. One author must be nominated as the guarantor of the article. Include a statement of sources and selection criteria.

Key messages box Include up to four sentences, in the form of bullet points, highlighting the article's main points.

References Must be in Vancouver style and should be kept to a minimum; ideally no more than 20.

“Analysis” is a distinct article type at The BMJ , and differs from other sections such as Research, Education, Editorials, and Personal Views. A great Analysis article makes an argument and supports it with reference to a robust (not cherry picked) evidence base. It has academic heft yet is a journalistic read. 'Academic heft' means the argument is evidence-based and supported by data. 'Journalistic read' means the article is really engaging (not dry nor dull; written in clear language and avoiding technical jargon; and pitched to our international audience of doctors of all specialties, academics, and policy makers). Keep in mind that Analysis articles are “long reads” at around 1800-2000 words, so they need to be absolutely great reading to keep readers’ attention, particularly readers that may not be familiar with the topic.

We receive many manuscripts that are not a good fit for the Analysis section. We generally do not consider:

• Case studies (e.g. where the article mostly concerns the author’s writing about their own work) • Manuscripts containing primary research data (such papers should be submitted as Research) • Narrative review articles (as a general practice, The BMJ does not accept unsolicited submissions of review articles) • Articles presenting a new hypothesis

If you are unsure if your work is suitable for The BMJ 's Analysis section we are willing to consider succinct pre-submission inquiries, please complete the form in this link and await a response from one of the analysis editors.

Preparing an Analysis article

We recommend looking at this Analysis article template and using it as a basis for your work before considering submission.

Word count and style The BMJ has an international readership that includes policy makers, health professionals, and doctors of all disciplines. Authors are advised to keep this readership in mind and to write their article for the non-expert. It’s important to avoid jargon. Specialised terminology and references to organisations or practices that are specific to one country need to be explained. Clear writing and an attractive presentation are essential. Analysis papers should be 1,800-2,000 words long.

Overall structure The manuscript should have the following elements:

Title and standfirst A short title is followed by an italicised single sentence (the standfirst) which encapsulates the article’s central message.

Text The body of the text should be broken up under sub-headings that provide a logical narrative structure. Avoid acronyms and abbreviations unless they are universally recognised e.g. DNA. The evidence on which key statements are based should be explicit and referenced, and the strength of the evidence (published trials, systematic reviews, observational studies, expert opinion, etc.) made clear. Articles should present a balanced, even-handed look at the evidence rather than selectively citing evidence that supports a particular view.

Boxes, tables and figures These should extend and substantiate points made in the body of the paper. Words in boxes and tables are excluded from the word count of the body of the text, but the additional material should be concise.

Key messages box This should be at the end of the article and include 2 to 4 points summing up the main conclusions. When submitting your article at submit.bmj.com, please enter your key messages when prompted to enter the abstract.

Contributors and sources We ask for a 100-150 word supplementary paragraph (excluded from word count) to explain the article’s provenance. It should include the relevant experience and expertise of each author, his or her contribution to the paper, and the sources of information used to prepare it. One author must be nominated as the guarantor of the article.You are welcome to invite co-authors to work with you on the article. We suggest including 2-3 co-authors with different locations and perspectives to help ensure articles are international in scope and accessible to our broad readership online and in print.

Report of patient involvement As The BMJ is seeking to advance partnership with patients, we also ask authors to seek their input into articles wherever relevant, and document their involvement as patient contributors or coauthors.

Conflicts of Interest All authors should read our competing interests policy and include the appropriate declaration in their manuscript. Where a competing interest exists that might disqualify an author from contributing, it is wise to discuss it with a BMJ editor before writing the article.

Peer review The BMJ has fully open peer review for analysis articles. This means that every accepted analysis article submitted from February 2016 onwards will have its prepublication history posted alongside it on thebmj.com. This prepublication history comprises all previous versions of the manuscript, the report from the manuscript committee meeting, the reviewers’ signed comments, and the authors’ responses to all the comments from reviewers and editors. Authors are welcome to suggest names of suitable reviewers, including patient reviewers.

What happens after submission

What happens after publication.

In most cases we will publish the prepublication history alongside an accepted analysis article. This prepublication history comprises all previous versions of the manuscript, the report from the manuscript committee meeting, the reviewers’ comments, and the authors’ responses to all the comments from reviewers and editors. In rare instances we may determine after careful consideration that we should not make certain portions of the prepublication record publicly available. For example, in cases of stigmatised illnesses we seek to protect the confidentiality of reviewers who have these illnesses. In other instances there may be legal or regulatory considerations that make it inadvisable or impermissible to make available certain parts of the prepublication record. In all instances in which we have determined that elements of the prepublication record should not be made publicly available, we expect that authors will respect these decisions and also will not share this information.

Education (inc. Minerva Pictures and Endgames)

The BMJ publishes different types of educational articles to engage and challenge a range of postgraduate doctors and clinical researchers internationally. We strive to publish articles that are original in their content and/or presentation, and cannot be found elsewhere or in textbooks. We prioritise topics and situations that are common or have serious consequences, have international appeal, and that interest a variety of doctors, including GPs and specialists.

We encourage authors to write in teams, including those from other specialties, professions, and countries. We ask that one author is routed in the clinical environment of the intended reader. We encourage authors to write in plain English, to be clear about where there is uncertainty, and to include numbers and phrases where possible that will help doctors in conversation with their patients.

Our educational articles are shaped by two initiatives:

• We believe that financial interests can distort education articles and we minimise or exclude authors who we judge have such a conflict.

• We believe that patient involvement strengthens content. We encourage authors to seek input from patients either to inform the scope, develop the content, contribute to, or co-author articles. For help with this, please read our guidance on what we mean by patient involvement and co-production .

Submission process and presubmission enquiries

We receive more articles and suggestions than we can publish. We require all authors to contact us before submitting a manuscript to us. Send us your proposal using our Education Article Proposal Form , together with your completed Declaration of Financial Interests .

The proposal form will guide you through the following questions:

• What is your idea? • Can you sum up the aim of your article in a sentence? • Why is the topic important to The BMJ 's readers? • What is the prevalence of the symptom/condition/situation you wish to write about? • Why cover it now? Has something new happened? • What has The BMJ 's Education section covered on this topic in the last five years? What will your contribution add? • Can you provide the key evidence/references you might use? • Why are your writing team well placed to cover the topic? • Have you thought about what a patient would say about your idea?

Policies for Education articles

Authorship Education articles can have can have up to four authors. One author should be from the relevant specialty or setting, unless agreed otherwise. For example, if the article discusses presentation to the emergency department one author should be an emergency care doctor. All authors should meet authorship criteria . We welcome authors or contributions from allied health professions and patient authors, and actively encourage authors from a primary care background.

Competing interests The BMJ will not consider authors with financial interests when writing Education articles. It is important that we understand the financial interests of every author, and can judge to what extent we believe that they may be relevant to the article that you propose. We do not publish content from authors who we judge have relevant financial ties to the industry (excluding State of the Art reviews, Therapeutics articles, and Summaries of NICE Guidelines). The relevance of declared interests are judged by the BMJ team. This applies to every author. Any additional authors and their financial interests must be discussed and agreed with the commissioning editor before the article is submitted.

Patient involvement As part of our drive to co-produce our content with patients we ask that you seek patient input into articles at the planning stage. We believe that their experience and perspectives will make articles more useful for doctors in their quest to help improve patients well being and outcomes.

We ask all authors to what extent patients have been involved in their article and how their involvement changed the article. We ask that all writing encourages honesty and partnership with patients. Where uncertainty exists, share it. Where data exists present the numbers in a way that can be shared with the patient (use absolute numbers, natural frequencies, and graphics where you can). Use language that empowers patients to make the right choices for them in their situation (write that a doctor should/could offer a test, rather than should do a test).

