Starting a research project or writing one up can appear as an extremely daunting task… where do I start? Am I doing the right thing? What is important to write? But before the stress gets too much here are a few places you can start your search for information with little effort and know that you are on the right track.
For general direction:
The EQUATOR Network (Enhancing the Quality and Transparency Of health Research), is a resource centre aimed at improving the quality of medical literature through promoting transparent and accurate reporting. This website is a great place to start with a resource centre for authors, peer reviewers and editors as well as a comprehensive digital library containing health research reporting guidelines.
Reporting guidelines act like a checklist which will ensure you have appropriately conducted and reported all the important aspects of your study (whatever the study design). Some journals already (and probably many more in the future) demand that these checklists be submitted with the paper and it is not uncommon for some reviewers to ask for them (it is often not a bad idea to complete the necessary checklist and attaching it as an appendix or an additional file when submitting your manuscript). While this is not a comprehensive list of all reporting guidelines it does comprise a number of guidelines which everyone should be aware of….
• Consolidating Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT statement for randomised controlled trials consists of 25-item checklist and a flow diagram. Be sure to have a look at the extension statements which may be relevant to your study type as these provide the most up to date information.
• Strengthening the reporting of observational studies in epidemiology (STROBE) statement for observational studies (e.g. cohort, cross-sectional, case-control studies) consists of 22 items.
• Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement for systematic review and meta-analysis consists of a 27-item checklist and a four-phase flow diagram.
• STAndards for the reporting of Diagnostic accuracy studies (STARD) statement for diagnostic accuracy studies consists of 25 items and recommends the use of a flow diagram.
• COnsensus-based Standards for the selection of health Measurement Instruments (COSMIN) is a checklist to evaluate the methodological quality of studies on the measurement properties of health measurement instruments. It consists of 12 boxes (10 boxes relating to methodological quality, 1 box for the interpretability).
Other good resources to consider….
BMJ.com offer a range of resources from how to read and interpret a research article (http://www.bmj.com/about-bmj/resources-readers/publications/how-read-paper) to advice on preparing and writing a research article and appropriate reporting.
International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) outlines uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals. While this site is quite detailed in many ways it does however provide great general information on how to prepare a manuscript in terms of structure.
Cochrane Collaboration - if systematic reviews are your focus there are handbooks available from the Cochrane website which are overflowing with information when conducting a systematic review of intervention or diagnostic test accuracy.
Instructions for authors – Before you get too absorbed in scrawling your ideas across the screen take some time out to read a published paper or two (which is similar in design to your own work) from the journal where you aim to submit your work. Not only will this give you a good template to work from (this is quite different to plagiarizing) in terms of structure and headings but also give you a feel for the language and style used. Before pressing the submit button and celebrating make sure you have addressed the journal’s specific requirements. Fulfilling these specific criteria I am sure makes your work a little more appealing to the Journal editors and reviewers compared to a manuscript which is ‘a law unto itself’.
Finally, acknowledging the assistance we receive on our early career research journey is vital and I would just like to thank A/ Prof Cathie Sherrington who presented this information to us. Without the guidance of senior researchers we might stay stuck in the procrastination phase of our projects.