Writing in the Digital Age

Leslie H. Nicoll, PhD, MBA, RN, FAAN
Peggy L. Chinn, PhD, RN, FAAN

Writing in the Digital Age: Savvy Publishing for Healthcare Professionals

Publisher: Anne Dabrow Woods, DNP, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC

Authors: Leslie H. Nicoll, PhD, MBA, RN, FAAN and Peggy L. Chinn, PhD, RN, FAAN

Production Director: Leslie Caruso

Managing Editor, Production: Erika Fedell

Digital Editor: Cara Gavin

Creative Director: Larry Pezzato

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Our lives as health professionals are engulfed with the obligation and social responsibility to reform/revolutionize health care and healthcare delivery, education and teaching/learning approaches, and democratization of knowledge. We are charged to reduce health and education disparities spanning the local to global levels; ensure access to and coordination of care; address patient safety and improve quality; ensure personalized health care; design and adopt a continuously learning health system; define and employ interprofessional education and collaborative practice; decrease costs of health and education; and ensure data/information privacy and systems security. We are challenged to discover strengths and difficulties in healthily addressing robust online, virtual, and blended learning. We are directed to ensure faster translation of scientific discoveries to quantified effects on health, satisfaction, and resources while adopting the best practices of team science, collaboration, and regional/national/global networks of people, technology, and the content of data/information/knowledge.

Health professionals’ context for these obligations and our social responsibility is a digital world where knowledge is doubling every 12 months, and predicted to double every 12 hours (Schilling, 2013). This context has transitioned from the linear growth of human knowledge to the exponential growth of human knowledge (Jellyvision Labs, 2015). We have transitioned to a ubiquitous environment, a world with one language. Prensky (2001) described the effect that this ubiquitous environment and volume of people’s interaction with it have on people—people think and process information fundamentally differently. Adapting to thinking and processing information in a digital world is fundamental to all health professionals, including processing knowledge for writing and publishing.

Drs. Leslie H. Nicoll and Peggy L. Chinn, both with a wealth of publishing experience coupled with a deep passion for enhancing the writing expertise of health professionals, recognize the writing and publishing challenges and opportunities for health professionals in the digital age. They confidently advance that knowledge is central in all aspects of our society, recognizing that accessing and using information and knowledge are fraught with issues and complexity. They boldly address this complexity for both digital natives and digital immigrants with creativity, scholarliness, and artful application.

The compilation of these 10 chapters comprehensively captures the writing and publishing process from conceptualization/creation to production, distribution, dissemination, and access—while remaining highly usable. The Digital Handbook: Savvy Publishing for Health Professionals, spanning paper to electronic technologies, is a stimulating example of the seamless weave of understanding and use of technology that spans digital immigrants and digital natives. While being efficient for the reader/user, this handbook subtlely creates an appreciation for the digital revolution as a synergistic evolution of technology, people, and society. This handbook is interactive; the opportunities to “think” and “do” make this book as applicable to the classroom as to the individual. The chapters in this pathbreaking handbook include countless examples and references, compiled into one handy resource to serve the novice or expert living and writing in the digital world.

The Seven Principles for the Creative and Information Economy in the Digital Age (Mathuros, 2014) encourage us to foster and reward creativity, build an ecosystem for innovation, expand access to content, inform users about ownership and rights, give creators and rights owners control and choice, enable people to be creators, and strengthen global collaboration. The knowledge and wisdom of authors Nicoll and Chinn, coupled with the content, resources and references, and interactive opportunities provided in this handbook would be a valuable (from my perspective required) resource for all students and faculty. Each reader/user is invited on an applied integrative individual publishing journey while co-creating the nature of writing in a digital world.

Connie White Delaney, PhD, RN, FAAN, FACMI

School of Nursing Professor and Dean

University of Minnesota


“The Web is more a social creation than a technical one. I designed it for a social effect—to help people work together—and not as a technical toy. The ultimate goal of the Web is to support and improve our weblike existence in the world. We clump into families, associations, and companies. We develop trust across the miles and distrust around the corner. What we believe, endorse, agree with, and depend on is representable and, increasingly, represented on the Web. We all have to ensure that the society we build with the Web is of the sort we intend.”

—Tim Berners-Lee (2000, p. 123)

If there is one guiding purpose for this book, it is to share ideas with you, the reader, that facilitate your ability to learn, understand, and use the resources of the digital age to create the sort of future you intend. The motivation for this book has been brewing for a long time—ever since our early experiences of learning to use amazing resources such as personal computers, the Internet, the World Wide Web, email, and digital document processing tools as they first emerged. We were both eager early adopters of everything digital, and realized that practically nobody else in either of our professional or social networks was quite as eager—in fact some were openly hostile—toward adopting the “new ways” of the developing digital age. For Peggy this all started when her son was 11 years old and his wish for his 12th birthday was to get his own computer. The year was 1978, and Peggy told him she would make a substantial contribution toward the purchase if he promised to learn to type—that he was to never have another person (especially not a woman) type his term papers. He agreed, saved his money, and they brought home a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer equipped with a Mavis Beacon “Learn to Type” program. Of course Peggy could not let her 11-year-old son outdo her, so soon after she purchased her first computer—a dedicated word processor with 8-inch floppy disks that held about 64 KB of data! But it had the capability of merging address fields with letter templates and she was ecstatic!

Leslie had a dad who loved gadgets and she seems to have inherited this gene. While usually quite thrifty, when it comes to tech, she has no willpower. In fact, as she is typing this, she is still debating whether to pre-order the Apple Watch! She remembers every computer she has ever owned and has particularly fond memories of her two Osborne computers and a Zenith, which she used to type her dissertation as well as to analyze the data for the study—over the strong objections of her dissertation committee! The experience of convincing the committee that SPSS on the “microcomputer” was as good as the program on the mainframe and turning that argument into an article (Nicoll, 1987) forged the connection between writing and digital resources that has shaped much of Leslie’s professional career.

But even though we both eagerly adopted electronic advances as they came along and have a degree of aptitude for learning of this sort, we too have experienced the struggle and effort that is required to shift from the paper world to the digital world. Recognizing that this is not at all easy, we appreciate and understand the reluctance and the resistance of many of our colleagues. And, we both actually enjoy explaining things, so we decided to write what we hope will be a useful book that addresses the challenges of the digital world as it is today.

We met in person and started working together in the context of the International Academy of Nursing Editors (INANE). INANE was formed in 1982 to build a community in which nursing editors could advance the quality of publishing in nursing. The group has gathered annually in locations around the world ever since, and has a vibrant web site and blog that supports the sort of publishing culture in nursing that we intend—a culture that upholds the highest quality of scholarship and knowledge dissemination. Not only did this community support our work as nursing journal editors, it provided a natural context to use and advance our interests in digital resources. As journal editors, teachers, writing coaches, and scholars/mentors, we have accumulated years of experience teaching, showing, and explaining digital tools, often bumping up against an almost impermeable wall of resistance which we sympathize with, but always seek to change.

Then over the past couple of years, a dynamic emerged on the Web that threatened to dismantle the sort of publishing culture that we, along with our colleagues, have intended to create—the phenomenon of predatory publishing. We became really alarmed when we realized how vulnerable many nurses are to succumbing to the allure offered by predatory publishers, which is exactly what empowers these scamsters to continue their dirty tricks. So, working with the community of nursing editors and publishers in INANE, we helped to launch a broad editorial campaign to educate nursing journal readers by publishing editorials focusing on the facts of predatory publishing, and re-affirming our nursing journals’ commitments to high editorial standards (see http://nursingeditors.com/inane-initiatives/open-access-editorial-standards/).

We also realized that the vulnerability of many of our colleagues was rooted in the very real, and understandable challenges we all face as digital immigrants—people who grew up in the relatively simple and very different culture of the print world, and now find ourselves immersed in a professional culture that is almost wholly dependent on digital resources. To make matters worse, the digital environment changes with lightning speed, leaving people in the dust who have just begun to understand one important dimension of the digital world and suddenly realize that everything is suddenly very different.

Thus we envisioned this book to be an attempt to explain the process of shifting from the print age to the digital age, offering insights about the differences between the two realities, and the skills that are now required to make the change. This is not a “how to” book (although there are lots of “how to” examples), but rather an overview of the basic skills involved in moving away from the more familiar landscape of the print world and dwelling in the digital world. Throughout the book we offer hints based on our own experience and suggestions for activities you can do to apply and explore the various skills we describe. We point in the direction of resources that are currently available, and explain how to make your own assessment of resources you encounter in your own situation.

In Chapter 1, we contrast the ways of the print age to the ways of the digital age, and explain what mental shifts are required to move from one to another, and highlight the particular tools and skills that are important for health professionals who are pursuing a writing and publishing career. In Chapter 2, we address what is involved in “going paperless”—a move that happens gradually and may never be fully realized, but one that is inevitable. Chapter 3 addresses the ethics of writing and publishing in the digital age—principles that remain constant from the print age, but that are seriously being challenged in the digital age. Chapter 4 explains the skills that are required for search and discovery of exactly what you need and for sifting through the vast amount of information now available on the Internet. In Chapter 5 we describe the realms of publishing and editing in the digital age—activities that authors rely on and that are increasingly significant in order to successfully build and maintain a body of reliable, trustworthy information related to health and well-being. Chapter 6 explains social media, and why it is vital for authors to build a strong professional network with other authors whose work has the potential to have a broad influence on health. Chapter 7 describes the process of producing supplementary digital content—pictures, graphs, drawings—that are increasingly important and more feasible to include in digital publishing than they were in the print-only age. In Chapter 8 we discuss the skills required to communicate with various audiences—from the basic writing of a cover letter to an editor, to writing for the general public. Chapter 9 deals with copyright and licensing in general, as well as ways to protect your own work and your identity in the digital world. Finally, Chapter 10 addresses the basic principles of search and discovery, and steps authors need to take to assure that their work is not lost in the vast universe of digital information.

We have enjoyed doing the research required to write this book, and beyond that, we have had a great time putting it all together. Using many of the resources described in the following pages, such as Zoom meetings, Dropbox, Endnote, PubMed, and Trello, we have collaborated seamlessly across the continent. We are living proof that paperless writing in the digital age is possible and fun. We hope you find this book helpful and enjoy your digital journey!

Leslie H. Nicoll, PhD, MBA, RN, FAAN
Portland, Maine

Peggy L. Chinn, PhD, RN, FAAN
Oakland, California


Berners-Lee, T. (2000). Weaving the Web: The Original Design and the Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web. New York: HarperBusiness.

Jelleyvision Labs (2015). Understanding growth information. Retrieved from http://www.jellyvision.com/resources/understandinggrowth-information/.

Mathuros, F. (2014). Seven principles for adapting to the new digital world. World Economic Forum (press release). Retrieved from http://goo.gl/c3ZTGw.

Nicoll, L. H. (1987). The microcomputer: an alternative for data analysis. Nursing Research, 36(5), 320–323.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants, part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1–6. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/4oYb

Schilling, D.R. (2013). Knowledge doubling every 12 months, soon to be every 12 hours. Industry Tap into News. Retrieved from http://www.industrytap.com/knowledge-doubling-every-12-months-soonto-be-every-12-hours/3950


We each owe a great debt of gratitude to our own mentors and those who have encouraged us in our own digital migration! Specifically here are our unique individual acknowledgments:

Peggy: First and foremost I acknowledge Kelleth, my son, for leading the way to invest in, and use to the fullest, the tools of the digital age! To this day we have a somewhat competitive relationship involving our digital toys, which for me is a fun and ever-present source of inspiration and learning! Thank you, Kelleth! I appreciate the many friends, students, and colleagues I have worked with over the years—especially those in INANE and the wonderful staff at Lippincott and Elsevier—as we have learned new digital skills, shared with one another useful tidbits of information, and inspired each other with new ideas to improve on what we were doing! To those who have expressed resistance and reluctance, thank you for challenging me to step back and appreciate more fully the extent of the struggles that are involved. To those who have been several steps ahead of me in the digital journey, thank you for the gifts of ideas and inspiration! Leslie, thank you for being chief among those who have inspired my own journey, for the wonderful working relationship we have, and for our friendship!

Leslie: Thank you to the people whose names I have forgotten—the woman who taught “Typing for the College Bound Student” at James Wilson Young High School in Bayport, NY. When I laid my fingers on an IBM Selectric for the first time, I was hooked! Thank you to the woman at Key Bank in Gorham, Maine, who approved a $1500 personal loan that allowed me to buy my first computer, an Osborne 1. Thank you to my Dad who loved gadgets just as much as me—I think of you and miss you every day! Thank you to my INANE colleagues, in particular Suzanne Smith, Lisa Marshall, Margaret Comerford Freda, and Marilyn Oermann for always encouraging me to reach higher and do more. And last, a huge thank you to Peggy, who has always been an inspiration to me—starting with the day I purchased her textbook on pediatric nursing when I was in college. As an example of the amazing ways that the universe circles around, that book had a picture of her son Kelleth (then 3 years old) on the cover. I am humbled and awed to be co-authoring a book with his mom!

Chapter 1

Beginning Your Digital Writing Journey


The challenges that have emerged in the publishing enterprise over the past two decades are astounding—even for the most technologically savvy! Most people who are writing for publication now and in the foreseeable future are faced with a vast universe of possibilities that the digital age has created, and keeping up with new developments is a career in itself. In the olden days of print only, publishers, authors, editorial staff, librarians, and distributors had a fairly stable system in place that assured standards of quality in what was published, a predictable system of production, and a familiar structure for distribution, dissemination, and access. Now, in the digital age, that tried and true system from creation to distribution still serves as a foundational conceptual framework that forms the ethics and standards around which quality publishing is built, but the remnants of the old paper-only world are rapidly being transformed and replaced by ever-changing digital processes.

This book is a handbook, guide, and resource for anyone who is involved in publishing in the fields of the health sciences. We have drawn on our own experience as editors of several major nursing journals, and the considerable resources that we have gained through our participation in the International Academy of Nursing Editors (INANE). We are “digital immigrants”—we both started our editorial careers in the print-only age, producing material for publication on what we thought of then as the cat’s meow—IBM Selectric typewriters! We made up to 3 or 4 copies of typewritten pages using carbon paper inserted into the typewriter, which required exquisite typing skills if you wanted a “clean” copy. For more copies, we used mimeograph machines, which required creating a stencil on a typewriter, then inserting the stencil into the mimeograph machine, and turning a crank to feed paper through a drum that allowed ink to be placed on paper through the stencil, creating black and white copy of what you had typed. Similarly, there were spirit duplicators, also known as the Ditto machine, which created a slightly sweet smelling purple copy of what you had typed! Legions of school children would sniff the pages as they were passed out by the teacher; this ritual was memorialized in the 1982 movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. For a brief peek into the experience of sniffing the mimeographed pages, check out this video on YouTube—https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu3iCvAQCHg (Dan, 2014).

For those readers who have never used these ancient machines, you might think we must be hundreds of years old! The fact is that these were the only tools available for most writers until the mid-1980s, and they continued to be the dominant tools until the first affordable personal computers became widely available in the mid-1990s. Peggy purchased her first computer—a dedicated word processor—in 1985, then migrated to an IBM personal computer in 1992, then to a Mac in 2002 when the PC and Mac worlds first began to communicate with one another. Leslie took out a bank loan of $1500 to buy the “portable” Osborne 1 in 1982. Note that the definition of portable has changed greatly over the years—that machine weighed 40 pounds and was the size of a sewing machine! She still has that computer, with a complete archive of the magazine The Portable Companion, in her attic. She typed her dissertation on a Zenith that was connected to a most unusual printer: it looked like a typewriter and had a “ball” element (similar to an IBM Selectric) but it was connected to the computer and printed text from WordPerfect—one page at a time.

As our personal histories reveal, both of us have been “early adopters” in the realm of technology, and while we are clearly “digital immigrants” our transition to the digital world has been relatively smooth because of our eagerness to take advantage of the amazing innovations that have become commonplace. At the same time, we fully appreciate the challenges involved in adapting to this new universe, and are sensitive to the needs of people who are less eager to move into this world than we have been.


“Leslie’s Tidbit” 1.1

Spirit duplicators—“Ditto machines”—were invented in 1923. They were common in churches, schools, and clubs because they were relatively inexpensive, easy to use, produced an adequate volume of copies (approximately 100 per minute) quickly, and the hand cranked models did not require electricity. The major manufacturer of the machines was Ditto, Inc., a Chicago-based business which gave its name to the copies that were made (similar to facial tissue that is commonly referred to as Kleenex, or photocopies that are called Xeroxes). Fred Keen of Tenafly, NJ, sold Ditto machines through his family business, Repeat-o-Type Manufacturing Corporation. He is the last salesman in the United States of spirit duplicating fluid, selling “a couple of thousand gallons a year,” down from the hundreds of thousands of gallons he would sell back in the 1970s (Zorn, 2007).

The illustration below is a Mimeograph Machine (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimeograph).

In this chapter we introduce the concepts of digital immigration, and discuss the challenges involved in moving from print to digital literacy. We give hints for making this transition as painless as possible. Then we provide a brief overview of the most important digital resources for which we believe everyone needs to develop at least basic skills.

Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives

If you were born after the year 1990, there is a slim chance that you are a “digital native,” meaning someone who began using computers and the Internet before you were 2 years old! Most digital natives were born after 2000, but many people born even today do not become digitally literate until much later in life—meaning that they are destined to be “digital immigrants.” The process of immigration into the digital age is very much like the experience of being in a cultural environment that is different from the one in which you were born—you have to learn the language, customs, etiquette, and various ways to navigate through an entirely foreign landscape—geographically, socially, and personally. Often you are clueless about what is going on around you, and are in awe of what the natives around you are doing. Literacy in any culture can be acquired, but immigrants seldom acquire a “native” level of familiarity, comfort or agility. For those who immigrate, the more time you spend immersed in the new culture, and more you expose yourself to a variety of circumstances, the more literate you become.

A major barrier to becoming assimilated into a new culture is the persistent expectation that things are the same in the new culture as they are in your culture-of-origin. Often someone immigrating to a new culture does not even comprehend some of the social and symbolic cues and signals, because they are so unexpected and so unfamiliar. It takes persistence and dedicated awareness to overcome these barriers. All of this is true of the digital world in which we now find ourselves. Here are a few of the challenges that print natives face in the digital world:

  • Many print natives expect the digital world to be a replica of what we are accustomed to seeing in print—an expectation that is often wrong, creating confusion, frustration, and even panic.
  • Print natives typically have not acquired the level of mental imagery based on hierarchical and cross-referencing relationships that come naturally to a digital native. For example, the concept of a hierarchical filing system is relatively simple in the print world. Think of a metal file cabinet, where there is one drawer for each of the past 3 years. In each drawer, file folders are arranged in alphabetical order where you can find information about the organization from A to Z. If you want to find information about “enrollment” over the past 3 years, you have to pull the “Enrollment” file from each of the 3 drawers, and then search manually for the details you want. In the digital realm information is categorized and cross-referenced into a complex web of relationships that you do not have to fully understand, but you do need to realize that there are many ways to store and access information besides the old file-drawer method.
  • Print material is comparatively straightforward and simple, and as a print native you can quickly scan printed material to find what you are looking for. Digital material is much more complex, and the patterns of presentation on a digital “page” are infinitely varied. One of the challenges for immigrants is learning what symbols and signals to pay attention to, and how to use these signals to get where you want to go.
  • In the print environment, natives are taught to read everything—the whole book, the whole article, and so on. This still applies to some digital material, but not all. Particularly in the social media realm, such as Facebook and Twitter, you will never be able to read everything, nor is it considered necessary in this culture to do so. You use these networks to find things you are interested in or need to know at a particular moment, and ignore the rest.

Characteristics of Digital Literacy

Like any tourist or newcomer to a new culture, it helps to understand what is expected when you enter the new environment. Basically, digital literacy is knowing how to:

  • Use computer applications effectively and efficiently to produce a variety of materials;
  • Navigate the Internet and interact with others using Internet tools and web applications;
  • Access information and to “drill down” to find relevant information; and
  • Skillfully assess the value and worth of competing sources and ideas, sifting out worthless, inaccurate, unethical and irrelevant information quickly.

Fast-Savvy Basics

There are certain traits and mental mind-sets that you can develop to greatly enhance your ability to live and work in a digital environment. We use the acronym FAST to pinpoint these skills: File-savvy, Accessibility-savvy, Security-savvy, and Tech-savvy.

  • File-savvy—know and understand the standard conventions and language that identify the various file formats and which applications to use to produce and work with them. Electronic documents are labeled with a unique file name and an extension that identifies the application that was used to develop it, and the application that is required to view it. Portable Document Format (PDF), doc, jpg, png, exe, html are just a few of the common extensions that most people encounter. You need to know what these mean, and how to find out the meaning of any extension with which you are not yet familiar.
  • Accessibility-savvy—means understanding and using tools for storage and retrieval of data and how to undo mistakes that inevitably happen. If you do not have reliable back-up systems in place, you can lose valuable files or folders. Of course, this was even more of a risk in the print world, where your one original paper copy of a manuscript is all you had until you made it to the copy machine. In the digital world, there is no reason to have a disastrous event because of the easy and reliable mechanisms to protect your data that exist. In fact there are increasingly common fail-safe systems in place to assure that you cannot permanently lose or damage something.
  • Security-savvy—means understanding the common sources of outside invasions from hackers or viruses and how to avoid them. The most common invasion from malware is by way of email messages, so it is important to know the rules that your email service uses to filter out potentially dangerous email, and monitor these rules regularly to assure they are filtering out what you do not want, and letting you see what you do want. Never open a link or an attachment that comes to you in an email, even from someone you know, unless you are absolutely sure that you know that person who sent it intended to send you specific information. A good practice when you send a link or an attachment is to send an initial email to your recipient alerting them that you are sending a link or an attachment along with a brief description, then send the link or attachment in an email that immediately follows the alert. Follow the recommendations of your device manufacturer for antivirus software, and for regular maintenance of your device that includes finding and deleting junk or unused files and suspicious malware that may have found its way to your device. Security also means being careful with passwords—creating passwords that are difficult to guess (ideally having a combination of letters, symbols, and numbers), changing them often, and not sharing your password(s) with others. Unbelievable as it may seem, the most common passwords in 2014 were: (1) 123456; (2) password; (3) 12345; (4) 1234567; and (5) qwerty (Condliffe, 2015). If you are reading this and have one of these as a password, change it now!
  • Tech-savvy—Being tech-savvy requires the ability to tolerate ambiguity and change—to roll with the constant evolution of the tools you already know, and the new tools that emerge to replace or compliment what you already know. You do not need to know all the technological details of the tools you use, and certainly as a user you do not need to know how the tools are built. You do need to continually build your ability to use the basic functions of the applications you use, and realize that everything in the digital world changes, and changes rapidly. This does not happen just to frustrate you—it happens because of the rapid improvements that are occurring at all levels of technological development. The good news is that one of the “best practices” of technological development is that the result is intuitive for the user, which means that even though the change might be confusing at first because of what you grew used to with the older version, the change is actually an important improvement in terms of usability, features, security, and efficiency. Learn to embrace change and take the time (usually only a few minutes) to become acquainted with changes that affect your use of the resource.

Essential Digital Tools

There are so many innovations available in the digital world that it can be very difficult to select the ones that might be best for you and your needs. But there are categories of resources that are essential for successful navigation in a digital environment and understanding these categories makes selecting the best resource easier. Many of these essential resources were once only available as applications that required purchase and installation on your computer; now most are either migrating to web-based applications, or applications that simultaneously synchronize data on your computer with data stored on the web. Here are the categories of basic applications that need to be in your digital tool box:

Office Functions: Text, Numeric and Graphic Production and Processing

The most typical collection of “office” tools include a word processor, spreadsheet, email, calendar, address book, a program to access the Internet, and programs for graphic development, design, and display. When Leslie bought her Osborne 1 it came “bundled” with software which was a revolutionary idea at the time but is now commonplace. That first computer included WordStar for word processing and Lotus 1–2–3 as a spreadsheet. Today, the Microsoft Office suite is ubiquitous and includes: Word (word processing), Excel (spreadsheet), PowerPoint (presentation), Publisher (graphic design), and Outlook (email, calendar, contact list). Most viable competitor options are modeled after the conventions that started with WordStar and Lotus 1–2–3 and Microsoft refined, which makes most similar products fairly easy to take up and use. Alternatives are emerging rapidly, particularly those that reside on the web, so that users may not need to purchase software for their computer, but instead rely on a web platform to perform the functions that are required. Most web-based services require an annual fee, which includes online and (perhaps) telephone support, and constant updating of the service itself. For example, Google Apps for Business provides online applications for email, calendar, and contact list (Google Mail) plus word processing (Google Docs), numeric processing (Google Sheets), presentations (Google Slides), as well as Forms, Drawings, and Maps. Microsoft has recently announced Office Online which includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook in an online version, not just the suite of programs that reside on your computer. If you have an Office 365 annual subscription, you can use Office Online for free. Quickbooks, a popular financial management application, and Endnote, a bibliography database manager, can still be purchased as software to install on your computer, or you can subscribe to these applications through a web portal. The Adobe collection of applications to produce and work with photographs, PDF files, or graphics has moved to a subscription only model which must be renewed annually. Likewise, SPSS, for statistical analysis, also requires an annual license but this program is still installed from a CD-ROM to your computer. A web version is not available at this time.

Reference Management

One of the most important tools for people producing publishable material in the health sciences is a reference management application, also known as a Bibliography Database Manager (BDM). There are several excellent applications that provide the essential function of storing reference material, and that also interact with your word processor to automatically format and insert citations and references into a new document. Most academic libraries provide support and services for selected reference management tools, giving their users online access to the resources of the institution’s library and integration with the user’s library of references. Two of the more commonly used programs are EndNote and Reference Manager, both owned and distributed by Thomson Reuters. There are also online versions of these and other programs, including Zotero, Mendeley, and Paperpile. Reference managers, or BDMs are discussed in detail in Chapter 2.

Search Engines

The evolution of Internet search engines began in 1990—an enterprise that worked hand-in-hand with the development and refinement of web content. In order to systematically find what appears on the Internet, a standard language was required, and conventions evolved to assure that what was stored electronically could be found through channels of communication that remain stable and accessible. Gradually the standards evolved to the point that exist today, with two major search engines predominating the landscape—Yahoo, which appeared in 1994, and Google, which first appeared in 1996.

Google has emerged as the most popular search engine, in part because of the unique system it developed for returning usable results, and in part because of the many complimentary capabilities that emerged as companions for the basic activity of searching the web, such as maps, language translation, images, and many more.

Before the Internet served the purpose of searching for the reference literature, there were libraries. Libraries continue to exist and librarians, as information specialists, have developed some of the most sophisticated search algorithms available today. Librarians have always been ahead of the curve, embracing technology and using it to its full advantage for cataloging and retrieving books, articles, newspapers, recordings, and more.

As a health professional, you are probably familiar with PubMed, the publically accessible database of the National Library of Medicine. PubMed is powered by the Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (MEDLARS) which was first conceived in 1957 and went live 6 years later. It cost $3 million to develop and at the time of its completion in 1964, no other publicly available, fully operational electronic storage and retrieval system of its magnitude existed. The original computer configuration operated from 1964 until its replacement by MEDLARS II in January 1975 (Medline, 2015). Today, PubMed allows an individual to search the vast repository of data that makes up the MEDLARS database. It includes citations from more than 5,600 journals; 2,000–4,000 citations are added every day with more than 750,000 added in 2014 (National Library of Medicine, 2015). The database includes 21.6 million records. For citations added during 1995–2003: about 48% are for cited articles published in the United States, about 88% are published in English, and about 76% have English abstracts written by authors of the articles (Medline, 2015).

Other popular databases for accessing health-related literature include:

  • CINAHL: Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (subscription required)
  • PsycINFO: Psychology, behavioral sciences, and mental health


“Read This” 1.1

The emergence of search engines dates from 1990, with a tool called “Archie.” Here is an interesting infographic that shows the history, followed by even more interesting and useful explanations of how search engines work! (http://www.wordstream.com/articles/internet-search-engines-history)

  • ERIC: Education Resources Information Center
  • The Grey Literature Report in Public Health
  • OVID: Databases of journals and books (subscription required)
  • Google Scholar: a simple interface to search across multiple disciplines for articles, theses, books, abstracts, and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities, and other web sites.

Data Storage

Having a reliable and safe way to store data—whether that be numeric data, written documents, graphic images, video, or something else—has always been a major concern and priority in the world of informatics. Not that long ago, storage systems were local and non-networked (i.e., a person’s own computer, floppy disk or thumb drive) and expensive. Floppy disks (or diskettes) ranged in size from 8″ down to 3½″ and held a maximum of (respectively) 1.2 MB, 1.2 MB, and 1.44 MB of data. Leslie remembers buying a box of 10 diskettes (5¼″ size) for $40 which in 1983 seemed like an exorbitant amount of money. She had installed a 10 MB “hard card” in the Zenith computer (mentioned earlier) which she used to write her dissertation. That seemed like acres of space and cost a whopping $199. Compare that to computers of today which typically ship with hard drives that range from 500 GB to 1 TB of storage.

Storage today is vast and cheap. As noted above, even the most basic computer, whether desktop or laptop, will have a hard drive that can hold 500 GB or more of data. In addition, computers are networked—to each other (i.e., in a business) and to the cloud, which provides secure storage of large amounts of data for a minimal (or even free) cost. For example, Dropbox (discussed in detail in Chapter 2) provides free accounts that allow users to store up to 2 GB of data—if you refer others to Dropbox or complete basic tasks, you can increase that amount, up to 8 GB. To put that in perspective, that is the equivalent of 5,556 floppy disks that store 1.44 MB each.


“There Are No Dumb Questions” 1.1

Question: These data storage terms leave my head spinning—what do they mean?

Response: Kilobytes, megabytes, terabytes: it can get confusing. One byte is the smallest unit of computer information. After that, the terms refer to multiples of one! Here’s a table to help you remember what’s what:

Even though you may have a computer with a hard drive big enough to store all the files you could ever create, you should still have a reliable backup system. Hard drives fail regularly; one source estimates failure rates of up to 43% depending on the brand (Hruska, 2015). You could back up to an external hard drive that you attach to your computer, but we suggest you investigate storage “in the cloud” using an application such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Not only do these systems provide reliable storage at minimal cost, they also allow you to collaborate easily with others, as discussed in the next section.

Collaboration Tools

Teamwork has always been a feature of health care and that applies to writing, too. While you may very well have some single-authored articles, when you are writing about projects or studies that involved multiple people to implement, the articles describing those endeavors will also have multiple authors. Therefore it is important to use available resources to help you collaborate in an organized and efficient way. Nothing is more frustrating than receiving a marked up and corrected draft of a manuscript from a co-author—who used the wrong draft! As editors, we have both received revised manuscripts from authors where it is clear that someone erred in terms of keeping track of requested changes. Leslie’s most memorable example was a manuscript in which the reviewer requested a change in the title; when the revised manuscript arrived, the title was exactly as it had been before! Other changes were also missing. When the author was notified that the manuscript would be rejected because the requested revisions were not made, the author tried to put the blame on a secretary who had “inadvertently sent you the wrong version.” Eventually, everything got sorted out but this is a type of avoidable mistake that reflects poorly on you as an author.

As you think about working with others, assess your own style. Are you a “Captain of the Ship” leader or more of a team player? You may realize that your style changes depending on who you are working with. If your colleagues are not particularly tech-savvy, and are unable to get up to speed, for whatever reason, then you might need to take charge and have the ultimate responsibility for keeping track of drafts, making sure that everyone is using the correct draft, and double checking details, such as accuracy of references and making sure permission is secured for figures and illustrations. You will be the Captain.

On the other hand, if you are working with colleagues who are enthusiastic about electronic tools for organization and collaboration, then take advantage of this! We guarantee that it will make the writing experience smoother and more efficient.

As noted earlier, online file storage, using a service such as Dropbox or Google Drive is the best way to save files that multiple people are writing. Every time one person makes a change and saves the file, the change is synced for all users. When a change is made, all users are notified (if notifications are turned on) of the changed file in the folder. We will discuss the details of using various cloud-based storage systems in detail in Chapter 2; for now, recognize that best practices dictate that you use some sort of online file system for sharing and working with others.

Another part of being organized is a way to keep track of the status of a project, with tasks completed as well as those that are upcoming clearly delineated. In Chapter 2 we discuss many of the online tools that you can use to manage a project, and to organize your work flow whether you are working by yourself or with a team. We highly recommend that you explore the various project management tools we describe, or find others that you like. For effective collaboration you need a way to share the following:

  • Who is doing each of the various tasks needed to complete the project.
  • Timeline information and information about how each element is progressing as you go.
  • Access to shared resources, including bibliographic information and pertinent web sites.
  • Access to each draft of the manuscript, with clear delineation as to what stage each draft is in.
  • Shared tracking of each person’s changes and comments on manuscript drafts.

You can create your own system for collaboration, but inevitably you will want and need a collection of digital tools to make all of this work smoothly, as well as mutual agreement about various conventions you will use as you work together as a team. We explain a number of these resources in detail in Chapter 2.

Online Manuscript Submission and Peer Review

At this time, most scholarly journals use an electronic manuscript submission and tracking program. In the world of computer innovations, these programs were somewhat late to the table, in large part because of the complexity needed for their development. There are three major programs in use today: Editorial Manager, powered by Aries Systems; SCHOLARONE™ (formerly known as Manuscript Central), owned and developed by Thomson Reuters; and Rapid Review, owned and developed by Cenevo Publisher Services. Elsevier has a branded system, EES which is powered by Aries and is essentially Editorial Manager under a different name. Typically the publisher licenses the system and makes it available to their journal editors. So, as an author, you may see that the editorial tracking interface for Advances in Nursing Science and CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing look similar, and they are, as they are both Editorial Manager, customized for each journal.

If you are an author, you will be expected to upload your manuscript electronically. Each journal has very specific requirements and these are not necessarily the same across all journals, so read the instructions for authors carefully. For example, one journal might require a cover letter. Another might require that figures be uploaded separately, each as its own file. If you do not adhere to the requirements, you may not be able to successfully submit your manuscript into the system. Certainly, you can contact the Editorial Office for help, but this is a prime example of why it is best, in this day and age, to be digitally savvy!

As a peer reviewer, you will also be expected to “work within the system” for manuscript retrieval and uploading your peer review comments. You may be able to make electronic comments directly on the manuscript and upload that, too. In our experience, very few editors will allow you submit comments the old fashioned way, that is, as an email attachment. If you want to be a peer reviewer for a journal, you need to have a working knowledge of the editorial management system that the journal uses.


This chapter presents a huge amount of material, particularly if you are just beginning your immigrant experience in digital land! The main message to remember is that your success in the digital age depends in large part on skills that are rooted in print-age habits of good organization, careful planning, and attention to detail. To master the digital-age skills involved in using online applications for organizing, storing, and sharing information, build on and extend those valuable skills you learned in the print era culture. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and go back to one section at a time to review the resources we have shared, and start, one step at a time, developing skills and capabilities that will serve you well.


