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Indian Journal for the Practising Doctor

Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical journals
Guidelines for Authors, Editors, Reviewers and Contributors (Excerpts) Part 2

Author(s): International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE)

Vol. 4, No. 6 (2008-01 - 2008-02)

III.A.8. Discussion

Emphasize the new and important aspects of the study and the conclusions that follow from them. Do not repeat in detail data or other material given in the Introduction or the Results section. For experimental studies it is useful to begin the discussion by summarizing briefly the main findings, then explore possible mechanisms or explanations for these findings, compare and contrast the results with other relevant studies, state the limitations of the study, and explore the implications of the findings for future research and for clinical practice.

Link the conclusions with the goals of the study but avoid unqualified statements and conclusions not adequately supported by the data. In particular, authors should avoid making statements on economic benefits and costs unless their manuscript includes the appropriate economic data and analyses. Avoid claiming priority and alluding to work that has not been completed. State new hypotheses when warranted, but clearly label them as such.

III.A.9. References

III.A.9.a. General Considerations Related to References

Although references to review articles can be an efficient way of guiding readers to a body of literature, review articles do not always reflect original work accurately. Readers should therefore be provided with direct references to original research sources whenever possible. On the other hand, extensive lists of references to original work on a topic can use excessive space on the printed page. Small numbers of references to key original papers will often serve as well as more exhaustive lists, particularly since references can now be added to the electronic version of published papers, and since electronic literature searching allows readers to retrieve published literature efficiently.

Avoid using abstracts as references. References to papers accepted but not yet published should be designated as “in press” or “forthcoming”; authors should obtain written permission to cite such papers as well as verification that they have been accepted for publication. Information from manuscripts submitted but not accepted should be cited in the text as “unpublished observations” with written permission from the source.

Avoid citing a “personal communication” unless it provides essential information not available from a public source, in which case the name of the person and date of communication should be cited in parentheses in the text. For scientific articles, authors should obtain written permission and confirmation of accuracy from the source of a personal communication.

Some journals check the accuracy of all reference citations, but not all journals do so, and citation errors sometimes appear in the published version of articles. To minimize such errors, authors should therefore verify references against the original documents. Authors are responsible for checking that none of the references cite retracted articles except in the context of referring to the retraction. For articles published in journals indexed in MEDLINE, the ICMJE considers PubMed the authoritative source for information about retractions. Authors can identify retracted articles in MEDLINE by using the following search term, where pt in square brackets stands for publication type: Retracted publication [pt] in PubMed.

III.A.9.b. Reference Style and Format

The Uniform Requirements style is based largely on an ANSI standard style adapted by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) for its databases. Authors should consult National Library of Medicine’s Citing Medicine for information on NLM’s recommended citation formats for a variety of reference types.

References should be numbered consecutively in the order in which they are first mentioned in the text. Identify references in text, tables, and legends by Arabic numerals in parentheses. References cited only in tables or figure legends should be numbered in accordance with the sequence established by the first identification in the text of the particular table or figure. The titles of journals should be abbreviated according to the style used in Index Medicus. Consult the list of Journals Indexed for MEDLINE, published annually as a separate publication by the National Library of Medicine. Journals vary on whether they ask authors to cite electronic references within parentheses in the text or in numbered references following the text. Authors should consult with the journal that they plan to submit their work to.

III.A.10. Tables

Tables capture information concisely, and display it efficiently; they also provide information at any desired level of detail and precision. Including data in tables rather than text frequently makes it possible to reduce the length of the text.

Type or print each table with double spacing on a separate sheet of paper. Number tables consecutively in the order of their first citation in the text and supply a brief title for each. Do not use internal horizontal or vertical lines. Give each column a short or abbreviated heading. Authors should place explanatory matter in footnotes, not in the heading.

Explain in footnotes all nonstandard abbreviations. For footnotes use the following symbols, in sequence: *,†,‡,§,||,¶,**,††,‡‡

Identify statistical measures of variations, such as standard deviation and standard error of the mean.

Be sure that each table is cited in the text.

If you use data from another published or unpublished source, obtain permission and acknowledge them fully. Additional tables containing backup data too extensive to publish in print may be appropriate for publication in the electronic version of the journal, deposited with an archival service, or made available to readers directly by the authors. In that event an appropriate statement will be added to the text. Submit such tables for consideration with the paper so that they will be available to the peer reviewers.

III.A.11. Illustrations (Figures)

Figures should be either professionally drawn and photographed, or submitted as photographic quality digital prints. In addition to requiring a version of the figures suitable for printing, some journals now ask authors for electronic files of figures in a format (e.g., JPEG or GIF) that will produce high quality images in the web version of the journal; authors should review the images of such files on a computer screen before submitting them, to be sure they meet their own quality standard.

For x-ray films, scans, and other diagnostic images, as well as pictures of pathology specimens or photomicrographs, send sharp, glossy, black-and-white or color photographic prints, usually 127×173 mm (5×7 inches). Although some journals redraw figures, many do not. Letters, numbers, and symbols on Figures should therefore be clear and even throughout, and of sufficient size that when reduced for publication each item will still be legible. Figures should be made as self-explanatory as possible, since many will be used directly in slide presentations. Titles and detailed explanations belong in the legends, however, not on the illustrations themselves.

Photomicrographs should have internal scale markers. Symbols, arrows, or letters used in photomicrographs should contrast with the background.

If photographs of people are used, either the subjects must not be identifiable or their pictures must be accompanied by written permission to use the photograph. Whenever possible, permission for publication should be obtained.

