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9 Tips on How to NOT get your paper published

McMaster UniveGeoff Normanrsity’s Professor Geoff Norman is a prominent figure in the Medical Education/Health Professions Education community. Along with co-authoring one of the most popular handbooks in Biostatistics, Norman is also a long-time editor for the Advance in Health Sciences Education journal.

In his journal’s most recent issue Norman offers up some tips on how to not get your paper published. I’ve highlighted my favourites–sound advice for academics and graduate students alike:

  1. Support your problem statement with the best available evidence (“Nice ideas finish last”)
    • Your paper must provide sufficient theoretical and empirical justification for why its problem statement is an important one.
  2. Conduct a thorough literature review early (“The world doesn’t need another mousetrap”)
    • Before beginning your study, ensure the same work has not been conducted before. If it has, ensure your problem statement and study design sufficiently expand past findings.
  3. Ensure data are consistent with the journal’s/disciplines expectations (“We don’t really care if your students loved the course”)
    • Norman reminds us that studies involving self-assessment as data are consistently uncorrelated with performance measures. (Eva and Regehr 2005)  While another journal may publish self-assessment data, Norman begs authors to consider whether their data is appropriate for journal/disciplinary conventions before submitting their manuscripts.
  4. Ask whether your findings are applicable in another context (“We are scientists, not inventors”)
    • In studies where a costly simulation device or complex intervention is designed, Norman warns authors not to presume that their findings should be of interest to a wider audience–taking special care when the research is aligned with an commercial interests (e.g., a device manufacturer)
  5. Ask whether your findings are interesting in another context (“The only people who care about education of pediatric gerontologists in Lower Volga are pediatric gerontologists in Lower Volga”)
    • Norman reminds us to think about an international audience for our work. It is incumbent on authors to figure out why researchers in different countries will care about their work.
  6. Disclose other venues in which your study has been published (“Salami slicing belongs in butcher shops”)
    • Salami slicing is the colloquial term for publishing the same study in multiple journals. While Norman admits that this is sometimes an appropriate practice, he reminds researchers to avoid self-plagiarism by writing the second study de novo rather than cutting and pasting swathes of text.
  7. Represent quantitative value with appropriate detail (“P values tell you whether it’s zero but little else”)
    • While a research team’s findings may be statistically significant, simply displaying an appropriate P value is insufficient. Norman reminds authors to include standard deviations, confidence intervals and effect sizes, best represented by good figures and graphs.
  8. Leave room for future research (“More research is always required”)
    • Avoid overstating the universal applicability of your results. Be specific about other research questions that remain to be answered in your work.

Leave your thoughts

What do you think? Am I missing anything obvious? Do you find the advice pedantic? I’d love to read your commends below.

 

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Case Studies Workshop – CADTH Symposium 2014

Case Study Session

  • This portion of the workshop will divide the group in four or five.

OPTION A

Each group will be asked to identify an idea based from their own professional context involving social media being used (or potentially being used) for knowledge mobilization. Example can include but are not limited to:

  • Awareness raising
  • A set of new recommendations or guidelines
  • A health technology
  • The release of a new product
  • Academic research
  • Clinician/patient communication

Within the group:

  • What are your goals? Why involve social media?
  • What are the affordances of using social media?
  • What are the drawbacks?
  • What, if any, strategy can you envision?

OPTION B:

Each group will be asked to identify a way in which they’ve encountered social media being used for knowledge mobilization. Suggestions will be made for each group to consider, but unique cases/case ideas are welcome. Here are some suggestions:

  • Look at the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation’s Choosing Wisely campaign:
    • Recently launched in Canada
    • #CWC OR #Choosingwisely
  • Consider the antivaccinationists and social media:
  • Reflect on some best practices for conference hashtags:
    • How have you seen conference hashtags used well?
    • Have you seen arenas where hashtags were used poorly?
  • Pharmaceutical patient engagement or electronic direct-to-consumer advertising?
  • Review the recent CMAJ editorial on pharmaceutical companies’ use of social media to connect with patients
    • What are your thoughts? Is some corporate use of social media backfiring?