Condliffe, J. (2015). The 25 most popular passwords of 2014: We’re all doomed. Retrieved March 20, 2015, from http://gizmodo.com/the-25-most-popular-passwords-of-2014-were-all-doomed-1680596951

Dan, H. (2014). Fast Times Paper Sniff. Retrieved March 26, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu3iCvAQCHg

Hruska, J. (2015). Hard drive failure rates point to clear winners and losers in 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2015, from http://www.extremetech.com/computing/198154-2014-hard-drive-failure-rates-point-to-clear-winners-and-losers-but-is-the-data-good

Medline. (2015). Retrieved March 26, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MEDLINE

National Library of Medicine. (2015). Fact Sheet: MEDLINE. Retrieved March 20, 2015 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/medline.html

Zorn, E. (2007). That ditto high is harder and harder to Duplicate. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2007/01/ditto_machines_.html

Chapter 2

Tricks for Going Paperless, Staying Organized, and Coordinating with Your Team


This chapter focuses on using digital resources to produce your manuscript, stay organized, and work with other people efficiently in a paperless environment. Gone are the days when you had a stuffed metal file cabinet, reams of paper stacked by your printer, and passing paper drafts back and forth among your colleagues. All this clutter is gone, but unless you organize your work efficiently, digital clutter can accumulate quickly, and finding what you need among the vast amount of information will become overwhelming and frustrating! Then you add the fact that others you’re working with on a project will have their own vast digital clutter, that you want to share, and you have a real challenge! But do not despair! In this chapter we offer a host of suggestions for keeping everything organized, discoverable (meaning your chances of losing something are slim), and available to everyone who needs to share your stuff.

The imperative of “going paperless” not only conserves natural resources, it is a tremendous advance in your ability to be organized and to stay organized throughout the time of a project—an advance that is a particular advantage when you work with other authors and contributors. You just need to know how to do this, and practice the skills involved by getting started and sticking with it. The content of this chapter assumes that you are using the Microsoft Office Suite of applications—Word, Power Point, Excel, at a minimum, and perhaps Publisher and Outlook as well. There are other programs and applications that we will mention, but if you have a basic understanding of the features of the Microsoft programs, then you have a skill set that is easily transferable to most other similar applications, including the Apple applications: Pages, Keynote, and Numbers. We will not review all of these applications here, but we do discuss some features of Word that are particularly important in helping with your organizational plan.

We begin this chapter with a section describing how to manage and store digital files in a way that helps you stay organized and also makes it easy to share information with others on your team. Next we discuss how to use your word processor to the maximum and how to manage your references. Finally we describe several online resources and applications that you can consider to be help with your own practices of organization and management.

File Management

Naming Your Files

One of the basic concepts of good digital document management is a consistent and efficient file naming convention, especially when you work in groups. Filenames should be short and should not contain characters that interfere with synchronization and transferring, such as &, %, and other special characters. Some systems require case-sensitive formats, so develop a habit of using capitals, or not, consistently. The most universally acceptable convention is to use all lower case letters for filenames, but if your system is friendly to capital letters, there is no harm in using them.

Table 2.1 – Examples of File Naming Conventions Using Date Format

Date First to File by Date First, Then Descriptive Term Descriptive Term First to File by Filename First, Then Date
2015–02–23 ch1.docx ch1 2015–02–23.docx
2015–02–24 ch2.docx ch1 2015–03–01.docx
2015–03–01 ch1.docx ch1 2015–03–03.docx
2015–03–03 ch1.docx ch2 2015–02–24.docx
2015–03–10 ch2.docs ch2 2015–03–10.docx

If you like to file documents chronologically, use the date format YYYY-MM-DD (or YYYYMMDD), which forces the files to line up with the most recent first or last when they are automatically sorted in ascending or descending order. If you place the date first in your filename then your file list will sort your files by date. If instead you want to sort your files by file name then date, put the date after the descriptive filename term. See the examples in Table 2.1.

The real power of digital files, however, is that they are all searchable, so you do not have to go digging around to find what you want. You can even automatically convert all PDF files to a format that is searchable—a process called optical character recognition (OCR). This is an option within most PDF readers, but if you use Evernote (described later in this chapter) to store and organize files, Evernote does this for you automatically!

Storing Your Files in the “Cloud”

When you store your files in a cloud location, not only do you have an automatic backup of all of your work, but you also have the ability to share files with your collaborators. Everyone involved in the project should be clear about this location and how it works, understand the conventions that you are using related to file management, and how the group will work with shared files.

There are a number of cloud services to choose from with new services appearing all the time. The two that we focus on here are Dropbox and Google Drive, which both provide reliable file storage systems and sharing capabilities between any device using either Mac or Windows operating systems. Microsoft offers OneDrive and Apple offers iCloud, but these services are primarily designed for users of their respective operating systems and do not yet provide easy file sharing across operating systems. Just as we were putting the finishing touches on this chapter, Amazon announced the launch of its new “Amazon Cloud Drive” with unlimited storage based on plans that offer unlimited photo storage for $11.99 a year, or unlimited “everything” for $59.99 per year (Amazon Cloud Drive Launches Unlimited Cloud Storage, 2015). If you have a basic understanding of the sharing features of Dropbox and Google Drive, you will be able to easily pick up on the advantages and disadvantages of any of the many other cloud storage services that are available.

Cloud storage services work on the premise that a server (the cloud) is the central “home” for all of your files—not your computer’s hard drive. Your files are saved in both places—the cloud and your hard drive, but the cloud is the central “home” which means you can access your files any time anywhere by simply logging in to your account from any device. For most services, when you sign up to use the service, you download an application that integrates with your computer’s filing system—Finder for Apple, or Windows Explorer for Windows. The location on your computer looks exactly like all the files that are stored on your hard drive, but once a file is saved in the cloud location on your computer, it is automatically and instantaneously saved to the cloud storage service AND to your computer’s hard drive.


“Peggy’s Hint” 2.1

I use Dropbox for ALL of my files (I pay for the extra storage!) because it provides a reliable off-site back-up system for all of my documents, and the Dropbox capability to restore deleted files is unequalled by other services. I can also access all of my documents any time, any where, from any device. For folders or files I want to share, I can easily do so by selecting Dropbox share options that appear in the context-sensitive menu for the folder or file I want to share.

If I am working on a project that involves real-time editing of shared files, I use Google Drive. For example, during a committee meeting using a video or phone conference call, everyone can view a file that we are developing together, with one person editing the file in real time, and everyone on the call can see the edits being made as the person types. To do this, we use the Google “gdoc” documents because changes to a “gdoc” document results in a single common file instantaneously updated for all users. Google Drive is also very appealing for groups of students because of the affordability of the service. I encourage students to use Google Drive when they are working together in groups because it is affordable, and they can use Google documents to easily keep track of changes with a visible record of who has done what.

When you share files with other people, the most recent copy of any files shared on the server are instantaneously updated on their computers as well, regardless of who updates the files. Most storage services provide a finite amount of storage for free, but if you need more space you can increase your storage for an annual fee. Currently Google Drive provides more free storage than Dropbox, and the Google fees for additional storage are less than those of Dropbox. Your choice of which service to use may be influenced by the cost, but you need to also take into consideration the cloud functionality that you want or need for a particular project, because there are important differences in how these services work. We recommend setting up at least Dropbox and Google Drive, and use both for a while so that you have a good understanding of the advantages and limitations of each. We do not explain here all the differences between Dropbox and Google Drive, but the information here will give you an idea of why you might use one or the other for different circumstances.


In Dropbox, there is an instantaneous copy of a file stored in the cloud (the Dropbox server) and on your computer, and on any other person’s computer who shares the file. You and everyone else who shares the file can access it anywhere any time—from your respective computers, or by logging in to your Dropbox account from any device, including smartphones and tablets, such as the iPad.

When you open a file from the web using your computer’s browser, Dropbox automatically downloads it to your computer and opens it in the appropriate application (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.). When you open a file from your computer, the application on your computer for that file opens like any file stored anywhere on your computer. Regardless of where the file originates, any changes you make are automatically saved to both the Dropbox server and to your computer. Dropbox is easy to use. The file folder display is familiar and looks like the display you see while using Windows Explorer or Apple Finder. See Figure 2.1 for an example.


“Leslie’s Tidbit” 2.1

Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox, came up with the idea for the service while he was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the time, he and his classmates relied on thumb drives to store and easily transport files—“Having this means I don’t have to carry my laptop everywhere.” But a forgotten or lost thumb drive rendered the files inaccessible. The philosophy of Dropbox is to “solve problems hidden in plain sight.” With files stored in the cloud, the end user no longer has to worry about which version is on which computer, and emailing files back and forth with collaborators (Rosnoff, 2013).

If you are working on your computer and someone else changes a file you share on Dropbox, you get a notification that pops up letting you know that a file in your Dropbox has been changed. This works great if only one person is changing a single file at that moment. If two or more people are working on the same file at the same time, Dropbox automatically saves another copy of the file you are working on with your name included in the filename, for example, [Filename] Peggy Chinn’s conflicted copy 12–15–14. This is a serious drawback to be aware of, because the only way to merge changes made by two different users is to manually go through and check the files for changes, and create a final copy that integrates both users’ edits. The best work-around is to have an agreement about who will work on which file when, to avoid having to deal with conflicted copies. You should also be aware that you can create conflicted copies yourself—say you are working on a file on a laptop computer, then open it on your desktop PC. If you don’t save it on the laptop before you open it on the PC, then save it afterwards, it will become a conflicted copy. So—long story short, save and close files before opening them in other locations.

Figure 2.1 – Screenshot of the Web Version of Dropbox

Figure 2.1 – Screenshot of the Web Version of Dropbox

Two of the biggest advantages of Dropbox are the backup and restore functions. You can store any type of file on Dropbox and once you save it, it is there for you to access any time, anywhere. If you delete a file (on purpose or accidentally) it goes to the trash on your computer, where you can retrieve it if you do so before you empty the trash. But on the Dropbox server, while it disappears from your file list that you see when you log in to Dropbox from your browser, it actually stays hidden in the original location for 30 days. You can upgrade to have access to all of your deleted files for a year. You can see all deleted files by clicking on a trash icon at the top of your file list in your browser, and they are there for you to restore any time you wish!

The backup and restore feature is especially important when you are sharing lots of files and folders with others. But be aware that if anyone on your team deletes a file or a folder, it will disappear from everyone’s computer as well. If you need it back, you can go to the web and restore anything that anyone deleted. So all Dropbox users of shared files need to know that they should not delete or move files to another location on their computer; if they do, they risk deleting the files for everyone on the team! Watch this brief video for a short, fun, and helpful tutorial on Dropbox at https://goo.gl/CSFExL (Dotto, 2013).

Google Drive

Google Drive is available to anyone with a Google account, and comes with a suite of office tools so that you can create word files, spreadsheets, and slide presentations. Like Dropbox, once you download the Google Drive application to your computer, everything you store on Google Drive is automatically saved to your computer and to the cloud. Google Drive files can also be opened from your computer like any other file, with the exception of files saved as “.gdoc,” “gsheet,” and “gslides” (Google format)—opening a Google file from your computer will automatically take you to your Google Drive folder and open the file in your browser. This is an important distinction and is one of the advantages of Google Drive (and the Google format)—when you make changes to a Google file, anyone else who is simultaneously viewing the file will see your typing “happen” in real time! If they open the file after you make revisions, they automatically see your latest changes and these changes are also saved to their Google Drive folder on their computer.

You can also store files in any of the formats created on your computer using any application, and anyone who shares your files or folders in Google Drive will be able to open them and see the latest version of the files. If you open a file saved in another format such as Word, PowerPoint, or Excel file from your browser’s Google Drive folder, it will be downloaded to your computer automatically, where you can make changes in the appropriate application. Then when you save the updated file, it is automatically saved to both the Google Drive server, and to your computer. You can view these files directly on your computer, but if you open them from the Google Drive in your web browser, you will need to download them to your computer to work with them in your local applications. When you save your updated file to the Google Drive location on your computer, other users will see the updated file when they go to open the file.

While it is possible to save any type of document in Google Drive, the advantages of this service are in the distinctive functionality of the Google office suite, and the unique tracking and sharing capabilities that are embedded in this set of tools. The Google office applications are very similar to the Microsoft Office suite, so using them is easy for Office users once you become familiar and comfortable with the “look and feel” of working on documents from within your browser! Once you create a Google file, you can easily view all prior versions of the document along with notations of the person who made each change and the date that the changes were made. There is a trash folder for deleted files, but Google Drive does not have the restore functionality of Dropbox.


“Try This” 2.1

Watch this Google Drive tutorial video (less than 6 minutes!).


Then go to your Google Drive at https://goo.gl/TNZcea. If you are already logged in to Google, you will see the file and folder structure for Google Drive along with a red “New” button. Click the “New” button and create a test Google Doc. Then try each of the other applications that are embedded—Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Forms, Google Drawings, and Google My Maps. Share one or more of your test documents with a friend, and arrange to be online at the same time to see what happens when you are both viewing a file and one of you makes a change!

Producing A Manuscript

Once upon a time, in the days of Mad Men and three martini lunches, there was a whole class of workers who were professional typists. Certainly, most people had a basic knowledge of how to type (one of Leslie’s favorite classes in high school was “Typing for the College Bound Student,”) but if you wanted a document of superior quality (which meant less than three corrections per page) you turned to a typist (or secretary) for assistance.

Leslie has recounted her story of being told she was not a good enough typist to produce a thesis on an IBM Selectric typewriter (Nicoll, 2014) but then, just 8 short years later, she—and all of her classmates—were expected to produce their dissertations on fledging computers with rudimentary word processing software. Professional typists had vanished, practically overnight, and everyone who wanted to prepare an acceptable document was expected to learn an arcane series of commands that would, hopefully, print out paragraphs indented, with text double-spaced, and underlining and italics in the appropriate places.

Here we are, more than 30 years later. Word processing programs have become more sophisticated in their capabilities but at the same time, more intuitive for the end user. Intuitive, that is, if you think like a computer programmer. Unfortunately, as editors we both routinely receive manuscripts where the author has produced it with a typewriter mindset: a hard return at the end of every line and using the space bar to indent each paragraph. Reference lists are a mess of tabs, spaces, and returns.

The old adage, “It’s better to do something right, or not do it at all,” holds true with word processing programs. We have both learned from the experience of repairing numerous manuscripts that it is much easier to create a manuscript using the features of the word processing program correctly, rather than trying to fix the formatting at a later stage of the process. Yes, we know that many people believe it is better to just type the words on the page and not worry about formatting, but we do not subscribe to this philosophy. Rather, we believe that you should know the rudiments of using your word processor and set up your document in advance (i.e., font, line spacing, margins, and tabs). Once the basic format is set, then it is easy to type quickly when inspiration strikes and not be faced with the arduous task of making dozens of tedious corrections in the final polishing stage.


“Leslie’s Tidbit” 2.2

WYSIWYG—“What you see is what you get”—was not commonplace on early computers and word processors. The user was required to enter nonprinting control codes (in the early version of WordStar, these were called “dot commands”) to add elements such as italics or underlining to a document. It took me almost a year to figure out how to add dot commands to a reference list so that journal titles would be underlined (note that italics for journal titles did not become the standard until the APA fourth edition was published in 1994).

Added to this is the fact that most journal editors do not want manuscripts that are overly styled and formatted. When you read the information for authors, you will find that they usually specify:

  • A standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, generally in 12-point size.
  • Margins of 1″ all around.
  • Standard 8½″ × 11″ “paper,” printed on one side only.
  • Double-spaced, with paragraphs indented by ½″.
  • A standard style for references, using a style manual such as the American Medical Association (10th edition) or the American Psychological Association (6th edition).


“Leslie’s Tidbit” 2.3

I am excited to be an early backer of the Freewrite (https://astrohaus.com/), defined as a “minimalist digital typewriter for distraction free writing.” As described by the developers, Patrick and Adam, the Freewrite, “combines the simplicity of a typewriter with modern technology like an electronic paper screen and cloud backups to create the best possible writing experience.”

My Freewrite is due to be shipped in the third quarter of 2015. We’ll see if it revolutionizes my writing!


“Try This” 2.2

Here is a simple Word Processing Self-Assessment to try:

Open a blank document in your word processor, which ever one you use. Use the proper commands to set up the following format for your document:

  • Set the margins to 0.5″ on the top and bottom, and 1″ on the left and right.
  • Set the tabs to occur regularly at 0.5″ across the entire width of the page.
  • Set your paragraph format to be “hanging” at 0.5″.
  • Set line spacing to 1.5″.
  • Type the following reference so it looks identical to what is printed here:

Reece, M., Herbenick, D., Schick, V., Sanders, S.A., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J.D. (2010). Condom use rates in a national probability sample of males and females ages 14 to 94 in the United States. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7(Suppl 5), 266–276. doi:10.1111/j.1743–6109.2010.02017.x

If you are having difficulty with any of these items, use this as a teachable moment to figure out the functions in your word processor. If you continue to have trouble, consider taking a basic word processing course or asking a colleague for help.

Articles published in the journal may be styled with two columns, drop caps, and the abstract in italics, but that doesn’t mean you should format your manuscript that way! Right from the moment of submission through the final production process (if your manuscript is accepted for publication) it will be produced and reproduced in many different formats, such as a PDF for peer review to a sophisticated file that uses mark-up language for final design and formatting. Thus it is important to have a document that is as plain vanilla as possible in terms of formatting. Hidden codes and complicated styles do not translate well to various other formats.

Using Your Word Processor to the Maximum

Even when you are working alone on a project, it is important to set up conventions to track the progress of your work over time. The most common way to do this is to rename a file when something substantial has changed in the file, so that you retain the original file you were working on, but also save a new copy with a filename that includes a date of the update, or your initials, or some other brief “code” that helps you to recognize differences in various files and select the one you need to work with the next time you come back to this project. You can also set up separate folders that help you track the progress along the way, for example, you might have “Draft1,” “Draft2,” and “Final” folders to track where you are with various elements of the project.

It is also useful to use the “header” and “footer” sections of a page to make notations about where you are in the progression of changes to a file. For example, the header might include a brief “running head,” your initials (if you are working with a group), and a date/time stamp that is automatically updated when you save or open a file. Even if you are the only person working on a file, having headers that pinpoint the progress you are making is one of your most valuable tools to stay organized and efficient!


“Think About It” 2.1

Think about some of the systems and conventions you would use the next time you work on a project with a team of other people. To help you imagine how this might be for you, here is a fictional (but typical) sequence of “events” for a team of three people (Andy, Sydney, and Chris):

Andy is the primary author, so is responsible to write the first draft, save the file to Dropbox, and alert Sydney and Chris that the file is ready for their edits and comments. They have agreed as a team that to avoid ending up with conflicted copies of the file in Dropbox, so they pass the file along sequentially to Sydney, then Chris.

  • Sydney picks up the file the next morning and makes a number of changes and a few comments using track changes, then alerts Chris to pick it up next.
  • Chris reviews all of Sydney’s changes and comments, and inserts comments in response to Sydney’s changes if there are any points of disagreement, and also makes new changes and comments. Now the file is quite cluttered with track changes and comments, and it is ready to go back to Andy.

Andy goes through the document with a fine tooth comb and accepts any changes made by Sydney and Chris that are good editorial changes (spelling, grammar, composition, etc.) and that are compatible with their mutual understandings of the content they are developing. If there are changes that represent issues they still need to discuss, Andy leaves those changes and comments in place, inserts a notation in the file header to indicate that this is now ready for “round 2” and saves the updated file with a new filename.

Andy notifies Sydney and Chris that the document is ready for discussion, and they set up a video chat to discuss the remaining issues.

If you have not yet mastered “track changes” in your Word application, it is time to do so! When you are working by yourself, track changes helps you see the details of what you have done along the way; if you work with others on a single document, this is essential. Each person’s changes are automatically color-coded so you know who is changing what, and any comments they insert are clearly identified as their comments. As a team, establish an understanding about the sequence in which you will work with various files. Note that Google Docs does not have a track changes feature which can be confusing if you have gotten used to using track changes in Word!

Resources to Manage References

Bibliographic citations—references—are the core of scientific writing. These source documents are the foundation upon which your research or practice innovation is built. You need to know what has been done previously then use this knowledge to identify gaps, to refine your own work.

Coming up with a system to keep track of reference and maintain them in an organized way is essential for any scholar. Whatever system you use, it must be reliable, accurate, and up-to-date. To stay abreast of knowledge and developments in your field, you must be constantly reading and adding references to your database of information. If you don’t, your scholarship will suffer. It’s that simple.

Back in the day, we both had extensive libraries of “bib cards”—5″ × 8″ index cards that were written by hand and filed in a box. Maintaining a bibliographic database using this system was tedious and slow. The only real advantage that either of us can remember was that by writing everything out, you sort of memorized it, so you had quick recall of key citations.

At that time, knowledge was not exploding like it is today. Professional journals could be counted in the dozens, not hundreds. Reading a few key journals every month, such as Nursing Research, the American Journal of Nursing, and one or two journals in a specialty area was sufficient to have an awareness of important developments in the profession. Writing up a few bib cards every few weeks was also not an overwhelming task. Searching for what was already published was seemingly simple, but by comparison to today’s search capabilities, very limited.

Those days are long gone. While we might miss the quaintness of bib cards, the advances that exist today far outweigh these fond memories. Having access to databases such as PubMed (National Library of Medicine), CINAHL, and Ovid make thousands of citations easily accessible, as long as you know a few basics to search effectively. The availability of full-text online, either for free or for a fee (if you do not have access to a health sciences library) can save you time and energy and minimize trips to the library. When a colleague or advisor suggests you to read the “latest article by Schopenhauer,” it is not a herculean task to figure out what the reference is and obtain it. Likewise, as you read articles, from sources as diverse as The New England Journal of Medicine or The New York Times, you can share the information with others—usually with just a click of the mouse to open a window to email the citation to a friend or colleague.

This accessibility is great but it just reinforces the need to have a system to keep your resources organized. And, we can say with assurance: printing out citations from PubMed and stacking them in a pile on the end of your desk is not an organizational system!

Ever hear of the computer term GIGO? It means: Garbage In, Garbage Out. References are a stellar example of what this is. If you type a reference and make one mistake—misspelling an author’s name, or typing 2010 instead of 2011, the reference becomes useless. And, the error will be perpetuated every time the citation is used or reused. Someone reading your article who tries to find your reference will be stymied because of the incorrect information. Sure, maybe the person will be persistent and eventually find the source, but the point is, you shouldn’t be making your readers, whether they be anonymous folks out in the world, colleagues, or faculty (if you are a student), to have to work to track down the source documents that you cite.

Thirty years ago, Leslie attended a conference where the speakers had done an analysis of 17 nursing journals and found error rates in reference lists as high as 39% (Foreman & Kirchhoff, 1987). Has this problem ended? A quick search of PubMed suggests no, with more than 80 relevant citations on the topic, the most recent from late 2014 (Barroga, 2014). Perhaps part of the problem is that authors assume there is “someone else” who will be checking and correcting references. In our experience, this is simply not true. Authors have the responsibility for ensuring that the sources they cite are accurate. If someone else happens to pick up a mistake, that’s a bonus, but at the end of the day, it is your responsibility.

Which leads us back to our original point: you must have a system to maintain your references in an organized and accurate way. Fortunately, there are digital tools to help you, commonly known as bibliography database managers (BDM). Unfortunately, most of these programs are not as intuitive and easy to use as some of the other applications and programs that we have discussed or will discuss in later chapters. But learning them is “doable.” So face it and select an application now, and learn just the basics. You can learn the more advanced features later. Start by learning how to enter references and insert them into a current paper you are writing. Do not try to enter lots of references that you might use later—start just with the ones you are using now. Eventually, your own database will grow just by adding the references you need as you need them.

The two leading programs on the market today are EndNote ($300) and Reference Manager ($240), both owned and distributed by Thomson-Reuters. We have recently both started using Paperpile, which is a low-cost subscription app ($36 per year for students and individuals) that is currently only available on Google Chrome, and only integrates with Google Docs. The developers are working on updating the app to work with other browsers and with Word. We have started to use this because of the ease of use, and the powerful search capacities to find and update references directly from the web with a single click. In short, we have found that the advantages of Paperpile match the assessment of Alex Hope in this blog post: http://goo.gl/qgCLBa. There are also other free or low-cost programs; Wikipedia has a good comparison table that they keep up to date (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_reference_management_software) (Comparison of reference management software, 2015). One thing to keep in mind as you look at various programs: you will invest a fair amount of time to develop and maintain your reference database, therefore you want a program that will be around for the long haul. Leslie had the unfortunate experience of being an early user/adopter of ProCite, which is now just history. EndNote (first released in 1988) and Reference Manager (from 1984) seem to be withstanding the test of time. If you are already a user of any of the most popular reference managers and want to try Paperpile, you can follow the instructions they provide on Paperpile to easily import your entire reference database in just a few moments. Then you can select your references in Paperpile, ask Paperpile to update all of your references, and within minutes they will include abstracts, DOIs and URLs – any standard reference data that is available online.


“There Are No Dumb Questions” 2.1

Question: I really don’t want to take the time to learn another application, and I am used to typing my references as I go. Why should I bother to do this?

Response: Learning another application is part of the digital culture, and this particular type of application is one of the best investments of time and energy you can make. Consider that there remains the persistent problem in scholarly publishing of inaccurate references—a problem that you contribute to every time you type in another reference. If you use a reference management application, you will still have errors that show up in your reference list, but as soon as you find them you correct them permanently in your reference manager. Another huge factor is that you eventually save massive amounts of time and energy typing references, and now, many references can be downloaded to your reference manager directly from the reference database, eliminating even the need to type them at all! So face it, select a reference manager, and get started! If you are affiliated with a college or university, consult with your library for their recommendations about selecting an application. Here is a comparison table of various reference manager applications: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_reference_management_software

Once you have decided on a program, your next step is to begin building your database. We suggest, whenever possible, that you import citations rather than rekeying (retyping) them. Although we do not have hard data to support this, we suspect that keystroke errors are the main reason that authors’ names get misspelled or numbers are transposed. Plus, if you import citations from a source, such as PubMed, you will import not only the citation but all associated information, including an abstract (if one exists), MeSH terms (Medical Subject Headings), the DOI, and, if using PubMed, the unique PubMed identifier.

It would be great if you could just push a button and export/import a citation into your BDM but we are not there yet—although, we have to say, it is getting easier and Paperpile is pretty close to perfect for doing this. If you have Paperpile installed in your browser, you will see a little grey box that says “Paperpile.” Click this and the citation will be imported into your Paperpile file. For legacy BDMs, the process requires that you save the citation(s) to a file, then import the file into your BDM. From PubMed, for example, you have the option to use “Send To” to manage citations you find. You can first send citations individually to the clipboard. Then, when you are done searching, take all the citations from the clipboard and send to a file. This is the file that you then import into your BDM. Google Scholar also offers this functionality.

Many journals and library databases now offer you the ability to import a citation to a BDM, again using a similar process (save to file, then import). Look for a button that says “download,” “share,” or something similar. You may have to choose which format (EndNote and Reference Manager use RIS format), save the file, then, from your BDM, import the file.

As you create your database, take some time to learn about your BDM. You can customize views, attach additional information to references, and modify the styles (such as AMA or APA) that you will use to create your reference list. This last item is important. Although the programs contain hundreds of styles for different journals, and they are regularly updated, in our experience, they are not perfect and may need some tweaking. Knowing how to do this will make your BDM and its associated library more valuable to you.

One caveat in terms of styles: yes, you can push a few buttons and quickly change your manuscript, and its reference list, from APA to AMA format (or whatever combination you desire). That said, recognize that there are some fundamental differences in the writing style between different style manuals. Once you push the button and make all those (Author, Date) citations turn into superscripted numbers (and the corresponding changes on the reference list), go back and carefully reread and edit your manuscript. You will likely find you need to fix and tweak throughout, to make sure that the voice and flow are correct.

Are you overwhelmed just reading this? If so, don’t despair. We have discovered that many people just don’t “get” BDMs. As noted earlier, they are not entirely intuitive and are complex programs to learn. Maybe it’s a right brain/left brain thing, but some people just struggle and never really make the program work effectively for them. On top of that, they are not great for collaboration—although the developers know this and are constantly working to improve this dimension of their programs. Bottom line, if you have tried, unsuccessfully, to use a BDM and it hasn’t worked for you, then we suggest you engage the help of a knowledgeable colleague or other professional who can assist you with this job. You shouldn’t just give up because they are essential for successfully managing references.

Project Management Tools

When your to-do list turns into a tangled mess, you probably have more than one project underway and it is time to get organized! There are heaps of digital tools to help with this, and you might already be using one or more. What works best for you might not work for someone else, but if you are working on a project with even one other person, you need to come to terms with the fact that project management tools that everyone on the team can use are a really good idea!

We will not try to review or list all of the tools that we know are available—the only way we have found to really figure out if a resource is good for you is to try it out for a while. You can read tons of reviews for all of the popular applications and programs, which help you decide which ones to try, but the bottom line is that you need to work with a program for a while to learn its unique advantages and limitations. What we can do here is share a couple of the tools we use, explain why we use them, and use them to illustrate features that you can look for in any management tool.


“Peggy’s Hint” 2.2

The three project management tools that I use are Evernote, Trello, and Omnifocus. For a long time I was on an endless search to find one tool that could do it all, but eventually I came to the realization that no one tool could possibly accomplish what these three tools do!

  • Omnifocus is my “to-do” management tool that integrates the pieces of my personal life with the professional tasks I am responsible for, including my assignments for each group project I am working on. Omnifocus was developed as a way to implement Allen’s “Getting Things Done” approach to time and project management—a system that I have liked for many years (Allen, 2015). It is a very complex application and there are other “to-do” list applications that are simpler to use. But I like the structure of Omnifocus and the ease with which it synchronizes with all of my devices.
  • Evernote is my digital “filing cabinet,” which means that if I have something that needs to be saved for future reference, or for documentation later, it goes to Evernote. Notes and Notebooks in Evernote can be shared with others, which is very handy as a way for everyone on a team to stay on top of resources you gather for the project as a whole. Evernote can also be used as a tool for “Getting Things Done” (Lefebvre, 2013) but it is not designed for time management, so I stick with Omnifocus and Evernote combined to stay on top of things!
  • I share a Trello board with other team members who are working on a project together, where we track the big picture of the project—who is doing what and where all the pieces stand in getting the job done.

For a project like writing this book, I have an Evernote notebook that I share with Leslie where we can file resources we want to use for each chapter, and copies of email correspondence between us and the publisher. We have a shared Trello board where we can quickly see who is working on which chapter, what stage each chapter is in, and an archive of completed tasks and correspondence. Omnifocus is where I place the specific tasks I am responsible for and manage the competing demands of my personal life, other projects, and the tasks of getting the book ready to publish!


Evernote is a powerful note-taking, resource tracking, and filing application that becomes more useful the more you use it. Everything you file in Evernote is backed up and synchronized so that you can access it any time, any where, and with any device. You can file things there without even going to the application
—you can email stuff to Evernote, clip web pages to Evernote from your web browser, save a photo to Evernote using your device camera, record an audio note, attach files to a note, save files from a host of other applications to Evernote—all from any device you happen to have handy at the time. Once you have stuff loaded into Evernote, the content is searchable—Evernote even performs OCR on PDF files so that the content of PDF files you attach are fully searchable.

Evernote is organized using a multidimensional “grid” that you develop over time. One dimension is the notebooks you set up to “hold” related notes. Another dimension is the tags you can add to each note, reflecting additional topics or projects that a note might be related to. Then you can drill down to the very specific content of notes by searching the entire content you have stored in Evernote.

Evernote is free, but for a fee of less than $5 a month you can upgrade to “premium” for much more storage space and a number of enhanced features. It is very easy to use, and the more you use it the more you will discover its extensive possibilities. To illustrate, suppose you are planning a vacation trip with a group of friends. Set up a notebook that you share with everyone who is going on the trip where you can all share ideas about what to do, places to stay, and events to attend. Everyone can clip web pages from sites they find for everyone to consider, and people can comment on each other’s ideas. You can forward emails about the trip to the Evernote notebook that everyone shares. You can attach files, save photos—anything related to the trip goes into your shared notebook where everyone has access!


Trello is one of our favorite digital tools for organizing a project that involves more than one person! Evernote functions to hold and store a host of information and resources for your project; Trello is where you see the big picture of all the pieces that need to come together to complete the project, and who is responsible for what. It is extremely simple and easy to use, and like Evernote, the more you use it the more you appreciate its functionality.

In Trello you invite all the members of the team working on a project to join a Board for the project. Then you set up lists that show the major categories of work that need to be done to complete the project. For a research team you might have a list for writing the proposal, another for getting permissions, another for stakeholder contacts, and another for research procedures. Each list has a card for the various tasks that need to be accomplished on that list, and each card shows who is responsible for the task. Each person on the team can subscribe to the board or a specific list so that they get an email notification any time someone else on the team changes or adds something to the board or the list. You can add due dates to the cards, which will prompt an email reminder to be sent to the person who is responsible for the task a day before the task is due. Here is a short video that explains how Trello works:

https://goo.gl/EXWhVS (Trello. Organize anything, together, 2011)

As an example, for this book we created a board named “Nicoll Chinn book” (we had the Trello board before we even had the name of the book!). There were lists for each draft and cards for each chapter. We had additional cards with notes of resources, phone calls, and various other tidbits that we needed to keep track of. The Trello board for this book is shown in Figure 2.2.

Figure 2.2 – Screenshot of the Trello Board for this book.

Figure 2.2 – Screenshot of the Trello Board for this book.

Some nice things about Trello: it’s intuitive and very easy to use, the company is constantly pushing out updates, and it’s free! The program works best when all people involved look at the board regularly and make updates. Every time something is changed, all users who are subscribed to the board (in this case, there are only two of us) will receive notifications of updates. It is easy to attach files and pictures to the various cards. Trello is integrated with Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and OneDrive, so you can attach files that are stored “in the cloud,” making it extremely simple to have everything associated with a project immediately accessible to all users. Trello works on the web (from your computer) but you can also download the Trello application to your iPad, iPhone, or Android device, which means that even if you are on the go, you can still be checking on the status of the project and making updates in real time.

Trello is not the only project management system that is available, but it is the one with which we are the most familiar and have used the most. Since there is no financial investment to use Trello, we suggest you go online, create an account, and begin exploring. If it doesn’t work for you, some other programs that are similar include:

If you would like to explore other alternatives, simply Google “project management software.” This website is also a good starting point to learn more: http://www.getapp.com/project-management-planning-software/a/trello/alternatives/

Using Video Conferencing and Screen Sharing

The digital age has ushered in a host of tools for communicating and working effectively with others, but at the same time these tools have created a distance and disconnection that damages the “human element” that comes with face-to-face or on-site, real-time meetings and conferences. Many groups and organizations have adopted the convention of telephone conference calls to help overcome some of the disadvantages of electronic communication, but conference calls can be frustrating and confusing, and still lack many of the benefits of face-to-face interactions. Enter the video conference—a digital service that is improving rapidly and growing in popularity!

