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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 7-10

Quality of the materials and methods section of original dental research articles published in the iranian and international journals


1 Department of Business Management, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran
2 Department of Oral Medicine, School of Dentistry, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
3 Department of Endodontics, Dental School, Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences, Bandar Abbas, Iran

Date of Web Publication21-Mar-2018

Correspondence Address:
Assoc. Prof. Sedigheh Bakhtiari
Department of Oral Medicine, School of Dental, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran
Iran
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/dmr.dmr_32_17

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  Abstract 


Background and Objectives: Lack of scientific writing skills is believed to be a major obstacle in the course of research publication and dissemination by the Iranian researchers. Without following the globally accepted publication standards, dissertations, and projects cannot reach their final goal of being published and incorporated into practice. We aimed to compare the writing quality of a number of dental original articles written in Farsi and published in the Iranian journals with those written in English and published in international journals. Materials and Methods: In this analytical cross-sectional study, we selected 64 articles from six dental journals (three international English journals and three Farsi journals) by simple random sampling method. A list of 48 variables covering the study design, sampling method, subject allocation, ethical issues, interventions, measurements, and statistical methods was used to evaluate each article. The results were analyzed using Chi-square or Fisher's exact test. Results: Our results demonstrated that Farsi articles (n = 32) fulfilled 61.1% of our checklist criteria while English articles (n = 32) achieved a score of 59.1%, with no statistically significant difference (P > 0.05). Conclusion: We believe that the selected articles successfully reported most of the necessary elements. Their main shortcoming seemed to be the lack of clarification of details.

Keywords: Dentistry, English articles, Farsi articles, materials and methods, writing quality, writing standards


How to cite this article:
Afzali SM, Bakhtiari S, Farougi EM. Quality of the materials and methods section of original dental research articles published in the iranian and international journals. Dent Med Res 2018;6:7-10

How to cite this URL:
Afzali SM, Bakhtiari S, Farougi EM. Quality of the materials and methods section of original dental research articles published in the iranian and international journals. Dent Med Res [serial online] 2018 [cited 2018 Apr 19];6:7-10. Available from: http://www.dmrjournal.org/text.asp?2018/6/1/7/228119




  Introduction Top


Knowledge production and dissemination are among the top priorities for any academic institute and dedicates to a country's ranking in science. The number of publications in a country is a measure of its academic performance.[1],[2],[3] Although this number is far from ideal in the Eastern Mediterranean countries, biomedical articles in Medline and ISI Web of Science have improved tremendously in the recent years in terms of publication rates, citations, and journal impact factors (IFs) [Figure 1]. IF and number of citations, in general, are other measures used in quality assessment.[4]
Figure 1: Frequency of positive responses in the variables in English and Farsi in original articles in dentistry

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Adherence to the established scientific standards and structure in manuscript writing increases its chance of acceptance in a journal. A number of accepted resources are available regarding the standards of medical writing. Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals is a set of instructions proposed by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, to be used as a universal measure to prepare and assess the quality of biomedical articles, and is widely accepted by many international journals and the World Health Organization.

Many studies have evaluated the writing quality of different journal articles.[5],[6],[7],[8] Among the different sections of an article, materials and methods section is of particular importance and is probably the reason for rejection of many submitted manuscripts.[9]

Given the scarcity of data regarding quality assessment of articles in the field of dentistry in Iran, we aimed to undertake a study to evaluate and compare the writing quality of the materials and methods section of a number of original research articles published in Farsi Iranian and English international journals.


  Materials and Methods Top


Our study was an analytical cross-sectional study. Three English international journals and three Farsi journals were selected by a dental student, an oral medicine specialist, and two biostatisticians/methodologists. The inclusion criteria were English journals with an IF >3, publishing only in either Persian or English, covering a wide range of articles in dentistry and not dedicated to a specific specialty, availability of consecutive journal volumes, original articles constituting at least half of the articles in the volume, and publishing articles that follow the standard format of introduction, methods, results, and discussion, as suggested in the “Uniform Requirements.”

Based on an alpha error of 0.05 and beta of 0.20, the sample size was calculated to be 64 articles, which were randomly selected from six journals. Journals included three Iranian journals in Farsi and three international journals in English, each having three consecutive volumes:

  • Triple O, 2005, volumes 4–6
  • Australian Dental Journal, 2005, volumes 2–4
  • Oral Disease, 2007, volumes 2–4
  • Journal of Dental School of Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, 1386 (2007), volumes 1–3
  • Journal of Dental Medicine of Tehran University of Medical Sciences, 1385 (2006), volumes 2–4
  • Journal of Islamic Dental Association of Iran, 1386 (2007), volumes 1–3


We randomly selected three to four articles from each volume. Each article was then evaluated and appraised using a 48-item checklist, regarding the quality of the materials and methods section, designed by our two methodologists. The checklist was organized into nine parts: part one consisted of four questions regarding the study design; part two consisted of seven questions regarding the sample size, sampling method, and inclusion/exclusion criteria; part three consisted of eight questions regarding subject allocation, randomization, concealment, control group, and matching; part four consisted of five questions regarding ethical considerations; part five consisted of five questions regarding diagnostic and laboratory tests; part six consisted of seven questions regarding the use of questionnaires; part seven consisted of seven questions regarding treatment interventions; part eight consisted of four questions regarding measurements and equipment; and part nine consisted of a question regarding statistical tests. This checklist was reevaluated by our colleagues in the oral medicine department, and its internal and external validity was assessed.

Three reviewers including a dental student, an oral medicine specialist, and a methodologist independently scored each article. Any discrepancy in scores was discussed and resolved in a group discussion. After completion, frequencies and percentages were calculated for each set of articles, and groups were compared using Chi-square or Fisher's exact test.


