Tag Archives: Writing

Easy to read. Hard to write.

Musings:  For me the most difficult to write sections of a research report are the Intro/Background and Discussion.  And yet,  those are apparently the easiest to read for many.   My students at least tend to read only those sections and skip the rest.

Why? For the author, Intro/Background and Discussion require hard, critical thinking about what is already known about the topic (Intro/Background) and then what one’s findings mean in light of that (Discussion).  For research consumers, the language used in these sections is more familiar, ordinary sounding words.  On the other hand, writing the technical nature of other sections (Methods, Instruments, Results) is pretty straightforward with scientifically standardized vocabulary and structure.  But, for readers, those same sections contain potentially unfamiliar research terminology that is not part of everyday conversation– i.e., scientific vocabulary.  Quantitative studies often create more reader difficulty.

My solution for myself as a writer? To spend time making sure that the first sentence of every paragraph in Intro/Background and Discussion makes a step-by-step argument supported by the rest of the paragraph. Follow standardized structure for the rest.  Keep  language  precise  yet  simple  as  possible.

Solution for research readers? Read the whole article understanding what you can and keep a research glossary handy (e.g., https://sites.google.com/site/nursingresearchaid/week-1. Even if practice doesn’t make you perfect, it works in learning a new language–whether it is  a ‘foreign’ language or a scientific one.

Critical Thinking:  Test out your reading skills with this article https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6503597/   .  Do the authors make systematic arguments in Intro/Background & Discussion? What makes this article hard or easy to read?

Happy Summer! -Dr.H

“It’s a jungle out there:” Predatory Journals

Cool. You completed your project and now want to publish it.

Beware! Predatory journals are ready to snap up your work!  It helps them, but not you.

What is a predatory journal?  One that can eat you and your paper alive.

  • tiger junglePredatory journals don’t meet quality peer-review standards.
  • The predator may post your manuscript online, which then vanishes from access.
  • If you are writing an article and cite a predator-published manuscript, you undercut your own credibility.
  • If you’re counting on the article for credit towards tenure, your personnel reviewers may toss a predator-published article aside. 0 credit for you & questions about your own credibility. [For more on this in nursing see: Owens, J.K. & Chinn, P. (2018, January 20). “Reference letters & the specter of publications in predatory journals, Nurse Author & Editor, 28(1), 2. Retrieved from http://naepub.com/peer-review/2018-28-1-2/]

Many predators are Open Access Journals. What are Open Access Journals?  Ones “that use a funding model that does not charge readers or their institutions for access” (https://doaj.org/faq#definition).

Open Access Journals may be legitimate OR predatory.

How can you identify predatory journals? While perhaps not Mighty Mouse—yep, I’m showing my age—help from the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is on the way. DOAJ provides a searchable list of LEGITIMATE open access journals (click here)A quick search for “nursing” yielded 7.

How does DOAJ define quality  of journals? Quality open access journals “must exercise peer-review with an editor and an editorial board or editorial review (particularly in the Humanities) carried out by at least two editors” (https://doaj.org/faq#definition).

Is there a list of predatory open access journals? YES. To see one that is updated, click here. Also, you can help! If you find an open access journal that claims to have the DOAJ quality seal, but isn’t on the DOAJ legitimate journal list, DOAJ wants to hear from you!

For more on DOAJ, see https://doaj.org/: “DOAJ is a community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals. DOAJ is independent.”

predator raptorStay safe. As Randy Newman sings, “It’s a jungle out there.”

-Dr.H

To Italicize or NOT to Italicize. That is the question.

So…after you do research or finish out your evidence-based practice project, you have to disseminate your findings, right?  That means good writing skills are necessary.

I stumbled into the GRAMMAR PARTY blog today when I wondered whether or not to italicize coup d’état. Do you know?  I didn’t.  Check out this helpful resource.

 

Grammar Party

Every once in a while, it feels good to add a snooty foreign word or phrase to your writing. I mean, what would the writing world be without a little je ne sais quoi? However, there are rules about how to treat these words and phrases on first reference, and that’s what today’s post is about. (After all, teaching language and style rules is Grammar Party’s modus operandi.)

Section 7.49 of the sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style states, “Italics are used for isolated words and phrases in a foreign language if they are likely to be unfamiliar to readers. If a foreign word becomes familiar through repeated use throughout a work, it need be italicized only on its first occurrence. If it appears only rarely, however, italics may be retained.”

The question is: How do you know if a foreign word or phrase will be…

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Write Away!

Want to know the standardized format for writing up your research study, QI report, Writing1case study, systematic review, or clinical practice guideline?    Check out these standardized reporting guidelines: http://www.equator-network.org/reporting-guidelines/

Of course you should always give priority to the author instructions for the particular journal in which you want to publish, but most adhere generally or fully to these standardized guides.

Write away!

DIY your own Intro/Background: Structure & Argument

Want to know how to write an introduction/background section of a paper?  Pay attention to STRUCTURE & evidence-based ARGUMENT in order to DIY (do-it-yourself) your own intro/background for a school paper or research report!

Let’s use this 2015 free full-text article by Marie Flem Sørbø et al. as a model!  Past and recent abuse is associated with early cessation of breast feeding: results from a large prospective cohort in Norway .   (Hint: Clicking on the article’s pdf tab may make it easier to read.)