The popular platforms for video conferencing take advantage of the “voice over internet protocol (VoIP)” capability that began to emerge early in the 2000s, with phone companies setting up phone calling and receiving services using Internet connections instead of traditional landline telephone services. Even though these services require an Internet connection, they quickly became very popular because they require only a flat fee that covers not only local, but long-distance calling for no additional charge. Then when computers and mobile devices began to integrate camera and video capabilities as well as the audio capability required for telephone communication, the science-fiction images of video calling began to become a reality.

Apple introduced video chats one-to-one with their FaceTime application for the iPhone, then the popular VoIP service Skype began to offer the capability for video chat one-to-one calls, but for a fee. Now Skype offers video calls for single and group calls as part of their basic service for no additional fee. Google offers “Hangouts” with the “Plus” feature added to your Google account. With both Skype and Google hangouts you can video conference with up to nine other people at a time. Zoom.us offers both free and fee-based accounts that accommodate up to 25 video users at one time, plus call-in participation. The free accounts allow hosting a meeting of up to 40 minutes in length; the basic fee-based service provides unlimited time for video conference.


“Try This” 2.3

If you do not yet have accounts for Skype (http://www.skype.com/), Google Plus (https://plus.google.com/), and Zoom.us (http://zoom.us/), set up a free account with each service so that you can try all three. Skype and Zoom require downloading a dedicated application; you can use Google Hangouts directly from your web browser although a mobile application is also available for tablets and smart phones. Find a friend who is willing also set up all three services, then try each one! Then try bringing in a third person as well. Once you have tried all three, you will be able to decide which service works the best for you!

Anyone on a call using most video chat services can share their screen, which is a great feature when you are sharing information that you want everyone to see at one time. Zoom, in our experience, provides a more stable connection than other services, plus it provides the capability to record both the audio and video conference. This is particularly helpful if someone in the group cannot be on the call, or when you are presenting screen-shared information that you want to archive.

The advantages of video conferencing approach the many advantages of face-to-face interactions, including the obvious ability to see at least some of the body language that is conveyed in an interaction. But in addition, video conferencing makes it much easier to share talk time and to pass the conversation from one person to another. In addition, when you are on a video conference you tend to maintain focus and attention on the group interactions, overcoming the temptation to multitask and become distracted that is common with phone conferencing.


This chapter has introduced some basic concepts and resources to help you begin a successful digital writing journey. We suggest that you visit some of the web sites we have identified in this chapter and get started with organizing your work and strategizing how you will collaborate with others. Many of the resources we have listed are free, or have free trials, so don’t be hesitant about registering for an account and diving in. It is only through hands-on trial and error that you will learn what works for you!


Allen, D. (2015). Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. (Revised Kindle ed.). New York: Penguin Books.

Amazon Cloud Drive Launches Unlimited Cloud Storage. (2015). Retrieved March 26, 2015, from http://goo.gl/ZL0mLd

Barroga, E. F. (2014). Reference accuracy: authors’, reviewers’, editors’, and publishers’ contribution. Journal of Korean Medical Science, 29(12), 1587–1589. doi:10.3346/jkms.2014.29.12.1587

Comparison of Reference Management Software. (2015). Retrieved March 26, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_reference_management_software

Dotto, S. (2013). Everything you need to know about Dropbox. Retrieved March 26, 2015, from https://goo.gl/CSFExL

Foreman, M. D., & Kirchhoff, K. T. (1987). Accuracy of references in nursing journals. Research in Nursing & Health, 10(3), 177–183.

Lefebvre, D. (2013). Getting Things Done with Evernote. (1st Kindle ed.). Oklahoma City, OK: Daniel Lefebvre.

Nicoll, L. H. (2014). On typewriters. Nurse Author & Editor, 24(1), 3. Retrieved from http://www.nurseauthoreditor.com/article.asp?id=242

Reece, M., Herbenick, D., Schick, V., Sanders, S. A., Dodge, G., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2010). Condom use rates in a national probability sample of males and females ages 14 to 94 in the United States. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7(Suppl 5), 266–276. doi:10.1111/j.1743–6109.2010.02017.x

Rosnoff, M. (2013). Dropbox CEO: The creators of email would “cry” if they foresaw its slow evolution. Retrieved March 23, 2015, from http://www.citeworld.com/article/2115174/cloud-computing/dropbox-drew-houston-marc-benioff-dreamforce.html

Trello. Organize anything, together. (2011). Retrieved March 26, 2015, from https://goo.gl/EXWhVS

Chapter 3

Right from the Start: Ethical Issues in the Digital Age


This chapter focuses on the values that shape your practices as you develop a manuscript for publication. A big part of success in publishing can be attributed to investing in a solid ethical foundation right from the start. This foundation is built on long-standing values, but the modern digital environment presents a number of opportunities and challenges that never before existed. Every author grapples with issues involving who contributes to your manuscript, either as an author, a person who you acknowledge for their assistance, or as another scholar whose work you cite. We begin this chapter with a discussion of guidelines for establishing a clear understanding, right from the start, concerning who is a legitimate author of a manuscript and how to properly acknowledge anyone else who might have contributed to your work in some way. Then we examine nuances involved in accurately attributing other people’s ideas that you use to develop your manuscript, and the scary concept of plagiarism.

Authorship and Acknowledgments

Each and every writing project involves a host of people who participate in some manner. Even if you are a sole author who writes something that you alone conceive, write, submit for publication, and oversee the final page proofs, you inevitably have people who have encouraged, supported and inspired your ideas—people who have contributed to making your work possible. We cannot recommend strongly enough that early in the process you carefully consider who, if anyone, should be named as an author, and who should be acknowledged as supporting, inspiring or influencing your work.

To begin, be clear in your own mind/heart about authorship when you first embark on a project, and bring your personal preferences to your colleagues in real-time discussion—face-to-face if at all possible, or using video chat if you cannot meet in person. If you are a student or a junior member of a research team who is taking major responsibility for the work, it might be awkward for you to initiate a discussion of authorship with your supervisors or mentors, but unless you take this step very early, you will find yourself in even more awkward situations involving authorship later on. We recommend that you explore the issues around authorship with supervisors or mentors even before you embark on a particular project to determine how compatible you are with the views of those you are considering working with. You can use the guidelines we recommend in this chapter (discussed below) as a basis for a general discussion of authorship among groups of people you are working with or considering working with in order to establish a clear picture of the authorship environment you are dealing with.

As you are sorting out authorship issues with your colleagues, you may want to do an assessment of the various skill-sets of each person involved in producing the substance of the article you are planning. Is there one person who is particularly knowledgeable about using a word processor? Who is the detail oriented person who will have an eagle eye for checking references? Is there a statistical whiz in the group? Many people assign authorship tasks in a linear fashion, that is, one person writes the introduction and literature review, another focuses on methods, and a third is given the responsibility for analysis and discussion. While this might be a workable approach, it does not take into account who has what expertise in terms of actually producing the paper.

If, in your assessment, you realize that no one on your team is strong in an area related to producing your manuscript, then you might want to investigate other resources that are available to you. Is there administrative staff at your workplace who can support you to produce a professional manuscript? Is there financial support to hire a professional editor who can help you? The latter might be particularly important if you are writing in a language, such as English, that is not your native tongue. People who assist with production, but who are not involved in developing the substance of the manuscript, are typically not named as authors but they should be acknowledged in some way.

If you decide to write a paper by yourself and you are the only one involved in conceiving the ideas, doing the background research, writing the paper, revising and editing subsequent drafts, submitting it for publication, and following through the entire production process with the publisher, then you can rightfully claim sole authorship of your paper! If, as is often the case, other people get involved in the process of developing the substance of the paper, or you start out with other people involved in even brainstorming the idea, then you will need to consider exactly who is to be named as an author, and in what order on the final publication. Not everyone who helps shape the content and substance of the paper needs to be named as an author, but you do need to be clear about authorship with each person who is involved along the way.

Our admonition on this is two-fold: (1) establish your own clear definition of authorship and the guidelines you prefer for assigning the order of authors, and (2) do this at the very earliest moment possible when you embark on a publishing process. Even in the digital age, author relationships are the essential and all-important human element of publishing, and to be successful your relationship with your co-authors and others who influence your work must be built on a firm foundation of clear understanding about who contributes what, and how you will work together.

Each research project typically results in the potential for more than one publication, so at the outset of a research project your discussions about authorship can be facilitated by exploring the various potential publications, with different people involved in the project taking primary responsibility for various publications that might result from the project. Once everyone is clear about how they might be involved with the project, as a group you can assign authorship for each publication, and the order in which each author will be listed. The primary author is typically the person who takes major responsibility and leadership for all aspects of the publication. There are fewer conventions or guidelines to determine the order of subsequent authors, so this is typically up to the group members—the important factor being that everyone needs to agree and be clear about the basis for determining the order. In the absence of a clear rationale based on the level of contribution to the work or some other “formula” that you might use, many co-authors simply alphabetize their names, or sometimes reverse-alphabetize!

Each discipline has general conventions that they tend to follow in defining and assigning authorship. In some basic science fields, it is acceptable, even expected, that anyone who has anything to do at all with the research and the publication of a paper resulting from a research project should be listed as an author—a practice that results in a huge list of co-authors. In many biomedical sciences, the first author is the person who did most of the work involved in producing the manuscript and the last author is the most senior scientist involved in the project and may or may not have made a major contribution to this particular article. In the social sciences the number of co-authors tends to be about four or less, and it is generally expected that everyone who is listed as an author is an equal contributor to the work, including developing the manuscript, revisions, proof-reading, and approvals. Journals may specify, in their author guidelines, their own requirements for authorship and may require a declaration that describes the contributions of each person listed as an author.


“There Are No Dumb Questions” 3.1

Student: Does my advisor have to be included as an author on publications from my dissertation? After all, my advisor and committee did not write it—I did!

Faculty advisor: Don’t I have a right to be named as an author on my student’s publications resulting from her dissertation? After all I gave a huge amount of advice, and required her to change certain content based on my point of view!

Our response to both questions: This depends on your mutual agreement about authorship. The ethical guidelines we discuss here clearly indicate that the student who authors publications derived the dissertation research should be the primary author, but whether or not faculty advisors are named as co-authors depends on a mutual agreement that you reach among yourselves. Ideally this agreement should be formed early in the process. But whenever you have this discussion, you can use the International Committee for Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) guidelines for authorship to help reach a mutual agreement. We do not believe that the chair or committee members should be named as authors simply because they were advisors fulfilling their faculty duties in this role. Faculty who are named as co-authors on a publication from doctoral research and the subsequent dissertation, in our view, should be involved at every stage of development of a publishable manuscript. If the student/recent graduate (author of the dissertation) prepares a manuscript alone, assumes responsibility for the integrity of the manuscript, and approves the final copyedited article for publication, then the student/recent graduate should be the sole author of the manuscript. The student/recent graduate would be wise to include an acknowledgment of the role faculty advisors played in the development of the dissertation, indicating any contribution the advisors might have made to the manuscript, such as reviewing early drafts of the manuscript for publication.

Further, keep in mind that the dissertation and journal article are two entirely separate documents, written for different purposes. The dissertation is the ultimate document, written according to university guidelines, that, if found meritorious, will meet partial requirements for the degree that is to be conferred. The chair and committee are acknowledged for their work by their attestation on the signature page. A journal article, on the other hand, is a totally separate document, written according to the journal guidelines. Both the dissertation and journal article are derived from the same research project and data, but the journal article is not “written from” the dissertation.

There are two organizations that provide general guidelines for authorship for scholarly publications in the health sciences: The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) (http://publicationethics.org/) and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) (http://www.icmje.org/). COPE regularly deals with cases involving disputes and challenges to legitimate authorship, resulting in extensive discussion of authorship issues in the digital and print environments. ICMJE provides recommendations for determining authorship and recommended procedures for assuring that all authors meet the requirements for authorship. In the following sections we address the guidelines of each of these groups, and illustrate how you can use them to (1) form your own personal preferences related to authorship, and (2) establish mutual understandings about authorship with your colleagues.


“Leslie’s Tidbit” 3.1

An interesting article from PLoS Biology (Tscharntke, Hochberg, Rand, & Krauss, 2007) attempted to develop a schema for order of authorship. They note that evaluating complex contributions and translating this to a simple metric formula is difficult. While the first author is usually fairly easy to identify—the person making the greatest contribution—the listing of subsequent authors may be hampered by “different traditions across countries and research fields, resulting in very different criteria” (Tscharntke et al., 2007, para 3). That said, they did provide the following guidelines:

  • Sequence Determines Credit (SDC). The sequence of authors should reflect the declining importance of their contribution.
  • Equal Contribution Norm (ECN). Authors are listed alphabetically, with each author’s contribution valuated as an equal proportion, i.e., if there are 5 authors, each author has a 20% contribution to the article.
  • First-Last-Author-Emphasis (FLAE). This is standard in many research labs, with the first author receiving credit for the whole impact, the last author 50%, and everyone in the middle divvies up the rest.
  • Percent-Contribution-Indicated (PCI). Each author specifies what he or she contributed and the respective percent. This information is included as a statement at the end of the article. See Figure 3.1 for an example from the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Figure 3.1 – Illustration of authorship contribution according to the PCI approach.

Figure 3.1 – Illustration of authorship contribution according to the PCI approach.

ICMJE Recommendations

The ICMJE recommendations are:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; and
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and
  • Final approval of the version to be published; and
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved (ICMJE, 2015).

At first glance these four recommendations may seem quite straightforward, but when you go to implement them in practice, they are not quite so clear! The term “substantial contributions” can be claimed by a person, for example, who came up with the original idea since without the idea the work could not have evolved. But if that person does nothing further, or very little, to contribute to the ongoing development of the manuscript, others might not see the person as substantially contributing to the work, particularly if that person does not contribute to revisions of the work and has not been involved in discussions that resulted in details that are essential to a comprehensive understanding of the content of the final manuscript.

People who participate in one or two of the responsibilities listed by the ICMJE do not qualify as authors, but, as recommended by the ICMJE, they should be acknowledged for their contributions to the work. A common example of this kind of situation is the case of a student who writes a dissertation, or a post-doctoral fellow who prepares manuscripts for publication based on their doctoral or post-doctoral work. According to the ICMJE, the student or post-doctoral fellow should always be the first author of any publication that is based on the student’s or fellow’s research, and committee members or mentors who perform one or two, but not all, of the responsibilities for authorship, should not be authors, but should be acknowledged for their role in supporting the work.

COPE Guidelines

In June, 2014, COPE published a discussion document that addresses the question: “What Constitutes Authorship?” (COPE Council, 2014). As the document points out, authorship is one of the most common issues that is presented to the Committee for consideration. The common authorship problems that arise in the COPE cases include someone claiming that they deserve to be an author but they were not included, someone is named as an author without their consent, someone initially agreed to be an author but then they backed out (usually because of disputes about the content or integrity of the article), and disputes about how multiple authors are assigned. The COPE document emphasizes the common elements that are reflected in the authorship ethics guidelines published by a number of professional societies in the physical and behavioral sciences and the humanities—all of which generally conform to the recommendations of the ICMJE guidelines. In addition to understanding the ICMJE guidelines, authors need to refer to guidelines and ethical standards in their own discipline, the authorship guidelines and requirements of a journal in which they plan to publish. It is also helpful to have discussions about cases such as those reviewed by COPE where authorship issues arise, raising awareness about issues that you might not anticipate, but could encounter.

Emerging Models Related to Authorship

One of the alternate approaches to authorship that is sometimes used is to identify the “author” of the work by the name of a group of collaborators. One example of this is the statement written by the International Academy of Nursing Editors (INANE) on predatory publishing (INANE Predatory Publishing Collaborative, 2014). This approach accommodates a large number of contributors with some fluidity in terms of who is involved at any one time. The challenge with this approach is providing a clear identification of the person or persons who are responsible for the integrity of the work. Journals typically require at least one person to be named as the “corresponding author,” and most require the identification of individuals who have clear “ownership” of the work and legitimate standing to transfer copyright to the publisher.


“Read This” 3.1

Download and read the COPE PDF document titled “How to handle authorship disputes: a guide for new researchers.” Go to http://publicationethics.org/resources/guidelines and scroll down for the “download” link for this document. Hopefully you are not experiencing, and will not ever have to experience an authorship dispute, but this document will help you understand the pitfalls involved, and how to avoid them.

The “Scholarly Kitchen” has reported on a project underway to develop a new “contributor taxonomy” (Meadows, 2014). The aim of this initiative is to develop a system that replaces the traditional bibliographic conventions for representing authorship, whereby the primary author is the only author who typically gets significant recognition for the work, with a digital system that uses the semantic and classification capabilities of the web. The taxonomy will be based on a consensually derived set of roles and descriptions of these roles that can be applied across all disciplines. Once such a taxonomy is in place, authors will be able to assign the terms of the taxonomy to all authors so that authorship will be acknowledged based on their roles, not on the order in which they are listed in a bibliographic notation.


“Talk About It” 3.1

  • Share with your cohort of peers your own standard of ethics and practices related to authorship, and ask for their feedback.
  • Initiate discussions among your colleagues focusing on issues of authorship based on generally accepted ethical and practical conventions in scholarly publishing in general, and your discipline in particular.
  • Always discuss authorship at the earliest possible opportunity when you begin working on a project that could result in publication, and establish a mutual agreement. We have known friendships to end over authorship disputes. Put all discussions and agreements in writing, for future reference if disputes arise.

Nuances of Plagiarism

Plagiarism, in all types of writing, is an age-old problem. In the print-only age, it was much harder to commit plagiarism because you had to re-type precisely someone else’s text, but it was also much harder to detect plagiarism than it is now, which made the temptation to take this short-cut seem quite worth the effort! After all, as with most actions that are not ethical or legal, getting caught is the real source of fear. In the realm of publishing, when the pressure to get something written is great, the matter of simply borrowing something from another source seems like something that cannot hurt anyone, and the ease of simply copying and pasting from an existing digital source makes this crime very tempting!

At the same time, in an environment of “copy and paste” there has emerged an aggressive anti-plagiarism campaign that has left many students and novice writers almost paralyzed in their efforts to write for publication. The problem is not the emphasis on plagiarism and its negative consequences, but rather on the fact that most anti-plagiarism programs fail to educate students and scholars about the nuances of plagiarism, and even more importantly, fail to provide adequate education and emphasis on how to compose meaningful texts based on your own ideas. Here, we are focusing on the nuances of plagiarism, but in explaining this we will provide a few hints and resources to help you explore approaches to your writing that result in original, interesting, and meaningful contributions to the literature.

The fundamental definition of plagiarism, and the one that is typically emphasized in anti-plagiarism programs, reflects the most obvious type—copying something word-for-word from another source without giving credit to that source. The lame remedy that has been taught along with this idea is the admonition to always quote anything you use from another source, resulting in texts that consist of strings of quotations and citations that have little meaning, flow, or cohesive message. There are two problems here—first, plagiarism is not as simple as this, and second, simply quoting other sources is not an adequate remedy.

In the digital age, every author has committed some type of plagiarism! This may seem like an exaggeration, but you will realize if you read on from here, it is very easy to do. Some of the instances are in a grey area where there is not wide consensus as to whether or not something is plagiarism. For example, it is very easy to copy a photograph or an illustration from a web site and insert it into your own work, and often web sites do not indicate if their illustrations are subject to either copyright or a Creative Commons License. So without giving it much thought, you use the illustration. But this is a form of plagiarism and there are guidelines related to this kind of situation.

There are two important resources that explain the types of plagiarism:

  • iThenticate (http://www.ithenticate.com/resources/papers/decoding-plagiarism) provides an interactive report that summarizes 10 common forms of plagiarism and attribution issues. When you go to the web site, you can register to see the complete report that includes definitions of each type, examples, and steps to take to avoid it.


“Try This” 3.1

Re-read the first two paragraphs in this section. Then write a brief paragraph of your own that summarizes the problem in your own words, and focuses on your own ideas about this problem. Include an example from your own experience that illustrates the challenges we are addressing.

Benjamin Mullin, writing for the Poynter.org “Media Wire” developed a flow chart (see Figure 3.2) that you can keep handy to assess whether or not something is plagiarism—it also serves as a guide to raise your own awareness about the kinds of practices that approach plagiarism (Mullin, 2014).

The remedy for plagiarism is to focus on your own original, current ideas. In scholarly writing, of course you need to explain the background and discuss the work of other scholars whose work has influenced your own, but the primary content of your work should be your own original analysis, synthesis, critique, and most important, the original message that you contribute to the larger discussion that appears in the literature.

Figure 3.2 – Flowchart to identify plagiarism. Infographic by Benjamin Mullin (2014), available for unrestricted download.

Figure 3.2 – Flowchart to identify plagiarism. Infographic by Benjamin Mullin (2014), available for unrestricted download.

Self-Plagiarism or Text Recycling

Self-plagiarism, or text recycling, which is the term that COPE is promoting, has been an area of discussion over the past decade and it is a topic that generates heated debate. For some editors, any sort of re-purposing or re-using text is completely unacceptable. They take the stand that every word in an article or book must be completely original. Others find this view unreasonable and note that there are only so many ways, for example, to describe the method used in a research study. If it was written clearly in the first article, then why write it less clearly in a subsequent manuscript? Just as there are nuances of plagiarism, there are nuances of text recycling and you need to be cautious and not let this creep into your work.

Saver (2014) notes that self-plagiarism is a two-fold problem. Repeating information in multiple articles can cause confusion in the scientific record. Second, if recycled text in an article is significant, then it might violate the copyright agreement that you have signed for the prior publication. You sign the copyright form to give the publisher permission to disseminate your article in multiple channels: the print version of the journal and electronic databases such as Ovid. You cannot reuse copyrighted information without permission. The general rule of thumb is 10%, which, in a 3,000 word manuscript would equal 300 words. That is, using more than that number in a subsequent publication requires permission.

While the debate around text recycling is ongoing, we have seen students become paralyzed with fear that their reuse of materials will cross the line and they will be sanctioned for this. It is unfortunate that this is occurring. For example, we have had students tell us that because their dissertation is published by ProQuest, they are unable to write any further reports from the research data. This is incorrect—see our explanation about the difference between a dissertation and research report in “There Are No Dumb Questions 3.1.” Another student once said (to Leslie) that because a press release was distributed that reported her findings, she was barred from writing a detailed research report. Again, this is not true. A press release is not a research report! It is fine to share outcomes in multiple channels. A press release will probably reach a very different audience than the published report in Nursing Research.

COPE has developed a guideline that provides guidance to you as an author about text recycling: http://publicationethics.org/text-recycling-guidelines. Note that this is a work in process and will continue to be refined. Even so, it gives you a starting point for considering your own research and what overlap is acceptable—or not— in the articles that you write.

In communicating with editors, it is important to be transparent about your research reporting. Editors understand that research studies are large, complicated affairs that generally cannot be adequately reported in one publication. They realize that you want to get sufficient “mileage” for all your hard work. At the same time, they don’t want to be deceived about what you are reporting where; editors generally like to make their own assessment of the various articles that you have written (or are writing) and if there are issues with text recycling. Therefore, when submitting a manuscript to a journal, we suggest that you include the following in a cover letter:

  • If the research has been previously published in another journal, share that information. Give a complete citation and offer to send the editor a copy of the article.
  • If another article is under consideration for publication, again, reveal this. Note that this can be a tricky situation because you can only submit one article to one journal at a time, so you need to make it abundantly clear that the two articles under review are completely different, even if they are derived from the same research study. Offer to send the manuscript to the editor for review.
  • Include citations to your previous work in the text and on the reference list. If the editor believes that these citations could imperil the double-blind peer review process, then the editor will need to deal with that issue. That’s not your problem. Your concern is to be forthcoming and honest about your publications.

Figure 3.3 – Tolerance for text recycling.

Figure 3.3 – Tolerance for text recycling.


“Think About It” 3.1

Duplicate publication can be thought of as text recycling taken to the extreme. Instead of just re-quoting a section, the entire article is re-purposed with very few changes. Duplicate publication is taken very seriously by editors. Sanctions can be severe, including retraction of the article from the journal. The website Retraction Watch (retractionwatch.com) tracks “retractions as a window into the scientific process.” We suggest you subscribe to this blog, or at least visit the site regularly for updates. Recently, they reported on four papers with very similar names published in four different nursing journals:

  • Effects of a transtheoretical model-based exercise stage-matched intervention on exercise behavior and quality of life in patients with coronary heart disease: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Advanced Nursing
  • Effect of a transtheoretical model-based stage-matched exercise intervention on exercise behavior and angina in patients with coronary heart disease: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing
  • Can the transtheoretical model motivate patients with coronary heart disease to exercise? Nursing and Health Sciences
  • The effects of a transtheoretical model-based exercise stage-matched intervention on exercise behavior in patients with coronary heart disease: a randomized controlled trial. Patient Education and Counseling (Ferguson, 2015a; Ferguson, 2015b).

At the time of writing this, the paper had been retracted from the Journal of Advanced Nursing and Nursing and Health Sciences and was under discussion by the editor and publisher of the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing. There were no updates from Patient Education and Counseling.

The graphic in Figure 3.3 was developed from the COPE guidelines and discussion at INANE meetings. As it says at the end, tolerance among editors varies widely. We both tend to swing to the more tolerant side. However, you have no way of knowing this upfront, so that is why it is very important to be open and frank with the editor when you submit your manuscript.


In this chapter we have addressed the values on which your writing and publishing enterprise is based. There are no easy or “cookie-cutter” answers. It is each scholar’s responsibility to be well-informed about the ethical issues and challenges involved in publishing, and to form well-reasoned personal values to guide your scholarship, writing and publishing activities. The resources we have provided in this chapter form a valuable foundation for understanding the issues; your challenge is to use these resources wisely to inform your ethical perspectives.


COPE Council. (2014). What constitutes authorship? New COPE discussion document. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from http://publicationethics.org/news/what-constitutes-authorship-new-cope-discussion-document

Ferguson, C. (2015a). Heart study bleeds into three papers, one retracted and one withdrawn. Retraction Watch Blog Retrieved from http://retractionwatch.com/2015/02/06/heart-study-bleeds-three-papers-one-retracted-one-withdrawn/

Ferguson, C. (2015b). Second exercise study retracted in four paper pileup. Retrieved April 21, 2015 from http://retractionwatch.com/2015/03/04/second-exercise-study-retracted-in-four-paper-pileup/

International Council of Medical Journal Editors. (2015). Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/roles-and-responsibilities/defining-the-role-of-authors-and-contributors.html

INANE Predatory Publishing Collaborative. (2014). Predatory publishing: what editors need to know. Nurse Author & Editor, 24(3), 1. Retrieved from http://www.nurseauthoreditor.com/article.asp?id=261

Meadows, A. (2014). An interview with Amy Brand on a proposed new contributor taxonomy initiative. Retrieved from http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2014/08/20/an-interview-with-amy-brand-on-a-proposed-new-contributor-taxonomy-initiative/

Mullin, B. (2014). Is it original? An editor’s guide to identifying plagiarism. Retrieved from http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/269273/is-it-original-an-editors-guide-to-identifying-plagiarism/-guide

Saver, C. (2014). Self-plagiarism. Nurse Author & Editor, 24(3), 3. Retrieved from http://www.nurseauthoreditor.com/article.asp?id=257

Tscharntke, T., Hochberg, M. E., Rand, T. A., & Krauss, J. (2007). Author sequence and credit for contributions in multiauthored publications. PLoS Biology, 5(1), e18. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050018

Chapter 4

Basics of Searching and Finding Journals for Publishing Your Work


One of the great things about the digital age is that almost any kind of information that you need is available with a few clicks of the mouse! But this vast amount of information creates a new problem, especially for people who are digital immigrants. One of the greatest fears for new scholars has always been the possibility that they might not find an important resource that they should know about, or that they will invest a great deal of time and energy working on a great idea, only to find out later that someone else has already done what they thought was new! In the print era, this fear was often well-founded because of the difficulty of finding all of the information on a topic. Then, as now, networking with other scholars in your field of interest and discussing issues and interests you share in common is invaluable as a way to explore ideas and test whether or not you have a comprehensive grasp of the information that is available in your field of interest. In the digital age you still can miss something, but the likelihood is increasingly slim as long as you are dedicated and take the time to conduct a thorough search.

In this chapter we provide information to help you develop the skills you need to take full advantage of information and resources on the Internet, including:

  • Searching on the Internet and evaluating the information you find so that you can discern that which is good and useful from that which is not good and not useful.
  • Tips and tricks for locating resources and references for your work so that you know you have discovered as much of the related literature as possible, and have not overlooked some important article or book that you should know about.
  • Knowing how to search effectively for journals in which to publish and how to evaluate the journals that you find.

Getting Started with Searching

There are dozens of online ways to search for information you need. This can be a random activity, or it can be focused, productive, and efficient. Here are some guidelines to move toward search results that will serve you well:

  1. To get the landscape when you start out, use a basic Google search. This gives you a general overview of what is coming up as the “top hits”—it is the equivalent of looking up a word in the dictionary. A Google search gives you a general conceptual understanding of what is out there but you will need to dig much deeper to get to the heart of your topic. Do not spend too much time plowing through your Google search results—just scan for now. You can come back to this any time!
  2. Use Wikipedia as a possible step beyond a Google search. Wikipedia is an excellent digital encyclopedia, but it is not an adequate source for scholarly research. It is a good source in the initial stages of your search to orient you to the landscape of your topic that is a step beyond what a dictionary would offer. This is very useful if you need information about a term or a topic that you know practically nothing about, and can point you in the direction of major contributions of scholars, inventors, or writers that have touched on your topic. Wikipedia might also have links to other articles, books, or web sites that would point you in another direction for your search.
  3. Search expert and professional web sites related to your topic. These are likely to come up in your Google search, and might also be mentioned in a Wikipedia entry. Use the PLEASED Model (discussed in the next section) to assess web sites and select those that come up with the most solid assessment. Be wary about using web sites as citations because much of what appears on the web is not stable—the location where you find something can easily disappear, or change dramatically as the web site gets re-designed over time. Note that in this book we do use frequent web sites for resources and citations, a fact that arises from the content of the book! But for all the web sources we have referenced, we have taken every precaution to select only those that we have reasonable assurance that the link is stable.


“Try This” 4.1

In the book Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, one of the characters, Camel, has “jake leg” (Gruen, 2006). Using the strategies outlined in this section, see how much you can learn about jake leg in 15 minutes (set a timer!). When you are finished ask yourself, are you an expert?

Leslie likes to joke that she can become an expert on anything in 15 minutes. While that is not entirely true, quick searches using the above steps can yield an amazing amount of information. You have to know how to scan and you also have to know how to quickly make a determination if the information you are finding is reliable and credible. For that we suggest a simple mnemonic: PLEASED.


There is an amazing amount of good information on the Internet—so much so that at times we wonder how we were able to conduct research and write dissertations without this resource. However, since just about anyone can post anything, there is a lot of junk, too. Poorly designed web sites often stick out like sore thumbs and you have an immediate gut reaction that the information is not credible. But that is not always the case. Thus, it is important to be able to evaluate web sites to determine if you can trust the information that is presented. On the suggestion of a student, more than 20 years ago, Leslie came up with a useful mnemonic, “Are you PLEASED with the site?” To determine if you are PLEASED, consider the following:


What is the author’s purpose in developing the site? Are the author’s objectives clear? Many people develop a web site as a hobby or way of sharing information they have gathered. You might view this type of site very differently from the one that has been developed as a commercial service to sell a product or resource. It should be immediately evident to you what the true purpose of the site is.


Evaluate the links at the site. Are they working? Do they link to reliable sites? Or, do you get a “404 Error: Page Not Found”? It is important to critically evaluate the links at sites hosted by organizations, businesses, or institutions because these entities are usually presenting themselves as authorities for the subject at hand. Many times, they will include a blanket disclaimer saying they assume no responsibility for the credibility or authority of the links they present. We consider that unacceptable and a red flag. If an organization is going to devote time and resources to developing a web page, then part of that process is to ensure that the links they include are appropriate for the mission of their site. You may see pages that are essentially just a laundry list of links. These might be useful as a starting point as a search or they may be just a random collection of links. This is why it is important to evaluate the links that are provided at a site.

E—Editorial (Site Content)

Is the information contained in the site accurate, comprehensive, and current? Is there a particular bias, or is the information presented in an objective way? Also assess who is the consumer of the site: is it designed for health professionals, patients, consumers, or other audiences?


Who is the author of the site? Does that person or organization have the appropriate credentials? Is the author clearly identified by name, and is contact information provided? Many times, we will double-check on an author’s credentials by doing an author name search in PubMed or Google Scholar. If a person is presenting himself or herself as an authority on a topic, that person should have some publications that establishes their reputation. Many organization sites do not name an author, or a web manager, but there should always be a way to contact someone involved with the site.


Is the site easy to navigate? Is it attractive? Does it download quickly or does it have too many graphics and other features that make it slow? A site that is pleasing to the eye will invite you to return while a site that makes my browser crash goes on to the “never visit again” list.


Is there contact information of the site developer and author? Is there full disclosure of who the author is and the purpose of the site? Does the site have an “about” type of page that fully discloses who is involved, and something about the values or the mission of the person or group sponsoring the site? Do you detect any conflicts of interest? For example, at a site providing health-related information, is there a drug company or other group that might profit if visitors to the site follow their recommendations? Is this information easy to find or is it buried deep?


When was the site last updated? Is it current? Is the information something that needs to be updated regularly? Generally, with health and nursing information, the answer to the last question is yes. Sites that are not regularly updated, that is, at least every 12 months (and probably more often) should be a red flag. The date the site was last updated should be prominently displayed.

Tips and Tricks for Searching and Organizing

In Chapter 2, we discussed the importance of using a bibliography database manager to organize and maintain your scholarly citations. That discussion, of course, begs the question of where and how you obtained your citations. A full discussion of literature searching is beyond the scope of this book; we assume that this is a basic skill that you have learned throughout the course of your education and refined as you moved into your health professional career. But effective and comprehensive literature search techniques have advanced rapidly, so we recommend that when you enter any search engine, take a few minutes to explore the advanced search capabilities of the “engine” you are using and take full advantage of those capabilities. We also cannot over-emphasize how important librarians can be in helping you refine your own searching techniques and assist you with particularly challenging literature retrieval projects.


“Try This” 4.2

Visit the following web sites and determine if you are PLEASED with them:

That said, we can offer a few tips and tricks that we have learned over the years that might serve as extra enhancements to help you be the best at scholarly searching.

