How to Research, Write, and Edit a Manuscript
For Peer-revied Journals: The Journal Article Cookbook

This section was compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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FROM:   J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2004 (Sep); 27 (7): 481–492 ~ FULL TEXT


Brian J. Gleberzon, DC, Lisa Z. Killinger, DC

Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, 6100 Leslie St,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M2H 3J1.

Despite these challenges and limited formal training, by combining a process of trial and error, by consulting and mimicking other more accomplished authors, by incorporating what we have learned at instructional seminars and perhaps by using some innate skills, the authors have managed to do what many, more qualified colleagues have not yet done: publish articles in peer-reviewed journals.

However, the purpose of this article is not to sing our own praises or to pat ourselves on the back. Rather, we have a much more humble goal in mind. We figure that, if we can get our works published, so can others. The problem is that many people in the chiropractic profession who are endowed with considerable research skills or a wealth of clinical experience or who just have something interesting to say, may not know how to go about accomplishing an intimidating task, namely, the researching, writing, and editing of a manuscript so that it survives the peer-review process and is judged suitable for publication in a reputable journal. Because we believe the future triumphs of the profession will depend on the ongoing accrual and dissemination of scientific knowledge originating from within the chiropractic community, it is our intent to provide the reader with a step-by-step strategy to overcome many of the hurdles facing a novice author. Once described, perhaps the intimidating veneer of this process will be removed. For the sake of simplicity and because the metaphor is not altogether inaccurate, we have likened the process by which a journal article is developed to cooking. However, before beginning the discussion, the reader must pause to answer 1 important question…Why publish?

Why, indeed! The process of starting with a blank screen and ending up with a quality manuscript is an arduous task. It is time consuming, it is frustrating, there is usually no monetary compensation, some in the field will take great pleasure in scoffing at your conclusions, and still others will simply ignore your hard effort as generally unimportant. Both what you have written and how you have written it will come under scrutiny by, at times, hostile and unnecessarily cynical critics. While writing an article, both of us have had our computers unexpectedly freeze, thus losing hours of work product. Both of us have had data saved on computer discs that inexplicably did not open or that caused other computers to crash, and we both have suffered the indignity of having our computer inform us we have “performed an illegal operation.” Both of us have been delayed by coauthors (sometimes a necessary evil) who have not contributed to an article, as they committed to do. More to the point, the reader should not expect to be able to simply write a scholarly article in 1 sitting. An article worthy of publication can, at times, take months to create. So, before even putting pen to paper (or finger to keypad), the reader should examine their motivation behind his or her desire to have an article published.

Within academic circles, there is considerable pressure put on teaching faculty to publish. Many colleges (and other academic institutions) link salaries, promotions, and traveling privileges to an individual's scholarly accomplishments. Thus, for those readers involved in teaching at a chiropractic college, there are practical reasons to have an article published. Most academic institutions will gladly pay for your traveling expenses if the abstract of your article is accepted for publication (see What to Do With Your Article While It's in the Oven, below), and some conferences may actively seek you out (and pay you handsomely) if you can establish yourself as a content expert in a particular area of study. You can establish yourself as an expert in a particular area of study in many different ways. These include synthesizing the current literature or theories and then publishing in scientific journals. You can also participate in scholarly endeavors or you may choose to publish a case study about your clinical experiences in a peer-reviewed journal.

However, for individuals outside of the college environment, the motivation to publish may be more simplistic, but no less important. Many private practitioners may have a wealth of clinical experience that they wish to share with the profession at large. Perhaps the practitioner has been able to successfully manage a particular condition by using a certain therapeutic approach. A practitioner may have found that spinal manipulative therapy benefited a patient with cervicogenic headaches [1] or used ischemic compression for fibromylagia, [2] or perhaps the clinician has had a uniquely interesting case study or case series he or she may wish to describe; for example, improvement in behavior of children with autism by using upper cervical chiropractic care [3] or a resolution of a case of psoriasis while under network spinal analysis care. [4] Perhaps the reader wishes to add his or her opinion about a controversial topic of the day or topics that spawn divisive positions within the profession. Recent articles have covered topics such as, Is chiropractic a primary care profession or portal of entry? [5] Does the concept of innate intelligence have a place in modern chiropractic? [6] Are there examples of bias and ignorance with respect to chiropractic in medical reporting? [7] What are the statistical risks of stroke associated with cervical spine adjustment? [8] Is there a way to make sense out of the different ways chiropractors use the word subluxation? [9] And, where is the chiropractic profession today in terms of its' position in the health care delivery system? [10]

In any event, the altruistic reason of “wanting to give something back” to the profession at large is not a trivial consideration. We applaud those practitioners, researchers, and educators who wish to try to add to the knowledge base of the profession, regardless of the underlying reason to do so.

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