Tuesday, April 17, 2019
The results above all else
At the 2019 EAU meeting in Berlin, Dr. Francesco Montorsi, the Editor-in-Chief of the journal European Urology, gave some good tips to aspiring authors.
Study design and rationale
He notes that “the design of the study is very often the key element leading to acceptance or rejection of the manuscript.” In clinical science, if you want to publish a paper that will impact your field of study, do a prospective study. As Montorsi notes: “prospective studies always generate data that are cleaner, more precise and more interesting than retrospective studies.”
Any paper should have a clear rationale for the study which is supported by good experimental design. These in turn are validated by the use of appropriate methods to address the study question. These three elements — rationale, experimental design, and methods — should be clearly communicated to the reader.
The results are everything
The heart of any paper is the results. These must be clearly and logically laid out for the reader. The results must be supported by a solid study design and appropriate methods. For this reason, I always recommend authors write the Results section first (Montorsi also suggests this).
Lay out your figures and tables in a logical order. Include a rationale for every experiment that fits within the overall study design. Explain the key findings. Describe the trends for the reader – don’t leave it to them to figure out (ie, do not say “the PFS in group A was 63% and in group B was 44%”, say “the PFS was higher in group A [63%] than group B [44%]”). Convince the reader that your results are valid (ie they are supported by a solid methodology) and that they are important.
Then you can go ahead and write the rest of the paper. Keep the introduction and discussion directly relevant to the results you obtained. Montorsi says that the Introduction section is the part of the paper which must capture the reviewers attention, but I do not agree. You can do this with the abstract.
Write the abstract last. Remember it the first thing someone will read (and all that most people will only ever read). Make the abstract clear and convincing to build anticipation in the reviewers mind that your study is interesting and worth publishing, and to eventually entice people to read the rest of the paper.