  • Learn one database well and use it as your go to choice. All literature databases work more or less the same way because they are all based on Boolean principles, but they each have their quirks. Learn one well and make that your go to choice. Leslie likes PubMed, Peggy likes CINAHL as well as PubMed. Then, if you need to search other databases, use your searching skills which are mostly transferable. If your search is not returning the information you need, consider asking a librarian for help.
  • Searching within your BDM. If you have developed your own bibliographic reference database over a period of time, be sure you search your own references to pick up resources you were once familiar with that are still pertinent to your present project. If you have entered or imported key terms for the resources you have in your BDM, this will help you identify the key terms to use in searching other databases. Of course your own database is just that—your own, and it does not extend to resources that are more current or beyond the scope of your prior sources. Most BDMs also have a feature that allows you to search external resources, such as PubMed. You should learn to use this because it can be a great help, particularly when you need to do a quick search to verify a reference, or find missing information, such as an issue number. However, trying to do a comprehensive literature search from within a BDM would be an exercise in frustration. For that activity, we recommend you go to a primary database, such as PubMed or CINAHL.


“Try This” 4.3

The National Library of Medicine has created a comprehensive tutorial to learn how to search PubMed effectively. You can access it here: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/bsd/disted/pubmedtutorial/cover.html

Watch the tutorial and then try a search related to your work to see what you find.

  • Evaluate the quality of what you find. PubMed is a curated, vetted database. For a journal to be indexed in PubMed, the publisher, with the editor’s assistance, needs to complete an application that is then reviewed by Literature Selection Technical Review Committee at the National Library of Medicine. This process helps to ensure the quality of what is indexed in PubMed, but you should still evaluate what you find. You can read about the process for selecting journals for indexing here: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/jsel.html. Google Scholar is also a useful resource for searching books and journal articles—however, there is no one database that is searched. Google Scholar searches the vast Internet and as a result, may include references published in predatory journals. In this case, it is particularly important to evaluate the quality of what is returned in your search.
  • Gather complete information at the outset. Never ever bypass entering all the information about a source that you find into your BDM. There is nothing more frustrating than having an article almost ready to go to print, only to find out that you are missing important and essential citation data. BDMs that synchronize with a database on the web can now update your own reference list and automatically fill in missing information. But if you find you are missing something, you should do a search to complete the citation. Some tricks to quickly find certain kinds of missing information:
    • Location of a publisher (city, state): For some reason, people seem to have a terrible time identifying the city and state (or city and country of an international publication) of the publisher, which must be included on the reference citation for a book. Ideally, when you read the book and create the citation in you BDM, you should carefully note the publisher’s location from the copyright page. But if you forget to do that and need to find the information quickly—remember that Google is your friend. Search on the company name. Usually on the company webpage is a link for “Contact Us” or “About Us” which will give a name and address. Another option is to go to Amazon and “look inside the book” to look at the copyright page and see the location of the publisher. While these tricks work, we really want to emphasize that you should obtain the information when you have the actual book in your hands. Publishers merge and change all the time these days. If you are reading an older, classic text, you may not be able to find it on the Internet and it may have been published by a company that no longer exists—but even so, that should be the publisher you list in your citation.
    • Use PubMed single citation matcher. (See Figure 4.1.) (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/citmatch) This resource can be your best friend for verifying reference information. Simply type in some information—you don’t need to include the complete citation: usually year, volume, and the first page number will be enough to return the citation. Then you can find what is missing or verify the spelling of authors’ names, title of the article, and so on.
    • Find the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) quickly. The DOI is the string of letters and numbers that are assigned to journal articles and act as a permanent locator to retrieve the article online. The latest edition of APA manual requires DOIs to be included in a citation, when a DOI has been created. All new articles that are published are assigned DOIs so you should make sure that this information is in your BDM. However, publishers are also working backwards to assign DOIs to previously published articles so you need to check if a DOI has been assigned and if yes, add this information. Two quick ways to verify this: use PubMed single citation matcher (see above). If the DOI isn’t in PubMed, another way to check is to use Cross Ref (crossref.org/guestquery/). Don’t assume a DOI doesn’t exist until you check both sources.
  • Go to WorldCat.Org (http://www.worldcat.org/) to look for accurate information on a source you need.
  • If a journal has a print edition, write your citation from the print edition, even if you read the article online. (Print is still considered the Gold Standard for citations.). If the publication exists only online, make sure to include complete citation information, including the URL.
  • See if the book, journal, article, white paper, government report or whatever you are citing gives you a suggestion of how to write the citation. Many reports or technical papers include this information but you may have to hunt for it. Look on the copyright page, the table of contents, or the very end of the publication. Be aware that you may need to reformat the citation, for example, move the date or italicize certain information, to meet the requirements of your style manual—but all the required elements should be present in sample citation in the publication. Some agencies may provide guidance on how to cite their reports and publications; here is an example from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/citations.htm
  • Figure out resources available to you to obtain full-text of articles, especially if you don’t have access to a health sciences library. Once you obtain full-text of an article, use resources discussed earlier for organizing and maintaining your files. For example, you can attach documents to citations within a BDM such as EndNote, Reference Manager, or Paperpile. You can also attach documents to cards in Trello (see Chapter 2), if you opt for that system.


“Think About It” 4.1

Librarian Jeffrey Beall, who maintains the blog, Scholarly Open Access (http://scholarlyoa.com/), has identified a disturbing trend: predatory publisher OMICS is buying journals that are already indexed in PubMed as a way of accessing that database for indexing purposes. Given the stringent criteria for having a journal selected for PubMed, it is unlikely that a predatory journal would make the grade. So, instead, this particular company has come up with this “end run.” You can read more here: http://scholarlyoa.com/2015/02/12/omics-group-continues-to-purchase-journals-indexed-in-pubmed/

Think about this—what are the implications for scholars and students if predatory journals are presented under the guise of a formerly legitimate journal and can be searched in PubMed?

Figure 4.1 – Screenshot of PubMed Single Citation Matcher.

Figure 4.1 – Screenshot of PubMed Single Citation Matcher.

Journal Due Diligence

The above strategies are good ways to get started with general searching and evaluating what you find. As an author, however, you will have a particular need to find and evaluate potential journals that you will consider for submitting your manuscript. This process, which we call Journal Due Diligence, is a specialized method of search and evaluation, which is targeted specifically for identifying journals for publication.

As editors, we can tell you with certainty that “not a good fit” is the primary reason that a manuscript is rejected by a journal editor. We know this from our own experience as well as conversations with editor colleagues. Sometimes we receive manuscripts that cause us to shake our heads and wonder if the authors had ever looked at our journals before writing their article. Authors are often surprised to learn this; they assume that manuscripts are rejected because the research is not ethically done or data were poorly collected. While these are definitely problems, they are not as common as wrong fit for the journal as a reason.

Different editors have differing levels of tolerance for this problem. Florence Downs, who was Editor of Nursing Research for almost two decades (1979 to 1997) was known for her abrupt and to the point rejection letters—some recipients called them “scathing.” Leslie once had the opportunity to hear her speak at a conference about her role as editor, and she was pretty blunt: “If the manuscript is not the right fit for Nursing Research or not formatted correctly, it goes immediately into the circular file. I don’t even waste the postage to return it to the author.” (Keep in mind, this was in pre-email days.)

We take a slightly more tolerant view, but not much. If a manuscript is not a good fit for the journal we return it without peer review. Peer reviewers are volunteers and their time is valuable—we don’t want to waste their time reviewing papers that we know will never be published, even if the quality of the writing and research is acceptable.

The thing is, this is a totally avoidable situation. If you take the time to do your journal due diligence, you will know if your topic and manuscript are a good fit for the journal. Unfortunately we have heard far too many novice (and not so novice) authors say, “I am almost finished with my first draft. Now I need to decide what journal I am going to send it to.” Think about that for a minute: if a manuscript was not written with a journal in mind, how can the author (you) have any idea that it is appropriate for the journal, in terms of topic, length, format, style, and voice?

Many authors believe they need to write a query letter to the editor to determine if a journal is appropriate for submission. Journal due diligence can really help you answer this question yourself without a need to contact the editor. Most editors we know don’t require query letters and if they receive them, they answer in a fairly generic way, “Yes, this topic sounds interesting. I would be interested in receiving a manuscript for review.” One exception is Shawn Kennedy, Editor of The American Journal of Nursing. Shawn likes to receive query letters and will work with an author to help him/her develop an idea for publication. But Shawn also notes that she has many first time authors who are clinicians and need a great deal of developmental support to turn a clinical idea into a suitable topic for a manuscript.

As we have noted before, today there are hundreds of journals for nurses and healthcare professionals. Professionals don’t subscribe to journals the way they used to. Instead, we rely on the Internet to search, using databases such as PubMed, CINAHL, and Ovid. Even if you limit your reading to your specialty area, there’s a very good chance that you are reading from several dozen journals, not just one or two. Knowing that innovations are reported in a wide number of journals, it behooves you to do your homework for journal selection before you ever put pen to paper (or type some pixels on the computer screen).

The term “due diligence” comes from the banking and investment industries. It refers to making a comprehensive assessment of a business before acquiring its assets or making a loan. For a journal, we use the concept in a similar way: your comprehensive assessment of multiple journals will help you narrow down to one or two that will be the best fit for your proposed manuscript.

Develop Your Topic Creatively

The first step is to think about your topic. While this may seem obvious, try to think about it creatively. Is there some “spin” that you can put on it to make it new, fresh, and interesting? Editors want to publish new information for their readers—even perennial topics that are important, such as pain management, need to be presented in innovative ways to catch the eye of an editor. Also, try to think outside the box about your topic. For example, say you did a study with nursing students. Because students are involved, many people immediately assume they should select a journal with a focus on education—which is why the nursing education journals are flooded with manuscripts and have fairly high rejection rates. So, is there another way to think about your study? What did you do with the students? Simulation experience? Policy analysis? Ethical issue discussion? This might point you to another journal that would be very appropriate. Case in point: Leslie mentored an author who used an interesting education innovation to teach students about end-of-life care. She sent the manuscript first to an education journal where it was quickly (and rather rudely) rejected. After revision, she sent it a hospice and palliative journal where it was eventually accepted for publication. Keep in mind what we have said throughout this book: people must read widely to keep abreast of the professional literature. This includes educators who do not confine their reading to just educational journals. That is why this manuscript found a good home in a clinically focused journal: the editor knows she has lots of educators among her readers.

Broadly Conceive Your Potential Audience

Once you have thought about your topic, you should have a list of concepts that will help you begin exploring different journals that would appeal to different audiences. Here are a few examples:

  • For a research report, consider journals that focus on research only or specific methods, such as reporting qualitative research exclusively.
  • Do the participants in your study point you to a journal, such as children, pregnant women, or (as noted above), nursing students?
  • What is the clinical topic—oncology, wound care, simulation?

We suggest that you try to think broadly and not immediately focus in on one area.

Develop a List of Potential Journals

The next step is to begin the journal search. While you can just dive in with Google, we suggest a more organized approach will cause you less frustration in the long run. You want to come up with a list of potential journals to evaluate. How do you do that?

  • Consider journals that you read regularly. These are journals you are familiar with and in your area of interest, so this is always a good starting point.
  • Look at journal sources on the reference lists of articles you read. Are there titles that show up regularly?
  • Speak to colleagues in your area of interest—do they have journals they read/recommend? Do you know anyone who is on an editorial board or serves as a journal peer reviewer? That person might have some insight about a particular journal.
  • Look at the Directory of Nursing Journals (http://nursingeditors.com/journals-directory/) which is a joint effort of Nurse Author & Editor and INANE. This is a curated, vetted list of journals in nursing that accept submissions of manuscripts for publication consideration. It includes a brief description about the journal and links to the publisher and information for authors—which will be important in the next step.
  • JANE: The Journal Name/Author Estimator (http://www.biosemantics.org/jane/index.php) is another resource. You can type in your concepts that you identified previously, and it will return a list of potential journals in descending order of relevance. You can also type in a title or abstract to retrieve journal suggestions.
  • MedBioWorld (http://www.medbioworld.com/journals.php) is another resource to identify journals, although we will offer the caveat that it appears to be not updated regularly and the site includes quite a few dead links.
  • Journal Guide (https://www.journalguide.com/journals/search) is another research that allows you to search for journals by title or abstract.

Using all these options, you want to gather a list of potential journal names. At this point, don’t be selective; it doesn’t matter if your list has a dozen or more journals. Once you start digging a little deeper, you will quickly exclude those that are not appropriate.


“Peggy’s Hint” 4.1

The journal for which I am the Editor, Advances in Nursing Science, is somewhat unique in that all issues have themes, which are announced two years in advance, with due dates for manuscripts and publication dates. As you begin your journal search, I suggest that you visit the ANS web site to see if an upcoming issue theme fits your topic: http://journals.lww.com/advancesinnursingscience/Pages/default.aspx. I welcome manuscripts from authors in multiple disciplines and am happy to converse with you regarding the suitability of a proposed manuscript for an upcoming theme.

Investigate the Journals on Your List

Now that you have a list of potential journals, get out your shovel and begin digging. We both consider this the fun part of the due diligence process. In the olden days, you had to go to the library for this activity, but now you can do it all online, since any journal worth its salt will have an online presence. To begin, take the first journal on your list and go to the journal webpage using either a previously identified link or a quick Google search. Once there, look for the journal mission statement. This should be the number one item that will tip you off if the journal is even a remote possibility for you. Look for key words or phrases, “This journal is published for physicians working in…” and you are not a physician, then cross it off your list and move to the next journal.

If the journal survives the mission statement acid test, then begin digging a little deeper. Again, you are looking for red flags that would tip you off that this journal is not a good fit for your manuscript. Keep in mind that you are still working at the macro level. Quick things that we suggest reviewing:

  • Editor’s name and credentials, as well as editorial board members. Are they people in your specialty, such as nurses, physicians, social workers and so on? Are there any familiar names? If you do recognize names, such as well-known scholars in your discipline, that is a plus. If there is a scholar that you know, that is even better. You might consider contacting the person for more information about the journal.
  • Who is the publisher? Is this a predatory publisher? You might want to cross-reference with the Scholarly Open Access list at this point (scholarlyoa.com).
    • If it is a legitimate open access journal, is there information about the article processing charge (APC)? Is this something you can afford? If not, that is a reason for elimination.
    • If you are specifically interested in Open Access journals, you can use the Directory of Open Access Journals (http://doaj.org/) as a starting point for a search.
  • Does the journal appear to be an ongoing concern, that is, if it says it is published quarterly, do they have four issues per year posted at the journal web site?
    • You can also assess if they provide other measures of how often the journal is cited or read, such as an Impact Factor. We have more discussion of Impact Factors later in this chapter.
  • Scan the table of contents and imagine the title of your manuscript. Can you visualize it on this list?

Select Your Short List of Potential Journals

Continue the process of scanning all of the possible journals until you come up with a short list of journal titles—we recommend three. Once you have this list, you can begin your micro assessment where you really drill down to do an in-depth assessment of a journal, considering things such as manuscript details (length, format for references, types of manuscripts considered), submission process (online process, copyright form transfer form), Impact Factor, and other specifics that may be required for this particular journal. We suggest that you scan through several past issues of the journal, looking specifically at the types of articles that are published, evaluating your potential manuscript in this context. For example, if you are writing a case study, and you don’t see any case studies that have ever been published in the journal, that might be a sign that your manuscript will not be of interest to the editor. It’s one thing to think about being ground-breaking in terms of publications, but at the same time, you want to be realistic. If you look at a journal and see that they published data-based, empirical articles and you are writing an integrative review of the literature, your manuscript will probably not pass muster and be very quickly rejected.

Be careful of trying to convince yourself that a journal is a good fit, when it is not. We have known many authors who have selected a journal a priori, for example, it might be a society journal for which the author is a member. Given this, the author assumes the journal is a “good, natural fit” when in fact it isn’t, but ignores the red flags. Remember what we said at the beginning: editors reject manuscripts that do not meet the criteria of their journal. You need to be confident in your choice, so don’t skip over any of these steps.


“Try This” 4.4

Develop a Journal Due Diligence Worksheet

Even though it may feel like busy work, it can be very valuable to create a worksheet to record your journal evaluations from the Journal Due Diligence process. Here’s a chance to hone your table creating skills in your word processor and think about essential information to gather for a scholarly journal.

  1. Create a table with 4 columns and 15–20 rows.
  2. In the first row, fill in the boxes with:
    Questions, Title of Journal #1, Title of Journal #2, Title of Journal #3
  3. Skip one row, then in the left column, add the following items:
    • Journal URL
    • Publisher
    • Editor’s Name and Contact information
    • Journal mission statement or purpose
    • Who is the intended audience?
    • Who is on the editorial board? Any familiar names?
    • Submission process (online, email)
    • URL for information for authors
    • Manuscript length (words, pages)
    • Manuscript format (margins, font)
    • Format for references (APA, AMA, something else)
    • Abstract required? If yes, length and format
    • Title page—what must be included
    • Cover letter required? Yes/No
    • Copyright transfer form required? Yes/No
    • Source of Copyright Transfer Form
    • What are the journal metrics? Impact Factor Stated? If yes, what is it?
  4. Add any additional items you might think of.
  5. Save, print, and complete. You can also create a worksheet for one journal, which will give you a bit more space to write in.

At the end of the process you should have three identified journals that you can assuredly say are good choices for your manuscript submission. The final step is to rank the journals in submission order. Keep in mind that you can only submit a manuscript to one journal at a time, so even if all three are a good fit, you need to select one as your top choice. You should retain the information on your other journal choices, however, in case you need to submit to the second identified journal if your manuscript is not accepted by your first choice.


“Leslie’s Hint” 4.1

Don’t rule out a journal because it uses a style manual other than APA. I have heard many authors say that they “know APA inside and out” and they “don’t want to learn something else, like AMA.” First, if you are using a BDM, this is a moot point, because the software will take care of formatting your citations and reference list. Second, different style manuals aren’t really that different and if you really do know APA “inside and out,” becoming familiar with a second style isn’t that hard. Eliminating a journal on the basis of style is not a good strategy for finding appropriate journals in which to publish your work.

Journal Metrics

When we first started our academic careers in the print era, judgments about the quality of journals depended on collective reputation—largely determined by unspecified factors but that were highly respected. Data that supported these reputations were limited to such metrics as number of subscribers, or demand for a journal’s content in academic libraries, or anecdotal events such as media attention given to certain journals. Once computer analysis of data and online publishing emerged, the potential for journal metrics exploded, along with a growing interest in determining if all of the information published in scientific and professional journals had any influence other than bringing prestige and notoriety to the author, the research team, institution or the publisher. After all, particularly in the healthcare professions, we hope that the work we accomplish as scholars will eventually have some influence, either directly in practice, or in contributing to the further development of the knowledge needed to improve practice.

The Journal Citation Index “Impact Factor” (IF) (Garfield, 2015) remains the dominant metric in scientific and professional journals, but it is widely acknowledged that the IF alone is not sufficient, nor should it be the primary method of measuring research impact or quality. There are a number of other metrics that can be used to measure journal impact, such as the Eigenfactor score, which ranks journals according to the number of incoming citations from highly ranked journals, weighted to make a higher contribution to the score than poorly ranked journals (Why EigenFACTOR, 2015).

There are also metrics that can be calculated for the influence of a single article, or for a single scholar. For example, the h-index is a metric used to measure the influence of a single scholar’s work; this is a measure that you can obtain from Google Scholar (Calculate Your Academic Footprint, 2015). We do not cover all the possibilities here; rather we focus on the conceptual ideas underlying journal metrics as a basis for judging and interpreting various kinds of metrics you will see reported for journals you investigate.

Your decision about submitting to a journal should not be based on journal metrics, but it is prudent to be informed about any journal’s metrics that you are considering. In fact we recommend that the top considerations in selecting a journal should be the overall quality of the editorial practices which assures that you are publishing in a credible journal, and the audience that the journal reaches, assuring that your article reaches people at the outset who are most interested in your work.

In this section we present the basic digital-age concepts involved in measuring journal influence, and provide tips that you can use to make well-informed judgments about the influence and quality of the journals you are considering. You can also use the information in this section to estimate the eventual influence of work that you publish! Because of its dominance, we begin with a discussion of the Impact Factor.

Impact Factor

In 1961 Irving Sher and Eugene Garfield created the Science Citation Index, which evolved into what we know today as the journal Impact Factor (IF) (Garfield, 2006). Since that time, the Impact Factor has emerged as a dominant measure of the influence of selected journals. Not all journals receive an Impact Factor score; in fact, to be eligible to be included in the Journal Citations Report published by Thomson Reuters. Journals must have a record of publication for at least 2 years, and must be reviewed for eligibility (Testa, 2012). If a journal that you are considering does not have an Impact Factor, you will need to determine if this is because the journal has not applied to be included, is not yet but is potentially eligible, or if there are any red flags that suggest the journal is not eligible. Note that journals published by predatory publishers are typically not eligible to be included, so if you see a score that is claimed to be an “impact factor” associated with a journal you are considering, you should always double-check the Thomson-Reuters data to confirm if the score is a valid Impact Factor score. You can download a list of all the journals that are included in the Journal Citation Report here —http://scientific.thomsonreuters.com/imgblast/JCRFullCovlist-2014.pdf.

The Impact Factor is a relatively simple formula that uses a count of the numbers of citations to articles published in a journal in the past two (or five) years, divided by the number of articles published during those prior years. The formula is shown in Figure 4.2:

Figure 4.2 – Calculation of the Thomson Reuters Impact Factor.

Figure 4.2 – Calculation of the Thomson Reuters Impact Factor.

You might recognize that this is a formula that essentially calculates an average—it is the average number of citations made to articles published in a journal in the prior two years. So for example, if a journal has an Impact Factor of 7.2 for the year 2014, this means that articles published in 2014 in that journal had an average of 7.2 citations in 2012 and 2013. Some articles in the journal might have had no citations, others might have had dozens of citations! In addition, it is important to recognize the there are a number of limitations in the calculation of this average:

  • Only a select number of journals are included in the Journal Citations Index, and the count of citations is only based on other journals that are included in the Index. Therefore, if articles in the journal you are considering are cited in journals that are not included in the Journals Citation Index, those citations are not reflected in the calculation of the Impact Factor.
  • There is some ambiguity as to what counts as an article in this calculation. The Editor’s editorial, for example, is clearly not counted as an article, but there are a number of content elements in some journals, such as special “columns” that may be excluded from the count of articles, but they are actually articles.
  • The formula is still based on the publisher-identified journal of record by calendar year, so for articles published in December, for example, there are probably very few, if any, citations to that article in the previous 2 years. Most journal content is now available online, often ahead of the actual print date of the paper volume, which influences the accessibility of content for citation. This is a widely recognized problem, and a number of alternate approaches have been discussed, but so far the formula has not been adjusted to accommodate this situation.
  • There remain a very large number of citation errors in published articles. It is not clear how seriously this influences the numbers that are entered into the formula in calculating the Impact Factor, but because it is likely a factor, this is a significant reason for being extra diligent in your own efforts to eliminate citation errors in your publications!

Without question the Impact Factor is an important measure, but to emphasize, it is not to be taken as a measure on which to base your selection of a journal, and much less as a basis for promotion or tenure, or for pay raises, or merit awards!


Altmetrics is a general term that refers to alternative scholarly impact metrics by identifying and counting references to a journal, book, article, presentations, blogs—even people—in any aspect of influence of the work that can be identified and counted, such as inclusion in databases, mentions in social media, number of download, number of visitors, or mentions in news outlets. It is sometimes used to refer specifically to article-level metrics, which can be estimated informally by an individual using a simple Google search to find social media references to an article or topic, or by using an online service (see http://www.altmetric.com/about.php). If you have your own blog or web site, the host of your blog web site provides a fairly comprehensive accounting of many of these metrics.

One of the issues related to using altmetrics for scholarly journals or a single article is that it is not clear exactly what the numbers really represent. If, for example, a journal or an article involves a very controversial topic, or one that appeals to a wide audience of curious thrill-seekers, the altmetrics will soar because of the public attention it draws from social media and news networks! If the journal or article deals with an important, but not socially appealing topic, the altmetrics will be low and only reflects, in reality, how appealing your topic is to the general public.

It is still worthwhile to notice the extent to which a journal has a presence in the social media world, particularly if you want your work to have an influence in practice or for the general public. A scholarly journal that has a blog, Facebook page and a Twitter feed will post information about the journal’s content on these public outlets, increasing the chance that the content of the journal will reach a public audience.


This chapter has focused on skills searching and evaluating online resources. The challenge of finding resources, and evaluating them for credibility and usefulness is ongoing in the digital age! Gone are the days when you can cut off your search for relevant material at a certain point —you will be called upon to update your references right up to the date that your writing project is sent to the production staff for final formatting and layout. As you become more skilled and efficient in using the various search tools that are now available, and the more detail-oriented you become, these tasks will become less a source of frustration, and more a journey of discovery!


Calculate Your Academic Footprint (2015). Retrieved March 28, 2015, from http://subjectguides.uwaterloo.ca/content.php?pid=84805&sid=1885850

Garfield, E. (2006). The history and meaning of the Journal Impact Factor. JAMA, 295(1), 90–93. doi: 10.1001/jama.295.1.90. Retrieved from http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=202114

Garfield, E. (2015). The Thomson Reuters Impact Factor. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from http://wokinfo.com/essays/impact-factor/

Gruen, S. (2006). Water for Elephants. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Testa, J. (2012). The Thomson Reuters Journal Selection Process. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from http://wokinfo.com/essays/journal-selection-process/

Why EigenFACTOR? (2015). Retrieved March 28, 2015, from http://www.eigenfactor.org/whyeigenfactor.php

Chapter 5

The Publishing Process for Authors, Editors, and Reviewers


In this chapter we review the publishing process, including an overview of the things that publishers do, general standards that assure quality, dominant business models in the industry, and practices that have emerged to erode generally accepted standards.

To publish simply means to “make public.” Before the digital age, the most simple and accessible form of publishing was posting flyers, tracts, and posters to the side of a building or a fence—some place where the general populace would see and read the information. The complex problem of making something public that required more than a page or two of text was greatly simplified with the creation of the printing press by Gutenberg in 1450—an invention that is still acknowledged as a major step forward in the ability to communicate from one person or group to many others. See Figure 5.1.

Once publishing became a distinct enterprise that involved printing, marketing, distribution, and sales, a number of social structures emerged that shifted the tasks of “making public” from the hands of the individual writer or author, to the hands of a structured, organized entity now known as “the publisher.” Laws were created to protect the interests of the author and the publisher including what we now know as copyright law, as well as laws that govern the production, sale and distribution of “works for hire,” and other forms of contractual arrangements. Standards and structures that govern presentation were created, such as “style and format” conventions that standardize how authors establish the authority on which their work is based. Ethical standards emerged to assure that when authors put forward their written work, there is the expectation that the work is indeed their own, and not copied from someone else.

These basic principles and practices involved in the act of publishing have not changed fundamentally in the digital age, but the tools used in the publishing process have changed dramatically. For example, the processes that are used by publishers and editorial staff to produce professional journals still involve some form of peer review process to assure quality and veracity of the journal’s content, but now this process happens almost entirely using electronic tools, and the end result is likely to be a digital publication, not a printed paper product with pages and a cover.

Figure 5.1 – Modern stamp commemorating the printing of the Gutenberg Bible (“DBP 1954 198 Gutenberg” scanned by NobbiP. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons).

Figure 5.1 – Modern stamp commemorating the printing of the Gutenberg Bible (“DBP 1954 198 Gutenberg” scanned by NobbiP. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons).


“Leslie’s Tidbit” 5.1

If you think high-interest loans, stealing proprietary secrets, and reneging on deals are modern constructs, think again. Johann Gutenberg, the “father of modern type,” was born in Mainz, Germany in the late 1300s. He was a blacksmith and goldsmith—his knowledge of metals gave him the knowledge to develop the letterpress printing process—“moveable type”—which was essentially how printing was carried out until the 1970s. Johann Fust, also of Mainz, was a money lender or banker (sources are not clear) who gave Gutenberg two loans (the first in 1450, the second in 1452, at 6% interest) to develop his printing technology. There is also speculation that he installed Peter Schöffer in Gutenberg’s workshop as an assistant. In 1455, Fust sued Gutenberg for nonpayment of loans and won the case. He acquired Gutenberg’s workshop, his printed bibles, and unfinished projects. Plus, Gutenberg had to pay Fust 1,200 guilders as restitution. Schöffer (the spy?) married Fust’s daughter Christina and the two men expanded modern printing throughout Europe, while Gutenberg ended up penniless. Ironically, his is the name remembered today, not Fust and Schöffer, although they are probably the men who had more influence in bringing printing via moveable type to the masses.

What Publishers Do

Authors and readers rarely have a full appreciation for the role of the publisher, given that so little of the publishing process involves either group. To compound the mystery, digital capabilities make the act of publishing seem very easy! After all, the digital age has opened up a vast “do-it-yourself” realm, and the fact is that anyone can publish something armed only with a computer with word processor and design software, a simple website or blog, and perhaps a web enterprise that promises to publish a book or journal article almost instantly for free or a very small fee. There are definitely times when you might elect to follow the do-it-yourself model—many of which we explain in more detail in the next chapter. We are avid advocates of blogs, for example, and encourage all health professionals to develop and use a blog to make your ideas and your work public!

But most serious healthcare providers, students, and scholars also need to disseminate their work through the channels provided by publishers, and thus it is certainly worth understanding what value they add to the process. This is exactly what the “Chefs” of the Scholarly Kitchen did, resulting in a list of 82 things that publishers do that add value to what an author can do on their own (Anderson, 2014). We will leave it to you to go through the list of all 82! Here we have our own list of categories that we believe are crucial values that publishers provide for both authors and readers.


You as an author are certainly concerned about your personal reputation, but your own reputation will never carry the weight of a publishing house that has established a widespread name based on the works of many authors they have published, and a well-established history of expertise. Readers have a legitimate interest in knowing that the material they read is worthy of the reputation of the author, as well as the standing of the publisher. Gaining a reputation takes time, dedication, and meticulous attention to all of the elements that need to come together to assure a strong, lasting, and positive legacy. You, as an author, do much of the work with your research and scholarship; how you communicate that research is also part of the process. The latter may be better handled by those who have extensive publishing knowledge and experience. Publishers know and implement all of the legal and policy requirements that assure readers that the material they are reading is of high quality and is the original work of the represented author(s). They know how to register copyrights and trademarks and how to assure proper indexing of the works they publish so that readers can find information they are seeking. They know the details that are needed to form contractual agreements with authors and how to define the responsibilities, and how to protect the interests and rights of each.

Marketing and Distribution

It does not take much to convince most authors that it would be a good idea for someone else to handle marketing and distribution! Publishers have the knowledge, skill, and resources to advertise, maintain a strong base of subscribers for journals, and get the items the people purchase delivered to them in a timely manner. Underneath these obvious marketing and distribution tasks are a host of investigative functions that help publishers plan and implement marketing strategies. Successful publishers obtain sophisticated metrics on their existing publications that aid in making decisions about future directions. They measure the influence of their current publications, the trends that are emerging in the disciplines they serve, and measures that estimate how their publications measure up to the current state of the art in the disciplines they represent.

Support for High-Quality Peer Review and Editorial Practices

Good publishers insist on quality review of all materials they publish. Review by experts in the field is the only way to assure everyone involved that what is made public is worthy of becoming public. Publishers engage journal editors who have expertise in the content area of the journal and who have widely recognized standing in the field. Editors, in turn engage additional experts in the field who can provide peer review of manuscripts and serve on editorial boards. Peer review models vary from publication to publication, and there have been a number of proposals for alternatives to the traditional double-blind process. But the basic principle of prepublication review by experts in the field is the foundation of all review models.

Preparation of Content—Editing and Layout

Before material can be made public, it needs to be prepared in an attractive format that is suitable for reading, free from typographical errors, and with all grammatical, syntax, and punctuation issues consistent with a selected style. Illustrations, figures, diagrams, and tables need to be prepared so that they are clear and convey the intended message or presented associated data accurately.

Production of Content for Various Formats

Digital publishing requires the preparation of text in different formats since not all digital outlets use the same types of files. The Amazon Kindle ereader uses.azw files (a proprietary format), which is a variation on the .mobi format. Another extremely popular format for ereaders is EPUB. Material that is intended to be posted on the Internet for user download is most often prepared as PDF files, a format developed by the Adobe Corporation. Material that is published to be read on the web uses HTML format.

Provision of Permanent Archiving and Discoverability

If scholarly material that is published is to be useful beyond the current issue of a journal, it must be preserved and discoverable well into the future. Printed material has been preserved in library archives or on microfiche (photographic) film. Electronic materials are preserved and backed up as electronic files in the original format, but unless there is a permanent link to the location of the file on the Internet, it can easily evaporate into cyberspace! This is accomplished by assigning each article a digital object identifier—DOI. The DOI system assures permanent discoverability of the material associated with the DOI (see http://www.doi.org/). Books, both print and electronic, are assigned an international standard book number (ISBN), which assures their discoverability, even if the book goes out of print. Journals and magazines are assigned an international standard serial number (ISSN). Note that this number is the same for all volumes and issues of a given journal but each article with a selected issue will have an assigned DOI. When you are citing articles on a reference list, it is good practice to include the DOI along with all the standard information (author, article title, year, volume, issue number, page numbers). The DOI system did not become standardized until fairly recently, so articles published before 2009 may not have an assigned DOI.

Management of All Financial Aspects

Underwriting preliminary expenses, collection of payments and fees, paying expenses expected and unexpected—yes publishers take it all on! They also manage all income, including foreign and domestic sales, and fees for permissions to use their copyrighted material. They distribute royalties from sales according to the publishing agreement. All financial transactions are recorded and audited to assure sound practices in all aspects of the business.

Assumption of Legal Risks

There are any number of potential legal issues that could arise in the course of any business, but publishing has the unique challenges of legal risks related to copyright. If there is an infringement of the copyright on work that you author, it is the publisher that pursues the issue and takes action to protect the integrity of the work.

Networking Within the Publishing Industry

Publishing in the digital age is a complex business. Publishers have well-developed networks that make it possible to keep up with trends and resources that support developing approaches for dealing with common problems.

What Editors Do

A viable journal requires strong editorial leadership. There are several titles for the people who serve in an editorial capacity for a journal. The person who provides this kind of leadership is typically called either “Editor-in-Chief” or simply “Editor.” The Editor’s primary function is to vet and select editorial content—in other words to oversee the entire process of receiving, reviewing, selecting, and assigning articles to each issue of the journal, which includes the critically important process of peer review. Activities involved in this total process include:

  • Performing an initial review of material submitted to the journal to assure that the topic is suitable and prepared according to the journal’s standards, which is often delineated in the “Information for Authors.”
  • Selecting peer reviewers who are qualified to render an assessment of the manuscripts received by the journal.
  • Assuring that the peer review process proceeds in a timely manner.
  • Notifying authors of the outcome of the peer review, and if a revision is required, overseeing the next steps after revisions have been completed.
  • Choosing from among the favorably reviewed articles for publication in each issue of the journal, and in which order.

