Writing Homeopathy Research Papers for Indexed Journals: how to overcome the challenging task

Writing Homeopathy Research Papers for Indexed Journals: A Challenging Task

Dr. Subhranil Saha, MD (Hom.), MSc (Dietetics)
Independent Researcher
93/2/1, Shibpur Road, PO & PS Shibpur, Howrah 711102, West Bengal
Current work position: SRF, HDRI, Lucknow, CCRH, Govt. of India
RG score: 20.48; h-index: 5 (2018); ORCID ID: 0000-0003-2308-5265
Scopus ID: 55615841200; Web of Science Researcher ID: W-4046-2018
E-mail: drsubhranilsaha@hotmail.com

Research has been prioritized in homeopathy postgraduate curriculum through provision of ‘Journal clubs’ and a compulsory paper on ‘Research Methods and Biostatistics’ in part I university examination. The purpose is to develop critical analytical skills while evaluating medical literature, enable independent writing, designing quality research, and thus improving research productivity. However, the ultimate task of publishing researches in indexed and scientific journals of homeopathy remains a daunting task. The reasons being the limited number of standard journals publishing such works and the barrier of stringent peer review, to name a few. Improper and unscientific writing, lack of awareness and time, and low priority for research adds to the misery. About 62% of published papers have been rejected at least once. Rejection rates of top-tier journals vary between 80-85% (e.g. JAMA Internal Medicine has 13% acceptance rate), while some others reported it to be around 90-95% (e.g. New England Journal of Medicine has acceptance rate of 5% only). Acceptance rate of top homeopathy and CAM journals is also about 15% only.

While choosing a journal for submitting papers, the following points should be kept in mind: response time of the journal, journal’s scope and readers, acceptance rate, impact factors and other metrics, and to avoid predatory journals. For ready reference, a table has been appended at the end of the paper mentioning the journals publishing homeopathy research.

There are 3 main types of original research manuscripts –

  1. Original articles including trial reports, brief communication, case reports/series
  2. Review papers, especially systematic reviews and meta-analyses
  3. Letters, commentaries and opinions

Before starting to write, the author should have a very clear idea what he intends to say, i.e. what is the ‘take home message’ from the work, and then to prepare the manuscript around it. This is the secret to a well-written paper. Standard structure of a research paper usually consists of the following sections: title, abstract, keywords, introduction and objectives, methods, results including figures and tables, discussion, conclusion, acknowledgement, statement of ethics, disclosure of conflict of interests, funding, author contribution, and references.

Different components of a research paper required during submission in a journal: cover letter, title page, main text, figures, tables, appendices and supplementary material, duly signed copyright agreement.

The title is the first impression of any paper. It should be concise, accurate, original, and captivating. The abstract should convince the reader to keep reading! It should include the key points from the background and rationale, methodology, results and conclusion. It should be a self-sufficient miniature paper, but should provide adequate details to ensure inclusion in reviews and meta-analyses. It should be lay-reader-friendly. It should be followed by field-specific keywords.

The introduction of manuscript explains why taking up the research is important. It includes appropriate background mentioning the landmark researches conducted till date on the relevant topic (e.g. homeopathy researches on atopic dermatitis), what the bigger problem is going to be addressed, what is known to date, and what is the study aim and hypotheses. Rich and appropriate citations must be ensured.

The methodology part of a clinical paper should include description of the study setting and time of data collection, details of experimental or sampling designs, inclusion and exclusion criteria, statistical analysis plan and details of the ethical guidelines followed. The methodology part of basic research paper should include description of animal models or biological materials, specifics of animal ethics guidelines followed, details of experimental or sampling design, information on reagents used (including brands), concentrations, incubation times, temperatures etc., information on any advanced equipment, software and setting used, and statistical analysis plan.

The results should include distinct sections for each subset of experiments/findings, figures and tables, structured around a distinct theme. Data should be presented in a clear, attractive and easily comprehensible manner. Supplementary materials and appendices should be considered if needed. Tables/figures can be more concise or reader-friendly than textual presentations. Footnotes, as required, should be added at the bottom of the tables and figures. Data may be needed to be deposited in public databases (e.g. in MENDELEY® in many Elsevier journals seeking submission through Evise®).

