Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research

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How to write a great research paper using reporting guidelines

Welcome to our toolkit for writing research!

Using the resources you find here will set you on the right road to writing a great research paper using reporting guidelines

When published, your article will start a new independent life. It will be read and critically appraised, and it may contribute to systematic reviews, inform clinical guidelines, and influence clinical practice.

Before you submit your paper to a journal, you need to consider whether the article will achieve its purpose:

  • Will a Cochrane reviewer be able to scrutinise your study’s methods to assess the risk of bias?
  • Would another researcher be able to replicate your experiment?
  • Can numerical results be extracted from your paper easily?
  • Have you provided enough detail about your intervention to allow its use in clinical practice?

The resources in this toolkit will help you achieve a long and useful life for your article by reporting it in the best way possible.

Find the right reporting guideline with the EQUATOR wizard

One of the first hurdles to get over when writing up a research plan or reporting the results of your study is finding the appropriate reporting guideline. We have developed a prototype decision tree (also available online from Penelope Research) to help you choose the right reporting guideline for your work. This wizard only includes common reporting guidelines for generic study types and does not include most guideline extensions.

EQUATOR Library of Reporting Guidelines

The EQUATOR wizard may not find a common reporting guideline for your study. You might also want to supplement a common reporting guideline with any specific guidance for your clinical area or study type. After using the wizard, we suggest visiting the EQUATOR Library for Reporting Guidelines.

The Library is a searchable database of all reporting guidelines. Use the drop-down menus to see all of the reporting guidelines and extensions for a study type. You can also search for guidelines written specifically for certain clinical specialties or sections of the research paper with these drop-down menus. The free-text search lets you search guidelines’ titles, associated keywords, and the bibliographic details of any related papers.

Why are reporting guidelines so helpful?

The EQUATOR team recently edited a textbook called Guidelines for Reporting Health Research: A User’s Manual. It explains why we need standardised reporting of important details in health research publications and how to use reporting guidelines. It also has chapters on the guidelines most commonly required by journals. You can read some sample chapters here:

You can read more about the textbook here.

Examples of good reporting

Once you have the right reporting guideline and know what items to report, it’s always a good idea to look at good examples for inspiration. Several guideline development groups have published articles with examples of good reporting for each item on their checklist.

Find examples of good reporting in:

COBWEB, an online tool for writing up a randomised trial

COBWEB is an online writing tool for authors to use when writing up the results of a randomised controlled trial. It consists of a series of text boxes for each CONSORT item, prompting you to describe every detail of your study. Once you have filled in all of the relevant text boxes, COBWEB creates a formatted Word document for you to edit and continue working on.

COBWEB can be accessed at http://cochrane.fr/cobweb/. When the site prompts you to ‘choose an ID’, you can create any username to log in.

We interviewed Isabelle Boutron, one of the creators of COBWEB. Read her explanation of how COBWEB was developed and tested here.

Reporting medical research

An essential “How to…” article published in The International Journal of Clinical Practice by EQUATOR’s Iveta Simera and Doug Altman on scientific writing and the key principles of responsible research reporting.

Authoraid annotated journal article

This resource on the Authoraid website presents a journal article from PLoS ONE with annotated comments on aspects of the scientific writing.

ICMJE Recommendations

Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals (ICMJE Recommendations) are produced by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. They are intended primarily for use by authors who submit their work for publication to ICMJE member journals, although many non-ICMJE journals recommend their use.

Industry-sponsored research

The EQUATOR Library has an additional page of useful resources for medical writers and anyone else concerned with the transparency in the writing and publication of imdustry-sponsored research.  The resources includes the latest Good Publication Practice for Communicating Company-Sponsored Medical Research: GPP3 Guidelines and several other useful tools to help professional medical writers working with the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

General guidance on scientfic writing

We have compiled a collection of guides, books, courses, presentations and other resources designed to help you with the planning, style, structure and composition of your research articles.  The publisher BioMed Central has also produced a set of resources on writing and publishing a scientific article.