Writing an effective article is a challenging assignment. The following guidelines are provided to assist authors in submitting manuscripts.
The JOE publishes original and reviews articles related to the scientific and applied aspects of endodontics. Moreover, the JOE has a diverse readership that includes full-time clinicians, full-time academicians, residents, students, and scientists. Effective communication with this diverse readership requires careful attention to writing style.
General Points on Composition
- Authors are strongly encouraged to analyze their final draft with both software (e.g., spelling and grammar programs) and colleagues who have expertise in English grammar. References listed at the end of this section provide a more extensive review of rules of English grammar and guidelines for writing a scientific article. Always remember that clarity is the most important feature of scientific writing. Scientific articles must be clear and precise in their content and concise in their delivery since their purpose is to inform the reader. The Editor reserves the right to edit all manuscripts or to reject those manuscripts that lack clarity or precision, or have unacceptable grammar or syntax. The following list represents common errors in manuscripts submitted to the JOE:
- The paragraph is the ideal unit of organization. Paragraphs typically start with an introductory sentence that is followed by sentences that describe additional detail or examples. The last sentence of the paragraph provides conclusions and forms a transition to the next paragraph. Common problems include one-sentence paragraphs, sentences that do not develop the theme of the paragraph (see also section “c” below), or sentences with little to no transition within a paragraph.
- Keep to the point. The subject of the sentence should support the subject of the paragraph. For example, the introduction of authors’ names in a sentence changes the subject and lengthens the text. In a paragraph on sodium hypochlorite, the sentence, “In 1983, Langeland et al., reported that sodium hypochlorite acts as a lubricating factor during instrumentation and helps to flush debris from the root canals” can be edited to: “Sodium hypochlorite acts as a lubricant during instrumentation and as a vehicle for flushing the generated debris (Langeland et al., 1983)." In this example, the paragraph’s subject is sodium hypochlorite and sentences should focus on this subject.
- Sentences are stronger when written in the active voice, i.e., the subject performs the action. Passive sentences are identified by the use of passive verbs such as “was,” “were,” “could,” etc. For example: “Dexamethasone was found in this study to be a factor that was associated with reduced inflammation,” can be edited to: “Our results demonstrated that dexamethasone reduced inflammation.” Sentences written in a direct and active voice are generally more powerful and shorter than sentences written in the passive voice.
- Reduce verbiage. Short sentences are easier to understand. The inclusion of unnecessary words is often associated with the use of a passive voice, a lack of focus or run-on sentences. This is not to imply that all sentences need be short or even the same length. Indeed, variation in sentence structure and length often helps to maintain reader interest. However, make all words count. A more formal way of stating this point is that the use of subordinate clauses adds variety and information when constructing a paragraph. (This section was written deliberately with sentences of varying length to illustrate this point.)
- Use parallel construction to express related ideas. For example, the sentence, “Formerly, endodontics was taught by hand instrumentation, while now rotary instrumentation is the common method,” can be edited to “Formerly, endodontics was taught using hand instrumentation; now it is commonly taught using rotary instrumentation.” The use of parallel construction in sentences simply means that similar ideas are expressed in similar ways, and this helps the reader recognize that the ideas are related.
- Keep modifying phrases close to the word that they modify. This is a common problem in complex sentences that may confuse the reader. For example, the statement, “Accordingly, when conclusions are drawn from the results of this study, caution must be used,” can be edited to “Caution must be used when conclusions are drawn from the results of this study.”
- To summarize these points, effective sentences are clear and precise, and often are short, simple and focused on one key point that supports the paragraph’s theme.
- Authors should be aware that the JOE uses iThenticate, plagiarism detection software, to assure originality and integrity of material published in the Journal. The use of copied sentences, even when present within quotation marks, is highly discouraged. Instead, the information of the original research should be expressed by new manuscript author’s own words, and a proper citation given at the end of the sentence. Plagiarism will not be tolerated and manuscripts will be rejected, or papers withdrawn after publication based on unethical actions by the authors. In addition, authors may be sanctioned for future publication.
Organization of Original Research Manuscripts
Please Note: All abstracts should be organized into sections that start with a one-word title (in bold), i.e., Introduction, Methods, Results, Conclusions, etc., and should not exceed more than 250 words in length.
- Title Page: The title should describe the major emphasis of the paper. It should be as short as possible without loss of clarity. Remember that the title is your advertising billboard—it represents your major opportunity to solicit readers to spend the time to read your paper. It is best not to use abbreviations in the title since this may lead to imprecise coding by electronic citation programs such as PubMed (e.g., use “sodium hypochlorite” rather than NaOCl). The author list must conform to published standards on authorship (see authorship criteria in the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals at icmje.org). The manuscript title, name and address (including email) of one author designated as the corresponding author. This author will be responsible for editing proofs and order reprints when applicable. The contribution of each author should also be highlighted in the cover letter.
- Abstract: The abstract should concisely describe the purpose of the study, the hypothesis, methods, major findings, and conclusions. The abstract should describe the new contributions made by this study. The word limitations (250 words) and the wide distribution of the abstract (e.g., PubMed) make this section challenging to write clearly. This section often is written last by many authors since they can draw on the rest of the manuscript. Write the abstract in past tense since the study has been completed. Three to ten keywords should be listed below the abstract.