In addition to these peer-review–related responsibilities, there are a number of other editorial activities that are the ultimate responsibility of the Editor. These tasks may be shared with other Editorial staff, such as people who are members of the Editorial Board or have the title of Managing Editor. These responsibilities include:

  • Providing a vision for the journal and the role of the journal within the discipline.
  • Assuring messaging to the larger community about the journal’s mission, quality, and focus.
  • Designing and implementing journal policies such as establishing the criteria against which each manuscript is judged.
  • Establishing the details included in the “Information for Authors.”
  • Managing the information about the journal that is published on the journal website.
  • Appointing qualified reviewers to serve as peer reviewers.

What Editorial Advisory Boards Do

Most scholarly journals have a group of advisors who hold standing in the discipline and who support the Editor’s role in establishing the journal’s mission, communicating the standards of quality that the journal upholds, and providing guidance for the Editor as the journal develops over time. Usually the members of the Editorial Advisory Board are volunteers who do not have a conflict of interest with the journal. Editorial Advisory Board membership is not simply honorific; a credible journal depends on the active participation of Editorial Advisory Board members to assure a solid foundation for the journal and assist in communicating the value of the journal to scholars who depend on the journal for reliable information, and to the interested public.

What Peer Reviewers Do

Peer reviewers have the responsibility of carrying out the assessment of manuscripts in accord with the policies, standards, and criteria established by the Editor, and within the time frame requested by the Editor. Reviewers are expected to set aside any conflict of interest or unfair bias when assessing a manuscript. If a reviewer feels that there is a conflict of interest or that s/he holds an unfair bias, the reviewer is expected to decline the request for a review. For example, if a reviewer is asked to review a paper that addresses a particular religious perspective to which the reviewer is either strongly favorable or unfavorable, the reviewer is expected to inform the editor of this conflict, and decline to review the manuscript.

Digital Tools for Developing and Submitting Manuscripts

Publishers in the digital age use online systems for manuscript submission and review. Authors have the responsibility to learn and use these tools; they provide seamless coordination of the submission process, the peer review process, integration of the revision process, and ultimately the production process. Using an online peer review and production system requires a number of essential elements that an author must provide with each submission. Examples of elements that are typically required to complete online submission of a manuscript include:

  • Identifying information for the corresponding author, including names and titles to be used in publication.
  • A cover letter that addresses any information about the submission that needs to be communicated to the Editor.
  • Names and titles of all coauthors, listed in the order they should appear in publication. Some journals require a description of the role each coauthor has played in the development of the manuscript.
  • Title page that includes all elements that the journal requires for this page, typically the manuscript title, authors with credentials and complete contact information, and a statement of any conflict or acknowledgment of funding.
  • Abstract prepared in accord with the length and style the journal requires.
  • Manuscript containing the substantive content of the article. If the journal uses an anonymous form of peer review, this file must be free of any information that might reveal the identity of the authors. Because of this, the title page is usually submitted as a file separate from the manuscript text itself. The reference list is included as part of the manuscript file.
  • Files containing figures and tables prepared in accord with the journal standards.
  • Letters or forms that provide permission for any quoted material, or illustrations that are being used from another source.
  • Signed copyright transfer forms for each author.

Most journals have an electronic manuscript tracking system that coordinates all activities related to an article, from initial submission by the author, to assigning peer reviewers, and making decisions on the final disposition of the manuscript. The major programs in use today are Editorial Manager, powered by Aries Systems; SCHOLARONE™ (formerly known as Manuscript Central) from Thomson-Reuters, and Rapid Review from Cenveo Publishing Services. The publisher Elsevier has a branded system, known as EES which is powered by Aries. It is essentially their flagship product, Editorial Manager, under a different name.

Dominant Business Models for Publishing

Regardless of who does it, publishing is a business that requires some source of support. The dominant models that provide revenue for publishing journals include:

  • Subscription: Individuals and organizations pay an annual fee for access to all journal content, whether the content is available in print, online, or both.
  • Subscription plus advertising: Advertising supplements the income from subscriptions. Businesses who want to reach the journal’s audience pay for advertising space in the journal (print or online or both) based on metrics that assure that they will be reaching the market that they seek to attract to their business. For example, a business that sells clothing for clinical settings (uniforms, scrubs, etc.) is likely to purchase advertising space for a journal that carries content for nurses and other healthcare workers who are expected to wear uniforms and scrubs. But their willingness to pay for advertising space is influenced by data that indicates that these workers are actually responding to or reading the journal—data such as numbers of “clicks” on similar types of ads placed on the journal website.
  • Grants, contracts, or subsidies: Professional associations provide financial support for the publication of a journal that has a particular focus of interest to their members. The association provides all or a portion of the funds for the publishing costs from membership fees or other sources of income, and the publishing company provides the journal as a benefit to the members of the association. There are many variations on this model, with the specific details of the arrangement worked out between the parties involved through a contractual agreement.
  • Self-publishing: The author assumes the responsibilities and the costs of publishing, sometimes purchasing (outsourcing) the services of a business that provides selected functions of the publisher, but not all. Blogs and websites are the most common form of self-publishing, but authors might also self-publish books, pamphlets, or newsletters.
  • Open access: In journal publishing, the author of an article pays an article processing charge (APC) to the publisher to cover the costs of publishing. The publisher provides unrestricted “open access” to all articles for which an APC has been paid, meaning that anyone can access the article at any time. Some journals are managed solely using the open access model, meaning that all authors must pay an APC; there are no subscribers that provide revenue to the publisher. Some journals that have been traditionally subscriber-based are adopting a “hybrid” model, offering authors the option to pay an APC to make their article open access to all immediately upon publication. How much are APCs? They range widely, from less than $100 to several thousand (See Table 5.1 for a description of Open Access.)

Table 5.1 – What Open Access is and What It is Not

Open Access
  • A business model
  • A cost shift from reader to author
  • Intended to increase access of scientists and the public to current research
  • Subject to Creative Commons License terms
  • NOT Free
  • NOT available for random distribution (subject to Creative Commons License terms)
  • NOT in itself less valuable or rigorous
  • NOT a simple replication of paper

Open Access Distribution Models

The realm of open access publishing is continually evolving, and models for distribution are emerging as this is written. The initial models that have dominated the industry to date are:

  • Gold: The author pays the APC as a substitute for subscription fees; the published article is immediately available to all. Be aware that it is easy to confuse “free access” with “open access.” “Free access” typically means that the publisher is making an article available to all, either temporarily or permanently, often as a marketing tool with no processing fee required of the author. In other words the publisher is providing the article outside of the subscription paywall. Why would they do this? One reason might be to encourage people to become familiar with the journal and return to the website again because of the value that the journal offers. Also, many journals publish articles that have associated continuing education tests so that readers can receive credit (CEUs) for reading the article and taking the test. Many publishers make the article available at no charge, but then charge a fee to take the test. “Open access” provides permanent access to any reader any time, which is made possible because the author has paid an APC.
  • Platinum: The publisher obtains a grant, sponsor, or donor to cover the costs associated with the publication, with little or no APC. The article, issue, or journal is provided to all readers without a subscription.
  • Green: The publisher gives a “green light” to authors to self-archive their prepublication manuscript in an open repository. The prepublication archived article after an embargo period, which is typically 6 to 12 months after the print publication date. The conditions and variations on green open access policies and practices vary widely from journal to journal, in part determined by the nature of the disciplinary demand for rapid access to scientific findings. The published journal article (not the preprint version) can only be posted by the author in a repository or on a website if the “Gold” author APC has been paid.
  • Delayed: The publisher charges a specified APC for delayed open access to the published journal article after an embargo period of typically 6 to 12 months. Delayed open access is also provided for articles that are based on research that was funded by an agency that requires open access, but for which no APC has been paid. As an example, this is a requirement of research that has been funded by an institute within the National Institutes of Health.

More About the Open Access Model

“Open Access” as a publishing model emerged in part because of the demand for better access for all scholars and to the public of scientific findings that would have a much greater benefit for the public if those findings were more freely available, that is, not published in a journal that requires a subscription, meaning that the article is only available through that channel. In particular, activists and scholars were concerned about the fact that important research findings were languishing in remote, difficult to obtain scientific, and often very expensive (subscription fees in the tens of thousands of dollars) journals, rather than providing potential benefits to the public and the scientific communities concerned with rapidly evolving fields of discovery. Federally funded research is supported by the public through tax dollars; findings from these studies, in particular, began to be viewed as research that should be more publicly accessible. At the same time, scholars and publishers alike are invested in protecting original work as original, protecting against fraudulent publication or misuse of published material, and assuring the public that any form of scholarship, regardless of how it is accessed, is reliable and valid. Therefore, the open access model does not mean that the published material is of lesser quality than material published using the traditional model. The same standards of quality and protections against misuse are expected to apply for both traditional and open access models.

The benefits of the open access model include:

  • Rapid access to a wide range of scholars who may not otherwise find and subsequently build on important new scientific findings.
  • Access for the tax-paying public without the barrier of cost to information that might benefit them significantly.
  • The author’s range of influence is potentially broadened to audiences beyond those that have access through individual or library subscription.

Challenges Created by Digital Open Access Publishing

As valuable as open access publishing is or can be, there are unique challenges that savvy authors, editors, and publishers need to keep in mind. The first is that in an environment where authors, rather than the readers provide the income that supports a publishing enterprise, there may be a “drift” toward serving the interests of authors and neglecting the interests of the readers. Science and all forms of scholarship are enterprises that respond to the problems and challenges of society, and scholars are expected to be responsive to those problems without imposing their own personal interests and ambitions onto the interests of the larger society. For example, if a scholar has a personal religious belief that imposes a particular solution or action on a societal problem, the scholar is expected to disclose that view but not impose it on the whole of society. The open access model creates a form of “pay to play” environment where publishers could ultimately favor publishing works that are produced by scholars with a certain viewpoint who can afford to pay the APC, and neglect the works of scholars with equally valuable, and potentially more representative views of the culture, but who cannot afford the processing fees.

The combination of open access models that support publishing and the relative ease of publishing using digital tools have opened the door for predatory practices that compromise editorial standards of excellence, and prey on unsuspecting individuals for profit. The only protection that assures that all entities that engage in publication are upholding standards of quality is summed up in the well-worn adage: buyer beware. All who have any interest in published work—authors, potential authors, editors, researchers, academic professionals who serve on promotion or tenure review committees, administrators, and students—can only protect yourself through education and heightened awareness of the challenges and pitfalls of digital open access publishing. There is no easy formula, but there are important guidelines that merit careful consideration. The first principle to follow is to understand the key elements of editorial integrity.

Editorial Integrity

Editorial integrity is defined here as practices that assure the discipline and the public that the content of the journal has been adequately vetted to assure that the author’s work is original, scientifically sound in both substance and method, free from commercial or personal conflict of interest, and that all editorial and publishing processes adhere to the widely accepted ethical Codes of Conduct published by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) (COPE, 2015). Quality open access journals are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) (http://doaj.org/), and the Nursing Journals Directory published on the INANE website shows all nursing journals that have been vetted for quality (http://nursingeditors.com/journals-directory/). With very little exploration, you should be able to quickly identify a journal that is produced consistently with the hallmarks of editorial integrity.

There are three hallmarks of integrity that you can readily identify by examining information on a journal’s website. These are:

  • Transparency: You should be able to easily find the journal’s information for Authors that gives you complete details about how your manuscript should be prepared, how to submit it, the criteria on which it will be judged, and what to expect from the peer review process. The qualifications of the Editor and of members of the Editorial Board should be clearly posted on the website, and you should be able to easily find information about how to contact the Editor.
  • Corroboration: You should expect to be able to verify all claims made on the website about the journal and about any key editorial staff with sources external to the journal website. For example, if the journal claims to have an Impact Factor, you should be able to corroborate that score with information posted in the Journal Citation Index published by Thomson-Reuters. If they claim that the Editor has certain degrees or holds an academic appointment, those details should be also posted on academic websites. In fact you should be able to find evidence of the Editor’s standing in the journal’s field of focus with an Internet search that verifies career achievements that place the Editor in good standing in the field. If the journal website claims to be a member of COPE, you should expect to find their membership listed on the COPE website (see http://publicationethics.org/members). Since journals must have at least a 1-year record of publication before applying for COPE membership, a brand new journal’s website should at least indicate that they are following COPE guidelines; you can contact the Editor to inquire about their intention to apply for COPE membership and expect to receive an affirmative response if they are indeed following COPE standards of conduct.
  • Permanence: You can expect to see evidence on the journal website that the journal is indexed in the standard databases used by scholars in your discipline. Indexing in standard databases provides long-term discoverability of published works. Articles published in the journal should be assigned a DOI, which provides for permanent discoverability of an article, even if the publisher website changes or the publisher goes out of business. Any claim of other approaches to providing web access are highly questionable, since providing permanence on the Internet is an extremely complex challenge, and the DOI system is readily available to anyone seeking to establish a permanent identifier for a digital object.

Red Flags

In your exploration to become familiar with a journal’s editorial standards and practices, you should be able to determine, within even a few minutes, that the journal shows evidence of sound practices, or you will begin to pick up questionable signals. Questionable signals start when you have to dig and search for evidence of transparency, corroboration, and permanence, but you will also begin to find “red flags” that alert you that you might have encountered a journal that is produced by a publisher not following generally accepted standards of editorial integrity, sometimes call a “predatory publisher.” There are three types of “red flags” that are typical of predatory practices: questionable business practices, mystification and obfuscation, and false representations.

Open access publishing, as we have discussed earlier in this chapter, is a valid business model. The problem is not open access publishing, but the way that the model is used to render personal profit for an individual or the publishing entity, at the expense of unsuspecting authors. Typical questionable business practices include:

  • Absence of clear contractual agreements with authors, or contractual agreements that do not conform to widely accepted contractual standards. For example, the publisher may promise one thing, such as “rapid” publication with peer review, but the “peer” review is not really a peer review but rather a cursory review by the person who claims to be the editor or publisher.
  • Use of aggressive methods to lure authors, including overly complimentary email invitations to submit your work for publication, with assurances of rapid review and publication.
  • Uncertain identity and the location of the publisher and/or editor. If you do find a location indicated it often turns out to be a “front” or a cover for the true location. Many predatory publishers claim to be located in Canada, when in fact they are operating from India, Hong Kong, Africa, China, or other countries.
  • Journal (or conference) names that mimic legitimate, well-established journals. For example, there is a predatory open access journal called The Journal of Nursing that mimics the name of the well-established, well-known American Journal of Nursing published by Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins. Similarly, the OMICS group puts on conferences with names such as Nursing-2014, which is just a hyphen removed from the legitimate conference (named after the journal), Nursing 2014.
  • Titles of editorial staff are confusing and not descriptive of the actual functions and responsibilities of the person in the role. A title such as “Honorary Editor-in-Chief” is unacceptable, and is indicative of exploitation of a person’s professional standing to serve the interest of the publisher, not the interest of those who need and want sound editorial content. Legitimate publishers take editorial roles very seriously because it is the Editor and the Editorial staff who assume the day-to-day tasks that assure the information consuming public that what is published is sound and meritorious. Likewise, legitimate Editors will not agree to having their names used in a manner that simply offers the illusion of value to a scholarly publication. If you recognize the name of a prominent scholar in your area of scholarship who is listed as participating in an editorial role for a journal of questionable standing, we suggest contacting that person to inquire as to the nature of his/her affiliation with the journal. It is possible they do have information that can shed light on the true status of the journal. But often, predatory publishers “harvest” the names of scholars in the discipline from other Internet sources, and list these people as having a relationship with the journal without the person’s knowledge or consent. Occasionally, someone will be aware that their name is listed as participating, but in fact the person was lured in to a situation that in all honesty, s/he did not fully understand.


“Try This” 5.1

Next time you receive an email inviting you to submit a manuscript to a journal, conduct a journal due diligence to evaluate the journal and invitation. (Journal due diligence is discussed in detail in Chapter 4). Based on your assessment, is this a legitimate journal or one from a predatory publisher? If the latter, what were the red flags that tipped you off?


Publishing is a huge industry with a long history (dating back to the first printing press), and legal, ethical, and organizational layers that even the most seasoned professional may not fully understand. As an author, you do not need to know all the ins and outs, but you should have a working knowledge of the interface that affects you. Understand that publishers provide a vital service by helping you disseminate your research findings and practice innovations to a wide audience. If you opt to choose an alternative model, such as self-publishing, you need to recognize what the impacts are for you, in terms of both positive benefits and negative consequences. Open access publishing is a fairly recent development that offers exciting opportunities, but be aware of the dark side that has emerged—predatory publishers that take advantage of the “pay to publish” model. To be a digitally savvy author, you must stay abreast of constant changes and challenges within the publishing business.


Anderson, K. (2014). UPDATED — 82 Things Publishers Do (2014 ed). Scholarly Kitchen. Retrieved from http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2014/10/21/updated-80-things-publishers-do-2014-edition/

COPE. (2015). Code of Conduct. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from http://publicationethics.org/resources/code-conduct

Chapter 6

Social Media and the Role It Plays in Professional Writing


Social media are those aspects of the World Wide Web that provide for interaction, content sharing, collaboration, and many kinds of community-based input. Networking has long been recognized as one of the most important activities that promote the growth and development of individuals and the group as a whole, but digital tools for networking have expanded this activity to a level never before imagined! Networking with other writers and scholars in your field is in fact as important as your personal search for information on the web and in library databases; your interactions with others is vital as a source of information, and as a barometer that helps you judge the value of your ideas and interest in your topic. In this chapter we first discuss the tensions and challenges of social media networking, followed by information about specific networking tools that all healthcare professionals need to be using.

Social Media Tensions

There is an inherent tension between privacy and sharing in all aspects of social interaction, but digital tools have brought these tensions into sharp contrast. With predigital social networking resources (personal contact, telephone, mail, face-to-face meetings) people had a certain degree of control over what was shared and what might remain private. With digital capabilities, some of this perceived control has vanished, requiring more vigilance in terms of what actually happens with personal information in the virtual environment. Each social media resource has its own parameters around what users can control, so each person has the responsibility to know those parameters and to set them at a level with which they are comfortable. But bottom line, the benefits for scholars of using social media far outweigh the risks associated with privacy concerns.

The issue of copyright and “ownership” is related to privacy, in that the restrictions of copyright, and those of creative commons licenses, place limits on what can be freely shared. The fundamental rationale on which copyright is built is the notion that people who create original content deserve to have their work protected from misuse or exploitation by others. The laws that govern copyright place restrictions around how and what can be shared freely—restrictions that are quite easy to violate either intentionally or unintentionally. Digital media make referencing and citation very easy with a simple link to the original material online—as long as the material is accessible online to any user. Copyrighted material of course is not accessible online to any user—this material is typically held behind a pay wall. But social media sites encourage authors to share their work, based on the commitment to build networks among scholars that can facilitate the growth and development of knowledge within and across disciplines.

Social Media Etiquette

Etiquette on social media at the most basic level is built on the same simple premise as all etiquette—be nice! But how this principle translates into action in the digital realm is not a simple matter at all, especially when virtual and face-to-face interactions overlap. Here are the special etiquette challenges of digital social media, and our “virtual manners” recommendations:

  • Multitasking—Multitasking with your mobile device in a face-to-face interaction is not only rude, but it compromises your focus in your virtual interactions. The temptation is especially intense when you are at a boring event or meeting! There are exceptions—if the event or meeting has a hashtag, with a host of folks watching their twitter feed for updates, go ahead and tweet (see the “Twitter” Section below). Or, if you are anticipating an urgent message that is relevant to the event, set your device on vibrate and check your messages. Critical family communications take priority, but make sure people around you know the nature of the digital communication as soon as possible.
  • Emotions—Etiquette is always at risk when emotions are running high. When you are otherwise impaired by drugs or alcohol, and when digital interactions are involved, it is much more tempting to let loose. This is never a good idea, in part because the damage that can happen with digital communication is amplified, and mending bad/hurt feelings is much more difficult than it would be with face-to-face interactions. If you are feeling hot under the collar or impaired or both, the best rule is to hold off until you cool down and sober up. If someone sends you a hostile or insulting communication, the best response is no response. If the communication is one that you cannot ignore altogether, deal with the issue at a time and place that is best suited to a constructive outcome. Feelings run the entire spectrum with digital communication and are conveyed in a variety of ways that are unfamiliar in the realm of face-to-face communication. Here are a few hints to make sure your digital messaging conveys the emotions you intend:
    • Never use all caps. Capital letters symbolize ANGRY SHOUTING. Even if you are angry, refrain from using caps—they drown out your message.
    • Use emoticons and texting acronyms to convey how you are feeling, especially if you are being sarcastic or trying to make a joke. Words alone can be easily misunderstood, so add symbols that convey your intention.
    • Keep your messages brief—the more you try to explain, the deeper you are likely to dig your hole. If you find yourself going on and on, stop, and tell your friend or colleague you need to talk about the issue another time when you can think more clearly.
  • Identity—Good manners on the Internet, as in person, call for cordial and respectful introductions. You can use a false identity on your social networks, but in your professional interactions online it is very important to claim and establish a stable, authentic identity that can be corroborated by external sources. This is done on social networking sites by filling out your profile; make this as complete as possible. On your own website or blog, include a page that provides a thorough introduction to who you are as a person, as a writer, and as a healthcare professional. This is not a time for humility—you need to bring all your achievements out into the open and share as much as you can about the professional network you are part of. Post a photo that conveys an identity that is professional, yet inviting and open to interaction. You can include brief information about your personal life but do not include photos of children or grandchildren, your personal address or phone number or any other information that could be used to intrude on you or your family.
  • Selecting your friends and social network—Social media sites thrive because of the ability to have friends and expand your social network. You may know of people you would like to be your “friend” or you would like to include in your social network, but it is not good form to approach or invite people to your social network who you do not know, or who you know only by reputation. This is equivalent to name dropping to give a false impression of your range of influence. If you want someone to be your friend or to be part of your network, invest some time in making a real connection that provides the person a basis for joining your network. If you are invited to be someone’s friend or network who you do not know, ignore the invitation—they are overstepping the bounds of appropriate Internet etiquette.


“Try This” 6.1

Develop your own glossary of emoticons and texting acronyms, and use them freely! Emoticons are still only widely available on mobile devices, but you can use keyboard symbols that mimic emoticons anywhere! The keyboard symbols colon/parenthesis - type: followed by either ) or (, will result in either a smile or a frown, depending on the direction of parenthesis that you use, as in ☺, or ☹. Try it!

Several acronyms are holdovers from the print age, such as ASAP (as soon as possible), RSVP (French for request to respond to an invitation), FYI (For Your Information), and TBD (To Be Determined). Many people don’t realize that “snafu” (a bad situation, mistake, or cause of trouble), now commonly used as a noun (and a legitimate word in Scrabble!) is a military acronym from World War II: “Situation normal, all f***ed up” (or fouled-up in the milder version).

Texting and chatting and the 140-character limit of Twitter have brought on an entirely new language of acronym-speak! Probably the most common texting acronym is LOL, which has several meanings with “Laughing Out Loud” being the most common, followed by “Lots of Love.” There are thousands of texting acronyms! If you encounter one you do not know, you can look it up at http://www.netlingo.com/index.php or any of many “text acronym dictionary” mobile applications. NetLingo (http://www.netlingo.com/top50/popular-text-terms.php) shows “top 50” lists to help you become familiar with the world of text and chat! Our personal favorites are:

BTW (By The Way)

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It)

IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), also IMO (In My Opinion)

KISS (Keep It Simple S****)

OMG (Oh My God)

YMMV (Your Mileage Might Vary)—meaning you may not necessarily have the same experience, or agree.

  • Respect—Even though you are communicating online, there are many ways in which you convey your respect (or lack of respect) for your friends and followers. Respect your readers’ time by keeping your messages and posts as brief as possible—nobody wants to spend extended time reading what you have to say. On top of that, parsimony is a sign of good writing! Always proofread your posts and messages and check for grammar and spelling; errors of this sort are annoying and convey lack of attention to details that matter. Be mindful that your opinions, political views, and religious beliefs are probably not shared by everyone in your network; you can certainly share your own points of view but refrain from content that blatantly attempts to “proselytize” others, or that repeatedly hounds your network. Even sympathetic friends can grow tired of being hounded! When you respond to someone else’s point of view with which you disagree, be respectful and generous of spirit—do not leave comments that demean or criticize in an unkind way. The golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” applies online as well as in person.


“Leslie's Tidbit” 6.1

It’s funny how life imitates art—or something like that. I am currently listening to the audiobook of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Riverhead Books, 2015). One of the main characters is a young woman named Rachel who is an alcoholic, by her own admission. She likes to drunk-dial and drunk-email, both with disastrous consequences. The other characters are also flawed, but Rachel is a perfect example of why you should wait until you are clear-headed and sober before responding to a message or situation that has you more than a little annoyed.

  • Everything is permanent—Whatever you write or post, treat it as if it is permanent and publically available for all to see. Even if you think something has been taken down, people who want to find information will, which is why nude photographs come back to haunt Hollywood stars, and impolitic Tweets live on long beyond their 15 seconds of fame. How do you like to be perceived in person? We are assuming that if you strive to be kind, thoughtful, and intelligent, you would want a similar online persona. But as noted above, emotions can often get in the way of a message, which it is why it is very important to think carefully about what you write and post. There’s another old saying that floats around the Internet: Never post or write anything that you would not want to see emblazoned on a sign on your front lawn.


“Think About It” 6.1

It is becoming increasingly common for businesses, municipalities, and universities to have a disclaimer appended to all messages sent by employees or students—basically, anyone who has an email address associated with the enterprise. The language of these disclaimers varies, but they generally say that the contents of the email may be confidential and if you received a message in error, you should immediately destroy it and notify the sender. Are these disclaimers legally binding? Naturally, lawyers say that you need to consult an attorney for an exact answer, but in general, most seem to agree that these disclaimers are essentially unenforceable. You can read a very entertaining interview about an email that went astray and landed in the inbox of a New York Times reporter instead of the lawyer for which it was intended: http://www.onthemedia.org/story/129928-oops-i-e-mailed-a-reporter/transcript/.

For now, the point is—think very carefully about what you write and think twice before you hit send!

Social Networks

There are two prominent social networks that are essential for creating a vibrant and influential professional presence in the digital universe: Facebook and Twitter. The dominance of these networks is not guaranteed, and there are others, such as LinkedIn, that are used widely. But at the time of writing this book, Facebook and Twitter are close to being necessary to have a vibrant and influential social network. There are a host of other networking sites, including Google+, and if you find that many of your friends and colleagues are using any of these other resources, you need to get on board with them as well. If you find that nobody in your network is using a site, you do not have to stay connected!

Facebook is useful for building a broad social network that includes friends, family, and acquaintances with whom you share general common interests. In addition to your personal Facebook account you can develop pages, groups, and events to draw special attention to your interests that can broaden your personal network. Twitter is a broadcasting tool that gives you the ability to send and receive notices of current events and accomplishments. You use Facebook to post photos and announcements of what is happening in your life at the moment, to share information about causes or events or issues you care about, to “feed” information from your own blogs, and to share articles and stories from other websites. Twitter, by contrast, is limited to 140 characters (you can send photos as well), to announce a real-time message to your network. If you follow others on Twitter, you might go directly to their Twitter feed to review what they have posted recently, but mostly you use Twitter to “tune in” to stuff happening right now. The most powerful tool on Twitter is the hashtag, as in #INANE2015 to follow what is happening at the 2015 Nursing Editors meeting. Or, use #UConnWBB to see tweets with play-by-play announcements during a University of Connecticut women’s basketball game! We explain more about using both Facebook and Twitter below.

LinkedIn is an important social network that focuses on professional connections and networks, but is now mostly used by people in corporate industries who are job hunting, or who are hunting for good candidates for a job they have open. People in academic or professional disciplines where publishing and networking around published works are a priority are using specific networking sites that are tailored to the academic and professional realms, with Academia.edu (https://www.academia.edu/) being one of the most popular.

The bottom line is that if you are publishing or want to publish your work, you need to use social media as basic tools to build an online presence that shapes and defines who you are and the importance of your contribution to your field as it emerges. If you have remained averse to getting involved with these networks, be aware that you can remain disconnected from them and still be very successful, but that you will be missing opportunities for networking and collaboration. And, this is becoming less and less of a viable option in the digital age. If you value a distinct line between your personal and your professional activities, you can achieve a degree of separation between them by setting up separate accounts, using a nickname and having more privacy settings on your personal spaces. However, the advantage of bringing your personal and your professional realms together on social networks is that your close friends and family get to know a bit about the work you do, and your professional colleagues get to see you as a person who has a life outside of work!

Whatever approach you use, consider Facebook, Twitter, and one of the career or academically focused networks as important portals into a wide realm of interaction and influence. Activity on each one draws attention to your work, so find ways to post regularly! Read on for hints on doing this easily and efficiently.


Facebook is a resource for keeping your network informed about your activities, interests, projects—anything in your life that is important to you and that you want to share with the world. Likewise, it gives you a way to know the same about people in your network. It provides a kind of diary or log that you can customize as you wish. Over time Facebook has made improvements that give you more control over what comes up in your “news feed”—the items that are listed when you first log in to Facebook. Like most other web tools for interaction, the Facebook platform changes frequently, which is one of those frustrations for those who like stability, so we do not include here information about how to use Facebook. Suffice it to say that if you hang in, gradually you will accommodate to the new “look and feel” when changes happen.

Using Facebook effectively as a healthcare professional can greatly expand your realm of influence even without expanding your “friends” list. When you post something that your friends are interested in, they are likely to share your post with their network of friends, and before you know it your news has reached a host of folks far beyond your own personal network. Here are items that are well worth considering to post on Facebook, and why:

  • Travel, both personal and professional. Travel enriches your experience and gives you new insights and possibilities. If you are traveling to a destination where your friends, or their friends might also be, you create an opportunity to perhaps connect in person or at least discuss common interests related to your professional work.
  • Publications and speaking engagements. Never pass up an opportunity to announce a new publication or a place where you will be presenting your work, and then talk about the publication or the event in future posts.
  • Family, social connections, and hobbies. Do post information about your family, social activities, and hobbies. Your family and friends who do not share your professional life directly will be very interested in seeing these posts. For your professional colleagues, these items show that you are a well-rounded person with a rich and interesting life!
  • Social and political news and causes, particularly those related to your professional work and/or your personal circumstances. Do exercise good judgment here (see the “Respect” section above) but it is important for your network to be aware of social and political issues that matter to you because of who you are. Keep these messages brief—often you can post these by sharing a link to another website that gives the detail about the issue, which your friends can either ignore or follow as they wish.
  • Sharing interesting news stories and other information. Most newspapers, magazines, and blogs have links to share their stories to Facebook. If you read something that catches your eye for more than a minute or two, use the “share” button to post the link to Facebook. Add a few words why the story engaged you. Note that for many stories, when you share a link to Facebook, others will be able to read it, even if the original publication requires a subscription or if the story is behind a paywall.


Twitter serves a very unique purpose—it is intended to focus on things that are happening in the current moment, or very recent updates or reports about events that are happening right now. You do not use it to “read” about things that are happening, nor do you use it to post details about your work or activities. Instead you use it to tap into a very large network where things are happening that relate to your interests, and to put out “headlines” about things that you are doing. For example, if you are at a conference and some of your colleagues who are not there are interested in knowing what is happening, you can create a “hashtag” for the conference, which creates a sort of “index” that gathers all tweets that use this hashtag (#) together. When you post short announcements about the conference using the hashtag, anyone who is interested in what is happening at the conference can find the information quickly by searching for the conference hashtag. The “@” symbol is used to point to other users or groups, for example, @peggychinn or @INANEEditors brings up those users’ accounts, where you can see what that group or person is up to. While you are at a conference, you might tweet: “#AmericanNurses @MarySmith elected President” to let everyone know that Mary Smith was just elected president at the American Nurses Association conference.


LinkedIn is a professional social networking service that has become essential for many people who are searching for a job, and for employers who are looking for people who might fit into jobs that are open in their organization. It is also very useful for people who need and want to connect with other individuals and organizations that have shared interests. The key to using LinkedIn is to build a strong profile, and then to keep your profile updated with your latest accomplishments. You can post information about your professional accomplishments, and others in your network can endorse you for particular professional skills.

LinkedIn has a unique feature that emphasizes our “etiquette” guideline about inviting others to be your “friend”—if someone gets an invitation to become a connection, and the invitee indicates that they do not know the person who has sent the invitation, or marks the invitation as spam, this counts against the person sending the invitation and can lead to the closure of that person’s account. When you receive invitations it is therefore important that you actually know the person who is sending the invitation, which results in building connections that are genuine, and not based on wishful thinking!

Other Networking Sites to Consider

There are many additional networking sites that healthcare professionals are joining, each of which offers unique features. Each of these sites are more focused on networking for the purpose of advancing professional or research interests or topics, rather than on social networking per se. Here are brief descriptions of a few:


“Do This” 6.1

If you are a student or a faculty member at a college or university, or working as a health professional in a clinical setting, your institution very likely has a social media policy. If you plan to post on Facebook or use Twitter in your professional role, you should know and follow the policy carefully. We have heard stories about students posting about their clinical experiences on Facebook and including details (even photographs) that violated HIPAA and patient privacy requirements.

If your institution does not have a social media policy, consider developing one as an activity. “Social Media Use in Nursing Education” by Schmitt, Sims-Giddens, and Booth (2012) has a number of helpful resources that you can use to get started.


ResearchGate (http://www.researchgate.net/) is designed for scholars to share their work, find collaborators, and discuss issues and questions that are specific to their area of research. Conversations follow a “string” and users can post questions that are distributed to experts in the field the question relates to. ResearchGate encourages users to post citations to their copyrighted publications and copies of their publications that are not subject to copyright restrictions. Members are also encouraged to post raw data and failed experiment results. This blog posts outlines some pros and cons, along with recommendations, for using ResearchGate:



Academia.edu (https://www.academia.edu/) is a site that is dedicated to the notion that research findings should be published immediately, available freely, and reviewed after publication by the interested public. Members are encouraged to post their papers to the site, pre- or postpublication. Authors can request permission from the publisher to post their article on Academic.edu, and without permission, they may be subject to takedown requested by the journal that holds the copyright. The appeal of Academia.edu is that the focus is on networking among scholars who share a similar interest, and giving and receiving feedback and critique of one’s work. Academic.edu also keeps statistics showing profile views and document views—an important altmetric for scholars who seek measures of the influence of their work.

Is Academia.edu a worthwhile site? As editors, we have mixed feelings. Of course, we encourage authors to share their work widely (see Chapter 8) and this site might be a good resource to do. At the same time, we do not believe it is entirely living up to its mission online peer review and critique; we’ve read some pretty sketchy papers posted at the site—and when those papers are quoted as sources in articles we receive for peer review, we become even more concerned. Wecker (2014) (https://chroniclevitae.com/news/345-should-you-share-your-research-on-academia-edu) provides a nice overview and summary. We’ll leave it to individual readers to decide if you want to use this site as a professional resource.