Figures should be numbered consecutively according to the order in which they have been first cited in the text. If a figure has been published, acknowledge the original source and submit written permission from the copyright holder to reproduce the material. Permission is required irrespective of authorship or publisher except for documents in the public domain.

For illustrations in colour, ascertain whether the journal requires colour negatives, positive transparencies, or colour prints. Accompanying drawings marked to indicate the region to be reproduced might be useful to the editor. Some journals publish illustrations in color only if the author pays for the extra cost. Authors should consult the journal about requirements for figures submitted in electronic formats.

III.A.12. Legends for Illustrations (Figures)

Type or print out legends for illustrations using double spacing, starting on a separate page, with Arabic numerals corresponding to the illustrations. When symbols, arrows, numbers, or letters are used to identify parts of the illustrations, identify and explain each one clearly in the legend. Explain the internal scale and identify the method of staining in photomicrographs.

III.A.13. Units of Measurement

Measurements of length, height, weight, and volume should be reported in metric units (meter, kilogram, or liter) or their decimal multiples.

Temperatures should be in degrees Celsius. Blood pressures should be in millimeters of mercury, unless other units are specifically required by the journal.

Journals vary in the units they use for reporting hematological, clinical chemistry, and other measurements. Authors must consult the information for authors for the particular journal and should report laboratory information in both the local and International System of Units (SI). Editors may request that the authors before publication add alternative or non-SI units, since SI units are not universally used. Drug concentrations may be reported in either SI or mass units, but the alternative should be provided in parentheses where appropriate.

III.A.14. Abbreviations and Symbols

Use only standard abbreviations; the use of non-standard abbreviations can be extremely confusing to readers. Avoid abbreviations in the title. The full term for which an abbreviation stands should precede its first use in the text unless it is a standard unit of measurement.

III.B Sending the Manuscript to the Journal

An increasing number of journals now accept electronic submission of manuscripts, whether on disk, as attachments to electronic mail, or by downloading directly onto the journal website. Electronic submission saves time as well as postage costs, and allows the manuscript to be handled in electronic form throughout the editorial process (for example, when it is sent out for review). When submitting a manuscript electronically, authors should consult with the instructions for authors of the journal they have chosen for their manuscript.

If a paper version of the manuscript is submitted, send the required number of copies of the manuscript and figures; they are all needed for peer review and editing, and editorial office staff cannot be expected to make the required copies.

Manuscripts must be accompanied by a cover letter, which should include the following information.

  • A full statement to the editor about all submissions and previous reports that might be regarded as redundant publication of the same or very similar work. Any such work should be referred to specifically, and referenced in the new paper. Copies of such material should be included with the submitted paper, to help the editor decide how to handle the matter.
  • A statement of financial or other relationships that might lead to a conflict of interest, if that information is not included in the manuscript itself or in an authors’ form
  • A statement that the manuscript has been read and approved by all the authors, that the requirements for authorship as stated earlier in this document have been met, and that each author believes that the manuscript represents honest work, if that information is not provided in another form (see below); and
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the corresponding author, who is responsible for communicating with the other authors about revisions and final approval of the proofs, if that information is not included on the manuscript itself.

The letter should give any additional information that may be helpful to the editor, such as the type or format of article in the particular journal that the manuscript represents. If the manuscript has been submitted previously to another journal, it is helpful to include the previous editor’s and reviewers’ comments with the submitted manuscript, along with the authors’ responses to those comments. Editors encourage authors to submit these previous communications and doing so may expedite the review process.

Many journals now provide a pre-submission checklist that assures that all the components of the submission have been included. Some journals now also require that authors complete checklists for reports of certain study types (e.g., the CONSORT checklist for reports of randomized controlled trials). Authors should look to see if the journal uses such checklists, and send them with the manuscript if they are requested. Copies of any permission to reproduce published material, to use illustrations or report information about identifiable people, or to name people for their contributions must accompany the manuscript.

IV. References

A. References Cited in this Document

  1. Davidoff F for the CSE Task Force on Authorship. Who’s the Author? Problems with Biomedical Authorship and Some Possible Solutions. Science Editor. 2000 Jul-Aug; 23 (4):111-9.
  2. Yank V, Rennie D. Disclosure of researcher contributions: a study of original research articles in The Lancet. Ann Intern Med. 1999 Apr 20;130(8):661-70. Ind J Pract Doctor 2008; Vol IV, No 6:
  3. Flanagin A, Fontanarosa PB, DeAngelis CD. Authorship for research groups. JAMA. 2002;288:3166-8.
  4. Godlee F, T Jefferson. Peer Review in Health Sciences. London: BMJ Books, 1999.
  5. World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki: ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects. JAMA. 2000 Dec 20;284(23):3043-5.
  6. Pitkin RM, Branagan MA, Burmeister LF. Accuracy of data in abstracts of published research articles. JAMA. 1999 Mar 24-31;281(12):1110-1.

V. About The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) is a group of general medical journal editors whose participants meet annually and fund their work on the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts. The ICMJE invites comments on this document and suggestions for agenda items.

VI. Authors of The Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals

The ICMJE participating journals and organizations and their representatives who approved the revised Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts in July 2005 include Annals of Internal Medicine, British Medical Journal, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Croatian Medical Journal, Journal of the American Medical Association, The Dutch Medical Journal (Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde), New England Journal of Medicine, New Zealand Medical Journal, The Lancet, The Medical Journal of Australia, Tidsskrift for Den Norske Laegeforening, Journal of the Danish Medical Association (Ugeskrift for Laeger), and the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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