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Essay
Before you click “submit,” be your own first reviewer
Jean Iwazorcid
Science Editing 2023;10(1):105-108.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.6087/kcse.288
Published online: November 16, 2023

Université de Lyon, Lyon; Université Lyon 1 Claude Bernard, Villeurbanne; Service de Biostatistique-Bioinformatique, Pôle Santé Publique, Hospices Civils de Lyon, Lyon; Laboratoire de Biométrie et Biologie Évolutive, Équipe Biostatistique-Santé, Villeurbanne, France

Correspondence to Jean Iwaz jean.iwaz@chu-lyon.fr
• Received: September 23, 2022   • Accepted: October 31, 2022

Copyright © 2023 Korean Council of Science Editors

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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  • For various reasons, despite previous linguistic, formatting, and other checks, beginner-authored or multi-authored manuscripts may be rushed to submission while lacking consistency. This article provides a clear outline of the final round of checks for section consistency, subsection consistency, and overall coherence that a scientific manuscript should undergo before submission. Checks for consistency should target the following: consistency between full and short titles; the exact answer in conclusion to research objectives (questions) and matching between methods and results in the abstract; consistency from a comprehensive view of the research field to the announcement of a single specific objective in the introduction section; coherence between methods and results sections and between results and illustrations in the rest of the text; and, recalls of the objective, the results, and the conclusions in the discussion section. Finally, consistency should be ensured between the various sections of the abstract and those of the manuscript, with the ideal abstract being a true miniature of the manuscript. An original figure provides a handy visual checklist authors might use to implement and achieve manuscript drafting. This round of checks increases readability, comprehensibility, confidence in the results, and the credibility of the authors. Subsequently, confidence and credibility will increase the probability of publication and the visibility of a whole team’s work.
Writing a scientific article is not easy [1,2]. Writing a pleasant scientific article is much more difficult. That said, one might object that a scientific article is not intended to be pleasant; it is not a novel [3]. This feeling is right, but a scientific article should nevertheless be as smooth as possible (providing the specialty and subject allow smoothness) or, at the least, easy to follow.
In the everyday experience of scientific authors, finishing an article is as tedious as the number of authors is high [4]. Indeed, despite modern digital tools, the final revisions by all authors might be the longest and the most “politically tricky” step of the writing process because introducing even minor corrections by one author might not please the others. Furthermore, additions or minor corrections scattered throughout various locations of the text may challenge its coherence. Consequently, to end a complicated, time-consuming pre-submission ping-pong process, a decision is taken to submit the article as it is, with the hope that the reviewers will come up with a pacifying decision or authoritative comments [5].
Thus, many scientific articles might be submitted without undergoing an array of important checks whose results are beneficial because they make any scientific article much more readable and easier to follow. These checks aim to ensure the overall consistency (i.e., logical coherence) of an article and even that of its sections and subsections (Fig. 1). In this article, I would like to present the checks that authors should carry out before submitting a manuscript to a journal.
Consistency of the titles
First, consistency should exist between the main title and the running (or short) title. This is obvious but not always carefully checked because the running title might be hastily—and thus, poorly—formulated just at the time the submission system solicits it. Supplying a running title that gives the same meaning, content, perspective, and promise as the title is not always straightforward [6]. Sometimes, searching for such a short title leads to changing the long title; this results in a more accurate and evocative main title [7].
Consistency of the abstract
The abstract should be consistent in two aspects. First, consistency should exist between the study’s objective (or purpose) and its conclusion. When the two correspond and are accurate and true, the abstract inspires confidence in the whole study. Otherwise, the reviewer may feel somewhat misled. Second, consistency, or a kind of parallelism, should exist between the abstract’s methods and results [8]. In other words, each sentence of the results should tell the outcome of each procedure mentioned in the methods. This echoing also inspires confidence. Otherwise, the core of the abstract will appear disorganized and uneasy to follow or trust.
Consistency of the introduction
Consistency should also be found within the introduction. It should be checked, first, that this section “tells a story” on how and why the authors came to the object of their research. Furthermore, its subsections proceed as a kind of funnel from a wide view of the field or topic to the narrow and exact objective of the study [9]. There are a few other structural possibilities, but the funnel form is probably the most assuring. It should be checked, then, that there is a single objective, clearly and concisely expressed. Announcing more than one objective will lead the reviewers to check that all have been dealt with fully and/or equally, which is not always done. Often, when several objectives are announced, some end by being either totally forgotten or incompletely treated and discussed. Finally, it should be checked that the objective stated in the introduction corresponds to the objective stated in the abstract.
Consistency between the methods and the results
Two advisable features of a good methods section are gradation and structure [10]. Gradation leads the reader from the general setting of the study to the most sophisticated statistical test or model and from the most common to the most complex physical, chemical, or medical procedure. This puts the reader in a comfortable environment before taking him or her to a novel test or procedure that requires more concentration to understand. The structure should split the methods section into subsections that relate to the same context, including medical processes, imaging, laboratory, or statistics, or group together each procedure and its related quantitative analysis. This structure makes it easy to follow what was carried out, when, and why, and prompts the reader to expect the results within given frames.
Next, logically, a good results section reproduces the same structure as the methods and displays the outcomes of the procedures and tests in the same gradation [1113].
Consistency of the discussion with the other sections
A series of final checks should be carried out in the discussion section. First, the restatement of the objective should be consistent with the restatement of the main results. Second, the former restatement should be consistent with the abstract’s objective, the objective set in the introduction, and the overall conclusion. Third, the results discussed must be mentioned in the abstract’s results and dealt with in the results section. Fourth, the overall conclusion must match the abstract’s conclusion. Generally, these critical checks are not always done simply because tired authors rush to finish or because minor but numerous amendments are made to the discussion by several authors soon before submission. However, some reviewers and, afterward, readers might start reading the discussion before the other article’s sections [1416]. Therefore, unresolved inconsistencies may shed doubts on the rigor and reliability of the work.
Consistency with the illustrations
Finally, an easy connection should exist between the result of a given procedure or test and a table or a figure, as the most convenient and visually pleasing way to present information (Fig. 1).
Broadly, in written communication, consistency (“the orderly treatment of a set of linked elements in a document”) is “a necessary characteristic of polished, highly readable prose” [17]. Ensuring it is essential to increase the persuasiveness and credibility of all actors involved in science production and diffusion. More narrowly, acting as one’s own first reviewer might not be fast or straightforward, but is certainly inoffensive and always rewarding.
Finally, checking for inconsistencies in a manuscript before submitting it is like sensing for asperities on a carving before varnishing it: a final aesthetic touch to technical achievement.

Conflict of Interest

No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.

Funding

The author received no financial support for this article.

Fig. 1.
Subsection consistencies to check within a scientific manuscript. The dotted arrows denote alternatives.
kcse-288f1.jpg

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