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How to Publish Research: The Bullet Outline of a Journal Article

Start with a bulleted outline and fill in the paragraphs one at a time. You can do it!

  • Title and Abstract
  • Introduction – Why did you start?
    1. Problem Description
      1. Nature and significance of the local problem
    2. Available Knowledge
      1. Summary of what is currently known about the problem, including relevant previous studies
    3. Rationale
      1. Informal or formal frameworks, models, concepts, and/or theories used to explain the problem, any reasons or assumptions that were used to develop the intervention(s), and reasons why the intervention(s) was expected to work
    4. Specific Aims
      1. Purpose of the project and of this report
  • Methods – What did you do?
    1. Context
      1. Contextual elements considered important at the outset of introducing the intervention(s)
    2. Intervention(s)
      1. Description of the intervention(s) in sufficient detail that others could reproduce it
      2. Specifics of the team involved in the work
    3. Study of the Intervention(s)
      1. Approach chosen for assessing the impact of the intervention(s)
      2. Approach used to establish whether the observed outcomes were due to the intervention(s)
    4. Measures
      1. Measures chosen for studying processes and outcomes of the intervention(s), including rationale for choosing them, their operational definitions, and their validity and reliability
      2. Description of the approach to the ongoing assessment of contextual elements that contributed to the success, failure, efficiency, and cost
      3. Methods employed for assessing completeness and accuracy of data
    5.  Analysis
      1. Qualitative and quantitative methods used to draw inferences from the data
      2. Methods for understanding variation within the data, including the effects of time as a variable
    6. Ethical Considerations
      1. Ethical aspects of implementing and studying the intervention(s) and how they were addressed, including, but not limited to, formal ethics review and potential conflict(s) of interest
  • Results – What did you find?
    1. Results
      1. Initial steps of the intervention(s) and their evolution over time (e.g., time-line diagram, flow chart, or table), including modifications made to the intervention during the project
      2. Details of the process measures and outcome
      3. Contextual elements that interacted with the intervention(s)
      4. Observed associations between outcomes, interventions, and relevant contextual elements
      5. Unintended consequences such as unexpected benefits, problems, failures, or costs associated with the intervention(s).
      6. Details about missing data
  • Discussion – What does it mean?
    1. Summary
      1. Key findings, including relevance to the rationale and specific aims
      2. Particular strengths of the project
      3. Interpretation
      4. Nature of the association between the intervention(s) and the outcomes
      5. Comparison of results with findings from other publications
      6. Impact of the project on people and systems
      7. Reasons for any differences between observed and anticipated outcomes, including the influence of context
      8. Costs and strategic trade-offs, including opportunity costs
    2.  Limitations
      1. Limits to the generalizability of the work
      2. Factors that might have limited internal validity such as confounding, bias, or imprecision in the design, methods, measurement, or analysis
      3. Efforts made to minimize and adjust for limitations
    3.  Conclusions
      1. Usefulness of the work
      2. Sustainability
      3. Potential for spread to other contexts
      4. Implications for practice and for further study in the field
      5. Suggested next steps

Have you seen Beall’s List of Predatory Journals and Publishers?

Beall’s List of Predatory Journals and Publishers can be found at

Have you encountered a questionable, scholarly open-access publisher? We recommend all scholars read the available reviews, assessments and descriptions provided here, and decide for yourself whether you want to submit articles, serve as editors or on editorial boards.  In a few cases, non-open access publishers whose practices match those of predatory publishers have been added to the list as well. The criteria for determining predatory publishers are here.
It is ultimately up to you to submit to journals as you wish, however this may help at least spark some additional research into the journal to know if they are questionable or not.
Happy hunting!

Research Designs

There are several types of research designs:

  • Action Research Design: Initiated to solve an immediate problem or a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as part of a “community of practice” to improve the way they address issues and solve problems.
  • Case Studies: An empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in which multiple sources of evidence are used
  • Causal Design: The investigation into an issue or topic that looks at the effect of one thing or variable on another.
  • Cohort Design: A longitudinal study (panel study) that sample a cohort (a group of people who share a defining characteristic, typically who experienced a common event in a selected period, such as birth or graduation), performing a cross-section at intervals through time.
  • Cross-Sectional Design: A type of observational study that analyzes data collected from a population, or a representative subset, at a specific point in time—that is,cross-sectional data (also known as across-sectional analysis, transversal study, or prevalence study).
  • Descriptive Design: A study designed to depict the participants in an accurate way. The three main ways to collect this information are: Observational, defined as a method of viewing and recording the participants. Case study, defined as an in-depth study of an individual or group of individuals.
  • Experimental Design: A blueprint of the procedure that enables the researcher to test his hypothesis by reaching valid conclusions about relationships between independent and dependent variables. It refers to the conceptual framework within which the experiment is conducted.
  • Exploratory Design: A research conducted for a problem that has not been studied more clearly, establishes priorities, develops operational definitions and improve the final research design. Exploratory research helps determine the best research design, data-collection method and selection of subjects.
  • Historical Design: The purpose of a historical research design is to collect, verify, and synthesize evidence from the past to establish facts that defend or refute a hypothesis.
  • Longitudinal Design: An observational research method in which data is gathered for the same subjects repeatedly over a period of time. Longitudinal research projects can extend over years or even decades. In a longitudinal cohort study, the same individuals are observed over the study
  • Meta Analysis Design: A subset of systematic reviews; a method for systematically combining pertinent qualitative and quantitative study data from several selected studies to develop a single conclusion that has greater statistical power. To provide a more complex analysis of harms, safety data, and benefits.
  • Mixed Method Design: A methodology for conducting research that involves collecting, analyzing and integrating quantitative (e.g., experiments, surveys) and qualitative (e.g., focus groups, interviews) research
  • Observational Design: A type of correlational (i.e., non-experimental)research in which a researcher observes ongoing behavior. There are a variety of types of observational research, each of which has both strengths and weaknesses.
  • Philosophical Design: Study aims to present work by authors who conceive of philosophy as a cooperative scientific enterprise. It clarifies meanings, make values manifest, identify ethics, and studies the nature of knowledge.
  • Sequential Design: A combination of longitudinal and cross-sectional designs, by following several differently aged cohorts over time.


