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Table of Contents 
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 61  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 26-31
Pearls for publishing papers: Tips and tricks

1 Department of Dermatology, KIMS Al Shifa Super Speciality Hospital, Perintalmanna, Kerala, India
2 Faculty of Dermatology, College of Medicine, King Faisal University, Al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia

Date of Web Publication15-Jan-2016

Correspondence Address:
Karalikkattil T Ashique
Department of Dermatology, KIMS Al Shifa Super Speciality Hospital, Perintalmanna - 679 322, Malappuram District, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5154.174013

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With the stringent regulations from various academic bodies making it desirable for a post graduate resident to have submitted an original article prior to appearance for their exams or those working in teaching institutions to have published articles to claim credit for applying for promotions and private practitioners to increase their visibility on the academic front, paper, everyone is on a publishing spree. In this article, we attempt to elucidate the processes involved in publication; approaching it in a systematic and practical manner, incorporating some tips and tricks. This collection of pearls is aimed to serve as a beginner's guide to scientific writing and publications. The pearls cover assorted topics like- benefits of publications, collecting resources, various tools available and technical processes related to how a manuscript is processed.

Keywords: Articles, beginners, paper publication, scientific writing

How to cite this article:
Ashique KT, Kaliyadan F. Pearls for publishing papers: Tips and tricks. Indian J Dermatol 2016;61:26-31

How to cite this URL:
Ashique KT, Kaliyadan F. Pearls for publishing papers: Tips and tricks. Indian J Dermatol [serial online] 2016 [cited 2023 May 30];61:26-31. Available from:

What was known?
Existing literature gives information on how to publish and how to improve your chances of getting published. There are various articles published explaining the process of scientific writing and publication.

   Introduction Top

Having worked in the editorial board of more than one indexed journals for the past many years and having published papers in various reputed Indian and International Journals, we have gathered a few "pearls" along the way, which we feel have helped us improve our publication skills. These "pearls," we feel, will help a dermatologist, especially in the early phases of his/her career to make the best out of the available resources for meaningful scientific publication. There have been excellent articles by many authors [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7] in this direction and in our paper, we attempt to simplify the process of publication, approaching it in a lucid manner, incorporating some tips and tricks.

The "why" and "why not" of publishing?

Before going to the tips and tricks, it is important for the uninitiated reader to realize the benefits of publication. Publishing papers has obvious advantages for all stakeholders. It adds value to one's resume and opens up avenues for scientific collaboration with others working in the same field. A talk in a conference may be forgotten with time, but a published paper remains recorded forever, as if etched in stone. Another advantage is that working up clinical material for publication also helps in developing an in-depth understanding of the particular condition. With professional career promotions and grants directly linked to the number of papers, there is more pressure to publish. Finally, every clinician by default is a scientist too and is duty bound to aid the evolution and dissemination of scientific knowledge.

   What to Write and Where to Send? Top

(The Navigation)

For a beginner, it is easy and advisable to submit articles to sections that demand fewer words so that the preparation of the manuscript and the submission process becomes less tedious. This, of course, does not mean that a good original study should not be your first article. In addition, do not refrain from submitting your innovative or crazy ideas if you can put it across in a good way. While journals having a low impact factor are easier to publish, we would suggest submitting to a journal with good impact factor initially. Even if it is rejected, you would get some useful points based on which you can improve your manuscript. For original studies, we suggest that the author be familiar with Glassick's scholarship criteria. [8]

In addition, make sure that the choice of journal is right - the "scope" of the journal is usually mentioned explicitly in the home page of the journal. Submit your article only if you think it would cater to the targeted readership. One of the most common reasons for rejection of an article is that it addresses an area beyond the scope of the journal. Once you decide on the journal, one important point is to always stick meticulously to the instructions given. Avoidable delays are often due to the manuscript being returned for changing the format to the one prescribed by the journal, especially in some areas such as word limits and reference styles.