When patients are involved in the manuscript, we ask for their consent. We have two types of consent forms for BMJ education articles:

• A patient consent form is required if any anonymised patient information is included in the review. Consent is needed for images even if the patients are not identifiable for example, in X-rays and histology slides, and for patients’ stories/vignettes even if details are anonymised.

• A patient contributor form is required for any patients who are named within the review, for example, patient co-authors, patient contributors or named authors of patient stories.

Preparing your manuscript

We want our readers to have the ability to share decisions with their patients and make clear for them the degree of certainty ( or lack of it) about a potential course of action. We therefore ask that, in addition to the format and instructions detailed below for the specific Education article that you are writing, you follow these recommendations:

• Consider including in your manuscript a box explaining your strategy to search for evidence. It should include a search date, the sources searched, and brief inclusion criteria. • Clearly distinguish suggestions made based on your experience, standard practice, guidelines, and evidence. • Provide specifics about the evidence you discuss. For example, for key statements, please say: "A large, well conducted, randomised controlled trial showed INSERT number [CI] and or p value". "The findings of a small case series suggest...". “A subgroup analysis found…”. etc. • Use absolute numbers or explain why you have not used them. • Consider how these numbers can be communicated by the clinician read to their patient in a clear way. • Where evidence is lacking or of poor quality make this clear. • Write about known and unknown benefits and harms.

"What you need to know" box . No more than three bullet points for practice articles and five for clinical updates encapsulating the specific take home messages from this article.

"How patients were involved in the creation of this article" box. Please include: Which patients were asked (e.g. patient advocates, networked patient communities and organisations, patients in your clinic etc). What they said (e.g. include more practical advice on how to inject insulin.) How you changed your article as a result (e.g. we included a box to address this.)

"Education into practice" box . Include two to three bullet points about how a reader might at an individual or organisational level improve their practice (e.g. do you offer lifestyle advice to all patients with newly diagnosed hypertension?)

At least one other box or table and at least one figure or image that complement the text of the article.

Article types

We accept pitches for the following article types. Once our editors have made a decision to encourage a pitch, we will provde authors will a full, detailed set of instructions on how best to format your content.

Additional requirements for all other article types

Back to top

Submitting your article

Follow this link to find out more about The BMJ submission system, how to submit your article, and how to navigate and manage your submitted papers.

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  • 08 May 2019

Toolkit: How to write a great paper

A clear format will ensure that your research paper is understood by your readers. Follow:

1. Context — your introduction

2. Content — your results

3. Conclusion — your discussion

Plan your paper carefully and decide where each point will sit within the framework before you begin writing.

brief article in a paper

Collection: Careers toolkit

Straightforward writing

Scientific writing should always aim to be A, B and C: Accurate, Brief, and Clear. Never choose a long word when a short one will do. Use simple language to communicate your results. Always aim to distill your message down into the simplest sentence possible.

Choose a title

A carefully conceived title will communicate the single core message of your research paper. It should be D, E, F: Declarative, Engaging and Focused.


Add a sentence or two at the end of your concluding statement that sets out your plans for further research. What is next for you or others working in your field?

Find out more

See additional information .

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-01362-9

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Basics of Writing Review Articles

Almıla erol.

Adjunct Faculty, Psychiatry & Psychology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA

Evidence-based medicine forms the essence of medical practice in the modern world. No wonder review articles are the mainstay for evidence-based medicine.

Review articles provide a critical summary of the existing literature to explain the current state of scientific evidence on a particular topic. A well-written review article must summarize key research findings, reference must-read articles, describe current areas of agreement as well as controversies and debates, point out gaps in current knowledge, depict unanswered questions, and suggest directions for future research ( 1 ).

During the last decades, there has been a great expansion in the range of review methodologies resulting in many new review types ( 2 , 3 ). In an attempt to classify review types, Sutton et al. defined 48 different review types which they categorized into seven review families: traditional reviews, systematic reviews, review of reviews, rapid reviews, qualitative reviews, mixed method reviews and purpose specific reviews (for the full list of review types please see Sutton et al.) ( 2 ). To date, traditional reviews and systematic reviews have been most widely used in the field of medicine.

Traditional reviews usually cover advances in different aspects of a chosen topic and provide assessment of the subject within a broad spectrum. No formal guidance exists for traditional reviews. However, they have become increasingly more comprehensive and systematic since the emergence of systematic reviews. Narrative review, narrative summary, critical review, integrative review, and state of the art review are examples of traditional reviews ( 2 ).

Systematic reviews adopt a specific aim and a well-defined, rigorous methodology to enlighten a particular question. They usually focus on specific study types such as randomized controlled studies, observational studies, etc. They have well-defined reporting standards and guidance. Systematic reviews provide the highest level of evidence in medical sciences, playing an important role in the development of clinical guidelines ( 4 ). Meta-analysis is the most popular example of quantitative systematic review types.

  • Review articles summarize the current state of evidence on a particular topic
  • Review articles translate the relevance of evidence for readers
  • Independent of the review type, all reviews must have a predefined methodology
  • The methods utilized for the review should be explained clearly in the review paper
  • Review papers should be written in a structured format

Considering the overwhelming number of diverse review types, the initial burden authors face is to choose the review type that matches their purpose best. Despite the continuous rise in the number of review types, there are sources that provide guidance about this issue ( 5 ). Authors are highly recommended to examine and learn about different review methodologies before they decide on their review approach.

International guidelines such as PRISMA ( 6 ), Cochrane ( 7 ), and JBI ( 8 ) provide detailed information about how to conduct reviews starting from the planning and protocol writing phases. The purpose of these international guidelines is to ensure transparent, unbiased, and complete reporting. Although the guidelines are focused on systematic reviews, they can also be used as bases for conducting other types of reviews. PRISMA encourages journal editors and reviewers to use the guideline for evaluation of review papers. PRISMA checklist is available online in different languages including Turkish at www.prisma-statement.org ( 9 ).

No matter what type of review is undertaken, the key points in a review article are to have a predefined methodology which is clearly explained in the text, and to have a structured format. Just like research papers, the most common and convenient practice is to write review papers in “introduction, methods, results, and discussion (IMRaD)” format accompanied by title, abstract, key words, and references.

The title makes the first introductory and is the most important sentence of the review paper. Like research paper titles, it must be brief, informative, and interesting all at the same time. It must contain the key words or their derivatives to increase the discoverability of the article via search engines. In addition, the type of the review should be accurately stated in the title.

The aim of the introduction is to explain why the review is undertaken and to persuade the readers for its necessity. In the introduction section, the authors must mention the latest developments about the subject of concern and explain why a review is needed. It is a good practice to refer to previous review papers on the subject and state what makes the current review different than the previous ones.

The methods section of the review paper should be written detailed enough to prove its adequacy and make it possible to be reconducted including more recent papers in the future. Explicit scientific methods are required for systematic reviews as defined by international guidelines ( 7 – 9 ). Although no guidelines exist for traditional narrative reviews, they too should have a rational methodology explained clearly. The methods section of every review article should state the key words used for the search, data bases screened, and the time frame chosen for the literature search. It should also explain the inclusion and exclusion criteria used for the selection of papers.

The results section should include a flow chart which shows the number of identified, included, and excluded papers along with the reasons for exclusion, as described in PRISMA flow diagram guidelines ( 9 ). Results section should cite and present characteristics and outcomes of each one of the included studies, providing the necessary information to assess their quality, validity, and contribution. The most relevant information about the included articles should be depicted in literature summary tables. They are an essential part of the review article as they provide information at one glance and make the paper more readable. Literature summary tables must contain information about methods, frameworks, strengths, limitations, and conceptual contribution of each article ( 10 ). Oversized tables must be presented as supplementary files.

