The culmination of the research process is the communication of results. This final stage may be the most important part of the process in that only shared information can clarify, amplify and expand the professional body of knowledge. Research reports can be developed in a variety of ways. The written article published in a refereed journal provides a permanent record of research that will be available to a large audience. Oral reports and poster presentations at professional meetings serve to disseminate research information in a timely fashion, although the audience is limited and the record of research findings will be found only in abstract form. Students are usually required to document their work in the form of a thesis or dissertation, but may be given the option of writing the paper in the form of a journal article. The purpose of this chapter is to describe the process of preparing manuscripts for publication in scientific journals, poster presentations and oral reports.
The researcher should decide where the manuscript will be submitted before writing the final paper. The expansion of the scope of practice in the health professions has been accompanied by a proliferation of publications serving specialized areas of practice. The choices are numerous and selection of the appropriate one deserves careful thought.
Some journals have a clearly defined focus with priorities explicitly stated. This focus is often stated in a journal's masthead or instructions to authors. For example, the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development (JRRD) has a complete statement that clarifies the kinds of papers that are appropriate, including the priorities:
JRRD responsibly reports the results of rehabilitation research relevant to veterans. Our goal is to publish cutting-edge research that enhances the quality and relevance of Department of Veterans Affairs rehabilitation research and disseminate biomedical and engineering advances. Priority areas are prosthetics, amputations, orthotics, and orthopedics; spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders (with particular interest in traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, and restorative therapies); communication, sensory, and cognitive aids; geriatric rehabilitation; and functional outcome research. JRRD accepts national and international submissions.1
When a journal's focus is not so obvious, the contents of several issues of that journal should be read to determine if a particular study is consistent with the subject matter and type of research that the journal tends to publish. It is an unfortunate waste of time, effort and perhaps money to make the wrong choice and to have a manuscript returned because it "is not suitable for publication" in a particular journal. This is almost verbatim what the rejection letter will say.
Another consideration in selecting a journal is the readership. The product of research should reach the people who will best be able to use the information. If, for example, a ...