- Introduction: The introduction should briefly review the pertinent literature in order to identify the gap in knowledge that the study is intended to address and the limitations of previous studies in the area. The purpose of the study, the tested hypothesis and its scope should be clearly described. Authors should realize that this section of the paper is their primary opportunity to establish communication with the diverse readership of the JOE. Readers who are not expert in the topic of the manuscript are likely to skip the paper if the introduction fails to succinctly summarize the gap in knowledge that the study addresses. It is important to note that many successful manuscripts require no more than a few paragraphs to accomplish these goals. Therefore, authors should refrain from performing the extensive review or the literature, and discuss the results of the study in this section.
- Materials and Methods: The objective of the materials and methods section is to permit other investigators to repeat your experiments. The four components of this section are the detailed description of the materials used and their components, the experimental design, the procedures employed, and the statistical tests used to analyze the results. The vast majority of manuscripts should cite prior studies using similar methods and succinctly describe the essential aspects used in the present study. Thus, the reader should still be able to understand the method used in the experimental approach and concentration of the main reagents (e.g., antibodies, drugs, etc.) even when citing a previously published method. The inclusion of a “methods figure” will be rejected unless the procedure is novel and requires an illustration for comprehension. If the method is novel, then the authors should carefully describe the method and include validation experiments. If the study utilized a commercial product, the manuscript must state that they either followed manufacturer’s protocol or specify any changes made to the protocol. If the study used an in vitro model to simulate a clinical outcome, the authors must describe experiments made to validate the model, or previous literature that proved the clinical relevance of the model. Studies on humans must conform to the Helsinki Declaration of 1975 and state that the institutional IRB/equivalent committee(s) approved the protocol and that informed consent was obtained after the risks and benefits of participation were described to the subjects or patients recruited. Studies involving animals must state that the institutional animal care and use committee approved the protocol. The statistical analysis section should describe which tests were used to analyze which dependent measures; p-values should be specified. Additional details may include randomization scheme, stratification (if any), power analysis as a basis for sample size computation, drop-outs from clinical trials, the effects of important confounding variables, and bivariate versus multivariate analysis.
- Results: Only experimental results are appropriate in this section (i.e., neither methods, discussion, nor conclusions should be in this section). Include only those data that are critical for the study, as defined by the aim(s). Do not include all available data without justification; any repetitive findings will be rejected from publication. All Figures, Charts, and Tables should be described in their order of numbering with a brief description of the major findings. The author may consider the use of supplemental figures, tables or video clips that will be published online. Supplemental material is often used to provide additional information or control experiments that support the results section (e.g., microarray data).
- Figures: There are two general types of figures. The first type of figures includes photographs, radiographs or micrographs. Include only essential figures, and even if essential, the use of composite figures containing several panels of photographs is encouraged. For example, most photos, radio- or micrographs take up one column-width, or about 185 mm wide X 185 mm tall. If instead, you construct a two columns-width figure (i.e., about 175 mm wide X 125 mm high when published in the JOE), you would be able to place about 12 panels of photomicrographs (or radiographs, etc.) as an array of four columns across and three rows down (with each panel about 40 X 40 mm). This will require some editing to emphasize the most important feature of each photomicrograph, but it greatly increases the total number of illustrations that you can present in your paper. Remember that each panel must be clearly identified with a letter (e.g., “A,” “B,” etc.), in order for the reader to understand each individual panel. Several nice examples of composite figures are seen in recent articles by Jeger et al (J Endod 2012;38:884–888); Olivieri et al., (J Endod 2012;38:1007 1011); Tsai et al (J Endod 2012;38:965–970). Please note that color figures may be published at no cost to the authors and authors are encouraged to use color to enhance the value of the illustration. Please note that a multi-panel, composite figure only counts as one figure when considering the total number of figures in a manuscript (see section 3, below, for the maximum number of allowable figures).The second type of figures is graphs (i.e., line drawings including bar graphs) that plot a dependent measure (on the Y-axis) as a function of an independent measure (usually plotted on the X axis). Examples include a graph depicting pain scores over time, etc. Graphs should be used when the overall trend of the results are more important than the exact numerical values of the results. For example, a graph is a convenient way of reporting that an ibuprofen-treated group reported less pain than a placebo group over the first 24 hours, but was the same as the placebo group for the next 96 hours. In this case, the trend of the results is the primary finding; the actual pain scores are not as critical as the relative differences between the NSAID and placebo groups.
- Tables: Tables are appropriate when it is critical to present exact numerical values. However, not all results need be placed in either a table or figure. For example, the following table may not be necessary:Instead, the results could simply state that there was no inhibition of growth from 0.001-0.03% NaOCl, and a 100% inhibition of growth from 0.03-3% NaOCl (N=5/group). Similarly, if the results are not significant, then it is probably not necessary to include the results in either a table or as a figure. These and many other suggestions on figure and table construction are described in additional detail in Day (1998).
