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Top 20 Manuscript Problems To Avoid

Top 5 Reasons Manuscripts Are Rejected

  1. Topic not a good match with the journal’s scope:
    • Development, implementation, and evaluation of population-based interventions to prevent chronic diseases and control their impact on quality of life, morbidity, and mortality.
    • Multidisciplinary and multisectoral approaches to chronic disease prevention and health promotion.
    • Settings where individuals and communities engage in improving health behaviors.
    • Behavioral, psychological, genetic, environmental, biological, and social determinants of health.
    • Disparities in chronic disease among at-risk populations and interventions that eliminate these disparities.
    • Policy and legislative development, implementation, and evaluation of interventions.
    • Application of innovative multimedia technologies in chronic disease prevention and health promotion.
  1. Nothing new to say – does not answer “so what” question:
    • Address a novel question – not just confirmatory
    • What is already known about this topic
    • What is added by this study
    • How can this study be applied to public health practice
    • What are the “next steps”
  2. Old data (or not most current available)
    • Over-reliance on old references
  3. Study design problems
    • Underpowered study
    • Survey with differential non-response
    • Predictive model that isn’t validated
    • Lack of specificity
  4. Results/Discussion section problems
    • Over-speculation/over-interpretation of results
    • New analysis in the discussion
    • Discussion of topics not related to analysis or data

Top 5 Mistakes in Figures

  1. Submitting a graphic using a different file format than the one used to create it
    • Do not paste graphics created in Excel into Word or PPT
    • Do not convert Excel graphics into JPEG, GIF, or other graphics files

 

Figure Type File Type Accepted
Graph or chart created in Excel Excel
Graph or chart not created in Excel ·         .ai

·         .eps

·         .svg

Simple

·         flow chart

·         timeline

·         logic model

·         figure consisting primarily of text and text boxes

·         Word

·         PowerPoint

Complex

·         flow chart

·         timeline

·         logic model

·         figure consisting of text and images

·         .ai

·         .eps

·         .svg

Map or other complicated image ·         .ai

·         .eps

·         .svg

Photograph ·         High-resolution JPG

·         High-resolution TIF

 

  1. Figure duplicates information in text or table
  2. x-axis and y-axis not labeled; units of measurement not provided
  3. Figure legend not included (just as a table should be understandable without having to read the text, so should the figure):
    • Abbreviations explained
    • Independent and dependent variables
    • Population of interest
    • Sample size
    • Location and time of study
  1. Including a figure when a table would be more appropriate (figures are better for highlighting patterns or trends, whereas tables are better when exact values are more important) or including a figure simply to break up text or add visual interest

 

Top 5 Mistakes in Tables

  1. Exceeding table limit (nesting tables within tables)
  2. Tables duplicate information in text
  3. Tables are not understandable unless reader consults the text – titles should be descriptive, including the who, what, where, and when; all special terms should be footnoted; and references should be provided per usual citation rules.
  4.  No footnote explaining why numbers may not sum to group totals or why percentages do not total the expected value
  5. Incorrect arrangement of content within cells
    • NO soft or hard paragraph returns (new cell needed)
    • NO tabs
    • NO indents
    • NO extra spaces
    • No extra cells

 

Correct arrangement:

Category Column Heading Column Heading
Row stub
Row stub Data Data
Row stub Data Data
Row stub Data Data

 

 

Incorrect arrangements:

Row stub
Do not use spaces to create alignment                                                   Data
          Data               Data       Data
          Data               Data       Data

 

Row stub
Do not use extra cells to create alignment Data
Do not use extra cells to create alignment Data
Do not use extra cells to create alignment Data

 

Row stub
Do not use hard returns to create alignment Data

Data

Data

Do not use soft returns to create alignment Data
Data
Data
Data
Do not use tabs to create alignment Data       Data       Data       Data

Data       Data       Data       Data

Data       Data       Data       Data

Data       Data       Data       Data

 

 

Top 5 Mistakes in Reporting Statistics

  1. Incorrect reporting of P values
    • Do not report P values alone in text; indicate95% confidence intervals instead or in addition to P
    • Report exact numbers for P values (eg, P = .03); do not express P values as inequalities (eg, P < .05).
    • Report P values ≥.01  to 2 digits past the decimal point, regardless of significance (eg, P = .31, P  = .04, P  = .01).
    • If P < .01, express to 3 digits past the decimal point.
    • If P < .001, express as P < .001; do not express P values as numbers with more than 3 decimal places.
    • P values cannot equal 0 or 1; largest value is >.99 and smallest value is <.001.
  1. Incorrect reporting of numbers and descriptive statistics
    • Use the correct degree of precision for numbers. For example, because age is measured in whole numbers, any calculations (such as mean and standard deviation [SD]) should not be reported past the tenths place.
    • Report numerators and denominators parenthetically when percentages are reported.
    • Use SD, interquartile range (IQR), or range to indicate the variability of a data set. Do NOT use standard error (SE).
    • Summarize data that are not normally distributed with median and IQR, range, or both. (If the standard deviation is more than half the point estimate, report the median and IQR.)
  1. Not reporting the α level that defines statistical significance.
  2. Not explaining outlying data or how missing data were handled.
  3. Not specifying in the tables or figures the statistical test used to generate P.

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The opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions.

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