Discussion section provides a general interpretation of the results and presents expert opinion. Writing a review article is not only about extracting relevant previous work and analyzing them, but also about making synthesis and drawing conclusions. Therefore, providing an objective interpretation of the results and guiding readers for better understanding of the current evidence should form the central part of the discussion. Wherever there is not enough evidence to make objective conclusions, the lack of evidence should be stated instead. Limitations, biases and gaps of the included literature should be discussed along with the limitations of the review process itself. It is critical to discuss the potential impacts of the results for future research and clinical practice.

In conclusion, reviews are objective attempts to examine the current state of evidence on a particular topic and its impacts. A review paper should explain why the review is undertaken, describe the methodology used, introduce the articles included, and provide expert opinion on the evidence achieved in a structured format. High quality reviews are essential in guiding clinical practice and future research along with policy making.

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How to Practice Academic Medicine and Publish from Developing Countries? pp 193–199 Cite as

How to Write the Introduction to a Scientific Paper?

  • Samiran Nundy 4 ,
  • Atul Kakar 5 &
  • Zulfiqar A. Bhutta 6  
  • Open Access
  • First Online: 24 October 2021

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An Introduction to a scientific paper familiarizes the reader with the background of the issue at hand. It must reflect why the issue is topical and its current importance in the vast sea of research being done globally. It lays the foundation of biomedical writing and is the first portion of an article according to the IMRAD pattern ( I ntroduction, M ethodology, R esults, a nd D iscussion) [1].

I once had a professor tell a class that he sifted through our pile of essays, glancing at the titles and introductions, looking for something that grabbed his attention. Everything else went to the bottom of the pile to be read last, when he was tired and probably grumpy from all the marking. Don’t get put at the bottom of the pile, he said. Anonymous

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1 What is the Importance of an Introduction?

An Introduction to a scientific paper familiarizes the reader with the background of the issue at hand. It must reflect why the issue is topical and its current importance in the vast sea of research being done globally. It lays the foundation of biomedical writing and is the first portion of an article according to the IMRAD pattern ( I ntroduction, M ethodology, R esults, a nd D iscussion) [ 1 ].

It provides the flavour of the article and many authors have used phrases to describe it for example—'like a gate of the city’ [ 2 ], ‘the beginning is half of the whole’ [ 3 ], ‘an introduction is not just wrestling with words to fit the facts, but it also strongly modulated by perception of the anticipated reactions of peer colleagues’, [ 4 ] and ‘an introduction is like the trailer to a movie’. A good introduction helps captivate the reader early.

figure a

2 What Are the Principles of Writing a Good Introduction?

A good introduction will ‘sell’ an article to a journal editor, reviewer, and finally to a reader [ 3 ]. It should contain the following information [ 5 , 6 ]:

The known—The background scientific data

The unknown—Gaps in the current knowledge

Research hypothesis or question

Methodologies used for the study

The known consist of citations from a review of the literature whereas the unknown is the new work to be undertaken. This part should address how your work is the required missing piece of the puzzle.

3 What Are the Models of Writing an Introduction?

The Problem-solving model

First described by Swales et al. in 1979, in this model the writer should identify the ‘problem’ in the research, address the ‘solution’ and also write about ‘the criteria for evaluating the problem’ [ 7 , 8 ].

The CARS model that stands for C reating A R esearch S pace [ 9 , 10 ].

The two important components of this model are:

Establishing a territory (situation)

Establishing a niche (problem)

Occupying a niche (the solution)

In this popular model, one can add a fourth point, i.e., a conclusion [ 10 ].

4 What Is Establishing a Territory?

This includes: [ 9 ]

Stating the general topic and providing some background about it.

Providing a brief and relevant review of the literature related to the topic.

Adding a paragraph on the scope of the topic including the need for your study.

5 What Is Establishing a Niche?

Establishing a niche includes:

Stating the importance of the problem.

Outlining the current situation regarding the problem citing both global and national data.

Evaluating the current situation (advantages/ disadvantages).

Identifying the gaps.

Emphasizing the importance of the proposed research and how the gaps will be addressed.

Stating the research problem/ questions.

Stating the hypotheses briefly.

Figure 17.1 depicts how the introduction needs to be written. A scientific paper should have an introduction in the form of an inverted pyramid. The writer should start with the general information about the topic and subsequently narrow it down to the specific topic-related introduction.

figure 1

Flow of ideas from the general to the specific

6 What Does Occupying a Niche Mean?

This is the third portion of the introduction and defines the rationale of the research and states the research question. If this is missing the reviewers will not understand the logic for publication and is a common reason for rejection [ 11 , 12 ]. An example of this is given below:

Till date, no study has been done to see the effectiveness of a mesh alone or the effectiveness of double suturing along with a mesh in the closure of an umbilical hernia regarding the incidence of failure. So, the present study is aimed at comparing the effectiveness of a mesh alone versus the double suturing technique along with a mesh.

7 How Long Should the Introduction Be?

For a project protocol, the introduction should be about 1–2 pages long and for a thesis it should be 3–5 pages in a double-spaced typed setting. For a scientific paper it should be less than 10–15% of the total length of the manuscript [ 13 , 14 ].

8 How Many References Should an Introduction Have?

All sections in a scientific manuscript except the conclusion should contain references. It has been suggested that an introduction should have four or five or at the most one-third of the references in the whole paper [ 15 ].

9 What Are the Important Points Which Should be not Missed in an Introduction?

An introduction paves the way forward for the subsequent sections of the article. Frequently well-planned studies are rejected by journals during review because of the simple reason that the authors failed to clarify the data in this section to justify the study [ 16 , 17 ]. Thus, the existing gap in knowledge should be clearly brought out in this section (Fig. 17.2 ).

figure 2

How should the abstract, introduction, and discussion look

The following points are important to consider:

The introduction should be written in simple sentences and in the present tense.

Many of the terms will be introduced in this section for the first time and these will require abbreviations to be used later.

The references in this section should be to papers published in quality journals (e.g., having a high impact factor).

The aims, problems, and hypotheses should be clearly mentioned.

Start with a generalization on the topic and go on to specific information relevant to your research.

10 Example of an Introduction

figure b

11 Conclusions

An Introduction is a brief account of what the study is about. It should be short, crisp, and complete.

It has to move from a general to a specific research topic and must include the need for the present study.

The Introduction should include data from a literature search, i.e., what is already known about this subject and progress to what we hope to add to this knowledge.

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Nundy, S., Kakar, A., Bhutta, Z.A. (2022). How to Write the Introduction to a Scientific Paper?. In: How to Practice Academic Medicine and Publish from Developing Countries?. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-5248-6_17

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13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the major components of a research paper written using American Psychological Association (APA) style.
  • Apply general APA style and formatting conventions in a research paper.

In this chapter, you will learn how to use APA style , the documentation and formatting style followed by the American Psychological Association, as well as MLA style , from the Modern Language Association. There are a few major formatting styles used in academic texts, including AMA, Chicago, and Turabian:

  • AMA (American Medical Association) for medicine, health, and biological sciences
  • APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the social sciences
  • Chicago—a common style used in everyday publications like magazines, newspapers, and books
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) for English, literature, arts, and humanities
  • Turabian—another common style designed for its universal application across all subjects and disciplines

While all the formatting and citation styles have their own use and applications, in this chapter we focus our attention on the two styles you are most likely to use in your academic studies: APA and MLA.

If you find that the rules of proper source documentation are difficult to keep straight, you are not alone. Writing a good research paper is, in and of itself, a major intellectual challenge. Having to follow detailed citation and formatting guidelines as well may seem like just one more task to add to an already-too-long list of requirements.

