How to avoid a bad research paper?

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The growing number of academic and institution have embraced the research culture and it is a healthy sign to see more papers are getting published annually. The higher institution now have realised the importance of research in creating, improving and expanding the knowledge. It is encouraging to witness more high impact research with the potential of commercialisation. When the number of journals and papers are increasing, the quality of the papers need to be scrutinised and prioritised. The reputation of a journal is mirrored by its impact factor and this more often regarded as a gatekeeper to protect the high standards of a particular journal. Despite that, the ability to produce a good paper and guarding the academic integrity should not be viewed as a trivial matter, as the repercussions of bad papers can be devastating.

To begin with, a bad paper can arise from the flawed hypothesis/ question/statement, the inappropriate study design or poor result analysis. For the first category, the bad question happens when the researcher fails to gather proper and latest evidence in the particular discipline and unable to find the gap in the knowledge to justify another study in that field. In other word, the researcher has failed to brainstorm and expand the literature review. Thus, original thoughts and ability to think from different angle are important to design an authentic and meaningful research question or statement. And this is only possible from comprehensive literature review with a great support from peers.

Once the question has been created, we need to figure out how we are going to answer the question. Again, it involves formulating a meticulous method by studying all the previous studied methods and its limitations. If the method is inaccurate, the entire research may be deviated and any tangible result arising from the study will be discarded. Thus, knowledge of various study design such as cohort, case control, randomised controlled  trial or qualitative study are essential to choose the best method for a particular question. Once the method is chosen and the research is carried out, it is difficult to change the method in the end as it involves the resources and it will be catastrophic. Thus, it is good to plan and design properly, accounting for all the possible anticipated failure or imperfections that may arise throughout the study.

Finally, the study analysis need good statistical knowledge to start with. The type of data, number of groups in question and the association between the groups will generally decide the type of test for a particular question. There are many studies with good research question and methods have failed due to wrong choice of statistical test. It is a good advice to consult a statistician or somebody with good knowledge of statistics during the initial stage to avoid this problem.

Lastly, remember that writing a paper is an art that need to be nurtured and followed passionately. If the hypothesis, the research design and the analysis are meticulous, do not be discouraged if you have produced the negative results because you can still publish the results and defend your paper with pride!