For many years, the Chronicle of Higher Education has been an important source for information related to issues in higher education, and for employers who have open positions in academic organizations, and for people seeking academic jobs. Vitae (https://chroniclevitae.com/) is the online network that extends the Chronicle’s reach, and provides a new service for those pursuing academic careers. The unique features of Vitae include getting current academic news, finding jobs, posting and finding syllabi for courses that you can use as resources for your own teaching, and groups that are moderated by experts in the group’s interest area who post regular blogs for the group, and that encourage members to contribute to the blog. In particular the group on “Scholarly Writing” provides an important forum for developing writing and publishing skills.


Blogs require quite a bit more investment of time and energy than the social networks we have described above, but a blog is now an essential element of an effective digital identity. There are several platforms that provide user-friendly and free access for you to create your own blog. Many blog platforms are free to get started; when you are ready to upgrade, you can spend a modest amount to obtain advanced customizing options. You can also opt to decline any of the fee-based “freemium” features.

Your blog provides an opportunity for you to develop “prepublication” ideas and get feedback from a broad audience. In addition, your blog provides an avenue for you to extend ideas beyond what has been published, and extend your network of colleagues who share common interests.

Blogs are also readily accessible to the public, which means you can reach the lay public with information about your work that can benefit the public. We discuss this in more detail in Chapter 8, but use this information to consider getting started with blogging.


“Do This” 6.2

One piece of advice that Leslie and Peggy both received very early in their careers was to keep their CVs (curriculum vitae) constantly updated, and we both took this good advice to heart! Yes, for Leslie, the old, traditional paper version which is now stored as a Word document in Dropbox started life on the old Osborne 1 in WordStar. For both of us, each time the word processing software updated or changed, our CVs were one of the first files we checked to make sure they were compatible with the new system—this came not from a “reminder” note, but simply because almost monthly we had something to add or update, prompting us to open the file and make sure it was current.

Whenever you do anything, such as presenting at a conference or workshop or consulting on a research project—no matter how small or minor it seems—add it to your CV. If you are included on grants, even if you are not the principal investigator, add all the grant information that you can obtain: amount funded, funder, and grant number. If you serve on dissertation or thesis committees, list the student(s) (name(s) spelled correctly) and date(s). Every time you have a new publication, add the complete information. Every semester, check the list of courses you teach to make sure that this semester’s courses are current. When you develop a new policy document for an organization, make sure your role in that effort is acknowledged on your CV. Make sure to date your CV every time it is updated.

In 2014, I (Leslie) applied to become a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing. In the application they request a CV, in their specific format. One of the items that must be included on the CV (among a myriad of others), is complete information for any and all grants for which you have ever been associated—by complete, they wanted all the information listed above. As I looked at my CV with all the details intact, for grants dated more than 20 years past, I was very appreciative for the advice I had received. I would never have been able to track down all the names, dates, and dollar amounts of the different grants to recreate it for the Academy CV.

While you may be able to maintain a professional CV within a network such as LinkedIn, or Academic.edu, we still recommend that you take the time to constantly maintain and update a local copy that will always be accessible to you.

Your first decision is, what platform to use? Our favorite is Wordpress.com, but other popular programs are Wordpress.org, Blogger (developed by Google), Tumblr, and Squarespace. Greg Narayan, a blogger who writes about blogging, has a good overview of the different programs available: http://www.dearblogger.org/blogger-or-wordpress-better.

Trying to figure out where to begin? Ask yourself a few questions:

  • How do you picture your blog/website? With lots of text and some pictures (which is a fairly traditional look)? Then you might want to consider Wordpress (either .com or .org) or Blogger. On the other hand, if you will be posting lots of pictures, then you might want to check out Tumblr.
  • Are you envisioning a website, rather than a blog? Then you might want to evaluate Squarespace, Wordpress.org, or Wordpress.com. Note that these platforms contain both a blog page as well as static pages. Blogger has only blog pages which means it truly is just a blogging platform and does not work for creating a website.
  • Not sure if you really want to go down this path? Then sign up for an absolutely free blog with either Wordpress.com or Blogger and experiment.


“There Are No Dumb Questions” 6.1

Q: What’s the difference between Wordpress.org and Wordpress.com?

A: Wordpress.org came first; Wordpress.com was launched 2 years later. If you opt for a Wordpress.org blog, you will need to get a domain name and webhosting service first, then create your blog. Wordpress.com, on the other hand, provides free hosting of your blog, although you can pay for additional features, such as storage space, removing advertising, or having a domain name that does not include “Wordpress.com.”

Wordpress.org is much more customizable with individual features (“plug-ins”) that you can add as you need them. Many of these are developed by independent programmers and there is a vast variety of plug-ins available. While these are bonuses, we find that Wordpress.org sites are a little harder to set up and maintain.

Wordpress.com is more of a “one stop shopping” approach—sign up for a domain name, pick a theme and you are good to go. Features such as site statistics (which would be a plug-in on Wordpress.org) are included in the basic package. The platform is easy to use and learn. We both prefer it to Wordpress.org.

Keep in mind, if you opt for Wordpress.com and find you need more features further down the road, you can always transfer to Wordpress.org.

Once again, as we have noted with other programs and resources, you will invest time and energy into creating your blog, therefore, you want to select a platform that you are confident will be around for the long haul. Also, if you choose a platform that has a large user base, then you will be able to find communities of people who can help you and answer questions, online tutorials, user support, and more.

Website and Blog Lingo

When you first start to develop a blog, you might find your head spinning a little bit because you are overwhelmed by the terminology. That’s not unusual—blogs and websites have their own language. Once you learn a few basic terms, you will find navigating and customizing your own blog goes much easier and faster. Use the following as a beginning, brief glossary:

  • Theme—The overall template that gives your blog/website its “look.” The theme contains columns, pictures, colors, and fonts, which may or may not be customizable. One of the first things you do when you create your blog is select a theme, which is fun. Wordpress had hundreds of themes and many of them are free. Different themes are created for different purposes—for example, if you are creating a healthcare professional blog, then a theme designed for a cooking site probably won’t work for you! When you look at themes, consider how your website/blog will be introducedthis is the header at the top of the page. You also want to consider how readers will navigate your site. The three sites mentioned in “There Are No Dumb Questions 6.2” use similar themes from Wordpress (Twenty-Ten and Twenty-Eleven) so in one way, they all look similar but in another, they are very different because of how they have been customized.


“There Are No Dumb Questions” 6.2

Q: What’s the difference between a website and a blog?

A: Great question! In the current evolution of the Internet, the difference between a blog and a website can be blurry, especially when there are tools such as Wordpress that were designed to be blogging platforms—but many users (including us) use to create websites. Here are a few websites that we have developed and maintain:

http://nursingeditors.com/ (hosted on Wordpress.com)

http://peggychinn.com (hosted on Wordpress.com)

http://mainedesk.com/ (hosted on Wordpress.com)

The first two have blogs built within the website (see them here: http://nursingeditors.com/blog/ and http://peggychinn.com/blog/) while on the Maine Desk website (Leslie’s business) the blog functionality has been turned off. For all three of these websites, the “landing page” (first page you come to when you type in the URL) is a static page, not the blog page. Typically in Wordpress, the first page, by default, is the blog page but you can easily change that as an option when you customize your blog/website.

That leads to the next question: What’s the difference between a static page and a blog page?

For this, think of two different kinds of paper: a roll of paper towels and a tablet of 50 sheets of lined paper. The blog page would be the paper towel while the static pages are the sheets of paper on the tablet.

For your blog, for post #1, you write your post on the paper towel that is hanging down. For post #2, you advance the roll and write your post on the next square of towel. For posts #3 and #4, the same thing—and so on. Your posts are a continuous string, with the most recent at the top and the oldest at the bottom. You might decide to tear off some of your posts, so the list doesn’t get too long and unwieldy. The older posts don’t go away, they are just set aside and can be accessed easily—on a blog, this is usually done by clicking a button that says “Older Posts.” The unique feature of a blog page is that it has this capability of having content added continuously, with the new content always appearing at the top.

A static page, on the other hand, is like a piece of paper. You can write on it and you can add to it, but it doesn’t have the chronological posting of a blog page. One difference of a static page (on a website) and a piece of paper is that the static page can grow. You can add new content and the page will get longer to accommodate the information. But, in terms of good website design, having huge long pages is difficult for a reader to navigate. You are better off to break the content up into multiple pages. A perfect example of this is the Nursing Journals Directory at the INANE website (see Figure 6.1). You can see on the right how the journals are sorted on different pages alphabetically.

Figure 6.1 – Illustration of multiple pages in the Nursing Journals Directory.

Figure 6.1 – Illustration of multiple pages in the Nursing Journals Directory.
  • Widgets—The “things” found on the side (either left or right column) or bottom of the blog. In Figure 6.1, the listing of the journals on the right were all created using widgets. Common widgets that you will see on a blog: a box for searching, the ability to subscribe to the blog, archives of older posts, categories and tags, a calendar, number of visitors to the blog—the list is endless. Widgets can help you personalize your blog and also provide aids to navigation for your visitors.
  • Posts—Posts are typically the entries on a blog page, presented in reverse chronological order (most recent first). Contrast this to content on a page, which is usually just referred to as “content” or “the page.”
    • Categories and tags—Words or phrases that are used to organize the content of your blog. Categories are broader and can have a hierarchy while tags are useful only for identification. So, for example, at the INANE site there is a category for “Annual Conference.” Individual posts can be tagged with the year of the conference and/or the location.
    • Comments—One of the things people love about blogging is the ability to receive input from readers, in the form of comments. You can answer these comments, which makes the reader feel engaged with you and the content. By default, a blog post has comments enabled, but you can turn this off. You can also set comments to be moderated, which means you must approve them before they can be posted.
  • Media—You write your posts and pages using text; media are the things you add, such as pictures and videos. You can also upload documents for people to access—these are also considered media.
  • Feedback—A feedback page allows people to get in touch with you directly without exposing your email address. Depending on the platform you are using, you might be able to create a poll or have readers rate something as a type of feedback, too.
  • Users—People who can go behind the scenes at your site and do things (compared to readers who just look at the content). Types of users include administrators, editors, authors, and contributors, each with descending levels of authority. If you create the site, you will be the administrator, which means you can do everything, including deleting the site completely. Clearly, you don’t want to give too many people administrative privileges! In general, blogs and websites are public, which means that anyone can look at them. You might decide to create a private blog, however. In that case, you will need to invite readers to be able to access your blog, which will require them to enter a password.

A Few More Thoughts on Blogs

We’re not trying to overwhelm you, but we really want to emphasize that a blog/website is a great way to establish a professional presence on the Internet. People automatically turn to the Internet and Google to find information; if they read something you have written and want to learn more, then don’t let them be disappointed when they can’t find anything about you! You might not feel that you need to promote yourself using a blog and other resources discussed in this chapter—but that’s sort of the whole point of this book. It is a new world and to really stay on top of things, you need to be embracing these new technologies.

You might ask, why not just do all this through Facebook? We know there are people who use their Facebook page sort of like a blog, with long posts. But it doesn’t have the versatility of categories, tagging, adding media, and so on. We think in the long run, a free-standing blog will provide better service. One thing you can do is link your blog to your Facebook page. Then, every time you write a new post, it will also post on Facebook. That way, friends who prefer to browse on Facebook will have access to the content on that site.

You put a lot of work into your blog—here are a few last thoughts to keep in mind for it to be successful:

  • Keep it updated and post new content regularly. Remember that the D in “PLEASED” (see Chapter 4) stands for Date. You want to keep your site current—this is what will make people return.
  • Decide on the focus of your blog, and stick to that focus. While you don’t have to be 100% about your professional work, all the time, it is better know your overall objective and keep with that. If you look at Peggy’s website, for example, you will see that she mentions her quilting hobby, but more specific information is at her quilt website (https://peggysquilts.shutterfly.com/). Her website and blog is primarily about her professional work, writing, and teaching.
  • Get rid of the placeholders in your theme and make them personal. One nice thing about themes is that a lot of work is predone in terms of layout and format. But you need to go in and customize each of these elements—or remove the ones that don’t apply to you. Simple changes like this make the site uniquely yours and convey to your readers that you know what you are doing (even if some of that is bluffing, at first!).
  • Similar to placeholders, get rid of the stock pictures that may come with the site and put in your own pictures that are personal and meaningful to you. Stock pictures on blogs are like ClipArt in PowerPoint—we’ve all seen the images a million times and are tired of them.
  • Write something about yourself—create an “About Me” page. Again, readers are interested in who you are and your background. You don’t have to reveal a million private details, but a photo and some text to introduce yourself will help make your blog meaningful and personal.
  • Interact with your readers—if you receive comments on posts, answer them. The answer can be as simple as “Thanks for this!” but it shows you are paying attention. Similarly, if you have opted to moderate comments before posting, make sure to moderate them quickly so that the reader knows you saw the comment.


“There Are No Dumb Questions” 6.3

Q: My college maintains a faculty roster which includes information about me, including a picture, my publications, research interests, and so on. Why would I go to all the effort of creating a blog?

A: That’s great that your college does that, as it is a very useful resource for people visiting the site, particularly prospective students. However, we imagine that the content on the site is not under your control, meaning you must rely on the webmaster to apply updates. And the content they allow is probably limited to a standard template that leaves out much of the material that makes you and your work unique and attractive. The advantage of a blog is that you are in charge. Also, with a blog, there is no restriction on what you can present and how—it’s all up to you.


The last area of social networking that we’ll mention is one of the oldest: forums. Forums on the Internet grew out of the bulletin board systems (BBS) and Usenet discussion groups. Unlike a blog or your Facebook page, which is primarily about you (and you control the content), a forum is a discussion area where participants with common interests can share open messages. Some of the resources mentioned earlier, such as Academia.edu, are not totally unlike forums, although the discussion dimension is limited.

Just like there are specific platforms for blogging, there is software for forum development and maintenance, which is why many diverse forums may have a similar look. Two of the more common are Simple Machines (http://www.simplemachines.org/) and ProBoards (https://www.proboards.com/). Now—don’t misunderstand—we are not encouraging you to develop a forum! Getting a forum up and running, and keeping it going, is a huge undertaking and not for the faint hearted. Consider the case of kboards (kboards.com) a forum for those who like to read books on the Amazon Kindle. Leslie has been a member since 2008 (in fact, she is member number 24). Now the site has more than 80,000 members! Running the site is almost a full-time job for the owner.

Forums work best when you get to know the people who are members and feel like you are interacting with a community of friends. If you join a busy, active forum you might feel a little lost at first which is not a surprising reaction. But take some time to read the threads and learn the etiquette of the forum. Soon names will be familiar and you may want to enter the discussion—go ahead and do so.

Using Google, we found a few nurse-specific forums. We have not been members so we really can’t comment on the type of experience these sites provide, but we wanted to let you know they are out there.


This chapter has introduced a variety of resources for social networking. Keep in mind the points introduced at the beginning of the chapter about online etiquette—those rules apply in any context, whether you are visiting a forum, posting on someone else’s Facebook page, or interacting with readers at your own blog. There are multiple opportunities out there for networking and sharing. Although it is not humanly possible to access everything and keep up with all of them, we do encourage you to visit a variety of sites and do some exploring. Find out what appeals to you in terms of content and discussion. Create an online presence so that you will be an effective digital networker. Not only is it fun, but doing so will benefit you and your professional work.


Schmitt, T. L., Sims-Giddens, S. S., & Booth, R. G. (2012). Social media use in nursing education. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 17(3), 2. doi:10.3912./OJIN.VolNo03Man02

Wecker, M. (2014). Should you share your research on Academia.edu? Retrieved April 3, 2015, from https://chroniclevitae.com/news/345-should-you-share-your-research-on-academia-edu

Chapter 7

Producing Supplementary Digital Content


Supplementary digital content (SDC) is part of the magic of digital publishing! In the world of print the only alternatives to prose text were illustrations and photographs and other content to supplement the text which was primarily limited to tables, figures, or graphs. Production of any of these supplements on paper is an expensive proposition, especially if they are in color. But authors and publishers recognize the power of visualization other than text to improve the value of the content and to make the message of the text much more powerful. Digital publishing has opened the way to include not only traditional supplementary materials, but also a host of other ways to expand the content itself and improve the message of the text.

Even the most formal and technical publications are increasingly seeking to include SDC to increase the power of the message, to add visual appeal, and to expand the scope of the material presented by including illustrations that would take long passages of text to explain. The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” rings very true in almost any situation, and digital publishing makes this possible to an extent never before seen in the print world. Even if your topic does not seem to lend itself well to illustrations and media, stretch your imagination to think of ways to enhance your manuscript with interesting, colorful, and eye-catching content that helps to draw attention to your message.

In this chapter we explain the common forms of SDC along with cautionary notes about how to use it and general guidelines for its production. First, there are a few issues to keep in mind as you consider adding any type of SDC to your manuscript:

  • Permissions: If you produce your own content, you can include it as part of the original work of the text itself. If you borrow or adapt any content from existing sources, you will need to obtain permission from the owner of the original material, and provide adequate attribution to the original source in your own publication.
  • Media quality standards: There are now many tools you can use to produce your own content, but for some material you may need to seek professional assistance to achieve acceptable standards of quality in the media you wish to include. We include typical standards of quality for each type of media discussed here, but consult with your publisher or the journal editor to confirm their minimum quality standards for any media you intend to develop and include.
  • Digital format of the publication: There are several formats used to publish digital content. The types of SDC that you can use, as well as how that content is accessed, varies depending on the underlying format of the publication itself. Flash and HTML5 formats are most often used for magazines and they accommodate the most sophisticated types of SDC, including animations and video content embedded directly into the publication. ePub and mobi files are used for content that is designed to be accessed using eReaders, and there are limitations in what kinds of supplemental content can be included as a part of the eReader content. Instead, interactive and animated content is typically accessed by way of links to supplemental material stored on the Internet. Your publisher will have guidelines to follow based on the format of the final publication.
  • Final manuscript: SDC is typically submitted as files that are separate from the manuscript itself. Do not insert SDC in the manuscript; instead, include a line in the manuscript indicating where your SDC should appear in the final publication. Each form of SDC requires different production processes, and the publisher needs separate files in order to prepare each supplemental item properly. Tables and graphs can easily become distorted and nonsensical in a digital format unless they are prepared properly. Photographs and other artwork require particular kinds of editing in order to retain maximum quality in digital formats. Publishers know the technical requirements of the systems they are using and are equipped to handle these issues, so follow their guidelines for what you need to provide and then leave the rest to the experts!

Creating Supplemental Digital Content


Photographs for publication need to be the best and highest quality possible. Whether you take photographs yourself or have someone else take them, you need to understand the quality parameters required for publication as well as a few basic guidelines for composing and taking photos that will make the best illustrations for your publication. Photos that are posted on a blog or website do not need to be as large as those that are intended for publication in a book or journal; in fact if they are too large they will make the web page very slow to load. For use on the web, a typical maximum width size is 600 pixels, which fits nicely on most websites and provides sufficient resolution.

If you have photographs that have already been taken, or even vintage photos that might enhance your work, you can consult with a professional photographer or with your publisher or journal editor to determine if the photos you have can be used in the publication you are planning. For example, if you have photographs that were taken by participants in your research study, or by someone at a historical time that you are writing about, these may not reach the required quality standards but because of their significance to your work, the publisher may be willing to have them included with the understanding that the lower level of quality will be understood by the reader to be related to the circumstance under which they were produced.

Photographs can usually be submitted as JPEG, GIF, or PNG files. The quality of photographs for publication is most often referred to as the “resolution” and is measured by pixels (or dots) per inch, known as “PPI” or “DPI.” The minimum acceptable PPI for photographs is 300 PPI. If text is included in the photograph, the requirement increases to 600 PPI. Often the image size – width × height or W × H – is also specified. This is typically at least 2600 × 3900 pixels for digital photographs. If you can select the image size that your digital camera saves, select the highest resolution possible, and use a camera with a resolution of at least 3 megapixels. The photo in Figure 7.1 is 300 PPI and 136000 × 10200 W × H, taken with an iPhone6 at mid-day.

When you take photos for your publication, consider these factors to get the best image possible:

  • Take photos in the best possible lighting. Daytime natural light is best, and the source of light needs to be in front of your subject, not behind it. Avoid flash, especially if you are taking the photo at close range.
  • Compose the frame of your picture so that your subject fills most of the frame, and is at the center of the frame. Even if your subject is in a lovely setting, come in close to the subject and leave the setting out (unless of course the setting IS your “subject”). Do not use the camera’s “zoom” features—come in close to the subject for the best quality (and avoid flash!).
  • Do not edit the photos yourself unless your publisher asks you to do so, and avoid saving the image more than once on your computer. If you save a JPEG image multiple times, or edit certain features of the image, the quality of the image decreases. Leave the editing to professionals! If you have a good resolution image, with good lighting on your subject, it is probably going to work well for publication.

Figure 7.1 – Mural painting on wall in Oakland.

Figure 7.1 – Mural painting on wall in Oakland.


“Try This” 7.1

Use your smart phone to take a picture of something that relates to your line of work, or ask a friend to take your photograph with your smart phone. Then transfer the photo to your computer, open it in a photo application and check the image size. If the PPI for the photo is less than 300, then you can attempt to increase the PPI, which will also increase the width and height of the file. Next, try saving the file with a width of 600 pixels (an optimum size for the web), and compare the results of this size with the larger size you would use for publication in a journal or book. Play with these settings to become familiar with what they do.

Tables and Graphs

Tables and graphs are the time-tested and reliable illustrations that we are familiar with from the print age, and they remain important for digital publishing. However, some digital formats do not reproduce tables and graphs adequately—they often appear in eBooks, for example, as very small images that cannot be sized adequately for the reader to actually see the content. Or, in other formats they can become so distorted that they no longer even resemble a table or graph. This is because tables and graphs require alignment on two axes—horizontal and vertical—and digital formats require specific code to retain this kind of alignment while at the same time retaining the digital capabilities of zooming in and out along with correct x and y alignment. Check with your publisher to make sure that any tables or graphs you might use can be formatted adequately for digital visualization.

Tables should be submitted as word processing files, not as presentation (e.g., Power point or Keynote), or spreadsheet files. If you originally set up the table using an application other than a word processing file, convert the table to a word processing format. The publisher will work with these files to make sure that all columns and rows remain aligned properly in digital format.

Graphs and other line art such as diagrams or drawings, also involve alignment on an x- and y-axes, but rather than the alignment of rows and columns of text, graphs and line art involve the placement of one point in space relative to another, with the sequence of points creating what we visualize as a line. In order for the points to retain their correct alignment with one another in digital format, the type of file you submit must conform to the publisher’s quality standards. Most publishers can accept, and some prefer graphs and line art created in Microsoft Office (DOC, PPT, or XLS) or similar office suites. If you have a graph or line art prepared using other kinds of applications, the final file must be a vector (a graphic standard for line art) file or saved at a resolution of at least 1200 PPI. Graphic or line art that is already published in print usually needs to be redrawn for digital publication; the only way for you to reproduce these figures from paper is by photographing or scanning the figure as a JPEG file. You may be able to produce a JPEG file with the proper resolution (typically 1200 PPI) but in all likelihood you cannot obtain this level of resolution with a photographed or scanned image of material originally published in print. You will still need to obtain permission to use or adapt the figure that was originally published and will need to provide attribution to the original source. We present more detail on charts and graphs in the upcoming section on slide shows.


Video can be a wonderful feature, even for scholarly publications! Video is a very appealing medium and draws attention to your work in ways that no other media can. Video adds the sensory channels of sound and movement, making content come alive and become engaging. You can make video yourself, either with or without professional assistance, or you can use existing video that is already posted online.

If you are considering using video posted online by someone else, in addition to determining attribution of the source, you must also consider the likelihood that the video will remain in this online location permanently. Video content on the web is very unstable unless it is posted by a reputable and ongoing organization that has a vested interest in assuring that their content will remain stable on the web. Even video that you post yourself can disappear if, down the road, the account where you host the video expires. Depending on how critical the video content is to the overall message of your publication, you may need to work with the publisher or journal editor to embed the video on a hosting service that will be as stable as your publication itself.

If you want to include a video that is already posted on the web, you only need to include the link to the video in your manuscript. You may need to obtain permission to use the video. In all cases be sure to provide whatever attribution is appropriate in addition to the link to the original video. For example, suppose you want to include a video produced by a charitable organization. In all likelihood the organization will be delighted for you to include the video and will provide the necessary permission(s). Your manuscript will contain the link that either embeds or directs your reader to the website where the video is posted, but as a courtesy you can include some information about the organization in your narrative text to place the material in context.

Most smart phones produced after 2013 have video capacity that is adequate for publication, and these have the advantage of providing direct access to uploading to a website that hosts video such as YouTube or Vimeo. Regardless of the camera you use, plan for a way to stabilize it during recording, either by using a tripod to hold the camera, or by stabilizing the handheld camera on a stable object. There are situations where it is acceptable to use video taken without a stable camera, such as the inclusion of footage from an impromptu filming of a public, unplanned incident.

You may need or want to edit video to delete segments that appear in the original file that do not or should not be included in the final version, or to insert clips that need to be aligned in a sequence of time for final viewing. However, the most common use of video in publications that are primarily presented as text is to provide enhancements or supplements for the text and they should be very brief (1 to 4 minutes) and clearly add value to the text. Typically this kind of video requires very little, if any, editing and your publisher may prefer to take your raw video and do whatever editing is needed for you.

Increasingly publishers are interested in publishing “video abstracts” of articles, which provide a brief (1 to 3 minutes) video that gives an overview or background to an article. If the author is shown talking about the article, it provides introduction to the author and a more personal connection to the content of the article.

Here is an example of a very effective video abstract:


In this video, notice several features that make it effective:

  • It was made in a setting that is significant to the content of the article.
  • The author is speaking directly to the viewer, as if they are on the street together.
  • The author does not read from a script; he may have “prepared” his remarks but he is clearly speaking in a conversational mode that is natural and not “staged.”
  • The author uses hand gestures and body movements that are natural and that match the message of his words.
  • The author moves, but the camera was held very still. Ideally the camera should be mounted on a tripod, or braced securely against a stable object if it is handheld.
  • The lighting and other “quality” features are adequate, but not as strict as would be required for still photography. In fact, the “ad hoc,” relaxed, and somewhat amateur nature of the video adds to its appeal.
  • The video was uploaded to YouTube directly from the recording device (iPhones work great!)


Animations – cartoons – are another medium you may consider for SDC although we will admit, we haven’t seen much done along these lines in healthcare publications. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a pioneer, however! What are some of the advantages you might want to consider for using animation?

  • Gain understanding—ideas or concepts that are complex or difficult to visualize can be presented in a pictorial fashion, transforming the information for the reader. For example, circulation through the heart is impossible to see, short of observing open heart surgery in the operating room. Even then, the number of people and machinery present would likely obstruct your view, rendering this a less than ideal situation for learning the process. On the other hand, a simple animation, such as this one from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, makes the path of the blood, the contractions of the atria and ventricles, and the opening and closing of the various valves all crystal clear: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hhw/contraction
  • Communicate quickly—if a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a 1 minute of video and animation is estimated to be 1.8 million words! So says James McQuivey (2008) of Forrester Research. Even if his number is an exaggeration, it does make the point that an animation can communicate a great deal of information in a very short time.
    • This is an anecdotal figure which he arrived at by playing with numbers:
      • A picture = 1,000 words
      • Video shoots at 30 frames/second so 1 second of video = 30,000 words
      • 30,000 × 60 seconds = 1.8 million words
  • Grab attention—In Chapter 1 we talked about digital immigrants compared to digital natives. The latter use time quickly by scanning and moving on—they do not read every word on the page. An animation can quickly grab and hold someone’s attention for 30 to 60 seconds—long enough to get a point across.
  • Retain information—According to Wood-Mitchell (2013), viewers retain 58% more of information from an animation compared to viewing black and white images in text. This is because an animation appeals to both the left and right side of our brain.


Infographics, or information graphics, have been around for a long time, even before digital publishing. But with the recent explosion of digital publishing, and the development of free or low-cost do-it-yourself online tools for creating them, infographics have become immensely popular. They are visual representations of complex information, data, and/or knowledge in a way that show complex relationships, patterns, and trends. The power of infographics is in the power of the visual presentation to enhance the human capacity to comprehend complex relationships. Figure 7.2 is an infographic that was created to illustrate the concept of “a 60-second animation is equal to 1.8 million words.”


“Try This” 7.2

If you are ready to try your hand at making a simple animation, here are two free tools that come well recommended:

  • PowToon (http://www.powtoon.com/). The free version has a limited number of templates and music but it is enough to let you play around and see if an animation is right for you. The site has lots of tutorials and hints on getting started which are available even to free users.
  • Prezi (https://prezi.com/). Prezi is a combination slide show/animation creator that is fairly easy to use. If you use the free version your presentations will be publicly visible and you are limited to 100 MB of storage. Still, even with the free version, you have access to dozens of templates and lots of useful tutorials. While rummaging through the site, we came across a Prezi on the benefits of animation, created by a user named Jessica Benton in the fall of 2014. You can watch it here: https://prezi.com/d4d5m6ymo7jr/animation/

Figure 7.2 – Infographic from IdeaRocket (http://idearocketanimation.com/4293-video-worth-1-million-words/).

Figure 7.2 – Infographic from IdeaRocket (http://idearocketanimation.com/4293-video-worth-1-million-words/).

Infographics are powerful tools that:

  • include and build on traditional graphs, but they go far beyond the traditional graph to portray, using images, shapes and icons, relationships, or trends that explain what the graphic information is built on.
  • make sense of large sets of data.
  • encourage the eye to move around, to compare and take in many factors and see patterns among the various pieces.
  • move from broad general concepts, drilling down to specifics that form a larger pattern.
  • reveal substance in the larger picture, while showing the building blocks that form the larger picture.

Because infographics are so effective in conveying complex ideas and carry a powerful message, they have become very popular in social media to broadcast an intended message, often connected to commercial or political campaigns. But if you are preparing a publication that is based on large, complex data sets or complex relationships that intersect with one another, consider building an infographic. The infographic file, because it is complex and typically integrates a wide variety images, may stored on the web and accessed by way of a link to the online file, although you can see from the picture above that it is possible to store a small infographic as an image file, in this case a .png.

There are many online tools to build your own infographic. This article from Creative Bloq provides an overview of 10 different programs: http://www.creativebloq.com/infographic/tools-2131971. Note that, as is the case with many of the resources we have discussed, there are usually free versus paid versions. The former usually have a limited number of templates and storage, but once again, they are generally robust enough to allow you to get started and try your hand at becoming an infographic artist.

Slide Presentations

“Slide” presentation is actually a misnomer since there aren’t any slides nor is there a slide projector anymore! But for more than a century, slides (and overheads) were the dominant technology to present visual images, whether to students in school, clients in business, or on a Saturday evening at home with friends. It sounds almost unbelievable now, but a popular form of home entertainment in the mid-20th century was spending an evening with friends watching slides from a recent trip or vacation. This is all history, now. Kodak, the dominant company in photographic processes and equipment, ceased production of its last slide projector, the Ektapro, in October, 2004.

Even though slides and their associated projectors are history (see Figure 7.3), the terminology they created is still in use: people talk about slide shows, slide decks, and slide presentations. Although we are sure that Microsoft would like the term “PowerPoint” to become ubiquitous (like Ditto machine and Kleenex), we have noticed that it hasn’t completely taken over the lexicon.

We suspect that anyone reading this has probably made at least one electronic slide show, mostly likely using PowerPoint, at some time in your career. Perhaps you have made dozens. But like word processing programs (see Chapter 2) we have learned that many people use the technology poorly and create presentations that are mind-numbingly dull, amateurish in terms of graphics and animations, and next to impossible to see from any distance. Thus we present a brief tutorial on tips you should learn and use to make sure your presentations stand out from the crowd.


“Leslie’s Tidbit” 7.1

My father was an avid amateur photographer, taking both still photos as well as movies. I very clearly remember many evenings of slide shows, often running so long that our eyes glazed over and we all fell asleep on the floor! We have had his movies (25 years worth of family history) transferred to DVD so that we can watch them anew—and in small doses, they are actually quite entertaining. More amazing was a cache of old movies that we discovered from my grandfather (on my mother’s side), covering the period from 1929 to 1939 which have also been transferred to DVD. Filmed in Boston and Marblehead, Mass; Lake Sunapee, NH; and Ogunquit, Maine, they are remarkable historical artifacts. Imagine my amazement to see my mom, in live action, at the age of 3! I immediately knew it was she because I recognized her but also because she was wearing a dress that she wore in a family portrait that had hung on the wall of our home forever. Seeing mom, in that dress and moving was nothing short of breathtaking.

For a fun stroll down memory lane, go to YouTube and search on “slide projector advertisements.” Here’s an example of one from 1957:


Figure 7.3 – Kodak Kodachrome Slides, circa 1937 when they were first invented in the United States.

Figure 7.3 – Kodak Kodachrome Slides, circa 1937 when they were first invented in the United States.
  • Keep it simple. Limit the information that is contained on each slide. If you are presenting at a conference, then you will be discussing the information—you don’t need to read your slides to the audience. If you are creating a slide set as SDC, then your reader will have other assets, including your article, to help him/her understand the content. Use your slides to convey essential information and key points. For bulleted lists, try to stick to three to four bullets on a slide—even less is better.
  • Keep it readable. Use appropriate fonts and make them large enough for people to see. Experts recommend that “sans serif” fonts such as Arial and Helvetica are best for presentations. Text is best at 24 point or larger; titles should be 36 to 44 point. If you find you can’t fit the text into the box, don’t make the font smaller (or the box bigger)—change how much information you are trying to squeeze on the slide.
  • Use visuals, not text. Following on the points made earlier in this chapter, consider using high-quality visuals, including your own photographs. Remember, a picture is worth 1,000 words! And, while it is quick and easy to grab clip art from the gallery, everyone has probably seen that clip art image a zillion times. Try to come up with some original visuals.


“Leslie’s Tidbit” 7.2

Modern slide technology was first invented by Agfa, in Germany, in 1916. However, due to World War I, the technology was not exported to any other country. In the United States, slides were first produced by Eastman Kodak of Rochester, NY in 1937.