Following these guidelines, however, serves several important purposes. First, it signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a student’s contribution to a given academic or professional field; it is the literary equivalent of wearing a tailored suit to a job interview. Second, it shows that you respect other people’s work enough to give them proper credit for it. Finally, it helps your reader find additional materials if he or she wishes to learn more about your topic.

Furthermore, producing a letter-perfect APA-style paper need not be burdensome. Yes, it requires careful attention to detail. However, you can simplify the process if you keep these broad guidelines in mind:

  • Work ahead whenever you can. Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” includes tips for keeping track of your sources early in the research process, which will save time later on.
  • Get it right the first time. Apply APA guidelines as you write, so you will not have much to correct during the editing stage. Again, putting in a little extra time early on can save time later.
  • Use the resources available to you. In addition to the guidelines provided in this chapter, you may wish to consult the APA website at http://www.apa.org or the Purdue University Online Writing lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu , which regularly updates its online style guidelines.

General Formatting Guidelines

This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Writers in disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, biology, psychology, and education follow APA style. The major components of a paper written in APA style are listed in the following box.

These are the major components of an APA-style paper:

Body, which includes the following:

  • Headings and, if necessary, subheadings to organize the content
  • In-text citations of research sources
  • References page

All these components must be saved in one document, not as separate documents.

The title page of your paper includes the following information:

  • Title of the paper
  • Author’s name
  • Name of the institution with which the author is affiliated
  • Header at the top of the page with the paper title (in capital letters) and the page number (If the title is lengthy, you may use a shortened form of it in the header.)

List the first three elements in the order given in the previous list, centered about one third of the way down from the top of the page. Use the headers and footers tool of your word-processing program to add the header, with the title text at the left and the page number in the upper-right corner. Your title page should look like the following example.

Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets cover page

The next page of your paper provides an abstract , or brief summary of your findings. An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred fifty to two hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style. Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences.

In Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” , you read a paper written by a student named Jorge, who researched the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets. Read Jorge’s abstract. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail.

Beyond the Hype: Abstract

Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.

Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field.

Margins, Pagination, and Headings

APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.

Use these general guidelines to format the paper:

  • Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch.
  • Use double-spaced text throughout your paper.
  • Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point).
  • Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section. Page numbers appear flush right within your header.
  • Section headings and subsection headings within the body of your paper use different types of formatting depending on the level of information you are presenting. Additional details from Jorge’s paper are provided.

Cover Page

Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Include the following:

  • Your title page
  • The abstract you created in Note 13.8 “Exercise 1”
  • Correct headers and page numbers for your title page and abstract

APA style uses section headings to organize information, making it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought and to know immediately what major topics are covered. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information.

The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:

  • Section headings use centered, boldface type. Headings use title case, with important words in the heading capitalized.
  • Subsection headings use left-aligned, boldface type. Headings use title case.
  • The third level uses left-aligned, indented, boldface type. Headings use a capital letter only for the first word, and they end in a period.
  • The fourth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are boldfaced and italicized.
  • The fifth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are italicized and not boldfaced.

Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” .

Table 13.1 Section Headings

A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” , but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice. Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.

Working with the document you developed in Note 13.11 “Exercise 2” , begin setting up the heading structure of the final draft of your research paper according to APA guidelines. Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.

Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:

Citation Guidelines

In-text citations.

Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources. As you learned in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , the purpose of citations is twofold: to give credit to others for their ideas and to allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired. Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information.

In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published. (When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.) When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation.

This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples.

Epstein (2010) points out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Here, the writer names the source author when introducing the quote and provides the publication date in parentheses after the author’s name. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.

Addiction researchers caution that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (Epstein, 2010, p. 137).

Here, the writer provides a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the author’s name, the year of publication, and the page number separated by commas. Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence.

As noted in the book Junk Food, Junk Science (Epstein, 2010, p. 137), “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive.”

Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence (an optional piece of information to include) and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.

David Epstein’s book Junk Food, Junk Science (2010) pointed out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source.

Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed. You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.2 “Citing and Referencing Techniques” and Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provide extensive guidelines for citing a variety of source types.

Writing at Work

APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:

  • MLA style. Determined by the Modern Languages Association and used for papers in literature, languages, and other disciplines in the humanities.
  • Chicago style. Outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style and sometimes used for papers in the humanities and the sciences; many professional organizations use this style for publications as well.
  • Associated Press (AP) style. Used by professional journalists.

References List

The brief citations included in the body of your paper correspond to the more detailed citations provided at the end of the paper in the references section. In-text citations provide basic information—the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number if necessary—while the references section provides more extensive bibliographical information. Again, this information allows your reader to follow up on the sources you cited and do additional reading about the topic if desired.

The specific format of entries in the list of references varies slightly for different source types, but the entries generally include the following information:

  • The name(s) of the author(s) or institution that wrote the source
  • The year of publication and, where applicable, the exact date of publication
  • The full title of the source
  • For books, the city of publication
  • For articles or essays, the name of the periodical or book in which the article or essay appears
  • For magazine and journal articles, the volume number, issue number, and pages where the article appears
  • For sources on the web, the URL where the source is located

The references page is double spaced and lists entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. If an entry continues for more than one line, the second line and each subsequent line are indented five spaces. Review the following example. ( Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provides extensive guidelines for formatting reference entries for different types of sources.)

References Section

In APA style, book and article titles are formatted in sentence case, not title case. Sentence case means that only the first word is capitalized, along with any proper nouns.

Key Takeaways

  • Following proper citation and formatting guidelines helps writers ensure that their work will be taken seriously, give proper credit to other authors for their work, and provide valuable information to readers.
  • Working ahead and taking care to cite sources correctly the first time are ways writers can save time during the editing stage of writing a research paper.
  • APA papers usually include an abstract that concisely summarizes the paper.
  • APA papers use a specific headings structure to provide a clear hierarchy of information.
  • In APA papers, in-text citations usually include the name(s) of the author(s) and the year of publication.
  • In-text citations correspond to entries in the references section, which provide detailed bibliographical information about a source.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

How to Write Effective brief Communications

How to write effective brief communications

When you need to publish important research results quickly or present a vital reanalysis of a previously published paper to an interested audience, a brief communication might be the perfect answer. Brief communications, also known as short or rapid communications, allow researchers to effectively report high-quality findings that may not be suitable for a full research article and to debate recently published articles.

Brief communication basics

Brief communications appear in scholarly journals in many forms, such as correspondence, commentaries, opinions, abstracts, notes, and research briefs. These types of short communications have always played an important role in academia, although recently their popularity has been diminishing.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the crucial role that short communications can play. 1 Because of the need to understand the nature of the virus, to facilitate the creation of a vaccine, and to enact policies to keep the public safe, the rapid publication of research and information was essential. Many high-quality academic journals, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association , Lancet , and the Journal of Public Health , published peer-reviewed short communications quickly, thus, providing an invaluable service to researchers, experts, and the public.

However, due to changes in publishing technology and in the perception of prestige, the popularity of short communications has been declining within the academic community. 1 Researchers who are under pressure to publish often do not believe brief communications will help advance their career as much as regular research articles can. Journal editors frequently place a low priority on short communications as being detrimental to journal metrics such as impact scores. Additionally, as the publication of preprints has increased, the rapid nature of short communications has become less of a difference maker.

Short communications that report primary research are typically peer reviewed and published with the same high-quality standards as longer research articles. In most journals, the difference between brief communications and regular research articles is in the amount of research reported and the complexity of the results. 2

Writing effective brief communications

The types and requirements for short communication publication varies by journal. If you’re planning to submit any type of brief communication, be sure to carefully check the submission guidelines from your target journal. Although each type of article will have different specifications, those reporting original research have the strictest requirements. A few typical requirements for research briefs are described below.