% NaOCl N/Group % Inhibition of Growth 0.001 5 0 0.003 5 0 0.01 5 0 0.03 5 0 0.1 5 100 0.3 5 100 1 5 100 3 5 100
- Discussion: This section should be used to interpret and explain the results. Both the strengths and weaknesses of the observations should be discussed. How do these findings compare to the published literature? What are the clinical implications? Although this last section might be tentative given the nature of a particular study, the authors should realize that even preliminary clinical implications might have value for the clinical leadership. Ideally, a review of the potential clinical significance is the last section of the discussion. What are the major conclusions of the study? How does the data support these conclusions
- Acknowledgments: All authors must affirm that they have no financial affiliation (e.g., employment, direct payment, stock holdings, retainers, consultantships, patent licensing arrangements or honoraria), or involvement with any commercial organization with direct financial interest in the subject or materials discussed in this manuscript, nor have any such arrangements existed in the past three years. Any other potential conflict of interest should be disclosed. Any author for whom this statement is not true must append a paragraph to the manuscript that fully discloses any financial or other interest that poses a conflict. Likewise, the sources and correct attributions of all other grants, contracts or donations that funded the study must be disclosed
- References: The reference style follows Index Medicus and can be easily learned from reading past issues of the JOE. The JOE uses the Vancouver reference style, which can be found in most citation management software products. Citations are placed in parentheses at the end of a sentence or at the end of a clause that requires a literature citation. Do not use superscript for references. Original reports are limited to 35 references. There are no limits to the number of references for review articles.
Manuscripts Category Classifications and Requirements
Manuscripts submitted to the JOE must fall into one of the following categories. The abstracts for all these categories would have a maximum word count of 250 words:
- CONSORT Randomized Clinical Trial-Manuscripts in this category must strictly adhere to the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials-CONSORT- minimum guidelines for the publication of randomized clinical trials. These guidelines can be found at consort-statement.org. These manuscripts have a limit of 3,500 words, [including abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, and acknowledgments; excluding figure legends and references]. In addition, there is a limit of a total of 4 figures and 4 tables*.
- Review Article-Manuscripts in this category is either narrative articles, or systematic reviews/meta-analyses. Case report/Clinical Technique articles even when followed by the extensive review of the literature will be categorized as “Case Report/Clinical Technique”. These manuscripts have a limit of 3,500 words, [including abstract, introduction, discussion, and acknowledgments; excluding figure legends and references]. In addition, there is a limit of a total of 4 figures and 4 tables*.
- Clinical Research (e.g., prospective or retrospective studies on patients or patient records, or research on biopsies, excluding the use of human teeth for technique studies). These manuscripts have a limit of 3,500 words [including abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, and acknowledgments; excluding figure legends and references]. In addition, there is a limit of a total of 4 figures and 4 tables*.
- Basic Research Biology (animal or culture studies on biological research on physiology, development, stem cell differentiation, inflammation or pathology). Manuscripts that have a primary focus on biology should be submitted in this category while manuscripts that have a primary focus on materials should be submitted in the Basic Research Technology category. For example, a study on cytotoxicity of a material should be submitted in the Basic Research Technology category, even if it was performed in animals with histological analyses. These manuscripts have a limit of 2,500 words [including abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, and acknowledgments; excluding figure legends and references]. In addition, there is a limit of a total of 4 figures or 4 tables*.
- Basic Research Technology (Manuscripts submitted in this category focus primarily on research related to techniques and materials used, or with potential clinical use, in endodontics). These manuscripts have a limit of 2,500 words [including abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, and acknowledgments; excluding figure legends and references]. In addition, there is a limit of a total of 3 figures and tables *.
- Case Report/Clinical Technique (e.g., report of an unusual clinical case or the use of cutting-edge technology in a clinical case). These manuscripts have a limit of 2,500 words [including abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, and acknowledgments; excluding figure legends and references]. In addition, there is a limit of a total of 4 figures or tables*.* Figures, if submitted as multi-panel figures must not exceed 1-page length. Manuscripts submitted with more than the allowed number of figures or tables will require the approval of the JOE Editor or associate editors. If you are not sure whether your manuscript falls within one of the categories above, or would like to request preapproval for submission of additional figures please contact the Editor by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.Importantly, adhering to the general writing methods described in these guidelines (and in the resources listed below) will help to reduce the size of the manuscript while maintaining its focus and significance. Authors are encouraged to focus on only the essential aspects of the study and to avoid inclusion of extraneous text and figures. The Editor may reject manuscripts that exceed these limitations.
Strunk W, White EB. The Elements of Style. Allyn & Bacon, 4th ed, 2000, ISBN 020530902X.
Day R. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper. Oryx Press, 5th ed. 1998. ISBN 1-57356-164-9.
Woods G. English Grammar for Dummies. Hungry Minds:NY, 2001 (an entertaining review of grammar).
Alley M. The Craft of Scientific Writing. Springer, 3rd edition 1996 SBN 0-387-94766-3.
Alley M. The Craft of Editing. Springer, 2000 SBN 0-387-98964-1.