  • Limit the use of transitions and “builds.” Object builds (items appearing on the slide) and transitions (how one slide transitions into another) can be distracting to the viewer. Overdoing transitions and builds makes your presentation look amateurish. Similarly, be judicious in your use of music within a presentation and make sure it enhances the message you are conveying.
  • Use charts to convey information. Charts are a visual way to show complex data to the viewer. Here are a few chart hints:
    • Pie charts. To show percentages. Limit the slices to four to six and show the most important information with an exploding slice.
    • Vertical bar charts. Used to show changes in quantity over time. Best if the bars are limited to four to eight.
    • Horizontal bar charts. Used to compare quantities. Again, best if limited to four to eight bars.
    • Line charts. Used to demonstrate trends. Be careful with how many lines you include on one chart, and how many data points are on the x- and y-axes.
    • Tables versus charts—tables are the usual format for conveying quantitative data in an article but in a presentation, they can be hard to read and lack impact. Consider changing tabular data into a chart.
  • Think about color—and how people will be viewing your presentation. You do not need to be a color theory expert, but a few basic tips can make a big difference. Cool colors (such as blue and green) are good for backgrounds as they appear to recede, while warm colors (such as orange and red) and good for objects in the foreground, that is, text. If you will be presenting in a live setting in a dark room, then a dark background with light text is best. On the other hand, if you will be in a room with the lights on, then a light background with dark text is better. Since you may not know this in advance, we recommend the latter. In addition, this scheme is best for viewing online.
  • Think about a different theme, or template. PowerPoint comes with a number of built in themes and more are available to download online. Even so, many of these themes have been overused and as a result, are tired and old. If you are feeling adventurous, try your hand at creating your own theme. Figure 7.4 illustrates a PowerPoint template that Leslie developed for the INANE 2014 conference. As you can see, the theme included the conference logo, date, and URL for the conference website. This theme was used for a year for all presentations (before, during, and after the conference) and helped to reinforce the conference image for all participants.

Along these same lines, you do not have to use PowerPoint to create a presentation. You can start with a fresh new look and really wow your audience. One such option is Prezi (mentioned in the previous section) or Emaze (http://www.emaze.com/). Both have free options and plenty of templates that you can use for exploring. They are more closely integrated with social media (see Chapter 6) than PowerPoint, allowing you to share your presentation via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, to name a few. Just for fun, Leslie created an Emaze presentation to publicize this book; you can see it here: http://app.emaze.com/@AOQWCQZW/digital-writing-promo


SDC can extend the message that is presented in your article and engage your readers in new and exciting ways. Most journals offer the option of creating SDC to accompany articles published in their journals; you should take advantage of this opportunity. Be thoughtful in thinking about what type of SDC is best to convey your information, be it photos, animations, videos, or a slide presentation. SDC for your article may extend to creating multiple types of media to share your article with a variety of audiences. This will be discussed in more detail in the next chapter.

Figure 7.4 – INANE 2014 PowerPoint Template.

Figure 7.4 – INANE 2014 PowerPoint Template.


McQuivey, J. L. (2008). How video will take over the world. Forrester Research. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from https://www.forrester.com/How+Video+Will+Take+Over+The+World/fulltext/-/E-RES44199?isTurnHighlighting=false&highlightTerm=1.8 million words

Wood-Mitchell, N. (2013). Top five reasons businesses use animation. Three Motion. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from http://threemotion.co.uk/5-reasons-to-use-animation/

Chapter 8

Getting the Word Out to A Larger Audience


With so much focus on producing publications in scholarly journals in order to meet expectations for advancement in academic and clinical institutions, it is easy to overlook the need for getting reliable and trustworthy information out to the public. If you are under pressure to produce scholarly articles and believe that you do not have the time to invest in writing for a larger audience, shift your thinking a bit to view what you write for a broader audience, including lay readers, as contributing to your effectiveness and skill in writing scholarly papers. Here are some of the benefits that carry over to your professional papers:

  • You gain practice and skill in writing. Consider a short blog post you write as a time to develop and refine your writing habit and writing skill.
  • Writing for a broader audience forces you to examine the language you use to express complex ideas, which carries over to major improvements and clarification in your professional writing.
  • Feedback and responses from people who read what you write is like gold in the bank, giving you a much richer understanding of how your ideas are being received so that you can refine all of your writing.
  • Having a focus on the public benefit of your work enriches and energizes your commitment to persist in developing and growing your work.

In the past, if you wanted to reach a broader audience you had to either write a book, or find a way to connect with a magazine to negotiate getting your message into their pages. Now with digital avenues, you can reach a much wider audience in a number of ways with no middle-person or publisher. There are several ways in the digital environment that we recommend that you use to share your expertise with the public, each of which we describe in this chapter.

Professional Communication

In all of the discussion that follows, you may be writing to someone, such as an editor or reporter. Thus it is important to reinforce a few basics of professional communication. Even though you are communicating electronically, most likely using email, you are still relying on the written word and so the tried and true rules of how to communicate via letters still apply. We appreciate the irony of requiring a format and style created years ago to write letters electronically in the 21st century, but as they say, “It is what it is.” The impression you create with a letter is immediate and lasting, so it is important to know and follow a few basic guidelines.

Business Letters

The earliest recorded and surviving business letters were written in the 15th century, using guidelines put forth in the ars dictaminus—“the art of prose composition.” Letters were written in Latin by scribes who followed the rules of the ars dictaminus to write letters for their masters, patrons, or employers. Even though we don’t use the ars dictaminus anymore, many of the basic elements that were described: address, salutation (Dear…), valediction (closing, such as Sincerely yours,), attestation (signature), and date are still essential features of a business letter.

In addition to the elements of a business letter, you must consider the style, of which there are three types: block, modified block, and semi-block. Block is most common and easiest to do. Using this format, the entire letter is left justified and single spaced except for a double space between paragraphs and spacing between the elements (date, address, and so on). We suggest using the block format but if you are interested in the others, the rules are:

  • Modified block—the body of the letter and the sender’s and recipient’s addresses are left justified and single-spaced. However, for the date and closing, tab to the center point and begin to type.
  • Semi-block—similar to the modified block style except that each paragraph is indented instead of left justified. This is the least commonly used style.

The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University gives examples of all three, if you want to see what they look like: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/653/01/

Font is also important. To be on the safe side, select Times New Roman, 12 point. In general, you want your letter to be on one page, to achieve this, you may find you need to adjust the margins or font. That is fine, but don’t go below 11 point—otherwise it will be too small for most people to read easily.

The “paper” you use is also important, because it will dictate what elements must be included. We say “paper” in quotes because you may not be printing the letter on actual paper but your file that contains the letter is still expected to be visually the same as it would look if it were printed on paper. You should find out if your employer provides electronic letterhead that you can use and if so, use it. If you are writing for yourself (not representing yourself as an employee of your university or clinical setting), then you might consider creating your own electronic letterhead.

Now that you have your style, font, and paper selected, the next steps are to put everything in place to write your letter. The elements of a business letter are as follows:

  • Sender’s address—which is your address. This is not needed if you are using electronic letterhead. Include your complete address (depending on the address, these elements may vary): name of business, mailstop/office number/suite number/unit, street, city, and zip code. Do not include your name because that is part of the signature.
  • Date—skip one line after the sender’s address, or, if using letterhead, put this at the top of the page. If you are in the US, write the date with the month spelled out, followed by the numeric date and year. The date should be the date the letter was completed. If you had to have the letter reviewed and approved by someone, make sure to update the date before sending it out.
  • Inside address—the recipient’s address. Include the recipient’s name and credentials, along with a complete address. If you can’t find the recipient’s name—say for example, the editor of a journal that you are submitting a manuscript to—then do a little digging to get the information. If you can’t find the information online, pick up the phone and ask!
  • Salutation—skip one line and type Dear followed by the recipient’s name with the correct personal title. If, from the credentials you see the person has a PhD or MD or other doctoral degree, address them as Dr. If you are not sure, then err on the side of caution and address them as Dr. Most people don’t mind being promoted to a higher rank in a business letter! On the other hand, don’t write “To Whom It May Concern” especially if you have the recipient’s name in the inside address. Mr., Ms., and Miss are all acceptable for nondoctorally prepared people. If you have absolutely no idea if a person is male or female (i.e., in the case of a name like Leslie, Robin, or Chris), then you can address the letter to Dear FirstName LastName—but like we said before, do a little research before you resort to this option. Close the salutation with a colon.
  • Body—skip one line and begin your letter. Be polite and clear to the point about why you are writing. If you are writing a cover letter in conjunction with submitting a manuscript to a journal, then include the title of your article in the first paragraph. Some journals request that certain information be included in the cover letter, such as a statement that the manuscript has not been submitted anywhere else for review. Make sure to review the information for authors to see if there is any essential information you need to convey to the editor in this letter. The body of the letter is single spaced with a blank line between each paragraph. Do everything you can to keep the letter to one page.
  • Closing—skip a line and type the closing salutation (Sincerely, Sincerely yours, With kind regards, Thank you,) then skip four lines and type your name followed by your credentials. Below your name (no extra lines) you may include your title. If it is not on the letterhead, you may also include your email address and phone number. Note that on the salutation, only the first word is capitalized and it is followed by a comma.
  • Enclosure or cc:—optional, depending on the circumstance. Enclosure(s) refers to a letter that includes additional information, such as a CV. If you have copied the letter to someone else, such as a co-author, type cc: followed by the person’s name.

Previously, the typist usually included the initials of the signatory, in capitals, followed by the typist’s initials, in lowercase, like this: LHN/sas at the very end, but that convention seems to have disappeared, since we are all typing our own letters these days!

Producing the Letter

You have a couple of options for producing the letter. If you have electronic letterhead, or if you typed the letter with your address as the first element, then you can save it and attach to an email. We recommend saving as a PDF (Adobe format) since this format is universally read and difficult for someone to alter. You can also print on letterhead, sign by hand (“wet signature”), then scan and save as a PDF. This works fine and is completely acceptable but it does involve a few extra steps on your part!

Even if you plan to email the letter as an attachment, we suggest that you print it for your final proofread, particularly if it is a very important letter, that is, you are applying for a job. Typos, misspellings, and other errors when seen on paper versus on a computer screen seem to jump out. In the interest of saving resources, print your draft letter on the back of another (already used) piece of paper. When letters were typed on typewriters, there was a rule of thumb that you were allowed three corrections per page but that is not true anymore. Make every effort to have your letter be error-free.

Electronic Signatures

Many people send an electronic letter without a signature, or they type in their name in a different font (one that looks like script) with the notation, “digitally signed.” You can also take a snapshot of your actual pen and paper signature, save it to your computer, and insert it as an image and adjust the size to fit in the signature area on your letter. These approaches can work and may be acceptable in most cases. But some documents may require a verified electronic signature (which is not the same as a digital signature). For the purpose of this discussion, we are focusing on simple electronic signatures which are valid and acceptable in most day-to-day situations. (Note that we are not attorneys and this advice is not to be taken as binding in a court of law!). There are lots of apps out there for creating signatures. Some that we have used include:

  • Adobe Acrobat or Reader: both versions of this program include signing features but we have found them finicky and hard to use. If you own or have access to the program through an institutional license, and can make the signature feature work for you, then this might be the easiest solution.
  • HelloSign: this app is integrated with Gmail, making it easy to sign any document you receive as an attachment. You get three free documents per month; paid plans begin at $13/month paid annually. Note that if you want to sign a letter (or other document) that you have written, you need to email it to yourself. https://www.hellosign.com/
  • Docusign: integrated with various email programs as well as cloud services such as Dropbox. The company offers a one month free trial; after that, pricing is $10/month which allows you to sign five documents. https://www.docusign.com/
  • SignEasy: works from an app on a device such as an iPhone, iPad, or Kindle Fire. We find that this limits the utility—if you are writing a letter on your laptop and want to sign it, you will need to save it and open on your tablet. Still, the price is reasonable: $5/year for 10 documents, or $40 for unlimited documents. http://getsigneasy.com/

E-mail Communication

The above discussion assumes you are writing a letter and sending it as an attachment to an email, or, in the case of a cover letter for a manuscript, uploading it as a file with a manuscript submission. Not all situations require an actual business letter—it may be sufficient to send an email. Even so, etiquette guidelines for business communication still apply. In particular: (1) be clear in the subject line about the topic of your message; (2) address the recipient appropriately; (3) be clear and direct about the purpose of your email; (4) use proper punctuation and capitalization; (5) proofread for errors; and (6) include complete contact information in your signature block.

When writing a business email, use the subject line to your advantage. Make it clear why you are writing, that is, “Article query for Computers, Informatics, Nursing” or “Question for the editor, Dr. Leslie Nicoll.” You do not need to include the date or inside address as you would on a letter. But you should include a salutation with the recipient’s name (do your homework!) followed by a colon. If you do not know the person, address him/her professionally, that is, Dear Dr. Chinn. If Dr. Chinn writes back and signs her email as Peggy, then you are probably okay to respond to her by her first name, but sticking with Dr. Chinn is fine, too.

Keep your email direct and to the point. Use paragraphs to break up the text—it is harder (and slower) to read on a screen versus paper so you want to make it easy for the recipient to get through your message (Dillon, McKnight, & Richardson, 1988). Similarly, use proper capitalization, punctuation, and grammar. We are not sure why some people think it is acceptable to write an email in all lower case letters, but it drives us crazy!

If your email is very lengthy and with lots of questions that require multiple responses, you may consider writing this as a series of separate emails, each one asking one specific question. Say, for example, you are on the planning committee for a conference and you need information about meals, registrations, and sponsorships. Write three messages, one on each topic with a specific subject line for each one. That will make it easier for the recipient to reply and will also keep the messages organized (and easier to search for) in your own email box.

Every email program on the market has the capability to create and store a signature block—figure out how to do this and set one up in your email client. Make sure it is complete (name, address, phone number, email) and accurate. Leslie recently wasted 20 minutes trying to email a man who had the incorrect email address in his signature—he misspelled his own name! In a recent article, Zawicki (2015) argued that signature blocks are unnecessary and redundant, but if you read the comments, you will see that the vast majority disagreed with him. We are of the same mind. Messages get copied, forwarded, and cut-and-pasted. It is much easier to have contact information at the end of each message, even if it is redundant, versus trying to dig up the information from a message header or old message thread.

Last but not least, be mindful of people’s privacy. If you are sending a message to a large number of people who do not need to reply to you, or who can reply to you individually (as opposed to replying to the whole group), then consider using the “bcc” (blind carbon copy) feature in your email client. This will hide each person’s address from the other recipients. In addition to protecting privacy, it makes the message header much shorter for the person receiving the message.

Writing for a Different Type of Journal

The underlying assumption of much of what we have written in this book is that you completed a research study or developed a practice innovation and you are sharing the details of that endeavor in a scholarly journal. However, even the simplest research study (are there really any simple studies?) entails weeks or months of hard work—certainly you want to share that information as widely as possible. In the past, common advice given to researchers was that they should write the research report for a journal such as Nursing Research and then write a second article for a clinical journal. This latter article would report the research in a more accessible and “user friendly” way. Now, with emphasis on evidence-based practice, the expectation is that all health professionals are educated to read, critique, and apply research in their practice and thus they might not need the “user friendly” article. While that might be true, we still believe there is great value in disseminating your findings as widely as possible. Remember what we have said several times before in this book—there are hundreds of professional journals in health care publishing thousands of articles every year. There is a very good chance that if you only publish in one place, your findings will be missed by many who would be interested in your study.

Peer Reviewed or Not

As you investigate other publication outlets, you may come across magazines or newsletters that are not peer reviewed. If you are on a tenure-track faculty line, trying to build your portfolio for peer review, does that mean you should dismiss these publications without any further consideration? Not necessarily. While a non-peer reviewed publication may not “count” in your list of scholarly publications, it does count in terms of the experience you gain in writing the article, as well as the opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise with the readers of the magazine. And, if you (and others like you) contribute well written articles to magazines and newsletters, then that is only going to improve the overall quality of the publication, which turns into a win-win situation for everyone. Frankly, we believe that a résumé that demonstrates a pattern of publication, with different articles in a variety of journals, magazines, and newsletters, is representative of thoughtful scholarship and an organized approach to knowledge dissemination, as opposed to the résumé that has just one or two types of articles listed. The latter strikes us as ticking off a box to meet minimum requirements versus embracing knowledge dissemination from a scholarly perspective.

Writing for a Clinical Journal

The above discussion is not meant to suggest that all clinical journals are not peer reviewed! This is why you must complete your journal due diligence (see Chapter 4) and ascertain what the review process is for the journal you are considering. You should also look carefully at how research is reported in the clinical journal that you are considering. In our experience, editors want you to include enough information about the research method so that readers can evaluate the rigor of your study, but at the same time, the discussion and outcomes are generally of more interest to a clinical audience. So you need to find the right balance in how you report your findings.

As you write your manuscript, keep in mind issues of text recycling and duplicate publication (see Chapter 3). You want to be sure that your manuscript is substantially different from your research report. Focusing on the findings rather than the particulars of the method is one way to achieve this. Putting the findings in the context of clinical practice—can the practitioner use this information now?—is another strategy to help make sure your manuscript is “different” from another publication. Also, you want to be forthcoming and transparent with the editor when you submit your manuscript; make sure to share information about other publications derived from the same data (see Chapter 3).

If you are writing a manuscript for a peer reviewed journal, even if it is not a research report, then all of the information we have discussed so far in this book still applies. Go back to Step 1 of journal due diligence (see Chapter 4) and start with how you will develop your topic to be of interest to the audience that reads the journal you are considering and then move systematically through the process.

Writing for a Newsletter or Magazine

Newsletters and magazines offer a quick and often easy way to share your information. The family of Advance Magazines (http://www.advanceweb.com/), for example, have publications for nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and hearing professionals, respiratory therapists, and more. They publish high quality articles in their magazines, but the process for review and acceptance is usually faster than a traditional peer reviewed manuscript. The writing style is also more relaxed and informal. Contrary to our prior advice, if you are interested in writing for Advance or a similar publication, it is best to contact the magazine with a query to determine if the editorial staff would be interested in your topic. If they are, they will probably provide you with specific guidance to develop your manuscript, including length, style of references (if any), and voice.

Newsletters from organizations such as state nurses’ associations and Sigma Theta Tau chapters are another option to consider. In this case they may be interested in your study or project, but also interested in you as a member who is advancing the profession in your jurisdiction. We can say from experience, editors of these types of publications are always on the lookout for more content to fill their pages. Again, it is best to begin with a query—email is fine—to determine interest and find out specifics for how to style your manuscript.

Keep in mind that the magazine or newsletter may not have a paper publication—it may be online only. Even so, the editor(s) will be looking to update content regularly and would be open to ideas that you might have for timely articles. Also, keep in mind that articles for newsletters and magazines tend to be much shorter than a traditional manuscript for a peer reviewed journal—usually in the range of 1,000 to 1,500 words, maximum.

Writing in Another Language

If you have the skills, you may want to investigate writing an article for a journal in another language that is published in another country. Of course, for this to be relevant, your topic must be meaningful to health professionals in the other country. Some topics, such as wound care or pain management, are universal. On the other hand, very local topics, such as your experience with your hospital’s Magnet™ journey may not be of interest to an international audience.


“Talk About It” 8.1

Get together with a few of your colleagues to brainstorm possibilities for publishing your current writing project idea in various types of publications for different audiences. Come up with at least 3 different possible publication options for each topic. Talk about how you would approach each article differently—what you would emphasize or focus on, and what message you would want to get across for each audience.


“Leslie’s Tidbit” 8.1

Several years ago, I wrote an article on intramuscular (IM) injections that was published in the American Journal of Nursing. Six months later, it appeared in a Portuguese journal but I had nothing to do with the translation or republishing. I only learned of this because I stumbled across the citation on PubMed. It was hard to find because my name was misspelled! Here are the two citations:

Beyea, S. C., & Nicoll, L. H. (1996). Back to basics. Administering IM injections the right way. American Journal of Nursing, Jan;96(1):34–35. PubMed PMID: 8546185.

Beyea, S. C., & Nocoll, L. H. (1996). [Recalling the fundamental principles of the administration of injections: the correct procedure]. Servir, Jul-Aug;44(4):217–219. Portuguese. PubMed PMID: 8920453.

As you consider this option, you should ask the editor if you can simply translate the article into the new language, or if you need to write a totally new report. If the former is acceptable, then you will need to get permission from the publisher, via the editor, to reuse the content in this way. Note that Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins provides permission for such translations at no charge to the author, as long as the reuse is for non-commercial, not-for-profit use. We assume that they are not unique in this regard and that other publishers probably have similar policies.

Distribute a Press Release

A press release is a time honored method to share information about a study or innovation that has been published. While many people believe that press releases are useless and destined only for the trash, the fact that more that 6,42,000 press releases were distributed in 2013—that works out to about 1,759 per day—suggests that they are not entirely worthless (Hoffman, 2014).

If you are considering a press release, we suggest that you don’t try to do it all by yourself. Avail yourself of professional resources, such as the public relations department at your university or clinical work setting, to help you write and distribute the release. The reason that so many end up in the trash is likely because they are not sent to the right audiences. Public relations professionals have curated lists for distribution which provides some assurance that the release is going to the right person and will not be flagged as spam.

What you can do is make sure that the person/group who is writing and distributing your press release has the correct information about you and your study. You might want to write a few paragraphs; Leslie wrote a recent article on how to write a press release which can give you some guidance on structure and what should be included (Nicoll, 2015).


“Leslie’s Tidbit” 8.2

The press release was born on October 28, 1906. It was written by “the father of public relations,” Ivy Lee, and reported the news of a train wreck in Atlantic City, NJ, that left more than 50 people dead (Kennedy, 2010). It was reported verbatim in the New York Times; see Figure 8.1 for the lead paragraphs of the story.

Figure 8.1 – Ivy Lee’s Press Release in the New York Times, October 29, 1906

Figure 8.1 – Ivy Lee’s Press Release in the New York Times, October 29, 1906

Stay on top of when the release is sent out. If it catches a reporter’s eye, there will be a flurry of activity which will die out quickly. You want to be near your phone and computer to respond to calls and emails in a prompt manner. Reporters work on deadline and if they don’t get the information they need, they may very well discard your news item and move on to the next one.

Using Social Media to Get the Word Out

In Chapter 6 we discussed various social media outlets and in Chapter 7 we discussed tools you can use to develop supplemental digital content (SDC)—now, here’s your chance to put the two together to share information about you and your study or innovation with a wider audience.

Technically, SDC is material that accompanies your article and is published online. SDC needs to enhance and amplify content that is included in your manuscript. In the previous chapter we gave several examples of resources you could use to develop SDC. But it doesn’t take much to go one step further and use these same resources to develop materials that you can use to publicize your article. Similarly, content you developed as SDC may translate well to more broader sharing—keep in mind that if your resource has been published as SDC, you will need to obtain permission to reuse it on another platform.

Let’s consider a few examples. In the last chapter, we posted a link for a video abstract by Randy Blazak for his article “Isn’t Every Crime a Hate Crime?” which was published in Sociology Compass. (If you need a refresher, here is the link again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAyAKr4sBBA). Now, technically this wasn’t really SDC because it wasn’t included with the article—it is better as an example of promoting the article, which we are discussing in this chapter. Either way, it is a great example of how to use video to very clearly deliver the message about an article.

Here is a link to SDC that was published in the Journal of Infusion Nursing: http://goo.gl/dDW5s0. It is a PowerPoint presentation; in the journal, they have the titles of all presentations at the recent annual conference, with links to online content such as slide shows or abstracts. Now viewing this slide show, this is not something that would translate well to a posting on Facebook or Twitter—it is too long and detailed and would only be of interest to a fairly narrow audience. But, scanning the slides, the author is making the case for nurse-led catheter insertion teams, arguing that such teams have improved patient outcomes and lowered costs. That’s the type of data that sounds like it would translate very well to an infographic, which could easily be posted on Facebook. And, in that same infographic, the author could include her name and email address (which is in the slide show) and thus encourage people to contact her for more information or to network.

Our point is: it doesn’t take much to go one step further to get the word out. You have already done the hard work of writing the article and perhaps, developing SDC. Now, think creatively about how you can reuse some of that information to share and attract new readers to your original source material—your peer reviewed, published article.


Do you have a blog? If not, why not? We discussed blogs and their development in Chapter 6; here is your opportunity to consider how you want to differentiate content for different audiences, which might mean having two separate blogs. Or you might consider having very clear demarcations in your blog, using carefully selected categories and tags.

Your professional blog can serve the double purpose of reaching both a professional and a broader (lay) audience. A blog is essentially a self-published series of articles, papers, or brief commentary; if your blog attracts readers who provide feedback you essentially have content that is reviewed post-publication, which provides a valuable altmetric (see Chapter 4) that you can use to document the influence of your writing.

Your lay-audience blog—whether free standing or a section of your larger blog—can accomplish a number of things that are extremely important in educating the public, and helping them sort out valid information from information that is not so valid. You will promote a blog for a broader, lay audience using different avenues than you use for a professional audience, drawing on social media capabilities that expand your scope of influence far beyond the boundaries of any professional network.

In order to assure the public of the validity of your blog, include a page that gives people a complete picture of who you are. Be sure to include:

  • A photograph of yourself—when people see your image, they are more likely to feel a personal connection to you and what you have to offer. You can include photographs of your family, your pets, your house, or your city to help humanize you to your readers, but the most important photo is your own image. Keep in my the need to respect your own personal privacy when posting personal pictures such as your family or house. If you don’t want your location to be public knowledge, turn off any “geotags” that may be embedded in the photo.
  • Information about your educational background to establish your academic credentials.
  • A narrative about your clinical and professional experience related to the topic of your blog. You might include a compelling story based on your experience that helps people see you as connecting to the real world.

Remember that people who come to your blog may be asking themselves if they are PLEASED with what they find (see Chapter 4), so you should use the PLEASED criteria to ensure that information is complete and accurate; links are working; and the site is regularly updated.

The blog itself will consist of posts that are current, timely, and that draw attention to particular topics that you believe are important to your audience. Set up a schedule to post on your blog at regular intervals; the more frequently you post, the greater chance your blog has to draw attention from a larger audience. In addition, set up a habit of using categories and tags that provide searchable terms that help people find specific items on your blog.

If you are debating the idea of having one blog or two, you may want to consider how much overlap would exist between the two. For example, if you anticipate that your professional blog is just that—professional—and your personal (lay audience) blog might refer to your work but also discusses aspects of your personal life, such as hobbies, family, and upcoming events or trips, then there is clearly a big difference. It would be hard to combine these two into one blog that would be clear to a casual visitor. On the other hand, if you anticipate your personal/lay audience blog to be primarily a source for information and answering questions that derive from your professional work, then it might be possible to create this within one site.

Blogs are best when they are updated regularly with new content. Even short posts bring readers back to the site. If you are feeling overwhelmed with the thought of maintaining two blogs, consider if there are people you could be recruited to help you. For example, do you have a research team or professional group that you work with? These folks might be very interested in a cooperative effort to develop and maintain an active blog. The Scholarly Kitchen (http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/) has 18 “chefs” (plus the occasional “guest chef”) who post content on a daily basis, keeping the blog very lively and informative.

Using Your Blog, Facebook, and Twitter on the “Go”

Facebook and Twitter are essential social media networks for reaching a broad lay audience, and you can use them to draw traffic to your blog. But the most important capability related to using all three in sync is the ability to post on the “go.” What you post on your blog can automatically be posted on your Facebook page and to a Twitter feed, but you can also use Facebook and Twitter independently to get frequent, short and often important information out to your followers. All you need to do this is a mobile smart phone, and a keen eye for noticing things around you that relate to your area of expertise! Here are some ideas:


“Read This” 8.1

Check out Jane Dickinson’s blog for people with diabetes at http://www.janekdickinson.com/. Jane has several pages that give her audience a good understanding of who she is and how she is qualified. She also uses the site to provide information about her books, and engaging her for speaking and consultation. Most important, she blogs at least twice a month, providing current information and inspiration for folks who visit her site!

  • Take a photo of something you encounter that is related to your blog, and post it to Facebook and Twitter immediately, with or without a bit of narrative. You can also use your unique email address to post directly to your blog. You can add a bit of narrative in the email that will also post on your blog, or later you can go in and add more text.
  • You see something in a magazine, hear a comment in a conversation, or have a passing thought that is a great idea or resource. Take 2 minutes to get on your mobile device and put up a brief message to Facebook and/or Twitter. To be the most efficient, compose your message using Twitter hashtags and stay under 140 characters; that will ensure that you are good to go on either platform. You can use an app like Hootsuite to manage all of your accounts at one time.
  • Use the “Share” feature when reading the newspaper, online magazines, other blogs, and so on. Your friends on Facebook are friends for a reason: they are interested in you and what you are up to! So share articles that have caught your eye, and pictures and videos that made you laugh. Just be careful not to overdo it with the cute cat photos.

Don’t Be Shy About Letting People Know Who You Are!

We’re both nurses, so the following few paragraphs are directed primarily to our nurse readers, but we think the information will be useful to all.

There is, unfortunately, a persistent bias in the media to make nurses invisible. Physicians routinely have their credentials listed and are called “Dr.” throughout an article; nurses, on the other hand are lucky to be named, much less have degrees or qualifications reported. If you are promoting yourself on your blog or Facebook page, then of course you have control of how you are named and identified, but once the article is out of your hands, for example in the case of a press release being picked up for a story, you have much less opportunity to be sure that you will be accurately represented.

We bring this up, not because we want to brag about our own qualifications, but because the public needs to be informed about who nurses are and what we do. It is ironic that nurses land at the top of the annual Gallup poll for honesty and ethical standards (Riffkin, 2014), now for 15 years in a row, but at the same time, many in the general public have a hard time articulating where nurses are employed beyond the hospital, or what type of activities we routinely engage in as part of our work.

This point was brought into sharp focus in the fall of 2014 when Kaci Hickox, RN, MSN, MPH, returned from Sierra Leone and ran into a bit of trouble with the Governors of New Jersey and Maine (Nicoll, 2014). Newspaper articles rarely used her name to identify her, instead referring to her as “Ebola Nurse” in lurid headlines. Her qualifications: dual master’s degrees in nursing and public health from Johns Hopkins University, plus a two year fellowship in epidemiology with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were also often ignored.

While Nurse Hickox was an extreme example in the number of news stories that were generated about her, she is not a unique case. On March 29, 2015, a front page article in the New York Times, identified Pamela S. Hinds as a “contributor on pediatrics” (Hoffman, 2015). Did the author say that Dr. Hinds was nurse researcher at Children’s Research Institute or a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing? No. This might not have been so irritating except for that fact that two physicians and one social worker also quoted in the article were identified with credentials and professional qualifications and called “Dr.” throughout.

Pam is active in INANE as she is the Editor-in-Chief of Cancer Nursing, and we both know her, so Leslie took the initiative to write and ask about the omission. Pam immediately wrote back with this comment: “This author declined passively to share the column with those of us cited in it. We tried multiple times but to no avail.” So—even more disappointing! Pam tried to make sure the record was clear and even then was not successful!


“Leslie’s Tidbit” 8.3

Many years ago, I heard Dr. Jacqueline Fawcett, PhD, RN, FAAN speak at a conference about her weekly plane commute from Storrs, CT, to Philadelphia, PA. “I like to talk to people on the plane,” she said. “When they ask me what I do, I always say I am a nurse, then I say I am on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania.”

Our takeaway: recognize that there is a problem and be vigilant in ongoing attempts to have accurate information presented. When you write something, whether it be a letter to the editor or a journal article, include your qualifications and degrees. Don’t be shy about the “alphabet soup” after your name—you worked hard for those credentials and others should know of your accomplishments. If, in the final publication, whether online or in print, they are edited out, ask why. Be persistent to set the record straight.

Likewise, if you see instances of nurses not being appropriately identified, speak up! Commenting on newspaper articles is a great way to share information. Leslie was a regular commenter on many of the Nurse Hickox articles, both in the New York Times as well as her local Maine paper. She was an early commenter on the Hoffman (2015) article, too, and had her comment voted up as “recommended” by many readers.


“Think About It” 8.2

This blog post, by Amanda Anderson, RN, really gets to the heart of the issue about invisible nurses in media reporting at http://centerforhealthmediapolicy.com/2014/10/30/what-would-thisnurse-say-nyt-we-are-not-just-some-nurses/ (Anderson, 2014). Figure 8.2 was inspired by Amanda’s blog post and vividly illustrates how nurses really are invisible in the media. Next time you read a healthcare article, do a similar analysis. How many healthcare workers are listed or interviewed? How are they identified? Use your newfound knowledge to create an infographic and share on your Facebook page!

Figure 8.2 – Analysis of identified and non-identified workers. (Inspired by Hartocollis & Schweber, 2014).

Figure 8.2 – Analysis of identified and non-identified workers. (Inspired by Hartocollis & Schweber, 2014).


Our present electronic world provides multiple opportunities for you to share your work with a much wider audience than traditional journal readers. Make these resources work for you. Develop your own personal press kit, which might include a press release, abstract, video abstract, infographic, and slide show. Each of these items lends themselves well to different outlets: videos on YouTube, Infographics on Facebook, and so on. You can also make yourself known to others by writing a blog, either alone or in collaboration with others. While the work and potential effort required may seem a little daunting, we have actually found that these activities are a lot of fun and a nice change of pace from the typical work of writing a manuscript. Use blogging and Tweeting as a way to break up the flow to keep yourself engaged in your scholarship!


Anderson, A. (2014). What Would #ThisNurse Say? #NYT, We Are Not Just, “Some Nurses.” HealthCetera - Center for Health Media and Policy Blog. Retrieved from http://centerforhealthmediapolicy.com/2014/10/30/what-would-thisnurse-say-nyt-we-are-not-just-some-nurses/

Dillon, A., McKnight, C., & Richardson, J. (1988). Reading from paper versus reading from screens. The Computer Journal, 31(5), 457–464.

Hartocollis, A., & Schweber, N. (2014). Bellevue employees face Ebola at work and stigma of it everywhere. New York Times. Retrieved April 3, 2015, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/30/nyregion/bellevue-workers-worn-out-from-treating-ebola-patient-face-stigma-outside-hospital.html?_r=1

Hoffman, J. (2015). Teenagers face early death, on their own terms. New York Times. Retrieved April 3, 2015, Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/28/teen-advance-directive-end-of-life-care/?ref=health

Hoffman, L. (2014). The evolving distribution and role of press releases. Ragan’s PR Daily. Retrieved April 3, 2015, Retrieved from http://www.prdaily.com/mediarelations/Articles/The_evolving_distribution_and_role_of_press_releas_16269.aspx

Kennedy, M. (2010). The history of the press release. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/history-of-the-press-release/

Nicoll, L. H. (2014). Always make nurse come first! Nurse Author & Editor, 24(4), 1. Retrieved April 3, 2015, Retrieved from http://www.nurseauthoreditor.com/article.asp?id=242

Nicoll, L. H. (2015). Writing a press release. Nurse Author & Editor, 25(1), 1. Retrieved April 3, 2015, Retrieved from http://www.nurseauthoreditor.com/article.asp?id=268

Riffkin, R. (2014). Americans rate nurses highest on honesty and ethical standards. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/180260/americans-rate-nurses-highest-honesty-ethical-standards.aspx

Zawicki, K. (2015). Stop putting your email address in your email signature. Slate. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2015/01/email_addresses_in_email_signatures_no_you_don_t_need_to_do_it.html

Chapter 9

Protecting Your Identity and Your Work


The fundamental vision that drove the creation of the Internet was the democratization of information—the idea that the ability to freely and openly share and access information, knowledge, and resources would improve the overall well-being of everyone regardless of class or status (Berners-Lee, 2000). From the beginning the idea of having open and free access to volumes of information and resources has been wildly appealing to all of us as users, but gradually several forces emerged that began to put the brakes on a totally open Internet. These forces include governments that want to control what their citizens can access in order to sustain a political advantage over the masses, corporations and industries that have a financial interest in controlling what is available to whom, inventors and creators who have a personal vested interest in protecting their creative works, and scholars and scientists who have a personal and professional interest in protecting their original ideas.