  • Structure: Short communications reporting primary research usually include a title page (similar to that of a standard research article), abstract, and main text, which is written under a findings heading without any subheadings or with short informative headings, depending on the journal. The submission guidelines from Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica state, “The first section should briefly explain the background and aim, followed by sections mentioning materials, methods, results and their discussion and finally a very short conclusion.” 1
  • Word count: The word count requirement again varies by journal but is usually limited to 1,500-2,500 words.
  • Length: The maximum number of pages allowed by short communication journals varies greatly. However, they are generally limited to between 3 and 10 printed pages.
  • Figures/tables: The number of figures and tables included in a brief communication are also typically limited by the publication journal. Usually, only 2 to 4 total figures and tables are allowed.
  • Declarations: For articles reporting on primary research, the declarations required in standard research articles are also required for short communications. These include conflict of interest, funding, availability of data, authors’ contributions, and acknowledgements.
  • Ethical issues: Even brief communications, if the research involves human participants, data, or tissue or animals, require a statement on ethics consent or approval, similar to what is needed in a standard research report.
  • References: The number of references included should also be restricted. Journal guidelines for short communication submissions generally put the limit at 20-25 references.

General tips for writing brief communications

Finally, in preparing any type of brief communication article for submission, it might be useful to keep in mind a couple of general tips.

  • All scientific writing requires clear, concise, and grammatically correct language to be understandable and effective. However, because of the compactness of the form, this is especially important for short communications. It is always helpful to get a colleague, language service or smart editing tool to review your article for language quality.
  • The most important tip for effectively writing brief communications is that the short communication journal guidelines should be read and followed carefully, as the submission requirements and processes are different for every journal.

If you’re planning to submit a piece to a short communication journal, congratulations! You will be participating in a long and valuable tradition in academic publishing.

  • Joaquin, J.J., Tan, R.R. The lost art of short communications in academia. Scientometrics 126, 9633–9637 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-021-04192-7
  • Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica. Brief communication. https://actavetscand.biomedcentral.com/submission-guidelines/preparing-your-manuscript/brief-communication [Accessed December 19, 2022]

Related Reads:

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  • Scientific Writing Style Guides Explained
  • Life Sciences Papers: 9 Tips for Authors Writing in Biological Sciences
  • Chemistry Terms: 7 Commonly Confused Words in Chemistry Manuscripts

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  • How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples

How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples

Published on November 23, 2020 by Shona McCombes . Revised on May 31, 2023.

Summarizing , or writing a summary, means giving a concise overview of a text’s main points in your own words. A summary is always much shorter than the original text.

There are five key steps that can help you to write a summary:

  • Read the text
  • Break it down into sections
  • Identify the key points in each section
  • Write the summary
  • Check the summary against the article

Writing a summary does not involve critiquing or evaluating the source . You should simply provide an accurate account of the most important information and ideas (without copying any text from the original).

Table of contents

When to write a summary, step 1: read the text, step 2: break the text down into sections, step 3: identify the key points in each section, step 4: write the summary, step 5: check the summary against the article, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about summarizing.

There are many situations in which you might have to summarize an article or other source:

  • As a stand-alone assignment to show you’ve understood the material
  • To keep notes that will help you remember what you’ve read
  • To give an overview of other researchers’ work in a literature review

When you’re writing an academic text like an essay , research paper , or dissertation , you’ll integrate sources in a variety of ways. You might use a brief quote to support your point, or paraphrase a few sentences or paragraphs.

But it’s often appropriate to summarize a whole article or chapter if it is especially relevant to your own research, or to provide an overview of a source before you analyze or critique it.

In any case, the goal of summarizing is to give your reader a clear understanding of the original source. Follow the five steps outlined below to write a good summary.

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You should read the article more than once to make sure you’ve thoroughly understood it. It’s often effective to read in three stages:

  • Scan the article quickly to get a sense of its topic and overall shape.
  • Read the article carefully, highlighting important points and taking notes as you read.
  • Skim the article again to confirm you’ve understood the key points, and reread any particularly important or difficult passages.

There are some tricks you can use to identify the key points as you read:

  • Start by reading the abstract . This already contains the author’s own summary of their work, and it tells you what to expect from the article.
  • Pay attention to headings and subheadings . These should give you a good sense of what each part is about.
  • Read the introduction and the conclusion together and compare them: What did the author set out to do, and what was the outcome?

To make the text more manageable and understand its sub-points, break it down into smaller sections.

If the text is a scientific paper that follows a standard empirical structure, it is probably already organized into clearly marked sections, usually including an introduction , methods , results , and discussion .

Other types of articles may not be explicitly divided into sections. But most articles and essays will be structured around a series of sub-points or themes.

Now it’s time go through each section and pick out its most important points. What does your reader need to know to understand the overall argument or conclusion of the article?

Keep in mind that a summary does not involve paraphrasing every single paragraph of the article. Your goal is to extract the essential points, leaving out anything that can be considered background information or supplementary detail.

In a scientific article, there are some easy questions you can ask to identify the key points in each part.

If the article takes a different form, you might have to think more carefully about what points are most important for the reader to understand its argument.

In that case, pay particular attention to the thesis statement —the central claim that the author wants us to accept, which usually appears in the introduction—and the topic sentences that signal the main idea of each paragraph.

Now that you know the key points that the article aims to communicate, you need to put them in your own words.

To avoid plagiarism and show you’ve understood the article, it’s essential to properly paraphrase the author’s ideas. Do not copy and paste parts of the article, not even just a sentence or two.

The best way to do this is to put the article aside and write out your own understanding of the author’s key points.

Examples of article summaries

Let’s take a look at an example. Below, we summarize this article , which scientifically investigates the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Davis et al. (2015) set out to empirically test the popular saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are often used to represent a healthy lifestyle, and research has shown their nutritional properties could be beneficial for various aspects of health. The authors’ unique approach is to take the saying literally and ask: do people who eat apples use healthcare services less frequently? If there is indeed such a relationship, they suggest, promoting apple consumption could help reduce healthcare costs.

The study used publicly available cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants were categorized as either apple eaters or non-apple eaters based on their self-reported apple consumption in an average 24-hour period. They were also categorized as either avoiding or not avoiding the use of healthcare services in the past year. The data was statistically analyzed to test whether there was an association between apple consumption and several dependent variables: physician visits, hospital stays, use of mental health services, and use of prescription medication.

Although apple eaters were slightly more likely to have avoided physician visits, this relationship was not statistically significant after adjusting for various relevant factors. No association was found between apple consumption and hospital stays or mental health service use. However, apple eaters were found to be slightly more likely to have avoided using prescription medication. Based on these results, the authors conclude that an apple a day does not keep the doctor away, but it may keep the pharmacist away. They suggest that this finding could have implications for reducing healthcare costs, considering the high annual costs of prescription medication and the inexpensiveness of apples.

However, the authors also note several limitations of the study: most importantly, that apple eaters are likely to differ from non-apple eaters in ways that may have confounded the results (for example, apple eaters may be more likely to be health-conscious). To establish any causal relationship between apple consumption and avoidance of medication, they recommend experimental research.

An article summary like the above would be appropriate for a stand-alone summary assignment. However, you’ll often want to give an even more concise summary of an article.

For example, in a literature review or meta analysis you may want to briefly summarize this study as part of a wider discussion of various sources. In this case, we can boil our summary down even further to include only the most relevant information.

Using national survey data, Davis et al. (2015) tested the assertion that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and did not find statistically significant evidence to support this hypothesis. While people who consumed apples were slightly less likely to use prescription medications, the study was unable to demonstrate a causal relationship between these variables.

