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GUEST EDITORIAL
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2

Feeling rejected?


Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, Royal Victoria Hospital, Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry and The Ulster Independent Clinic, Ireland

Date of Web Publication23-Apr-2012

Correspondence Address:
Peter Ramsay-Baggs
Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, Royal Victoria Hospital, Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry and The Ulster Independent Clinic
Ireland
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DOI: 10.4103/2231-0746.95305

PMID: 23479558

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How to cite this article:
Ramsay-Baggs P. Feeling rejected?. Ann Maxillofac Surg 2012;2:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Ramsay-Baggs P. Feeling rejected?. Ann Maxillofac Surg [serial online] 2012 [cited 2021 Apr 21];2:1-2. Available from: https://www.amsjournal.com/text.asp?2012/2/1/1/95305

You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you've got something to say.

- F Scott Fitzgerald

My distinguished colleagues, Dan Laskin [1] and Kursheed Moos, [2] have outlined the importance of the scientific journal as a vehicle for sharing knowledge and experience among surgeons and emphasized the need for integrity and accuracy from contributing authors.

For many potential contributors to a scientific journal, the standards required may seem too difficult to obtain and the rejection rate so high as to make the prospect of submitting their work at best a waste of time and at worst a signal to colleagues that their ideas are worthless. This is unfortunate, as all of us in clinical or research practice have experience that could be valuable to our colleagues. It does not need to be a double-blind cross-over trial, although of course this is the ideal. All authors have to start somewhere, and there is still a place for the short report, perhaps alerting colleagues to a rare or emerging condition. A recent example of this is the article by Ruggiero et al., [3] which brought the problems associated with bisphosphonates to the attention of the profession.

Why is the rejection rate for articles submitted to a journal so high and what can an author do to try and ensure his or her paper is accepted? The two things are, perhaps not surprisingly, related. An article that has nothing new to say is very unlikely to be accepted. Remember, no matter how important it is for you to publish, the editor is not producing his journal for your career advancement. Just because you may have encountered the biggest jaw cyst ever reported, it does not by itself justify publication, especially as next week someone will have found a bigger one. However, if you have found a new, preferably successful, method of treatment that results in lower morbidity or a better outcome, the editor may well be interested.

Many papers are rejected because they do not fulfil the requirements of the journal. These can always be found on the publishers' website, [4] and the first thing an author should do is read them. The next most important thing to do is to follow those instructions. They will give detailed advice about the sort of articles that will be considered, how to present and lay out the paper and how to submit it. If there are word limits (e.g., the Annals of Maxillofacial Surgery has a limit of 3500 words for an original research article, but only 1000 for a short communication), they must be adhered to. Longer is very rarely better, and the shorter the paper the more likely a potential reader is to actually read it. One of the most cited papers in scientific history was published as a one-page letter, consisting of fewer words than this editorial, in Nature in 1953-Watson and Crick's description of the structure of DNA. [5]

Most scientific journals are published in English, and poor English is a common reason for rejection of a paper. If it does not make good sense it cannot be published, even if the conclusions are accurate. Authors who do not have English as their first language, or who do not feel comfortable using the language should seek advice from a good English speaker before submitting their article. This is important to remove ambiguity and ensure that the message in the paper is clear. A useful phrase to remember is "not only should you make yourself understood, you should also make sure that you are not misunderstood." [6]

Statistics are another area where many papers fail to meet the required standards. Surgeons tend to be poor statisticians, and likewise statisticians tend make poor surgeons. Before starting any project that will require statistical analysis, it is essential that advice is sought from a statistician. Perhaps the commonest problem in surgical research is having sample sizes that are too small to detect an effect that is present. This sample size is determined by the power calculation which very often is absent in papers submitted to a journal. A simple guide to calculating the power of a study can be found at effectsizefaq.com. [7]

There are many resources available for potential authors, and the Internet is making them more accessible. I urge you to make use of them as the relatively small amount of time spent reading them can make the difference between acceptance and rejection. [8],[9]

One thing that potential authors worry about is submitting an article that is either unconventional or is at odds with previously published papers. This is something that editors actually welcome. As long as the paper is not just unfounded personal opinion, but has facts and, preferably, reproducible figures behind it, it will often be looked upon favorably. In 1943, in an article in the Washington Post, Alan Barth said "Journalisms is only the first rough draft of history." This is just as true for Medical Journalism. By the very nature of medical science, some of the things we currently believe will eventually be shown to be wrong. It is salutary to take a journal from 25 years ago and see just how much of what was published then has been shown to be erroneous by subsequent authors. This does not matter. There will be no progress without enquiring minds putting their work and thoughts up for the scrutiny of their peers.

Finally, rejection is not necessarily a bad thing. There is always something to be learnt from the process of writing and submitting a paper. Many successful authors have had their first submission, and indeed many subsequent submissions, rejected, but in the end the satisfaction of contributing something meaningful to the progress of our specialty should be sufficient motivation to sit down at the word processor and try again.

 
  References Top

1.Laskin DM. Improving the dissemination of surgical knowledge. Ann Maxillofac Surg 2011;1:1.  Back to cited text no. 1
  Medknow Journal  
2.Moos KF. Providing quality assurance for the Annals of Maxillofacial Surgery. Ann Maxillofac Surg 2011;1:99-100.  Back to cited text no. 2
  Medknow Journal  
3.Ruggiero SL, Mehrotra B, Rosenberg TJ, Engroff SL. Osteonecrosis of the jaws associated with the use of bisphosphonates: A review of 63 cases. J Oral Maxillofac Surg 2004;62:527-34.  Back to cited text no. 3
[PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
4.Available from: https://www.amsjournal.com/contributors.asp. [Last cited 2012 Mar 10].  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.Watson JD, Crick FH. Molecular structure of nucleic acids: A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid. Nature 1953;171:737-8.  Back to cited text no. 5
[PUBMED]    
6.Roberts PD. Plain English: A user's guide. Harmondsworth: Penguin; 1987.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.Available from: http://effectsizefaq.com/2010/05/31/how-do-i-calculate-statistical-power. [Last cited 2012 Mar 10].  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.Evans M. Writing a paper. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg 2007;45:485-7.  Back to cited text no. 8
[PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
9.Gustavii B. How to write and illustrate a scientific paper. Cambridge: CUP; 2003.  Back to cited text no. 9
    

 
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