  Results Top


Our results show that the 32 selected Farsi articles had a mean overall score of 61.1%, slightly more than the score of 59.1% for English articles (P > 0.05).

Seven of 48 items in the checklist showed significantly different scores (P< 0.05) between the two groups. These items included questions about the direct statement of the study design, correct description of study design, suitability of the design for answering the research question, obtaining informed consent from the participants, using predefined questionnaires, accurate presentation of drugs/materials used, and using generic names of medications. Other items did not show any statistically significant difference between the two groups [Table 1].
Table 1: Response rate of 64 selected Farsi and English journal articles in different variables*

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  Discussion Top


We compared 64 original articles from six Farsi and English international journals and found that more than half of our checklist items were covered, similarly between the two groups, in the materials and methods section.

Quality assessment, in general, is an inseparable part of research and publication. This is where common standards of research reporting come into play. Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) is an example, which is a set of recommendations for reporting clinical trials.

A number of studies have evaluated the writing quality of published articles and their abstracts. Narine et al. in 1991 evaluated the abstracts of original research papers published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). They calculated a score of. 63 (out of 1), showing that nearly a third of expected information is not covered in the abstracts. They concluded that most abstracts contain enough information according to publication standards, but they lack enough details to help the reader gain a comprehensive understanding of the study.[6]

In another study in 2006, abstracts of randomized controlled trials in the field of dentistry published in the journals of Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and the New England Journal of Medicine were scored according to the CONSORT recommendations. The authors concluded that quality of the abstracts is suboptimal, necessitating an improvement in this field.[10]

Wong et al. evaluated the abstracts of 54 research papers published in JAMA, CMAJ, and The BMJ in 2001 and 2002. They reported that the consistency and the framework in these abstracts have improved significantly compared to the abstracts published in 1991 and 1992.[11]

In a 2003 study, the abstract books of three clinical dermatology journals were evaluated, leading to a conclusion that unstructured abstracts are poorer in quality than structured abstracts.[12]

Bakhtiari et al., moreover, conducted a study comparing the writing quality of the results section of published original articles in Farsi journals to English journals. They found no significant difference between those articles.[13]

Our results demonstrated that while nearly half of the quality items were not met by the manuscripts in the materials and methods section, no significant difference was observed between Farsi and English articles. Given the growing number of biomedical publications, readers now have a wider choice, favoring the selection of articles with clear descriptions and details. The authors believe that by following common reporting standards, manuscripts will improve significantly in the materials and methods section, leading to clearer understanding of the study and easier dissemination of knowledge.

We evaluated the journals published in 2005-2007. We suggest that a similar future study evaluating more recently published journals be conducted, which will provide an updated insight into the possible improvement of writing quality, as well as a comparison with our findings.


  Conclusion Top


Although there was no significant difference in the quality of the materials and methods section between the selected Farsi and international journal articles, the authors believe they failed to meet the expected reporting standards, reflected by their suboptimal scores. We thus urge academic institutes to improve reporting quality by following a common reporting standard in this section, to provide a clearer description of the study for the readers.

Acknowledgement

We acknowledge Dr. Somayyeh Azimi from the University of Western Australia for her assistant and advice.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Mansouri R. Growing number of research papers in recent years. Rahyaft J 1993;4:12-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Desolla Price DJ. Little Science, Big Science. New York: Columbia University; 1963. p. 109-19.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Mansouri R. Scientific Development in Iran. 1st ed. Ch. 1-3. Iran: UNESCO National Commission Publication in Iran; 1994. p. 10-100.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Sharifi V. Quality evaluation research. New Cogn Sci 2003;20;108-10.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Wang L, Li Y, Li J, Zhang M, Xu L, Yuan W, et al. Quality of reporting of trial abstracts needs to be improved: Using the CONSORT for abstracts to assess the four leading Chinese medical journals of traditional Chinese medicine. Trials 2010;11:75.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Narine L, Yee DS, Einarson TR, Ilersich AL. Quality of abstracts of original research articles in CMAJ in 1989. CMAJ 1991;144:449-53.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Gøtzsche PC. Methodology and overt and hidden bias in reports of 196 double-blind trials of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs in rheumatoid arthritis. Control Clin Trials 1989;10:31-56.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Pocock SJ, Hughes MD, Lee RJ. Statistical problems in the reporting of clinical trials. A survey of three medical journals. N Engl J Med 1987;317:426-32.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Hall GM. How to Write a Paper. 5th ed., Ch. 1. London: Wiley, Blackwell; 2012. p. 9-11  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Berwanger O, Ribeiro RA, Finkelsztejn A, Watanabe M, Suzumura EA, Duncan BB, et al. The quality of reporting of trial abstracts is suboptimal: Survey of major general medical journals. J Clin Epidemiol 2009;62:387-92.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Wong HL, Truong D, Mahamed A, Davidian C, Rana Z, Einarson TR, et al. Quality of structured abstracts of original research articles in the British Medical Journal, the Canadian Medical Association Journal and the Journal of the American Medical Association: A 10-year follow-up study. Curr Med Res Opin 2005;21:467-73.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.
Dupuy A, Khosrotehrani K, Lebbé C, Rybojad M, Morel P. Quality of abstracts in 3 clinical dermatology journals. Arch Dermatol 2003;139:589-93.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
13.
Bakhtiari S, Alavi K, Alizadeh Dakhel Z, Azargashb E, Azimi S, Taheri JB. Quality of the results section of original dental articles published in National Farsi and international English journals. Beheshti Univ Dent J 2014;32:159-64.  Back to cited text no. 13
    


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