The discussion section should comprise of the following: a transparent encapsulation of the study design and main outcome in the first paragraph, subsequent individual paragraphs should focus on major outcomes, brief discussion related to studies supporting or disputing outcomes, discussion of unexpected findings, and provision of logical reasoning about discrepancies. The limitation section should focus on constraints related to study design, study sample/population, sample size, study duration, factors evaluated. Methodology, materials used etc.

The Conclusion should summarize the key findings and highlight their short-, medium- and long-term implications and future research in the respective medical/scientific field.

In-text citations must be provided in the manuscript wherever a work has been influenced by someone else’s work. Authors should provide citations while quoting directly, paraphrasing or presenting results on the basis of an already published work. Medical literature largely follows either Vancouver or Harvard citation styles; however, an author should follow the style guide specified in the journal guidelines. Both commercial (ENDNOTETM, RefWorks® etc.) and free (e.g. zotero®, MENDELEY®, citavi® etc.) reference management software packages are available.

The following checklist may be followed before manuscript submission:

  • Double checking of facts and details
  • Acknowledging and citing all sources
  • Structuring manuscript in journal format and style
  • Well prepared tables and figures
  • Accurate authors information
  • Compliance to ethical guidelines
  • Disclosure of conflicts of interests
  • Strong cover letter
  • Author response letter (when applicable)

The main reasons for immediate rejections or delay in processing of the manuscript include the paper being beyond the scope of the journal, ethical unsoundness, plagiarism, formatting errors and non-compliance to submission requirements. The major reasons for rejection after peer review includes lack of novelty, inadequate details or incomplete methods, scarce or inappropriate sample size, low quality illustrations in figures and tables, inaccurate reflection of results, overstated findings, unjustified conclusion. The key reasons for rejection or delay in final decision are poor compliance to reviewers’/editor’s recommendations, requirement of further external review, extensive additions to the original work, and inclusion of new data.

Guidelines to be followed while preparing original research papers of homeopathy are the following:

  1. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses: Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis (PRISMA), 2009 [1]
  2. Clinical trials: Consolidated Statement of Reporting Trials (CONSORT), 2010 [2]; Reporting Data on Homeopathic Treatment (ReDHoT), 2007 [3]
  3. Drug proving or Homeopathic Pathogenetic Trials (HPTs) [4, 5]
  4. Basic researches: Reporting Homeopathic Basic Research (ReHBaR), 2009 [6]
  5. Guidelines for case series [7, 8]
  6. Guideline for case reports [9]

In recent years, universities have earned a reputation for ruthless manipulating figures to improve their positions in international rankings [10]. Editors attempting to elevate their impact factor by compelling authors to cite articles published by their journals [11]. To maximize profits, publishers launch pseudo- or predatory journals ready to publish practically every submission [12], while individuals resort to gaming strategies like text-recycling, self-plagiarism and self-citations to enhance their chances for promotion [13, 14]. These examples, very much characteristic of recent times, suggest that the phenomenon of academic misconduct. During the first stage of research, the most obvious examples of misconduct include the fabrication of research data, material evidence, and results. The stage of the review process also offers opportunities for gaming, such as positive bias of mentorship networks or harsh criticism by competitors. When an article is published, the most widespread examples of malpractice range from adding undeserved authors and omitting individuals who made a significant contribution to plagiarism and text-recycling. The reason for these instances of misconduct can be traced back to the desire to maximize the impact factor by gaming citations. Although researchers rarely report their own academic dishonesty, they confirm that such practices are comparatively widespread in academia [15]. However, the sensitivity of the topic is a critical limitation in self-reported evidence regarding misconduct.

In a nutshell, successful publication of homeopathy research papers in indexed journals depends on few key factors – sound knowledge of research methodology and biostatistics, strict adherence to the journal and standard reporting guidelines, avoiding plagiarism successfully, timely compliance to editorial and/or reviewers’ comments, and cautious escape from predatory journals. The skill of publishing can only be achieved by untiring endeavour and perseverance. Innovative ideas deserve the best places to get published.