Learn More:

USC Research Guides:

Types of Research Designs:

What is Research Design?:

Understanding Research Study Designs:



5 Steps to Know Your Enemy: Beat the Competition or Collaborate

1. Know thyself.

When was the last time you Googled yourself? Updated your CV? Updated your career goals? Took a good long look at what you’ve accomplished thus far…and where you want to be in 10 years? When was the last time you asked for constructive criticism on your research?

2. Name thy enemy. 

A comprehensive literature review is the first step in generating a fundable research idea. When you’re working on the literature review, pay attention and start making a list of the competition. Who are the main authors? Who are the collaborators? Do a search on this year’s annual conference abstracts to find those who is presenting in your area. Generate a list of names of those in your field who are actively working in your area.

3. Research thy enemy.

Next, head to the NIH RePORTER and plug-in those names! See what is funding these people, where is the money coming from? Check the publications, check the NIH, check everywhere to find out who and what is funding this area of research. (Remember, you can use your competitor’s abstracts and key words to improve your next grant proposal!)

4. Humble thyself. 

Is there someone who is dangerously close to your line of research? Sounds like it might be time to invest in some Starbucks time and meet this person for coffee at the next annual meeting. See if there’s something small you can work on together.

5. Sit thy butt down and write a grant proposal. 


Probable Cause vs. Conscious Consent: An Open Letter to a Utah Detective and an Argument for Life

“The detective didn’t have a warrant, first off. And the patient wasn’t conscious, so he couldn’t give consent. Without that, the detective was barred from collecting blood samples — not just by hospital policy, but by basic constitutional law.” (Derek Hawkins, Washington Post)

There have been countless discussions raised by this event. But, the most basic question on the table is this: Is probable cause of a crime enough to revoke your right to consent?

First, I want to start with the definition of life. I need to start here partly because I was an English major and I have an absurd obsession with vocabulary, but mostly because it is so very important to fully understand this basic point. Life, in its most primitive and basic form is a heart beating. Two lungs expanding and collapsing. Oxygen in its infinite race with blood. A brain that understands light from dark, hot from cold, danger from safety. This is life. You are alive. You are awake. You are aware.

Life is not the choices someone makes. It is not what they decide to do with their time. It is not their level of education, their profession, or even how they choose to define right from wrong. It is not their gender, their sex, their height or their skin color. It is a breath. It is an open eye. It is the capacity to understand.

In this country, the right of a human being to live―to be alive, awake, and aware―surpasses every other thing.

Detective, I respect and admire your fight for justice. I know that you have a dangerous and difficult job—that you risk your life to protect me. I understand that it can be a thankless job, even a scorned and mistrusted position. I appreciate your fight for honesty. I appreciate you.

But nothing, not even a true and honest fight for justice, comes before a human being’s right to life—the physical and mental state of being alive, awake, and aware.  Nothing.

If that person is truly guilty, there will be another way to prove their guilt. You do not need to violate their right of consent when they are fighting for their right to live. There will be another day to fight this battle. Human life is more important than being right.

This is the essence of our country, and the reason why I choose to live in the United States of America. It is the reason why I work at a hospital. It is the reason why I choose to spend my time working in medical research. We as a people decided that a person’s right to life is most important. We have fought long and bloody wars (we are still fighting long and bloody wars) over this very belief.

So, I return to the question on the table. A question that so many people, so much smarter than me, have struggled with and have come to this same conclusion. Is probable cause of a crime enough to revoke your right to consent? The answer is no.

Human life is more important than being right.

A Story of Reference Citations and a Comma Casualty

How much time do you spend on the references page? How many tears have been wiped away in frustrated anger? Did the absence of a comma cost you?

I’ve recently come to know a citation management option called Zotero. The best part? It’s free. And it thinks like we do–you can tag and categorize different citations and form a ‘playlist’ of your favorite citations to make life easier.

Look at that, I used “citations” and “easier” in the same sentence.

It’s both Mac and PC compatible (crazy, right?) and there’s a button for your browser to make one-click additions easier than…well, pie. (Because if you’ve ever made a pie you know it’s not easy.)

So, check it out. Stop wasting time with whatever citation method you’ve come to hate, and check out Zotero: