This course is designed to enhance and broaden students’ discipline-based studies with an integrative educational and training experience which will improve their ability to publish their work in quality journals.
In order to graduate at the CAPES level 6, Doctoral students need to have published at least one article in a journal of QUALIS quality A or B. For Masters students, this is an optional criterion. Although students receive excellent tuition in their core academic subject fields and training in the specialised techniques and technologies underpinning their research projects, in order to succeed in publishing their work in an international or high quality national journal, they need to understand how to formulate effective scientific questions and hypotheses which reflect the current trends research in their respective fields. In particular, they need to understand from the outset how to frame their research project and structure the results generated in a form that will appeal to the editors of scientific journals of good quality. This is not always the case and it is at this deficiency that the course is aimed.
The course is based around 10 1-2 hour lectures and a series of associated practical units (2-3 hrs) in which the students must apply their learning to specific problems they will encounter throughout their careers in research. Total course time – 40 hours. Students are encouraged to work in groups but to submit assignments that are designed to demonstrate their individual contribution. Lecture notes and downloadable content will be permanently available at the web site, www.ganesha-associates.com.
Overview of the structure and objectives of the course, teaching methods and process of evaluation. How does the science process work? The global structure of biomedical research and the role of the publishing process therein.
Prepare a three slide”icebreaker” presentation entitled “Me, my project, and my question”.
Review of the sources and types of document published online. Which are the most important resources and how do they differ from one another? Detailed review of the content strengths and weaknesses of Google, Google Scholar, Scopus, Web of Knowledge, PubMed/Medline, ScienceDirect, SpringerLink, Highwire Press, etc.
A series of reading assignments and tests to acquaint students with some of the similarities and differences that exist between the capabilities of these resources – this practical will be tailored to reflect the students’ main subject area interests.
Using document resources effectively. How to use the different search interfaces to comprehensively retrieve documents in a specific area or answer a particular research question.
The students are set a series of tasks that test their knowledge of the search strategies they should be using when moving into a new area. This work will form the basis for the subsequent practical associated with lecture 5.
The broader online landscape. In addition to the document resources reviewed in lectures two and three, there exists a far larger number of databases and community web sites, all of which may be useful in terms of providing valuable insight and locating other experts in the field. This lecture will review the main types of resource available and provide some simple hints for evaluating quality/relevance.
The students will be split up into small subject-focussed teams and asked to review a short list of data and information resources available, e.g. NCBI, EBI. They will then report their findings back to the class.
Developing testable hypotheses. This lecture, and the associated practical, is designed to make students aware of the importance of designing robust hypotheses. The lecture is based around the review of examples of good and bad hypotheses taken from the current scientific literature and will develop some simple rules that students can use to assess their own research projects.
Starting with a review article, taken from a subject area unrelated to the student’s studies, students are asked to identify one current important unanswered question in this field, and justify their choice in a three slide presentation.
Framing and presenting a hypothesis. The lecture reiterates the importance of starting with a well-founded hypothesis and goes on to consider the role played by choice of technologies, experimental design, and statistics in the research process.
The practical for this lecture is based around short presentations of the students’ own projects plus healthy criticism from their colleagues based on what they have been taught so far.
Writing a scientific article. This lecture looks at the style and structure of scientific writing and highlights some of the areas that can lead to problems when the researcher tries to get the article published. The lecture will include many examples of good and bad writing practice, and will emphasise the point that most problems arise even when the article is being written in Portuguese!
A series of written exercises and quizzes based around key features of the structure of scientific articles.
Getting a scientific article published. How does the scientific process work and what aspects do students need to understand so that their article is published in the best possible journal with the minimum of problems.
Using the students’ own project proposals, the class acts as a review board and critiques them according to the principals of good scientific writing described in the course.
The research assessment process and the strengths and weaknesses in the scientific process. This lecture looks at the increasing use of metrics, such as QUALIS, in the assessment and evaluation of scientific research and researchers. It also looks at the weaknesses in the current publishing process and looks at some of the measures that are being taken to improve it. Also a discussion of the increasing importance of scientific fraud, plagiarism and ethics.
A series of exercises using various metrics, such as the Impact Factor and the H-index to evaluate specific journals and fields of research.
Round-up of issues and a summary of the important learning points.
Discussion of the results of the practical in general. General feedback and opportunities for improvement.
By the end of the course, students will be able to use effectively all of the online information resources that are available to them at UFPE, be able to develop and assess their own robust scientific hypotheses and critique those of their colleagues and competitors. They will understand the importance of writing style and structure in the formulation of a good scientific article and will have sufficient knowledge of the workings of the scientific publishing industry to be able to select an appropriate journal and manage the process of submission and review effectively. Finally, they will have an appreciation of how scientific research has become an important component of many countries strategy for economic development and the opportunities and pressures that that brings to individual researchers.
Research will be undertaken during the stay regarding the feasibility of developing a specialised course on statistics and scientific methodology that can be tailored to meet the needs of different departments within CCB and CCS. I will also be continuing to develop a Moodle-based version of the course that can be run remotely and/or integrated alongside the UFPE’s own online didactic resources.
D Bousfield, Identifying reasons for failure in biomedical research and publishing. Braz J Med Biol Res, July 2009, Volume 42(7) 589-592