   Gather Resources and Organize Them Too Top

(The Pebble Collection)

Try to have a complete set of the material required for the publication. Do not ever give a chance for you to get disheartened just because the histopathology image is not traceable after completing the rest of the manuscript preparation for submission. This is just to cite an example and to stress the importance of gathering all the basic requirements (viz., histopathology images, references, clinical pictures, consents, and copyrights to name a few). Catalog clinical images and histopathology images, keep building databases and keep looking out for patterns.

People often start off with case reports - then progress to case series and randomized controlled trials, but case reports still retain an inherent value. [9] Images are vital in dermatology. Learn to take and store good clinical images. Keep consent forms for photography and get it signed at the time of shooting itself. Ideally, the signed form should be scanned and saved as well. [10] We would suggest keeping all data connected with a particular article organized in folders with easily recognizable names for effortless retrieval later.

   Manuscript Preparation: How to Overcome Language Barriers and Handle Other Technical Requirements Top

(The Armamentarium)

When you are not a native English speaker, there can sometimes be difficulties in drafting the manuscript especially when you submit the manuscript to an international journal in the English language format. Some publishers have their language editing services, which are a good utility in such situations. [11] The author can also get it peer reviewed by colleagues for correcting linguistic and grammatical errors prior to submission. There are also various online sources who offer these services for nominal charges. An article with unsatisfactory language or gross grammatical errors will get unnecessarily delayed in the publication process. Remember when it comes to your paper seeing the light of day at the earliest, every minute counts!

The basic model in any journal submission is comprised the title file (called first page file by some journals), article file, image files, videos, charts, tables, and copyright/consent forms. Though the content may vary, the basic structure can be replicated from your other articles thus saving a lot of time and effort.

It is best to submit a good quality image - well focused, with good resolution, and without background distractions for easy acceptance and review. [12] However good an article may be, a bad image corrupts its value. Submit as many images as possible when the upper limit for the number of images is not defined. Collaborate with histopathology expert to get the best quality histology images. In general take more images than you need. You can always delete the unnecessary ones later.

Software such as MS (Microsoft) Office Word TM and Adobe Acrobat Reader TM are adequate for almost all the works for paper publication. Knowledge of Picasa TM /Adobe Photoshop TM would be a bonus for working on images. Referencing software like EndNote TM can be a valuable addition to MS Office. [13]

   Sourcing Articles Top

(The Treasure Hunt)

One of the biggest hurdles researchers is article sourcing. With the advent of information technology, things are easier than before. Some of the never miss resources for article sourcing are Google Scholar TM , Pubmed TM , Scopus TM , MD Consult TM , Ebsco TM , etc., apart from journal and books. For solo practitioners without institutional attachment, it may be even more difficult and participating in forum of professionals (ACAD_IADVL yahoo group of IADVL is one such forum), networking with people as in congresses and network sites such as ResearchGate TM and seeking pharmaceutical help to source articles are all ways for those who have the "never say die" attitude. Moreover, many journals have the option to register via mail for the table of content. This facilitates an E-mail alert whenever an article is published in the respective journal. The researcher can benefit by choosing and collecting articles that are useful for them and their area of interest.

   Understand Statistics Top

(Not always Latin and Greek!)

Most of us just hand over the statistics part to the statistician and blindly follow their findings. It is always better to gain a basic understanding of the fundamental statistical principles and one should try to learn along the way with each study or article. You do not have to be an expert, but an understanding helps in proper planning and determining the feasibility of the project in the initial phases itself.

   Be Thankful Top

(Courteousness Pays)

Be generous in thanking every person who has helped in making your paper worthwhile. You do not lose anything but gain a lot by winning their confidence and leaving the door open for future help requests. The acknowledgment section of the article is exclusively for this purpose and does not dilute the value of the paper in any way. This is to accommodate people who otherwise do not qualify to be co-authors. Furthermore, it is always better to follow the standard recommendations for authorship as far as possible. [14]

   Abstract Top

(The Visiting Card)

