Indian Journal of Orthopaedics

: 2018  |  Volume : 52  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 341--343

Standard format for writing a manuscript: A guide to authors

Ish Kumar Dhammi, Rehan Ul Haq 
 Department of Orthopaedics, UCMS and Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ish Kumar Dhammi
Department of Orthopaedics, UCMS and Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Dilshad Garden, New Delhi - 110 095

How to cite this article:
Dhammi IK, Haq RU. Standard format for writing a manuscript: A guide to authors.Indian J Orthop 2018;52:341-343

How to cite this URL:
Dhammi IK, Haq RU. Standard format for writing a manuscript: A guide to authors. Indian J Orthop [serial online] 2018 [cited 2020 Jan 21 ];52:341-343
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The editorial team at the Indian Journal of Orthopaedics is committed to improving the quality of the journal and also to make it more useful for our readers. We are also making efforts to help authors improve the quality of their manuscripts. Some of the previous editorials on this theme have been very well received by the readers.[1],[2],[3],[4],[5] The current editorial is intended to help authors understand how they must structure a manuscript according to standard guidelines.

Depending on the type of manuscript, a number of standard guidelines such as CONsolidated Standards Of Reporting Trials (CONSORT); Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA); STrengthening the Reporting of OBservational studies in Epidemiology (STROBE); CAse REport guidelines (CARE), and STAndards for Reporting Diagnostic accuracy studies (STARD) have been recommended for conducting and reporting them.[6] Each journal also has its own unique set of guidelines mentioned in the “Instructions to authors”. Besides these study design or journal-specific guidelines, there is another standard format; Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion (IMRaD) which can be followed while writing an original research article for a scientific journal. In this editorial, we would like to discuss the composition and content of the different sections of the IMRaD format in detail. The intent is to help authors prepare better quality manuscripts.

Introduction: Any researcher who wants his or her work to pass the preliminary scrutiny by the editorial team must write an effective introduction. As the introduction appears immediately after the abstract section, a poorly written introduction may turn off the editors or reviewers and may result in rejection of the manuscript inspite of it having good scientific content. It must usually consists of 3–4 well-structured paragraphs. A funnel approach where one moves from generalities to specifics is a good way to write an introduction.[7] The first paragraph should provide a general statement about the area of research followed by a summary of literature about what is already known about the topic. The next paragraph must elaborate on the lacunae in current knowledge or understanding of the subject. The importance of the knowledge gap and how your research would help to fill it up should also be elaborated. In the last paragraph of the introduction, the author must explicitly state his “aim and objectives.” One must understand that the “aim” is the broad statement about what one intends to do, while “objectives” are the set of specific steps by which one intends to achieve the aim. The objectives must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Result-oriented and Time bound (SMART).

Materials and methods: This section of the manuscript is very important and needs to be written with great care. Any fault in the methodology or the way it is written may be a reason for rejection of the manuscript. In the term “Materials and Methods” materials refers to all the items such as human/animal subjects, equipment's, reagents, proforma, questionnaire, etc., that are going to be used during the study, while methods refer to how, when and where they would be used.[8] This section needs to be written in great detail so that if other researcher wants to do a similar study, he can replicate the steps.

When writing this section of an observational or interventional study, the following things need to be elaborated; study design, study setting, participants information including inclusion and exclusion criteria, intervention, primary and secondary outcome measures/criteria, sample size estimation, and statistics. Similarly based upon the study design other important information as elaborated in the different guidelines must be provided. In case, the intervention is a new or modified surgery, then its steps need to be elaborated, else reference to a standard text is sufficient. Similarly, if the outcome is a known score such as Harris hip score, Tegner activity scale, etc., then reference to the original text needs to be provided. A line about ethical clearance must also be provided.

Results: In the result section of the manuscript one presents his observations, made by synthesizing the data obtained during the research. The following data must be provided in the result section.[9]

Participant data, which includes participant flow and baseline data.Outcome data, which includes data about the primary and secondary outcome measures.Ancillary data, which include significant finding other than the primary and secondary outcome measures.Any other findings including complications.

One must understand that of all the data sets the outcome data is the most important and must usually constitute the major portion of the result section. Summary data about all the primary and secondary outcomes outlined in the methods sections must be provided. If there are more than one group, besides the summary data the contrast between the two groups known as the effect size must be provided. When test of significance are used the results must be represented as the exact “P” value.

This section should usually be a mix of narration, tables, graphs, and figures. However, the tendency of the same data being presented in more than one form should be avoided. Another common mistake that should be avoided is that one must not start interpreting or discussing the results in the result section. Finally over, under, or misreported of results must not be done.

Discussion: This section provides a space for the author for dialog with the reader and a platform for logical argumentation and critical analysis of one's work.[10] The discussion section of the manuscript usually has four important sections; summary of the study and results, strengths and limitations of the study, comparison of results with existing literature and importance of findings for practice, policy, and future research. In the summary of the study and results, authors must initially give a brief statement about the study followed by the study's key findings concisely without quoting data. One must discuss if the results support the research hypothesis and provide an answer to the research questions raised in the introduction section. After this, the technical and factual strengths and limitations of the study should be highlighted. While discussing the strengths, one must not go overboard. One must not state or assume that ones method are best and flawless and should also not attack methods adopted by other researchers. Similarly while discussing the limitations, one must not be very apologetic. The limitations and the reason for it must be enumerated and the steps taken to mitigate their effect must be discussed. One must not give unwarranted justifications for the limitations. Following this, the results must be compared with the existing literature. While doing it, one must ensure that one discusses studies on both sides of the issue, i.e., one must not only discuss studies that support ones results but also the ones which have different results. While discussing the differences or common point, the reasons for the same must also be discussed. Finally, authors must provide directions for future research and implications for clinical practice and policy. While doing this authors must ensure that the importance of the findings are not inflated or exaggerated. Finally, a brief conclusion based on the study results must be provided.

Besides these four sections, the abstract of the manuscript needs to be written with great care.[11] Most editors and reviewers make a preliminary decision about accepting or rejecting a manuscript based on the abstract. Moreover, if a manuscript does get accepted, the abstract is its most read part because of it being readily accessible while doing an electronic search. There are two types of abstract formats; the traditional or unstructured abstract and the structured abstract. The traditional unstructured abstract is written in the form of a paragraph without any subheadings. Although very readable sometimes vital information is missed inadvertently in an unstructured abstract. Therefore, nowadays most journals including the Indian Journal of Orthopaedics want authors to submit a structured abstract for their original articles. A structured abstract has relevant subsections such as the background, material and methods, results and conclusion. Evaluation studies have shown that structured abstracts contain more information, are of higher quality and facilitate better peer review. Each section of the abstract must be written clearly and comprehensively so that the gist of the paper is understood by the readers by reading it alone.

Keywords, MeSH terms, tables, figures, graphs, references, and acknowledgment are the other usual contents of a manuscript. Detailed instructions about these are provided in the “instruction to author” section of all journals and authors must familiarize themselves with them before preparing and submitting their manuscripts. If authors have some confusion, they must go through previously published articles in the same journal to understand the journal style and write accordingly.

Medical writing is an art which needs to be groomed. The more one writes the better one becomes at it. At Indian Journal of Orthopaedics we make all efforts not to reject a manuscript based only on its language or structure, especially if the topic is good. But definitely, well written and structured manuscripts have better chances of being accepted. We hope this editorial would help authors understand how they must write a manuscript so that not only has it a good chance of being accepted but also of being well received and appreciated by the readers if it is published.


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