References:

  1. Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG, PRISMA Group. Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: The PRISMA statement. Brit Med J. 2009;339:b2535.
  2. Schulz KF, Altman DG, Moher D. CONSORT 2010 statement: updated guidelines for reporting parallel group randomized trials. Brit Med J. 2010;340:c332.
  3. Dean ME, Coulter MK, Fisher P, Jobst K, Walach H. Reporting data on homeopathic treatments (RedHot): A supplement to CONSORT. Homeopathy 2007;96(1):42-45.
  4. Jansen JP, Jong M, Hildingsson I, Jong MC. A minimum protocol for randomized homeopathic drug proving as basis for further research. Forsch Komplementmed. 2014;21(4):232-238.
  5. Manchanda RK, Khurana A, Mittal R, Taneja D, Haselen Rv. Research protocol: Homoeopathic Drug Proving: Randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Ind J Res Hom. 2015;9(1):3-11.
  6. Stock-Schröer B, Albrecht H, Betti L, Endler PC, Linde K, Lüdtke R, et al. Reporting experiments in homeopathic basic research (REHBaR). Homeopathy 2009;98(4):287-298.
  7. Agha RA, Fowler AJ, Rajmohan S, Barai I, Orgill DP, for the PROCESS Group. Preferred reporting of case series in surgery; the PROCESS guidelines. Int J Surg. 2016;36(Pt A):319-323.
  8. Jabs DA. Improving the reporting of clinical case series. Am J Ophthalmol. 2005;139(5):900-905.
  9. Haselen Rv. Homeopathic clinical case reports: Development of a supplement (HOM-CASE) to the CARE clinical case reporting guideline. Complement Ther Med. 2016;25:78-85.
  10. Berggren C, Karabag SF. Scientific misconduct at an elite medical institute: The role of competing institutional logics and fragmented control. Res Pol. 2019;48(2):428-443.
  11. Biagioli M, Kenney M, Martin BR, Walsh JP. Academic misconduct, misrepresentation and gaming: A reassessment. Res Pol. 2019;48(2):401-413.
  12. Bagues, M, Sylos-Labini M, Zinovyeva N. A walk on the wild side: ‘Predatory’ journals and information asymmetries in scientific evaluations. Res Pol. 2019;48(2):462-477.
  13. Horbach SPJM, Halffman W. The extent and causes of academic text recycling or ‘self-plagiarism’. Res Pol. 2019;48(2):492-502.
  14. Seeber M, Cattaneo M, Meoli M, Malighetti P. Self-citations as strategic response to the use of metrics for career decisions. Res Pol. 2019;48(2):478-491.
  15. Hussinger K, Pellens M. Guilt by association: How scientific misconduct harms prior collaborators. Res Pol. 2019;48(2):516-530.