This is the gist of what is in the article. The abstract can be structured or unstructured according to the type of article. It is important to make the abstract short enough to comply to the journal instruction and sweet enough to attract readership. Abstracts help users judge the relevance of the research work and provide a handy synopsis of its contents, and sometimes, they may even serve as a substitute for the original document. Referencing should not be used in abstracts and foreign languages are best avoided. A usual mistake which many 1 st time authors do it to mistake an abstract for the introduction. The abstract is a short summary of the entire article, not a condensed version of the introduction. [15]

   Key Words Top

Most journals require 4-8 key words to be submitted along with the manuscript. Most journals specifically request key words used in the US National Library of Medicine's collection of Medical Subject Headings and some journals will ask the author to select from a list of key words already present in the journal's submission site. It is best to choose terms which best explain the essence of the article. Keep it simple and avoid esoteric terms and abbreviations. If your title is well crafted, you can choose key words from within the framework of the title. [16]

   The Submission and After Top

There are mainly five situations that happen to an article once submitted. [2] The editors or after an editorial board review, checks the manuscript for the quality and then comes to one of these conclusions [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Flow of events from submission to acceptance of a manuscript in the review process of article cycle. Illustration courtesy of Wolters Kluwer Medknow Publications, Mumbai, India

Click here to view

  • Accept with minor revision: Do this process and resubmit as soon as possible before the referees forget the paper
  • Major revision needed: Find time but it is worth the effort because the journal may be ready to accept the article provided the revision is made as desired
  • A complete rewrite required: This needs to be taken seriously and do it if you have the resources and time in hand and is worth effort
  • Change format and resubmit: Usually this involves changing to a short format - for example from an original report to a letter. If you feel that it really important for the study to be published as such, it would make sense to withdraw the article and go for an alternate journal. However, if you feel that the essence of the material can be conveyed in the suggested modified format it may be worth submitting in the changed format. This is a bit of gambling and one needs to try the luck of changing format as asked by the journal and resubmitting though there is no guarantee that it will be accepted then unless committed by the editorial
  • Outright rejection. This door is closed. Please try your luck elsewhere is the message
  • It is very rare, though not impossible, for an article to be accepted without any changes in a good journal.

   Hope for the Best but Expect the Worst! Top

(The Fear Factor of Rejection)

It can be very frustrating for a novice to face rejection. The reasons for rejection may often seem unfair, but this is something which all authors have to live with, even those who have "heavily" published. Keep trying in alternative journals, the scope of which fits in with your work. Common reasons for rejection of an article are beyond the scope of this article but an interesting and very useful take on the same is given in an article by Hagger, titled "How to get your article rejected." We would suggest all first time authors to go through this article. [17]

   Sooner the Better. Leave Your Mark (Early Bird) Top

Do not wait for the right day or the best time. It is right here already. Someone else may be already working on the same concept elsewhere and they may get their article published ahead of you. If you have an original thought or a work ready with you, try to submit it as fast as possible even if the journal asks you to convert it to a letter to the editor or a short communication. It may be worth the compromise. The first one is the most cited article and the article type is immaterial. Two classic examples are Watson and Crick's structure of DNA published in Nature and the teratogenic potential of thalidomide published in Lancet, as "mere" letters to the editor. [18],[19]

   Familiarity Factor Top

Once we submit one or two articles in a journal, we get used to the system and is often advantageous because many journals will be from the same publishing house and technical aspects of paper submission are the same. E.g. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, Indian Dermatology Online Journal, Indian Journal of Dermatology, Journal of Cutaneous and Esthetic Surgery, International Journal of Trichology, and Indian Journal of Pediatric Dermatology and Pigment International are all from the Wolters Kluwer Medknow TM group and follow similar general templates and instructions for submission of articles.

   Attend Congresses, Network and Create an Identity Top

(Being a More Social Being)

Attend congresses whenever you get a chance. You can interact with great authors and researchers and forge a tie to interact later. You also get to meet a lot of seniors and experienced professional colleagues who can give you the much needed guidance on how to go about with the paper you are working. They may also be able to help you by offering to be a co-author or contributing material that would be otherwise impossible for you to get yourself.