Citing the source you’re summarizing

When including a summary as part of a larger text, it’s essential to properly cite the source you’re summarizing. The exact format depends on your citation style , but it usually includes an in-text citation and a full reference at the end of your paper.

You can easily create your citations and references in APA or MLA using our free citation generators.

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Finally, read through the article once more to ensure that:

  • You’ve accurately represented the author’s work
  • You haven’t missed any essential information
  • The phrasing is not too similar to any sentences in the original.

If you’re summarizing many articles as part of your own work, it may be a good idea to use a plagiarism checker to double-check that your text is completely original and properly cited. Just be sure to use one that’s safe and reliable.

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

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A summary is a short overview of the main points of an article or other source, written entirely in your own words. Want to make your life super easy? Try our free text summarizer today!

A summary is always much shorter than the original text. The length of a summary can range from just a few sentences to several paragraphs; it depends on the length of the article you’re summarizing, and on the purpose of the summary.

You might have to write a summary of a source:

  • As a stand-alone assignment to prove you understand the material
  • For your own use, to keep notes on your reading
  • To provide an overview of other researchers’ work in a literature review
  • In a paper , to summarize or introduce a relevant study

To avoid plagiarism when summarizing an article or other source, follow these two rules:

  • Write the summary entirely in your own words by paraphrasing the author’s ideas.
  • Cite the source with an in-text citation and a full reference so your reader can easily find the original text.

An abstract concisely explains all the key points of an academic text such as a thesis , dissertation or journal article. It should summarize the whole text, not just introduce it.

An abstract is a type of summary , but summaries are also written elsewhere in academic writing . For example, you might summarize a source in a paper , in a literature review , or as a standalone assignment.

All can be done within seconds with our free text summarizer .

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

McCombes, S. (2023, May 31). How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/working-with-sources/how-to-summarize/

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Expert Commentary

White papers, working papers, preprints, journal articles: What’s the difference?

In this updated piece, we explain the most common types of research papers journalists will encounter, noting their strengths and weaknesses.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License .

by Denise-Marie Ordway, The Journalist's Resource February 25, 2022

This <a target="_blank" href="https://journalistsresource.org/media/working-papers-research-articles/">article</a> first appeared on <a target="_blank" href="https://journalistsresource.org">The Journalist's Resource</a> and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.<img src="https://journalistsresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/cropped-jr-favicon-150x150.png" style="width:1em;height:1em;margin-left:10px;">

This tip sheet, originally published in May 2018, has been updated to include preprint research, a type of research featured often in news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Journalists rely most often on four types of research in their work. White papers, working papers, preprints and peer-reviewed journal articles.

How are they different? And which is best?

Below, we explain each, pointing out its strengths and weaknesses. As always, we urge journalists to use care in selecting any research to ground their coverage and fact-check claims.

Peer-reviewed article

Peer-reviewed research — the kind that appears in academic journals and that we highlight here at The Journalist’s Resource — has undergone a detailed critique by scholars with expertise in the field. While peer-reviewed research is generally the most reliable, journalists should keep in mind that publication in a prestigious journal is no guarantee of quality and that no single university or research organization always does the best research on a given topic.

It is safe to assume, however, that articles published in top-tier journals have been reviewed and given a stamp of approval by a number of accomplished scholars. For journalists who are uncertain, we’ve put together a list of 13 questions  to ask to gauge the quality of a research article.

Keep in mind that not everything that appears in a scholarly journal has been peer reviewed. Journals publish various types of content, including book reviews, editorials, letters to the editor and, sometimes, even poetry.

Working paper

This broad category describes research papers that have not been peer reviewed or published in a journal. Working papers can be in various stages of completion. One might be ready for publication in a prestigious journal while another requires significant editing and other changes that could actually alter its main findings. Sometimes, working paper findings are so preliminary, authors will advise against citing their work .

Even so, working papers are a great way for journalists to gain access to new research quickly. The peer-review and publication process can take months to a year or longer, which means that by the time studies get published, their findings are sometimes not as useful or the data are old.

In choosing working papers, journalists should communicate with scholars about the progress of their research and how confident they are in their findings. It’s a good idea to seek corroboration from peer-reviewed research and to ask other researchers for help assessing a study.

A preprint is similar to a working paper in that it has not been vetted through a formal peer-review process. However, preprints tend to be more complete . Also, preprints submitted to public servers such as the Social Science Research Network and the health sciences server medRxiv get a cursory screening before they’re published online for public view.

Preprints, like academic journal articles, are assigned a Digital Object Identifier , or DOI, and become a permanent part of the scientific record.

White paper

A white paper is a report, often compiled by government agencies, businesses and nonprofit organizations, that outlines an issue and often explores possible solutions to a problem. For example, in November 2021, the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services released a white paper looking at factors that help or hinder law enforcement recruitment of Black Americans. Earlier in the year, the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center published a white paper on the American Rescue Plan ‘s widespread implications for government agencies.

In the business world, white papers also are used for marketing purposes — to describe a new product or approach, for instance, or diagnose a problem.

While a white paper can help journalists get up to speed quickly on an issue, it’s important to note some white papers advocate a specific position or policy change. Some rely on incomplete research or research that has not been peer reviewed.

Looking for more guidance on writing about research? Check out our tip sheets on covering biomedical research preprints amid the coronavirus and what journalists should know about peer review .

The Journalist’s Resource would like to thank Matthew Baum , the Marvin Kalb professor of global communications and professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, for his help preparing this tip sheet.

About The Author

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Denise-Marie Ordway

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

In-Text Citations: The Basics

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

Note:  This page reflects the latest version of the APA Publication Manual (i.e., APA 7), which released in October 2019. The equivalent resource for the older APA 6 style  can be found here .

Reference citations in text are covered on pages 261-268 of the Publication Manual. What follows are some general guidelines for referring to the works of others in your essay.

Note:  On pages 117-118, the Publication Manual suggests that authors of research papers should use the past tense or present perfect tense for signal phrases that occur in the literature review and procedure descriptions (for example, Jones (1998)  found  or Jones (1998)  has found ...). Contexts other than traditionally-structured research writing may permit the simple present tense (for example, Jones (1998)  finds ).

APA Citation Basics

When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the year of publication for the source should appear in the text, like, for example, (Jones, 1998). One complete reference for each source should appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

If you are referring to an idea from another work but  NOT  directly quoting the material, or making reference to an entire book, article or other work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication and not the page number in your in-text reference.

On the other hand, if you are directly quoting or borrowing from another work, you should include the page number at the end of the parenthetical citation. Use the abbreviation “p.” (for one page) or “pp.” (for multiple pages) before listing the page number(s). Use an en dash for page ranges. For example, you might write (Jones, 1998, p. 199) or (Jones, 1998, pp. 199–201). This information is reiterated below.

Regardless of how they are referenced, all sources that are cited in the text must appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

In-text citation capitalization, quotes, and italics/underlining

  • Always capitalize proper nouns, including author names and initials: D. Jones.
  • If you refer to the title of a source within your paper, capitalize all words that are four letters long or greater within the title of a source:  Permanence and Change . Exceptions apply to short words that are verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs:  Writing New Media ,  There Is Nothing Left to Lose .

( Note:  in your References list, only the first word of a title will be capitalized:  Writing new media .)

  • When capitalizing titles, capitalize both words in a hyphenated compound word:  Natural-Born Cyborgs .
  • Capitalize the first word after a dash or colon: "Defining Film Rhetoric: The Case of Hitchcock's  Vertigo ."
  • If the title of the work is italicized in your reference list, italicize it and use title case capitalization in the text:  The Closing of the American Mind ;  The Wizard of Oz ;  Friends .
  • If the title of the work is not italicized in your reference list, use double quotation marks and title case capitalization (even though the reference list uses sentence case): "Multimedia Narration: Constructing Possible Worlds;" "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry."