Focus only on the INTRO/BACKGROUND section for now.  Check out the STRUCTURE then the EVIDENCE-BASED ARGUMENT of the Intro/Background.  This is how you should write your own.

STructure

STRUCTURE of INTRO/BACKGROUND in Sørbø et al. (2015):

  1. Where is the Intro/Background section located in the article?
  2. What heading is used for the section?
  3. Where are the research questions located in the Intro/Background?  (HINT: this is the standard place in all papers & in this case the authors call them “aims.)
Why2

ARGUMENTS in INTRO/BACKGROUND in Sørbø et al. (2015):

  1. Look at the first (topic) sentence of each paragraph in INTRO/BACKGROUND & listen to the systematic argument the researchers are making for WHY their study is important.
    • “Breast feeding has long been acknowledged as the optimal infant nutrition conferring beneficial short-term and long-term health effects for both infants and mothers.1–5      …
    • Abuse of women is common worldwide, as one in three women during lifetime suffer partner or non-partner abuse.10   …Adverse  effects [of abuse]… are barriers to breast feeding.*…
    • Given the overwhelming evidence of the positive effects of breast feeding, knowledge about factors influencing breastfeeding behaviour is essential….
    • We explored the impact of abuse of women on breastfeeding behaviour in a large prospective population in Norway where the expectations to breast feed are high, and breast feeding is facilitated in the work regulations….” (pp. 1-2)
      evidence2
  2. Now look at the research & other evidence written down AFTER each of above key sentences that SUPPORT each idea.
  3. Notice that the INTRO/BACKGROUND is NOT a series of abstracts of different studies!!  Instead evidence is grouped into key arguments for the study: Breast feeding is best, Abuse is common, Abuse creates barriers to breastfeeding, & Therefore, knowing about factors affecting breastfeeding is important). [Note: Of course, if your particular professor or editor asks you to do a series of abstracts, then you must, but do group them in arguments like the topic sentences.]

All this leads naturally, logically to …(drum roll please!)…the research questions/hypotheses, which are the gaps in our knowledge that the research will fill.  This sets up the rest of the research article!

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Critical Thinking:  Your turn! Write your own Intro/Background using
STructure

  • Structure: Placement in article, heading, placement of research question/hypothesis
    Why2
  • Argument: Key idea topic sentences (make a list 1st) with supporting research & other evidence (your literature review).

For more info on Intro/Background:  Review my blogpost Intro to Intro’s

*ok, yeh. I cheated and included one additional sentence to capture the authors’ flow of argument.

?Trustworthy? Protect Your Reputation!

If you are writing something for publication, watch this 2 minute video before selecting a journal!   You’ll thank yourself for doing it.

  1. Thinkthinker
  2. Check
  3. Submit

< 2 minute video that tells you how to think, check, submit:  

  http://thinkchecksubmit.org/

Don’t be fooled.   It’s a lot of work to prepare something to publish, and you want your work to appear in a credible source and be accessible.   It’s YOUR reputation!

If you are a student search for literature, it is important to know this also!!  You want to use the highest quality evidence you can find for your projects.

“Should you? Can you?”

ApplesOranges2Quasi-experiments are a lot of work, yet don’t have the same scientific power to show cause and effect, as do randomized controlled trials (RCTs).   An RCT would provide better support for any hypothesis that X causes Y.   [As a quick review of what quasi-experimental versus RCT studies are, see “Of Mice & Cheese” and/or “Out of Control (Groups).”]

So why do quasi-experimental studies at all?  Why not always do RCTs when we are testing cause and effect?  Here are 3 reasons:

#1  Sometimes ETHICALLY the researcher canNOT randomly assign subjects to a control Smokingand an experimental group.  If the researcher wants to compare health outcomes of smokers with non-smokers, the researcher cannot assign some people to smoke and others not to smoke!  Why?  Because we already know that smoking has significant harmful effects. (Of course, in a dictatorship, by using the police a researcher could assign them to smoke or not smoke, but I don’t think we wanna go there.)

#2 Sometimes PHYSICALLY the researcher canNOT randomly assign subjects to control & Country of Originexperimental groups.   If the researcher wants to compare health outcomes of
individuals from different countries, it is physically impossible to assign country of origin.

#3 Sometimes FINANCIALLY the researcher canNOT afford to assign subjects randomly PiggyBankto control & experimental groups.   It costs $ & time to get a list of subjects and then assign them to control & experimental groups using random numbers table or drawing names from a hat.

Thus, researchers sometimes are left with little alternative, but to do a quasi-experiment as the next best thing to an RCT, then discuss its limitations in research reports.

Critical Thinking: You read a research study in which a researcher recruits the 1st 100 patients on a surgical ward January-March quarter as a control group.  Then the researcher recruits the 2nd 100 patients on that same surgical ward April-June for the experimental group.  With the experimental group, the staff uses a new, standardized pain script for better pain communications.  Then the pain communication outcomes of each group are compared statistically.

  • Is this a quasi-experiment or a randomized controlled trial (RCT)?
  • What factors (variables) might be the same among control & experimental groups in this study?
  • What factors (variables) might be different between control & experimental groups that might affect study outcomes?
  • How could you design an ethical & possible RCT that would overcome the problems with this study?
  • Why might you choose to do the study the same way that this researcher did?

For more info: see “Of Mice & Cheese” and/or “Out of Control (Groups).”