To the readers

Common Mistakes in Manuscripts Submitted to The IJOEM

The number of submissions to The IJOEM has increased steadily. Currently, we receive an average of one submission every day. Given limited journal space, we cannot publish all the manuscripts we like: we have to be more selective. We first evaluate all submitted manuscripts in-office and then send between one-half and two-thirds to external peer reviewers.1 Considering this strict screening policy, poorly written manuscripts have a higher chance of being rejected, irrespective of the quality of the science. Taking into account a few simple, but important, points may prevent outright rejection of a manuscript. Here, I briefly discuss the common mistakes in manuscripts submitted to The IJOEM.

The Methods section of a manuscript is its Achilles' heel. If we find a serious problem in it, we can reject the manuscript immediately. Ironically, it is the simplest part to write: after all, you just need to write what you have already done (chrono)logically! Unfortunately, much important information, for example, the sampling method, the assumptions on which the sample size was estimated, and the selection of study groups, are not always described in enough detail to let us to determine whether the methodology is adequate. We can tolerate a poor Introduction, Results, or Discussion section, but we cannot go further with a poor Methods section and have no choice but to reject the manuscript.

Sometimes, neither the research question/hypothesis nor the methodology is clearly stated. We always look for a clear message, the study purpose, the value of the findings, and the conclusion. If we are convinced that there is some important message in a submitted manuscript, we are ready to help the authors to improve their work. But, the very first step is to find a “message” in the manuscript. Some submitted manuscripts are unnecessarily prolix, sometimes making the message hard to find. The authors could have conveyed their message in a Brief Report or as a Correspondence, but (mostly, for promotional reasons) they prefer to submit it as an Original Article. Sometimes, the ambiguity in the manuscript comes from poor usage of terms or awkward grammar and syntax.

English has long been considered the lingua franca of science. We do not expect authors, particularly those whose mother tongue is not English, to write as fluently as their native-speaking counterparts do (English is my second language, too!).2 But, it is hard and sometimes impossible to assess the merits of a poorly written scientific paper, which is why we usually suggest that some authors ask a native speaker familiar with scientific writing (preferably, one of their colleagues) for advice on language usage.3 Believe me, even (native English-speaking) editors need an editor!

Another important problem, although it does not typically lead to rejection, is poor presentation quality. Often, we see statements like “the mean service length was 8.347 (SD 5.613) years.” This variable is clearly reported with more-than-enough precision, implying that the authors measured the service length with an accuracy of (0.0005 years), less than 5 hours! Furthermore, because the SD exceeds half of the corresponding mean value, it is unlikely that the variable has a normal distribution, and thus, the median and interquartile range (IQR) would be the appropriate descriptive statistics, rather than mean and SD.4-6

We often read “shift work was significantly associated with feeling anxious (OR 1.86; 95% CI 1.03 to 3.38, p<0.05).” The p value and the word “significant” here are redundant because the information they provide (the statistical significance of the effect) is included in the 95% CI.5

Many papers report the absolute values of spirometry variables (FEV1, FVC, etc), which is often not enough, because their interpretation depends on the age, sex, race, and height of the participants, among other things. We prefer to have the percent-predicted values of these variables; otherwise, it is not reasonable to compare the results between two study groups.

Another important, although not critical, common problem in manuscripts, is inaccurate citations: sometimes, we are not able to locate the citation at all from the reference information given. In addition, mainly in manuscripts submitted from Arabic and Persian-speaking countries, where writing is read from right to left, is the format of Tables, which are designed to be read right-to-left instead of left-to-right. The manuscript may also even contain Persian or Arabic fonts! These fonts can cause problems, particularly when the accepted manuscript undergoes editing and typesetting.

Finally, we request that authors choose keywords from the US National Library of Medicine's Medical Subject Headings (MeSH, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/mesh), as clearly stated in the Journal's author guidelines. Of course, reading—and following—the Journal's author guidelines (www.theijoem.com/ijoem/index.php/ijoem/about/submissions#authorGuidelines) would make us very very happy. Please note that unregistered clinical trials will be rejected immediately, if not sooner!

References

1.Habibzadeh F. Please do not send us your good articles! Int J Occup Environ Med 2016;7:197-8.

2.Vessal K, Habibzadeh F. Rules of the game of scientific writing: fair play and plagiarism. Lancet 2007;369:641.

3.Shashok K, Handjani F. Enhancing the quality of research publication: AuthorAID in the Eastern Mediterranean. J Tehran Heart Cent 2010;5:169-71.

4.Habibzadeh F, Habibzadeh P. How much precision in reporting statistics is enough? Croat Med J 2015;56:490-2.

5.Habibzadeh F. Statistical Data Editing in Scientific Articles. J Korean Med Sci 2017;32:1072-6.

6.Lang TA, Altman DG. Basic statistical reporting for articles published in biomedical journals: the "Statistical Analyses and Methods in the Published Literature" or the SAMPL Guidelines. Int J Nurs Stud 2015;52:5-9.

Farrokh Habibzadeh, MD,
Editor and Founder,
The IJOEM

Cite this article as: Habibzadeh F. Common mistakes in manuscripts submitted to The IJOEM . Int J Occup Environ Med 2018;9:61-62.




 pISSN: 2008-6520
 eISSN: 2008-6814

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