Short quotations

If you are directly quoting from a work, you will need to include the author, year of publication, and page number for the reference (preceded by "p." for a single page and “pp.” for a span of multiple pages, with the page numbers separated by an en dash).

You can introduce the quotation with a signal phrase that includes the author's last name followed by the date of publication in parentheses.

If you do not include the author’s name in the text of the sentence, place the author's last name, the year of publication, and the page number in parentheses after the quotation.

Long quotations

Place direct quotations that are 40 words or longer in a free-standing block of typewritten lines and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, indented 1/2 inch from the left margin, i.e., in the same place you would begin a new paragraph. Type the entire quotation on the new margin, and indent the first line of any subsequent paragraph within the quotation 1/2 inch from the new margin. Maintain double-spacing throughout, but do not add an extra blank line before or after it. The parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark.

Because block quotation formatting is difficult for us to replicate in the OWL's content management system, we have simply provided a screenshot of a generic example below.

This image shows how to format a long quotation in an APA seventh edition paper.

Formatting example for block quotations in APA 7 style.

Quotations from sources without pages

Direct quotations from sources that do not contain pages should not reference a page number. Instead, you may reference another logical identifying element: a paragraph, a chapter number, a section number, a table number, or something else. Older works (like religious texts) can also incorporate special location identifiers like verse numbers. In short: pick a substitute for page numbers that makes sense for your source.

Summary or paraphrase

If you are paraphrasing an idea from another work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication in your in-text reference and may omit the page numbers. APA guidelines, however, do encourage including a page range for a summary or paraphrase when it will help the reader find the information in a longer work. 

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Computer Science > Computation and Language

Title: mm-llms: recent advances in multimodal large language models.

Abstract: In the past year, MultiModal Large Language Models (MM-LLMs) have undergone substantial advancements, augmenting off-the-shelf LLMs to support MM inputs or outputs via cost-effective training strategies. The resulting models not only preserve the inherent reasoning and decision-making capabilities of LLMs but also empower a diverse range of MM tasks. In this paper, we provide a comprehensive survey aimed at facilitating further research of MM-LLMs. Initially, we outline general design formulations for model architecture and training pipeline. Subsequently, we introduce a taxonomy encompassing $122$ MM-LLMs, each characterized by its specific formulations. Furthermore, we review the performance of selected MM-LLMs on mainstream benchmarks and summarize key training recipes to enhance the potency of MM-LLMs. Finally, we explore promising directions for MM-LLMs while concurrently maintaining a real-time tracking website for the latest developments in the field. We hope that this survey contributes to the ongoing advancement of the MM-LLMs domain.

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The Brief And Wondrous Life Of The AI Giant-Penised Rat, Explained

9:41 AM EST on February 21, 2024

A horrible AI-generated image of a rat with an enormous cock and balls

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Last week, an indelible image of rodent genitalia was published in the serious-sounding journal Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology , in an equally serious-sounding paper titled "Cellular functions of spermatogonial stem cells in relation to JAK/STAT signaling pathway." Yet the image was deeply unserious, depicting a white rat sitting on his hind legs and gazing upward at an unspeakably large, bisected penis that appears to be accompanied by not two but four balls of varying sizes. Even the rat looks confused by this gargantuan size of his shaft, as if, like Gregor Samsa, he had awoken one day to find his regular-sized dongle had transformed into an old-growth redwood towering into some unseen sky. He does not appear disturbed by the abject terror that is his overstuffed ball sack, presumably because he is preoccupied with his penis.

The scientific community was horrified by this rat's penis—not for being a rat's penis, for there is no shame in that, but rather due to the fact that an image this ridiculously inaccurate could be published in a prominent scientific journal. The world is blessed with an abundance of genital diversity, but there is no known rat whose entire body is dwarfed by his penis and testicles. The paper's three authors, who work at Hong Hui Hospital and Jiaotong University in China, credited the AI-art generator Midjourney as the creator of the image. And a closer look at the labels hovering around the rat, its junk, and the cells presumably extracted from its junk, revealed the text was about as decipherable as Simlish. The rat was labelled "Rat," but this Rat had "Testtomcels" and its member appeared "Dissilced." The inset to the side of the rat included the labels "iollotte sserotgomar cell," Stemm cells," "Retat," and, brief and poetic as an erasure poem, "dck."

The resounding uproar over this Retat and his dck, which included several cookie recreations , led Frontiers to retract the paper by the end of the week, on the grounds that the article "does not meet the standards of editorial and scientific rigor for Frontiers in Cell and Development Biology ." If you would like to read it in full, the scientific integrity consultant Elisabeth Bik uploaded a PDF of the original paper to her blog .

A horrible diagram of honestly who knows. It looks like a video game or a sparsely studded nerds rope

Although Retat dck stole the headlines, every image in the paper falls apart under even a casual glance. Figure 2 claims to be a "Diagram of the JAK-STAT signaling pathway" includes the similarly inscrutable labels "5 dimimeriom eme" and "Proprunization State protemns" and "Sinkecter," which I can only assume is a worker-owned site where sickos blog about sinks. Figure 3 appears to comprise a collage of haunted pizzas. "The paper is actually a sad example of how scientific journals, editors, and peer reviewers can be naive – or possibly even in the loop – in terms of accepting and publishing AI-generated crap," Bik wrote on her blog.

Frontiers is a peer-reviewed scientific journal, begging the question, what did these peers think of Retat dck? One of the paper's reviewers, Jingbo Dai of Northwestern University, told Vice that the responsibility of publishing such images lies with the publisher. According to the journal's policy , Frontiers allows "acceptable uses of generative AI technologies" in the papers it publishes, provided the AI generator is credited and the content is free from plagiarism. The policy states the human authors are responsible for vetting the factual accuracy of this content, raising the question—can any AI-generated image be factually accurate? What changes would need to happen to this rat and his enormous cock and balls such that he would pass as factual? If "Testtomcels" were corrected to testicles and the rat had just two of them, would that be enough? If the rat's penis were given an accurate scale bar, would that be more accurate? If the rat were screaming in terror at the horrors frothing from his nether regions, would that be more believable?

The Retat has sounded a wake-up call about the scourge of AI-generated imagery that has begun slipping into academic publishing. But not all shitty AI images will be as flamboyantly fraudulent as this engorged dck. As Bik points out on her blog, "These figures are clearly not scientifically correct, but if such botched illustrations can pass peer review so easily, more realistic-looking AI-generated figures have likely already infiltrated the scientific literature." This is the larger concern: that academic papers that have putatively passed peer review are already riddled with AI-derived swill. It's an open secret that at certain journals, peer review doesn't mean much.

The larger scourge is the threat of so-called predatory or questionable journals, which run on an exploitative pay-to-play model, in which authors pay fees to submit papers that, despite labels, are not actually peer-reviewed or edited in any substantial way. Predatory journals aggressively solicit manuscripts from researchers, who are often eager to publish as their number of publications can determine whether they graduate or advance in their careers. Predatory journals "sow confusion, promote shoddy scholarship, and waste resources," according to a comment published in Nature in 2019. Many researchers consider the MDPI and Frontiers family of journals to be predatory, and editors have left these journals because they found it impossible to reject junk articles. But it can be difficult to distinguish predatory journals from legitimate ones; Frontiers was ranked as the third-most cited publisher in 2022. The authors who published Retat dck would have paid $3,295 to publish their now-retracted paper.