Sites such as ResearchGate TM or TM can be compared to the Facebook TM or Twitter TM of researchers. Their mission is to connect researchers and make it easy for them to share and access scientific output, knowledge, and expertise. On ResearchGate TM , you find what you need to advance one's research and helps to connect and collaborate with researchers across the globe. ResearchGate TM today has more than 6 million members. [20] One needs to have an institutional E-mail id to register (which can be changed thereafter) and can follow and get followers. This helps to get alerts and updates from people working in one's area of interest, interact with them and request their publications for references. Some researchers are generous enough to upload their published works on their profiles which can be freely downloaded at your end for references.

Open Researcher and Contributor (ORCID TM ) is an open, nonprofit, community-based effort to provide a registry of unique researcher identifiers and a transparent method of linking research activities and outputs to these identifiers. ORCID TM is unique in its ability to reach across disciplines, research sectors, and national boundaries and its cooperation with other identifier systems. [21] This is a unique identification mark every author should have to make them easily identifiable for the journals and editors. It takes very less time to register, is absolutely free, and can be linked to all your profile and manuscript submission sites. More than 1000 journals are now using ORCID TM for identification. [22] This is cited at the time of submission of the manuscript and by default gathers all the relevant information about yourself and your works published earlier.

One of the best things that can happen in your literary life is finding colleagues with whom you can work without ego. It is a win-win game and one person's weak area may be the other person's strong point. With present day electronic communication infrastructure, partnering or collaborating with even a distant colleague is very easy.

   Dare to Compare Top

After a couple of articles are through, you can very well try to apply as a reviewer in some journal. Being a good reviewer helps you become a better author and vice-versa. The process through which a manuscript travels improves your understanding of the publication process. This increases the morale and motivates you to take up scientific writing more aggressively and effectively.

   Make the Best of Expected and Unexpected Holidays (Piggy Back Effect) Top

India is a land of celebrations and festivals in plenty and holidays that come in handy to finish pending works. It is a hard fact too that India is one country where you may get "impromptu holidays" all on a sudden due to hartals [23] and strikes. Someone who has compiled and collected all the material can do adequate works on such days. To put it in better words, make the best out of the worst.

   Stick with the Ethics Top

Be truthful, try to avoid short cuts, and be ethical in all aspects of publications - data collection, data recording/interpretation, and the manuscript writing part. Unethical practices can lead to very severe setbacks to your career. Avoid all forms of plagiarism and salami research.

A related area is authorship criteria. You need to have a clear idea on who deserves to be a co-author. Basically, four important criteria are to kept in mind:

• Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work;

• Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; final approval of the version to be published;

• Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

All those designated as authors should meet all the above mentioned criteria, and also all who meet the four criteria should be identified as authors. Detailed guidelines are available at the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors site. [24]

   Good Things Take Time Top

(The Patience Effect)

Nothing happens overnight. The time taken by an article from submission to final publication depends on various factors. The perceived impact of the manuscript, a delay from one or more of the referees, a delay on the side of the editorial in reaching a decision, a technical delay at the publisher level, and the frequency of publication of the journal are some of the factors associated with a delay in publication. Even an accepted paper goes through a lot of scrutiny at various levels. Some sections have higher volume of submission in some journals and obviously the queue gets longer. Such things are to be kept in mind especially by the novice who has more anticipation and excitement to see his research published. As a rule of thumb, from our limited experience, we have perceived 1 year to be the average expected time for an article from submission to publication, although this is an arbitrary figure with wide variability.
"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." - Richard Bach.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

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Hagger MS. How to get your article rejected. Stress Health 2012;28:265-8.  Back to cited text no. 17
Watson JD, Crick FH. Molecular structure of nucleic acids: A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid. Nature 1974;248:765.  Back to cited text no. 18
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What is new?
Our article reviews some common guidelines to improve the quality of scientific publications and also adds some practical tips from the authors′ personal experience, which will help the novice dermatologists to write better, with more ease and with greater odds of getting published. We have highlighted some practical points, especially with respect to the Indian scenario.


  [Figure 1]

This article has been cited by
1 Craze for publishing research in “foreign” journals: Are we justified
Sudhir Kumar
Medical Journal of Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth. 2022; 15(1): 6
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


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