The concept of “net neutrality” refers to the principle that governments and Internet service providers treat all data on the Internet equally, without discriminating what can and cannot get through to users, and without charging fees for access to selected data. This concept, to the extent it is practiced and protected by laws and policies, means that populations within a defined service area can access anything posted on the Internet—their access is not controlled by their government or their service provider.

However, even for the most avid proponent of free and open access to the Internet, there remains the very real challenge of protecting the identity of people who are responsible for the content that is present on the Internet, and the integrity of their work. As a user, you want to know whether the resources you use on the web are what they claim to be, and that when you communicate with a person or a business, bank, or organization, the entity you are communicating with is who they claim to be. As a writer whose work is likely to be accessed by way of the Internet, you want to know that your identity as an author will remain intact, and that your work has some degree of protection from misuse by someone else. There are no guarantees of absolute protection, but there are steps to take to help assure that you and your work are protected.

Protecting Your Identity

There may be times when you want, or wish you could be anonymous on the web, but we maintain that one of the most important factors that assures a strong, credible, and reliable Internet relies on knowing who the people are who are creating web content, commenting, or otherwise acting on behalf of a group or entity. Given this premise, it is vital that the identity of each person involved is protected, and it is your responsibility to take steps to do this on your own behalf. There are several ways to do this, which we explain here.

Establish Your Unique Online Profile

Your name is the most common identifier that is used universally, but some are more unique than others! If you have a very unique name, you might be plagued with problems other folks have with correctly remembering, spelling, or pronouncing it. If your name is fairly common, you have particular challenges in assuring that you are not confused with someone else.

Your online profile is one of the most important tools you can develop to establish your identity. If your employer has a web page for all employees, use it and be sure that it is always up-to-date. However, most employer web pages are limited, and often limit what can be posted. So decide on at least one additional site for your web presence. Your professional blog is an ideal place to establish your unique online profile, and can remain stable regardless of where you reside or where you are employed (see Chapter 6 for more details on creating a blog or web site). Facebook and Twitter are alternatives that provide wide access, and total control over what you include on your profile, however these do not lend themselves to featuring your professional writings and resources that are important in shaping your online identity.

Here are a few suggestions to consider to establish your unique online profile:

  • Use your full name, including first, middle and last. If your name is fairly unique, you can get by with using an initial for your first or middle name, but be consistent and always include your full name whenever you write, register, or sign up for anything!
  • If your name changes, whether through marriage, divorce, or something else, make sure that people can link your new name to your old name and know that you are the same person.
  • Use an email address that clearly links to your name for your professional work. An anonymous or cute email name is fine for personal activities, but for your professional activities, your email address becomes part of your unique online profile. If at all possible, use an email service that will remain stable over time, but if you must change your service (the @…. part of your address) retain your unique identifiable name, if at all possible.
  • Use your photograph every chance you can. Photographs of your children, pets, or logo of your favorite charity are fine for personal purposes, but for professional online purposes, abandon your vanity and use a head shot that is current and clear.
  • Keep demographic details current, and when you make a change, retain the old information along with the new. This means that if you change your job, or you move to another region of the country, start using your new affiliation and location, but include a note that contains your former location for at least 6 months.
  • Include links to your publications online, and to places where you have an online presence. For example, create links to your employer’s web page and to sites where your journal articles and books can be found.

Open Researcher and Contributor ID

The Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID) project emerged as an important tool for scholars and researchers to use in establishing their unique identity worldwide. ORCID is a registry that is freely available to individuals, providing you a unique identifier and linking your published works to your identifier. Organizations can become members for a fee, allowing them to use ORCID identifiers as a way to assure a unique identity for all who use their services. For more information and to register, visit http://orcid.org/content/about-orcid. Once you register on ORCID, you can record many of the elements of your curriculum vitae (education, employment, funding, publications), all of which help to establish a comprehensive portrait that defines your professional identity.

Protecting Your Work

While accessibility to scholarly works is a great benefit of the digital age, and most scholars want their work to be available and accessible, materials published online are much more vulnerable to misuse by others than ever before. Creative works have traditionally been protected by copyright. The basic principles of copyright still apply, and are very important protections for both online and paper-published work. Now there is also the Creative Commons License (https://creativecommons.org/about), which provides a way to give other people permission to use your work on conditions that you choose. There is no cost to either copyright protection or Creative Commons Licenses, and you need to be familiar with and use both.


Each country has its own laws governing copyright, but more than 160 countries have ratified the Berne Convention treaty, which sets a minimum set of standards for each country’s copyright laws. These standards include moral rights and economic rights. Moral rights include the right to be identified as the author of a work and the right to forbid or grant permission to someone else to use the work. Economic rights refer to the rights associated with distributing and reproducing the work.

Copyright protection is guaranteed by law, and is automatically granted to any original work that you create, even if you do not post copyright information. However, posting the copyright symbol, the name of the copyright holder, and the year the work is created is always a good idea because it assures that people who read or view your work know that you created the work and when. Copyright protection basically means that you have exclusive rights to the work, and that anyone else who wants to use the work must obtain your permission, and that you have a right to charge a fee for that use if you choose to do so.

Copyright protection means that anyone who wants to use, distribute, or publicize your work must get permission from you, or from the publisher to whom you have transferred copyright. Likewise, if you want to use someone else’s work in your work, or distribute an article to your colleagues, you may need to get the copyright holder’s permission to do so. If you are using the work for educational purposes or for research, your use of the work may be permissible under the fair use provisions of the copyright law. Fair use is determined by the purpose for which the work is being used, the nature of the copyrighted work you are using, the substantive amount of the work you are using, and the effect your use of the work might have on the market. “Fair use” can depend on a particular interpretation of the circumstances (see our examples), so the safest course is to always ask permission!

The Copyright Clearance Center (http://www.copyright.com/) provides a rich resource of information about copyright, and provides a service by which permissions can be obtained without having to track down individual copyright holders—which can be a complex challenge if several different copyrights are involved in a work you want to use.

Creative Commons License

“Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation” (About Creative Commons, 2015).

The nonprofit Creative Commons organization was established in 2001 to provide legal resources for people to give public permission to share and use your work, and to define the conditions of the permissions you grant to the public. A creative commons license is not a substitute for copyright; rather, it defines which of your rights you are granting to the public, and makes clear to anyone using your work the conditions of the permissions you are granting. If someone violates the terms of your creative commons license, then they no longer have the permissions granted by your license and they have now committed a copyright infringement.


“Watch This” 9.1

This Copyright Clearance Center video that explains the basics of copyright and how it affects ordinary people! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uiq42O6rhW4


“Think About It” 9.1

Consider these two examples. In light of the discussion in this chapter, what do you think?

Scenario #1: You want to distribute photocopies or PDF files of a journal article to your class. There are 50 students in the class. Under “fair use” guidelines, you are using, for educational purposes, one article in a journal issue that contains 8 other articles on entirely different topics. The instructor might consider this fair use because it is for educational purposes, it is only a portion of a journal, and it is not likely to affect subscriptions to the journal. However, the publisher may not consider this fair use because they see potential effects on the overall marketing of their journal, and at the very least believe that the instructor should obtain permission that clearly defines how the article will be distributed, to how many students, and when.

Scenario #2: A researcher wants to use a video that is posted on a company’s web site as a “case” to present to participants in a study they are conducting; she plans to download and post the video on a web site dedicated to the research project. The researcher might view this as fair use because she is using it for research purposes only, and since the video identifies the name of the company, she believes her use of the video has the potential to benefit the company. The company may not agree, in part because the video is an original creative work that required considerable investment on their part, and because the researcher is extracting the video to another web site and they are not sure what messages the research participants might be given about their company, they see the potential for this use to harm the market.


“Watch This” 9.2

Watch these informative videos about copyright and creative commons licenses:

A basic explanation:


More explanation of the legal protection of copyright and the freedom you can grant with a creative commons license:


TABLE 9-1 – Creative Commons Licenses and the conditions of each (see About the Licenses, 2015)

Conditions and Permissions
Licenses Must credit your work (attribution required) Non-commercial use only (commercial use excluded) Must license their work under identical terms to yours Cannot adapt, remix, or change your work (derivative works not allowed) Notes
X Most accommodating of the licenses offered
X X License used by Wikipedia
X X X Most restrictive of the six licenses

There are six licenses; all require that anyone who uses your work should credit you as the author/creator (attribution). Table 9-1 shows the various licenses and the permissions that are granted when you choose that license.


Plagiarism is an important concept to understand, both from the perspective of your work being plagiarized by someone else, and from the perspective of instances where you might be guilty yourself. The fact is that in the context of the digital world, it is all too easy to do so and the only real protection is to fully understand the various types of unfair use of another person’s work. We discussed plagiarism and self-plagiarism/text recycling in Chapter 3, from the perspective of what you can do to ensure that you are not plagiarizing other’s work. The discussion that follows is designed to help you think about how to protect yourself.

iThenticate—the company that makes plagiarism software such as Turnitin and WriteCheck—recently shared a report on “Research Ethics: Decoding Plagiarism and Attribution” (http://goo.gl/Ymo441). They asked researchers for their opinions on understanding plagiarism and experiences with attribution issue. From the analysis, the company identified 10 issues, which they ranked by severity and frequency (commonness), rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most serious and most frequent.

  • Secondary source, also called inaccurate citation—this occurs when the author uses a secondary source, such as a meta-analysis or integrative review, but only cites the primary sources contained in the secondary source. The problem is that the citations suggest that the author has read all the papers cited which may not be true. The author also fails to cite and credit work done by the author who wrote the secondary source document.
    • Frequency: 6.9 out of 10
    • Seriousness: 6.4 out of 10
  • Invalid source, also known as misleading citation, fabrication, or falsification—occurs when the author cites an incorrect or nonexistent source. Problems: this may be used as a strategy to “pad” the reference list or hide inadequate/poorly done research. Scott Weber, a nurse researcher who had seven papers retracted from various journals and was sanctioned by the Office of Research Integrity, primarily used fabrication of citations and falsification of findings in his articles.
    • Frequency: 3.9 out of 10
    • Seriousness: 7.3 out of 10
  • Duplication, also known as self-plagiarism, reuse, or text recycling—reusing of text from prior papers without proper citation. Authors need to be transparent with editors about what they have previously published, based on the same data (see Chapter 3 for more discussion of this issue).
    • Frequency: 6.3 out of 10
    • Seriousness: 7.5 out of 10
  • Paraphrasing, also known as plagiarism or intellectual theft—taking another person’s words and rewriting them without attribution. Paraphrased content should always be cited; the most recent style manual of the APA encourages (but does not require) that page numbers be included for paraphrased material, which is a change from prior editions (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 171).
    • Frequency: 7.5 out of 10
    • Seriousness: 7.6 out of 10
  • Repetitive research, also known as self-plagiarism, reuse—repeating of data or text from a similar study with a similar methodology in a new study without proper attribution. This may happen when a researcher replicates previous work and has similar results, but does not cite the earlier research properly (or not at all).
    • Frequency: 7.1 out of 10
    • Seriousness: 7.6 out of 10
  • Replication, also known as author submission violation—submitting the same paper to multiple journals, resulting in multiple publications. The submitted papers may be identical or changed only slightly. Recently, four papers have been published and are under scrutiny because of replication issues; two have been retracted and one withdrawn. The status of the fourth paper is unknown at this point as the editor has declined to comment (Ferguson, 2015a, 2015b)
    • Frequency: 4.2 out of 10
    • Seriousness: 7.7 out of 10
  • Misleading attribution, also known as inaccurate authorship—occurs when a paper has an inaccurate or insufficient list of authors who contributed to the article. It can occur in two ways: (1) authors who contributed are denied credit for their work, or decline to be credited (this is also known as ghost authorship); or (2) authors are included who did not contribute to the paper (also known as gift authorship; may also be coercive authorship) (Albert & Wager, 2003; Strange, 2008).
    • Frequency: 4.8 out of 10
    • Seriousness: 8.2 out of 10
  • Unethical collaboration, also known as inaccurate authorship—people who are working together violate a code of conduct, for example, not citing or acknowledging the collaboration that undertook the study and produced the outcomes. In other words, one person (or a small group of people) takes credit for work done by a larger group of people. A 2012 paper was retracted from Nurse Education Today because, as noted by the editor-in-chief, “The data in this article was used without acknowledgment or approval by the research team,” (Retracted: Interprofessional learning in acute care: Developing a theoretical framework, 2013, p. 931). This is an example of unethical collaboration.
    • Frequency: 5.3 out of 10
    • Seriousness: 8.2 out of 10
  • Verbatim plagiarism, also known as copy and paste or intellectual theft—-the copying of another’s words or works without providing proper attribution, such as including the author’s name, date of publication, quotation marks, or indentation. The text may be presented as paraphrased, when in fact it is a direct quote (copy and paste) or it may be presented as new without attribution to the original source. This is typically what people think of when they hear the word “plagiarism” and what is usually described in high-profile plagiarism cases; see the case involving Montana Senator John Walsh as an example (Rogers, 2014).
    • Frequency: 2.3 out of 10
    • Seriousness: 8.4 out of 10
  • Complete plagiarism, also known as intellectual theft or stealing—an author takes a study, manuscript, or published paper written by someone else and submits it as an original study under his/her own name.
    • Frequency: 2.3 out of 10
    • Seriousness: 8.8 out of 10

What to Do if Your Paper is Stolen, in Part or in All

What do you do if your work gets stolen? How do you even know this has happened? For years Peggy has been advising students and colleagues that the best way to protect your ideas and research are to broadcast them wide and far, creating a host of witnesses to the fact that this was your original conception. One way to do this, in the print age and still today, is to enter the copyright statement in the footer of every page of a paper, along with your contact information and an invitation to contact you. Then make several dozen copies and make sure that they get distributed to key audiences. Everyone who sees the paper knows that if any part of the paper is misused, there are a host of witnesses who know the original source. Presentations based on your work serves a similar purpose of creating a host of witnesses to your ideas.


“Think About It” 9.2

Go to Retraction Watch (http://retractionwatch.com/) and search on the keyword “plagiarism.” Read the results that are retrieved. Can you find examples of all 10 of the above types of plagiarism? Which cases seem the most extreme to you?


“Talk About It” 9.1

Gather a group of friends and colleagues, and discuss the various types of plagiarism that are described on these authoritative web sites:



If you follow this advice and if something of yours gets stolen, then hopefully someone you know will be aware of your work and bring it to your attention. You may even come across such a situation on your own! Whatever the source, your first step is to document the violation. Then you should contact the editor and explain what has happened. Although you may be personally angry with the situation, strive to be calm and respectful. We can say from experience that editors don’t like to have material from their journals plagiarized. If your concern is valid, then the editor will be concerned and will work with you to resolve the situation. Be aware that the process may take time—the editor will seek guidance from his or her publisher and may even turn to Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) for advice. Your specific situation may be part of a larger pattern of intellectual dishonesty that needs to be resolved, which may involve contacting others and sorting out all the pieces. Ask the editor to please keep you “in the loop” as the case is discussed and resolved.

What if you are accused of plagiarism? Yes, this is a very scary thought and certainly a situation you want to avoid. That is why we have emphasized throughout this book the need to be organized, keep track of your sources, and cite them appropriately (see Chapter 2). We have also discussed authorship and the importance of having authorship conversations at the very start of the writing process (see Chapter 3). Even if you are diligent, an unfortunate situation might occur and, generally, “I didn’t know,” is not an acceptable excuse. We advise that you be honest and forthright with the editor. If you have made a mistake, admit it. Work with the editor and publisher to correct the situation. Then, use this as a learning moment. We all make mistakes—being able to own an error, correct it, and learn from it is a sign of maturity. As we have noted in our work with students: a few errors over the course of a long career is probably just honest human error. On the other hand, many and repeated errors are not a good sign. What is the underlying cause? Intentional fraud, outrageous carelessness, or total incompetence? If it is the first, you will be judged harshly. If it is one of the latter two (or both), then you need to figure out how to bring your work up to an acceptable standard for your profession.


“Think About It” 9.3

Unfortunately, there have been many cases of predatory journals publishing plagiarized articles, usually at the level of verbatim and complete plagiarism. There seem to be two situations: authors taking another’s work, inserting their names, and submitting to the predatory journal, where it is quickly accepted and published. The second scenario involves predatory publishers stealing content and publishing it, usually as a way to “seed” their fledgling journals and look as if they are a legitimate, ongoing concern. When these issues are brought to the editor’s attention, there has been an unwillingness to acknowledge the problem or retract the article (see Beall, 2013 for an example). What would you do if you found your article published in a predatory journal, under someone else’s name, with an unresponsive editor?


This chapter has focused on the tension that exists between the concern for the identity of authors and preserving the integrity of their work, and the growing scope that exists in the digital age for sharing and open exchange of ideas and information. Fully adequate responses to the challenges that come with the digital age have yet to emerge, and the rapidly changing landscape of digital publishing calls for ever increasing creativity, combined with adequate knowledge of the fundamental principles of publishing.


About Creative Commons. (2015). Retrieved April 3, 2015, from https://creativecommons.org/about

About the Licenses. (2015). Retrieved April 3, 2015, 2015, from https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

Albert, T, & Wager, E. (2003). How to handle authorship disputes: a guide for new researchers. The Cope Report. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from http://publicationethics.org/files/2003pdf12.pdf

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Beall, J. (2013). New apparent case of serial plagiarism uncovered. Scholarly Open Access. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from http://scholarlyoa.com/2013/07/23/new-apparent-case-of-serial-plagiarism-uncovered/-more-1956

Berners-Lee, T. (2000). Weaving the Web: The Original Design and the Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web. New York: HarperBusiness.

Ferguson, C. (2015a). Heart study bleeds into three papers, one retracted and one withdrawn. Retraction Watch. Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://retractionwatch.com/2015/02/06/heart-study-bleeds-three-papers-one-retracted-one-withdrawn/

Ferguson, C. (2015b). Second exercise study retracted in four paper pile-up. Retraction Watch. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from http://retractionwatch.com/2015/03/04/second-exercise-study-retracted-in-four-paper-pileup/

Retracted: Interprofessional learning in acute care: Developing a theoretical framework. (2013). Retrieved April 3, 2015, from http://www.nurseeducationtoday.com/article/S0260-6917%2811%2900073-6/abstract?cc=y

Rogers, A. (2014). Sen. John Walsh plagiarized final paper for master’s degree. Time. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from http://time.com/3025422/john-walsh-plargarism/

Strange, K. (2008). Authorship: Why not just toss a coin? American Journal of Physiology Cell Physiology, 295(3), C567–C575. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00208.2008

Chapter 10

Discoverability: Finding What You Need and Helping Others Find Your Work


Any publishable project begins with a process of finding out what is already published, discovering resources that you need to develop your ideas, and maintaining a current library of resources related to your work so that you are on top of what is currently “out there” in your field. Likewise, as an author, the ultimate value of your work depends upon other people finding what you have published. In this chapter, we address both sides of this equation—the process of finding what you need, and the process of preparing the elements of your work to maximize the chances that your work will be discovered. We focus first on the skills that are central to the process of finding what you need, then we discuss ways to maximize the discoverability of your own published works.

Databases: The Digital Search Engines

There are hundreds of databases available to find literature in the health sciences, and the related humanities, starting with Google itself! However, even though Google and other similar search tools on the web can be useful, in order to find something you want you already have to know some specific information, or your search will return thousands of results. This is one reason that hundreds of databases exist—they are built to cover a defined scope of highly technical and disciplinary-specific searches and sift out the vast amount of irrelevant or insignificant information that could enter into a search. So for example, the database known as Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) includes literature published in journals that are specifically dedicated to nursing and allied health.

Thorough knowledge of databases and how to use them is the domain of the specialty known as library science! So your best resource, when you need to find something, is to become friends with your librarian. The trend in the development of databases is to improve their cross-referencing capabilities, as well as their sensitivity to recognize and automatically respond to related terms. In other words, databases are becoming more powerful, with amazing capabilities to help you search and find things you need, as well as things you never knew you needed. But despite the power of the databases and search engines, the important challenge for every author is to understand the basic principles of search and discovery, cultivate your own skill in doing your own searches, and craft your own manuscripts to increase the probability that a wide audience will find what you have written.

Search and Discovery

There is a very subtle but important distinction between the ideas of “search” and “discovery.” Search refers to an active process of looking for something you know you want. Discovery refers to finding something you may know you want, but also something that you did not know you want but it turns out to be something you want or need. Discovery may or may not happen as a result of your active search efforts. The tools and resources that can be used to search and to enhance discovery are like two sides of the same coin—when you are trying to find something you use these resources one way; to make sure people can discover your articles, you use the resources another way.


“Read This” 10.1

This web page from the “Big Think” newsletter gives a useful overview of databases available for the public to use in searching for scientific literature. The tips for using the various databases include useful hints that apply to many of the professional databases available through academic libraries.

Available at http://bigthink.com/age-of-engagement/how-to-search-the-scientific-literature-tips-from-an-expert-librarian

There are two types of identifiers that are essential for the search and discovery processes: product data and semantic data.

  • Product data are the author name(s), title, International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) and Digital Object Identifier (DOI). If you know any of these data for something you know you need, you can easily search for it and find it.
  • Semantic data include key words assigned to the work and terms in the title. Some search platforms also include terms in the abstract.

When you start a search for a word or phrase, you come up with a list that is usually very long that includes everything in the search database that has been associated with the semantic tag that you are searching for. This kind of search result is part of what is recognized as “discovery” because you find material from a wide range of sources that you probably did not know existed. Discovery also happens when something makes its way to your screen by way of social media, ads, promotions, or good old fashioned word-of-mouth! “Discoverability” refers to the extent to which your work is likely to be discovered—a dimension over which you yourself have considerable control, which we discuss later in this chapter. Discoverability is limited by the capabilities of search engines to respond to whatever you put into the search, by the range of data that particular search engine scans, and by the extent to which the database is designed to respond to search terms that users might enter.

Product Data Searches

If you know exactly what you need, you can use any of the product data related to that item to find it quickly and efficiently. If you know the title of the journal you can go directly to that journal and complete your search for a particular article. If you know that title of the article, you will be able to search for that specific item. If you know the name of one of the authors, you may bring up the article you want, but you will also get results of all articles in the database by that author. The most direct and reliable way to find a specific article is the DOI—Digital Object Identifier, which takes you directly to the place on the web where that article can be found permanently. However, that site is usually the proprietary site of the publisher, so unless the article is available as open access, you can only retrieve it if you pay a fee. If you search through a library database that has a subscription to the journal, you can use the DOI to find the article in the library holdings, which then gives you access to the full-text of the article. The DOI system originated in 1997 but was not standardized until 2009. Articles published since 2009 should have a DOI and articles published prior to that date may have one, but not all do.

Semantic Data Searches—Key words/Metatags

Key words are the terms or phrases that serve as “keys” to finding your article or web page. On web pages these are called metatags, and inserted in the HTML code that makes a web page readable. When you view a web page, you do not automatically see the metatags, but if you select your browser’s “view source” option you can see the code underlying the page and the metatags that have been inserted by the web developer. For a journal article, your key words become the tags that are used by search engines, making your article discoverable for anyone who happens to search for any of the terms you have chosen. This is why it is important to think carefully about the key words you select for your article—they will directly impact how people find it in different databases.

Using Boolean Operators

Boolean operators form the basic “rules” for any semantic data search. As search engines have gotten “smarter” they have the power to guess what operators might apply to your search request, but it is best not to expect that your search request is guessing your intent! If you know these operators, you can refine your search and drill to more precise results sooner. Here are the basic operators, what they mean and how to use them:

  • AND inserted between single terms forces your search to only find results that include all of the terms you want, in any order. So if you search for California AND Oakland, your search will bring up results for Oakland, California only. If you search for California AND Oakland AND protest, your search narrows even more to results that provide information about protests in Oakland, California.
  • OR inserted between single terms broadens your search to simultaneously bring up results that cover a broad field. This is particularly useful when you know that what you are trying to find is something that might be referred to by different terms with similar meanings. For example, if you search for liberal OR progressive, your search will bring up results that use either of these terms. A search for lesbian OR gay will bring up results that use either of these terms. OR is the default setting on any search engine, so if you only type in Oakland California you are actually asking for Oakland OR California. This will provide results about Oakland, Michigan as well as a vast number of results about California!
  • NOT is the equivalent of a minus symbol, and indicates that you want certain results left out of your search. For example, if you search for Oakland NOT California, you will get results about other towns named Oakland that are not located in California, plus any other site (such as a business or article) that uses the term Oakland in its title or metatags. Another example highlights how this can be important in narrowing your search: if you search for caring NOT nursing you will eliminate the numerous results about caring that originate with nursing or include nursing, which gives you information about how other disciplines/sites are concerned with caring.
  • NEAR is equivalent to placing a phrase in quotation marks, which instructs the search engine to only give results that match your term exactly. So if you search for “Oakland California protests” you will get only those results that use that exact phrase, and not results that use other forms of the same request, such as protests in Oakland, Michigan. This search is particularly useful if you have an idea that there is something you need that uses a particular phrase, and you want to quickly find it. It is also helpful if you remember reading an article somewhere, say The New York Times and you remember a fragment of the headline but not the whole thing.


“Think About It” 10.1

Here is a citation and an abstract for an article that was published in CIN.

Klemm, P. (2012). Effects of online support group format (moderated vs. peer-led) on depressive symptoms and extent of participation in women with breast cancer. CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 30(1), 9–18. doi: 10.1097/NCN.0b013e3182343efa

Abstract: The purposes of this study were to evaluate the effects of different formats of online group support (moderated vs. peer-led) on depressive symptoms and extent of participation in women with breast cancer. A randomized longitudinal design was used to address the study aims. The setting was a secure password-protected Web page. Fifty women with breast cancer, at least 21 years old, who had Internet access participated. Subjects were randomly assigned to moderated or peer-led groups, given a password, and instructed to complete the study questionnaires at baseline and again at 6, 12, and 16 weeks. The independent variables were types of online support (moderated or peer-led), and the dependent variables were depressive symptoms and extent of participation. There were no significant differences in depressive symptoms by group or by extent of group participation. Moderated groups read and posted significantly more messages than did peer-led groups. This study adds to the research base on different group formats for online support and the extent of participation and non-participation (lurking) in online groups. It provides a springboard for additional studies that include ethnic minorities, people with different types of cancer, and men.

These are the keywords the author selected: Breast cancer, Depressive symptoms, Online participation, Online support.

These are the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) that were assigned when the article was indexed in PubMed (the starred ones are considered major headings):



MH—Breast Neoplasms/nursing/*psychology/therapy





MH—Middle Aged

MH—Patient Participation/psychology

MH—*Peer Group

MH—Self-Help Groups/*organization & administration

MH—*Social Support

Compare these two lists. Which terms do you see as more effective for indexing? If you were searching for this article, which terms would you use? If you discovered this article, which terms would you likely use?

Gray or Fugitive Literature

Gray (or sometimes “grey”) literature is literature that is not considered to be published (in the traditional sense) and therefore not indexed in bibliographic databases. Historically, gray literature has been difficult to find and access, but this is changing. Examples of gray literature include conference proceedings, white papers, fact sheets, technical reports, industry reports, and newsletters. Because of search engines such as Google, which search more broadly than a specific database, gray literature is becoming more accessible. It is becoming an area of study within library science and we anticipate that citing and using gray literature will become more common in the near future.

Keep in mind, however, that as you access this type of information, the burden of evaluation may fall on you, as the document may not have undergone any form of formal peer review. An industry white paper, for example, may be biased toward the industry that produced it and its authors may have a vested interest in the findings. Conference proceedings may include just abstracts, not full papers, which may make it difficult for you to evaluate the rigor of the study.

Be careful, too, when you cite gray literature. You want your resources to be easily accessible to your readers, to the extent to which this is possible. Rather than citing a statistic from an obscure fact sheet, see if you can find the statistic in a more widely available source. Sometimes the gray literature is your only option, but it is important to weigh the pros and cons in your mind as you use this information in your scholarly writing.

Preparing Your Title, Abstract and Key Words and Phrases for Discoverability

As you already know from your own experiences of searching for literature related to your work, these three elements—the title, abstract, and key words/phrases are almost always freely available online. Therefore, if these are carefully constructed, the item will have a greatly enhanced chance of being found. We recommend that you start with a working title, then when you have finished the near-final draft of your manuscript, come back to your title and revise it, then develop your keywords and abstract.


One item that we find many authors overlook completely is the title they give to their manuscript. We regularly receive manuscripts with titles that are much too long, full of jargon, and don’t accurately convey the content of the paper. Think about it: someone doing a search is going to scan titles first, then they may take the time to read the abstract. If the abstract seems relevant, then searchers may make the effort to find full-text—but they have to get over the two hurdles of the title and the abstract before they get to that point.

Just as you need to carefully select keywords (discussed in the next section) you need to weigh each word in the title of your article. You want to get the message across in a short, concise way. It’s fine to be snappy but don’t be so clever that the meaning gets lost. Essential words should be in the title; if your study is about breast cancer, say so. If it is about men with breast cancer—a rare situation—then you probably want to have men in the title. If the participants were women, that might not be as important to include.

You don’t need to try to cram all the details of your study into the title. For example, something like, The Lived Experience of Men with Breast Cancer Five Years After Diagnosis: A Qualitative Study, is a mouthful. Consider this revision: The Meaning of Breast Cancer for Male Survivors. “The Meaning” suggests lived experience and most people would guess that it is a qualitative study. “Survivors” suggests a time frame of months or years after diagnosis. We contend that the revised title conveys just as much information and is much easier to remember.


“Leslie’s Tidbit” 10.1

For an amusing commentary on journal article titles, we recommend an oldie but goodie from Donna Diers and Florence Downs (1994):

Diers, D., & Downs, F. (1994). Colonizing: a measure of the development of a profession. Nursing Research, 43(5), 316–318.

Keywords and Phrases

Your keywords and phrases need to point to all of the important elements of your article. One of the difficult aspects of selecting key terms is how many similar terms can be used for the same concept—for example “children” and “pediatrics.” If your article focuses heavily on matters related to children, and it also involves content related to medical care or diagnosis that fall within the realm of the specialty practice of pediatrics, you should probably use both terms. However, if your article focuses more on child health in the context of nutrition and family interactions that influence child nutrition, you might not need to include the term “pediatrics.”

In many cases this is much easier said than done, because there is a wide range of terminology used to express very similar ideas, but with subtle nuances of meaning that can be important. An excellent example is the field of sexuality in general, and sexual orientation and gender identity in particular. Eliason (2014) identified over 200 terms that are used in the literature related to sexual and gender identities, with LGBT gradually emerging as a dominant general term. She explains the rationale for using any of the distinct terms to honor personal preferences and cultural traditions, but also calls for standardization of terminology that would enhance the ability to compare findings, and improve search and discovery of research that is related to sexuality.

Here are some suggestions to find and select the best key terms for your article:

  • Scan your article for meaningful terms that are used frequently. Include acronyms and common abbreviations.
  • Examine if these frequently used terms reflect the main message of your article. You should have two or three terms at least that convey your main message, even if these terms are not your frequent terms.
  • Eliminate terms and phrases that are in your title; the terms in your title are automatically included as search terms. If you have not yet settled on your final title, be sure to double check for duplication in your key terms before final submission.
  • Conduct a search in two or three databases using the terms you are considering for your title and your key terms to see what kinds of results are returned. If some of your terms/phrases return a lot of unrelated material, consider eliminating them. Definitely keep terms that return related material, with the expectation that your eventual article will appear there.


Your abstract should be brief (less than 250 words or one typed double-spaced page) and contain a descriptive summary of your article. The first guideline to always follow is that provided in the journal’s “Information for Authors.” Most journals have strict restrictions on the length of your abstract. Some journals want the abstract to be presented in a standardized outline form that covers typical elements of a scholarly paper. This is called a structured abstract and the usual headings are: (1) background; (2) aims or purpose; (3) methods; (4) results; (5) conclusions. Note that headings may vary so always check the author guidelines. Other journals request a narrative format that reflects the style and intent of your article. In addition to being informative about the content of your article, include phrases or a sentence that clearly convey the main message of your article; your central message might motivate a prospective reader to go beyond the title, key words and abstract to actually retrieve your article, read it, and perhaps cite it!


“Read This” 10.2

Editage Insights provides a wide range of articles with guidelines and suggestions related to publishing. Read their article on writing your title, keywords, and abstract for more hints (Rodrigues, 2013) http://www.editage.com/insights/how-to-write-an-effective-title-and-abstract-and-choose-appropriate-keywords

Enhancing Word of Mouth

As in all matters of communication, word of mouth is one of the most valuable ways through which important information is shared within and between networks. Never pass up any opportunity to talk, blog, or post about your work! Someone invites you to speak to a class, club, or association meeting? Say yes! Post information on your own blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed or web site connecting your work with some current event or news item. When you see another person’s post or a news item that is related to your work, post a comment that draws attention to your work in your commentary on the other person’s post.

Equally important—develop your own professional “bubble”—the universe in which you are likely to learn about things that you did not even know to search for. Ask for news alerts and notifications from groups that are dedicated to issues related to your area of focus. Watch for lectures that are posted in your community, sign up for podcasts, and follow blogs and Twitter accounts. When you see something, say something—meaning spread the word to other people in your network. The more you interact with people in your network, the more likely it is that they will stay connected and send things to you!

Having said this, never turn down an opportunity to venture out of your “bubble.” Use opportunities to explore possible word-of-mouth venues where you might learn something new, gain a fresh perspective, or share your ideas with an audience that you have not interacted with before.


In the final chapter of this book, we have focused on the essential process of search and discovery—processes that have changed vastly in the digital age, and with lightning speed. In principle, the digital tools for search and discoverability have greatly improved the prospect of progress in science and health care. The reality remains that the process is still limited by human capacities to use the resources effectively. Here we have provided suggestions for developing your skill in order to take advantage of the resources that are at your disposal. We wish you every success, and hope that our book has contributed important suggestions, insights, and understandings for your journey!


Diers, D., & Downs, F. S. (1994). Colonizing: a measurement of the development of a profession. Nursing Research, 43(5), 316–318.

Eliason, M. J. (2014). An exploration of terminology related to sexuality and gender: arguments for standardizing the language. Social Work and Public Health, 29(2), 162–175. doi: 10.1080/19371918.2013.775887. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24405201

Rodrigues, V. (2013). How to write an effective title and abstract and choose appropriate keywords. Editage Insights. Retrieved 2015, from http://www.editage.com/insights/how-to-write-an-effective-title-and-abstract-and-choose-appropriate-keywords