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What are some rules or guidelines for writing academic essays and research papers?

Reporting guidelines help and guide authors in the preparation and accurate reporting of research studies, e.g., CONSORT for randomized trials, STROBE for observational studies, PRISMA for systematic reviews, STARD for diagnostic accuracy studies, and CARE for case reports. Editors of biomedical journals will often ask authors to provide evidence that they used and adhered to the appropriate reporting guidelines, and may ask for guideline specific checklists during submission, and include guideline flow diagrams in the published manuscript (e.g., CONSORT, PRISMA, STARD). Journal editors, reviewers, and readers use these guidelines as a tool in assessing the quality and reliability of reported research. Many guidelines have been developed for different study types, and it is important that authors identify and implement the correct guidelines for their research.

The EQUATOR (Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research) network is an international organization and collaboration between researchers, guideline developers, reviewers, journal editors, and research funders with the collective aims of promoting transparency and accurate reporting of health research studies, thereby improving the reliability and the value of the medical literature. The EQUATOR network has been instrumental in the development and implementation of guidelines, and currently hosts over 290 reporting guidelines, all of which are freely available on their website.

For authors that have already identified the appropriate guideline, a quick search by guideline name will take them to the appropriate page where they can easily find and download all the relevant information. However, for some authors, it is more difficult to work out which guideline is the right one for their particular study. In an effort to aid such authors, the EQUATOR network has partnered with Penelope Researchwho have developed a new tool – the equator wizard – to help authors choose the best reporting guideline. The wizard guides authors through a series of simple questions, starting with whether they require help or already know which checklist they need. For those that need help, it then goes on to gather further information such as if the study was conducted on humans, did it generate quantitative data, did it combine and analyze results from previous studies etc., etc., until all the questions are answered and a recommended guideline, together with a brief explanatory statement, is suggested. The author can then link directly to the guideline on the EQUATOR network page or choose to go back and restart the wizard again.

This tool is freely available for researchers to use, and there is even an option available for journal editors to embed the wizard into their information for authors’pages. At the end of the wizard, there is also a reminder to authors to make sure that they have addressed all the items on the guideline checklist in their article before submitting to their target journal. For journal editors and peer-reviewers, the inclusion of the appropriate reporting guideline checklist with an author’s submission is a welcomed addition; it serves as an indication of the quality and completeness of the research, and hopefully helps in speeding up the time to decision.

Research Medics experts will make sure you are using the correct reporting guideline, and will verify that you have complied with all essential items on the guideline checklist before you submit your manuscript as part of our new pre-submission peer-review service. This service has been designed to provide authors with recommendations for improvement and the opportunity to revise manuscripts before submission, eliminating many common reasons for rejection. Contact us for more information on how we can help you.

– We first answered this question on Quora and posted this article here for our blog viewers. – 

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