Within the Group:

  • Identify at least one related campaign you have encountered.
  • What resonates with you about this campaign?
  • What would you do differently? What worked for you?
  • Here are some examples
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5 tips for collaborating with NVivo 10

A recent post on the LinkedIn NVivo users page inspired me to write this post on collaborating with NVivo. This is a topic that has been an important component of my work for the past 4 years. I’d surmise that pervasive communication technologies and increased interdisciplinary research mean that NVivo is being used on more research teams now than ever before. This post captures 6 key ideas when collaborating with NVivo. An early caveat is that this post does not discuss the implications for teamwork offered by NVivo Server. With the understanding that I’m excited to see how NVivo Server will develop, I’m not convinced it’s widely available enough to warrant an expanded discussion here.

1. NVivo 10’s collaborative functions

As it stands, only one team member at a time can edit an NVivo project file. However, team members’ identities are recorded when working in a project file at different times. Alternatively, each team member can work on a copy a project file that can later be imported back into a “master” file using the import project dialog box. The “master” file is the main copy of the NVivo 10 project file that contains the most up-to-date source data and data analysis. Crucially, the “master” file should be stored on a computer that is frequently backed up. Anyone who has ever suffered the loss of a project file would likely encourage multiple back-ups on your NVivo project. I use Dropbox as a solution for backing up my NVivo projects, but this solution isn’t perfect as I will expand on below.

Assuming that the work has come to a stage where different members have submitted contributions to the NVivo project file, make sure that the team uses easily identifiable standardized user profiles when they work with their respective parts. User profiles, represented by each individual user’s initials, are an important function when the time comes to compare coding.

Coding stripes can be a useful features for NVivo projects where multiple team members are coding data. Coding stripes allow a team to visually identify how data has been organized into Nodes. NVivo also allows coding stripes to be filtered by team member in order to visually identify how an individual coded the data.

When reporting data analysis findings, a more comprehensive summary of the variance in team members’ coding may be needed. In this case, Coding Comparison Queries allow multiple team members’ coding to be quantified in metrics of inter-rate reliability (e.g., Kappa coefficient).

2. Team roles & responsibilities

Beyond the technical features available for NVivo 10 users, team roles and responsibilities should include some attention to data analysis. On any research team on which I work, I advocate the team appoints an NVivo coordinator for the research project. The NVivo coordinator is the team member responsible for maintaining the team’s “master” project file. The coordinator role entails 4 primary duties:
◆ Ensuring that each team member’s independent data analysis is routinely imported into the “master” project;
◆ Backing up the”master” project;
◆ Importing new data into the “master” project;
◆ and Distributing up-to-date copies of the “master” project.

3. Team workflow plan

Create a team workflow plan that includes how to manage your team’s data and analytic findings. The team workflow plan is a document that capture the team’s shared understanding of filenames, read-only and read-write file access, storage and backup locations, and rules for file distribution and archiving. For example, when it comes to audio and video files, what file formats will the team use? Will those files be embedded items or linked as external items?

The workflow plan should include the team’s approach to creating and maintaining nodes. I always recommend that team members write ‘instructions’ in every Node’s Description field (max 512 characters). Unless using In Vivo Coding, creating a new node results in a new node dialog box that includes a blank description field. What better place for a researcher to capture their thinking at a given moment? A team member’s definitions or reflections on coding and nodes can also be written as a linked Memo, which is easier to write, read, print and code.

4. NVivo and cloud computing

I use cloud-based file sharing services like DropBox, SkyDrive and Google Drive as a working solution for backing up and sharing collaborative NVivo Project files. In theory, these services also allow changes to a NVivo project file to be made across several computers using the ‘cloud’.

I recommend you turn off the live syncing features of these programs while you are running the NVivo 10 software client. Most of these services allow you to toggle live-syncing on a folder by folder basis so that you can sync all other folders but the folder containing your NVivo project. I learned this the hard way by losing hours of coding time due to an error caused by simultaneously using NVivo and syncing its attendant .nvp file in a cloud-based utility. Other colleagues of mine have had similar experiences. Cloud-based utilities can be useful for team collaboration, but taking the proper precautions can avoid costly loss of analysis time due to software crashes.