It would honestly be great if the worst thing that emerged from a lack of peer review were an increasingly obscene series of AI-generated animal dicks. But this pseudoscience poses material harm to science itself and the people who are affected by it. Consider the time in 2015 when Frontiers in Public Health published a paper questioning the link between HIV and AIDS, eventually relabeling the paper as "opinion" after righteous public outcry, and ultimately retracting the paper in 2018. Consider the papers that remain unretracted, such as this anti-trans paper from 2021 that was reviewed by an anti-trans researcher who used to be a conversion therapist and edited by a researcher who is openly a gender critic . Although Retat dck blazed through the internet in a single week and left a phallic imprint that will not be soon forgotten, retracting one paper does nothing to change the larger forces that have created the current state of scientific publishing .

As a science writer, I have noticed a significant uptick of AI images starring in press releases for new papers: DALL-E's generic swirling cosmos on a press release for a preprint on supernovae or DALL-E's rendering of a " soft summer evening in the Paleoproterozoic " promoting a paper on microfossils. In an inevitable irony, one article summarizing the saga of Retat dck used its own, entirely different and disturbing AI-generated image of a rat as a leading photo. These images are not inside the papers themselves, embedded in history, yet they still guide how people visualize and understand the science, and their continued proliferation means fewer paid opportunities for scientific illustrators whose human perspective can bring a kind of imaginative poetry to the stodgiest scientific text. Because the only honest answer to the question "Why he look like that?" as applied to the above Retat would be something like: Resprouization of e regisor proprounization stat protemns, tramioncatiion of zœpens: stats poflecation dimimeriom eme regsttes sinkecter, dck!

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AI gone wild —

Scientists aghast at bizarre ai rat with huge genitals in peer-reviewed article, it's unclear how such egregiously bad images made it through peer-review..

Beth Mole - Feb 15, 2024 11:16 pm UTC

An actual laboratory rat, who is intrigued.

Appall and scorn ripped through scientists' social media networks Thursday as several egregiously bad AI-generated figures circulated from a peer-reviewed article recently published in a reputable journal. Those figures—which the authors acknowledge in the article's text were made by Midjourney—are all uninterpretable. They contain gibberish text and, most strikingly, one includes an image of a rat with grotesquely large and bizarre genitals, as well as a text label of "dck."

AI-generated Figure 1 of the paper. This image is supposed to show spermatogonial stem cells isolated, purified, and cultured from rat testes.

The article in question is titled "Cellular functions of spermatogonial stem cells in relation to JAK/STAT signaling pathway," which was authored by three researchers in China, including the corresponding author Dingjun Hao of Xi’an Honghui Hospital. It was published online Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology.

Frontiers did not immediately respond to Ars' request for comment, but we will update this post with any response.

Figure 2 is supposed to be a diagram of the JAK-STAT signaling pathway.

But the rat's package is far from the only problem. Figure 2 is less graphic but equally mangled. While it's intended to be a diagram of a complex signaling pathway, it instead is a jumbled mess. One scientific integrity expert questioned whether it provided an overly complicated explanation of "how to make a donut with colorful sprinkles." Like the first image, the diagram is rife with nonsense text and baffling images. Figure 3 is no better, offering a collage of small circular images that are densely annotated with gibberish. The image is supposed to provide visual representations of how the signaling pathway from Figure 2 regulates the biological properties of spermatogonial stem cells.

Some scientists online questioned whether the article's text was also AI-generated. One user noted that AI detection software determined that it was likely to be AI-generated; however, as Ars has reported previously, such software is unreliable .

Figure 3 is supposed to show the regulation of biological properties of spermatogonial stem cells by JAK/STAT signaling pathway.

The images, while egregious examples, highlight a growing problem in scientific publishing. A scientist's success relies heavily on their publication record, with a large volume of publications, frequent publishing, and articles appearing in top-tier journals, all of which earn scientists more prestige. The system incentivizes less-than-scrupulous researchers to push through low-quality articles, which, in the era of AI chatbots, could potentially be generated with the help of AI. Researchers worry that the growing use of AI will make published research less trustworthy. As such, research journals have recently set new authorship guidelines for AI-generated text to try to address the problem. But for now, as the Frontiers article shows, there are clearly some gaps.

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Justice Alito Renews Criticism of Landmark Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

In a statement, the justice raised concerns that those with “traditional religious views” would be “‘labeled as bigots and treated as such’ by the government.”

People holding signs and rainbow flags in front of the Supreme Court.

By Abbie VanSickle

Reporting from Washington

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. on Tuesday renewed his criticisms of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision recognizing the right to same-sex marriage, saying that people who oppose homosexuality risk being unfairly “labeled as bigots and treated as such.”

The justice included his warning in a five-page statement explaining why the court had rejected a request to hear a Missouri case about people removed from a jury after voicing religious objections to gay relationships. The case, Justice Alito wrote, “exemplifies the danger” from the court’s 2015 decision, Obergefell v. Hodges.

The ruling, he added, shows how “Americans who do not hide their adherence to traditional religious beliefs about homosexual conduct will be ‘labeled as bigots and treated as such’ by the government.”

The statement appeared to offer a glimpse into Justice Alito’s continued discontent with Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the court, by a 5-to-4 vote, guaranteed a right to same-sex marriage, a long-sought victory in the gay rights movement.

In the years since, Justice Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas, who both dissented from the 2015 decision, have appeared to urge the court to reconsider the ruling . The court, they have contended, invented a right not based in the text of the Constitution; they said it had cast “people of good will as bigots.”

Only two members of the court who ruled in favor of Obergefell remain on the bench — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The court has since transformed under the presidency of Donald J. Trump with the addition of three conservative justices who have solidified a conservative supermajority.

The case at issue on Tuesday, Missouri Department of Corrections v. Jean Finney, No. 23-203, involved a dispute over the dismissal of jurors who voiced religious concerns about gay relationships during jury selection in an employment discrimination case.

Jean Finney, an employee of the Missouri Department of Corrections, claimed that after beginning a same-sex relationship with a co-worker’s former spouse, that co-worker made Ms. Finney’s job intolerable. The colleague spread rumors about her, sent demeaning messages and withheld information she needed to complete her work duties, Ms. Finney said. Ms. Finney sued the Department of Corrections, accusing the department of being responsible for the co-worker’s actions.

During jury selection, Ms. Finney’s lawyer questioned potential jurors about their religious beliefs about sexuality. Among the questions: “How many of you went to a religious organization growing up where it was taught that people that are homosexuals shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else because it was a sin with what they did?”

The trial lawyer moved to strike certain jurors on the basis of his questions, according to the legal brief filed by the Department of Corrections. The brief took issue with the trial lawyer’s tack, saying that it essentially endorsed the idea that “a person with traditional religious beliefs should never sit on a jury when a party has been in a same-sex relationship because when a prospective juror believes as a religious matter ‘that is a sin, there’s no way to rehabilitate.’”

The lawyer for the Department of Corrections objected, saying that such a request edged into religious discrimination.

The trial judge granted Ms. Finney’s lawyer’s request to strike the jurors, and the jury sided with Ms. Finney, prompting the Department of Corrections to ask for a new trial.

The Department of Corrections asserted that by excluding the jurors who voiced their religious beliefs, the trial judge had violated the 14th Amendment.

After the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the verdict and the state Supreme Court declined to review the case, the Office of the Missouri Attorney General asked the United States Supreme Court to take up the case.

Even as Justice Alito wrote that he reluctantly agreed that the court should not take up the case, he said he remained troubled by the issue.

“I am concerned that the lower court’s reasoning may spread and may be a foretaste of things to come,” he wrote.

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated which justices were on the bench when the court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan are the only justices still on the court who voted in the majority, not the only current justices who participated in the case.

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Abbie VanSickle covers the United States Supreme Court for The Times. She is a lawyer and has an extensive background in investigative reporting. More about Abbie VanSickle


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