Making Your Career through Publishing Original Papers

Methods

Only information available at the time of the planning of the study and its initiation should be given in the Methods. Any other information obtained during the course of the study should be placed in the Results section, not the Methods section.

When you describe the enrollment of participants, it is advisable to avoid terms such as “we selected”. Use of the term “selected” implies that you chose patients or subjects with specific attributes that would lead to the hoped-for outcome of your study. It is better to describe the attributes which the potential participants had to satisfy, in other words, list the eligibility criteria. So a sentence such as “patients who satisfy the following criteria: age between 20 and 80, no history of diabetes mellitus etc.” are fine. You should also give the exclusion criteria. For example, “anybody with a history of malignant disease was excluded from the study”. Many reviewers wish to know what the source population was, and what the demographics were in terms of age and sex, and if there is an unusual preponderance of a given gender or certain age group, the reason for that should be explained.

Basic procedure

Essentially, the reasons for the Methods are to clarify how you conducted the study and to make it possible for others to reproduce your results, should there be any controversy concerning the results of your study. For example, recent study in Japan which attracted much attention in the field of cell biology was found to have insufficient information in the Methods to allow independent third parties to confirm the reproducibility or accuracy of the results. Please give the names and addresses, including the city and country of all manufacturers. Here again it is important to pay attention to an important detail. Many US based journals do not feel that it is necessary to give the name of the country if the name of a US state is given. If you do not follow the customs of the journal, it will be considered you are not a regular reader of their publication, or that your manuscript has been rejected by another journal and has been resubmitted for publication to the present journal. Such impressions although small in themselves can have very large effects. Concerning the extent to which you should describe methods used especially laboratory methods, if it is a well-known established method, merely giving a reference to it is usually enough, while for less well-known methods, a brief description and reference citation will also suffice. However if you are proposing a new or substantially different methods from previous methods, you should describe it in detail, with reasons for the use of that particular method or the changes you have made. Since drug names can change from country to country, be sure to give generic names, metric doses, and clearly describe the routes of administration of all drugs and chemicals used.

Statistics

If your paper relies on statistics to any great extent, it is best to have a biostatistician review your statistics and include that person among the authors. Again, you are aiming at enabling to allow reproducibility, therefore statistical analysis method must be described in detail. Inclusion of appropriate indices of possible measurement error or uncertainty is essential, and you should indicate the references for the study design and statistical methods showing why the methods are optimal for your study. If necessary define any special statistical terms, abbreviations or symbols. If using a statistical software, specify the name, address, city, and country of the manufacturer of the software.

Watch the related lecture videos in "How to Create Your Academic Career"