Appendix: List of quality journals publishing homeopathy research papers

Tiers Journals Indexing Publisher Impact factor Publication charges Open access
Clarivate Analytics SCImago PubMed
Top Complementary Therapies in Medicine Yes Yes Yes Elsevier 1.979 No No
Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice Yes Yes Yes Elsevier 1.587 No No
  1. European Journal of Integrative Medicine
Yes Yes Yes Elsevier 0.948 No No
  1. Journal of Ethnopharmacology
Yes Yes Yes Elsevier 3.414 No No
  1. Advances in Integrative Medicine
Yes Yes No Elsevier No No
  1. Journal of Integrative Medicine
Yes Yes Yes Elsevier No No
  1. Integrative Medicine Research
Yes Yes Yes Elsevier No Yes
  1. Journal of Traditional & Complementary Medicine
Yes Yes Yes Elsevier No Yes
  1. Journal of Ayurveda & Integrative Medicine
Yes Yes Yes Elsevier No No
  1. Homeopathy
Yes Yes Yes Thieme 1.469 No No
  1. Complementary Medicine Research
Yes Yes Yes Karger 1.039 No No
  1. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine
Yes Yes Yes Mary Ann Libert 1.868 No No
  1. Journal of Complementary & Integrative Medicine
Yes Yes Yes De Gruyter No No
  1. Integrative Cancer Therapies
Yes Yes Yes Sage 2.634 Yes Yes
  1. Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine
Yes Yes Yes Sage Yes Yes
  1. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine
Yes Yes Yes InnoVision Health Media Yes No
  1. BMC Complementary Medicine & Therapies
Yes Yes Yes Springer Nature Yes Yes
Mid
  1. Indian Journal of Research in Homoeopathy
No Yes No Wolters Kluwers – Medknow No Yes
  1. Homoeopathic Links
No No No Thieme No No
  1. International Journal of High Dilution Research
No Yes No GIRI No Yes
  1. Alternative & Complementary Therapies
No Yes No Mary Ann Libert No No
  1. La Revue d’Homéopathie
Yes Yes No Elsevier No No
  1. Revista Médica de Homeopatía
Yes Yes No Elsevier No No
Low
  1. American Journal of Homoeopathic Medicine
No No No American Institute of Homeopathy No No
  1. Journal of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society
No No No Australian Traditional Medicine Society No No

Note: The journals are merely listed, not ranked. Few journals including Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Hindwai), EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing (Elsevier), Phytomedicine (Elsevier), Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine (Springer) etc. have not been included in the list because these journals have not published any paper on homeopathy in last 3-5 years. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies (Wiley) has been closed in 2016, hence not listed.

Tiers Journals Indexing Publisher Impact factor Publication charges Open access
Clarivate Analytics SCImago PubMed
Top
  1. Complementary Therapies in Medicine
Yes Yes Yes Elsevier 1.979 No No
  1. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice
Yes Yes Yes Elsevier 1.587 No No
  1. European Journal of Integrative Medicine
Yes Yes Yes Elsevier 0.948 No No
  1. Journal of Ethnopharmacology
Yes Yes Yes Elsevier 3.414 No No
  1. Advances in Integrative Medicine
Yes Yes No Elsevier No No
  1. Journal of Integrative Medicine
Yes Yes Yes Elsevier No No
  1. Integrative Medicine Research
Yes Yes Yes Elsevier No Yes
  1. Journal of Traditional & Complementary Medicine
Yes Yes Yes Elsevier No Yes
  1. Journal of Ayurveda & Integrative Medicine
Yes Yes Yes Elsevier No No
  1. Homeopathy
Yes Yes Yes Thieme 1.469 No No
  1. Complementary Medicine Research
Yes Yes Yes Karger 1.039 No No
  1. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine
Yes Yes Yes Mary Ann Libert 1.868 No No
  1. Journal of Complementary & Integrative Medicine
Yes Yes Yes De Gruyter No No
  1. Integrative Cancer Therapies
Yes Yes Yes Sage 2.634 Yes Yes
  1. Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine
Yes Yes Yes Sage Yes Yes
  1. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine
Yes Yes Yes InnoVision Health Media Yes No
  1. BMC Complementary Medicine & Therapies
Yes Yes Yes Springer Nature Yes Yes
Mid
  1. Indian Journal of Research in Homoeopathy
No Yes No Wolters Kluwers – Medknow No Yes
  1. Homoeopathic Links
No No No Thieme No No
  1. International Journal of High Dilution Research
No Yes No GIRI No Yes
  1. Alternative & Complementary Therapies
No Yes No Mary Ann Libert No No
  1. La Revue d’Homéopathie
Yes Yes No Elsevier No No
  1. Revista Médica de Homeopatía
Yes Yes No Elsevier No No
Low
  1. American Journal of Homoeopathic Medicine
No No No American Institute of Homeopathy No No
  1. Journal of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society
No No No Australian Traditional Medicine Society No No

1 Comment

  1. Nicely written and all the possible points related to proper research paper writing are elaborated. Thumbs up Dr. Subhranil…

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