5. Team meetings

Finally, add the NVivo project file as an agenda item team research meetings. While the meeting agenda will no doubt be packed with discussions of the research process, briefly talking about the tools of your is a good idea.

These insights and many more are contained my technical manual on QSR’s software, “NVivo 10 Essentials” (co-authored with Bengt Edhlund).

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4 career planning tips for qualitative research graduate students

In debriefing with some colleagues about my recent trip to Montreal for Qualitative Health Research 2012, we agreed it would be a good idea for me to post my summary of a fantastic talk given by Prof. Mary Ellen Macdonald. She focused her talk on career planning for qualitative health research graduate students, and based the key points on an e-mail poll she sent to 26 qualitative health research professors across Canada.

I was particularly excited by Dr. Macdonald’s talk because I’ve been writing about professional development for years – starting with posts about my own professional development, and moving on to posting about career advice for Arts grads, resume writing, and, more recently, academic PR (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3).

What I found particularly salient about Dr. MacDonald’s talk was her outline of the ‘unofficial curriculum’ for qualitative health research graduate students. I’ve taken her advice and structured it into 4 career planning tips for qualitative researchers: graduate student’s need to foster mentorship, develop communication skills, be good citizens, and stay on the radar.

Career tip #1: Fostering mentorship

A graduate students’ success is directly related to the mentorship structure they receive from their supervisor. I have seen students suffer in highly dysfunctional research supervision relationships. To avoid this, before beginning any graduate program a graduate student should select their mentor first and their topic second. mentoring

Your research topic will not matter if your supervisor is not working with you to develop other crucial professional skills. Don’t expect every supervisor to be a strong mentor; mentorship is a mutual process, with formalities that should be respected by graduate student mentees.

Dr. Macdonald recommends students take a proactive role by establishing a supervision contract with your mentor. This contract could state that a discussion has taken place identifying the frequency of individual and committee meetings, the nature of verbal/written feedback, the funding that is available for conference travel, research assistantships and stipends, and the appropriate timeframes allotted for feedback and letter writing.

Career Tip #2: Developing communication SkillsCommunication

The ability to communicate your ideas is as important as the ideas themselves. For example, writing well is an overlooked skill for graduate students, and most programs provide no formal writing instruction. Are you struggling with your writing? Hire a tutor, join a writing group, or research online. In a career where written communication in the form of peer-reviewed articles is crucial to career success, graduate students must write well.

Strong public speaking skills are also an important skill for graduate students who want to make a mark. Spend time learning to design effective slides. Practice your talk before you get up in front of an audience. Learn to be a good public speaker (consult with toastmasters if need be).

Further, your CV can be a powerful communication strategy. Dr. Macdonald recommends that you keep your CV up to date. She also recommends you maintain two versions of your CV, official and unofficial. Your unofficial CV is sometimes called a dossier. Researchers keep sanctioned, conventional achievements in their CV: employment history, publications, and conference presentations. But why not keep everything you do in your unofficial CV? Dr. Macdonald recommends recording ALL contributions to your research community: important meetings, rejected research papers, and even unsuccessful grants. You worked on those tasks, so why not record them?

Career Tip #3: Being a good citizen

Citizenship is behavior based on the duties and functions of a citizen. So what does it take to be a good citizen of your graduate program or research centre? One way to be a good citizen of your graduate program is by being a strong representative at conferences. Good conferencing means more than presenting research talks/workshops/posters. Effective networking is a must! Attend others’ talks, meet new people, greet colleagues, and ask GOOD questions (these are questions that make the speaker look good; citizennot, as some folks would have it, questions that make the speaker look good.) Further, do as much as you can to show off your work and the community from which you come. You will look even better if you are current in your research area when chatting with your peers.

Career Tip #4: Staying on the radar

Stay on the radar with your supervisor. While your research project is, or at least should be, your most important occupation, the same is not true for your supervisor. Keep copious notes when you meet with your supervisor; it is your job to remind your supervisor about things you established during past meetings. radar

Stay on the radar with important people you meet as well. Along with being you supervisor’s keeper of memories, work with your supervisor to develop an “elevator pitch” – this is the 20-second description of your research project when you find yourself in an elevator next to the Dean. But you might need different pitches for different audience: nurses, physicians, policy-makers, etc.

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