If a project allows you to explore several distinct research questions, write several papers.For instance, if you measured the impact of obtaining written consent on patient satisfaction at a specialized clinic using a newly developed questionnaire, you may want to write one paper on the questionnaire development and validation, and another on the impact of the intervention.
Knowledge of the rules—some explicit, others implied—goes a long way toward writing a paper that will get accepted in a peer-reviewed journal.
A good research paper addresses a specific research question.
This is perhaps obvious when the paper reports on a well planned research project.
However, in applied domains such as quality improvement, some papers are written based on projects that were undertaken for operational reasons, and not with the primary aim of producing new knowledge.
It can often (but not always) be expressed in terms of a possible association between X and Y in a population Z, for example ‘we examined whether providing patients about to be discharged from the hospital with written information about their medications would improve their compliance with the treatment 1 month later’.
A study does not necessarily have to break completely new ground, but it should extend previous knowledge in a useful way, or alternatively refute existing knowledge.
Resist the temptation to demonstrate analytic ability and the richness of the dataset by providing numerous tables of non-essential results. This is why the Discussion is the most difficult to write, and is often the weakest part of a paper.
Structured Discussion sections have been proposed by some journal editors .
The basic structure of a typical research paper is the sequence of Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion (sometimes abbreviated as IMRAD). The authors state: (i) the problem they intend to address—in other terms, the research question—in the Introduction; (ii) what they did to answer the question in the Methods section; (iii) what they observed in the Results section; and (iv) what they think the results mean in the Discussion.
In turn, each basic section addresses several topics, and may be divided into subsections (Table 1).