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The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) does not provide a specific definition for short communications (also known as brief communications). However, generally, a short communication is considered to be a concise and independent report that makes a significant contribution to science. It is important to note that the terms “Short Communication” and “Special or Rapid Communication” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they have distinct differences, as explained below. Short communications are typically not meant to publish preliminary results of ongoing or recently completed studies unless the results are exceptionally interesting and relevant. Typically, a short communication is limited to 2500 words (although some journals may allow up to 3500 words) and may include two figures or tables, along with a minimum of eight references. Unlike a full-length paper, a short communication may combine the “Methods,” “Results,” and “Discussion” sections into a single section. It is worth mentioning that not all journals accept short communications, so authors should verify if their intended journal accepts such submissions before submitting their work.

short communication

Writing a short communication

While short communications have distinct differences from full-length papers, it is advisable for authors to approach writing them in a similar manner to writing an original article. The following steps can serve as a helpful guide:

  • Determine the list and rank of authors

It is indeed preferable to initiate the writing process of a short communication while the study is still ongoing. This approach helps prevent misunderstandings and potential conflicts later on. It is important to note that all journals have established criteria for authorship, including guidelines on determining the order of authors. These criteria should be strictly adhered to. It is crucial to understand that simply performing administrative tasks, such as filling out forms or entering data into statistical software like SPSS, does not automatically grant authorship rights. “Ghost authorship,” which involves individuals contributing significantly to a study but not being acknowledged as authors, is considered a serious violation of publication ethics. Authentic journals have policies in place to prevent and penalize such unethical practices. If the short communication pertains to an ongoing study, it is advisable to commence the writing process while the study is still in progress. This approach ensures that all relevant contributors have the opportunity to be acknowledged appropriately.

  • Decide when to submit

If your preliminary findings can be considered a comprehensive and self-contained narrative, you may proceed with the submission process. In other words, if your initial findings provide a coherent and conclusive account of the study, it is appropriate to initiate the submission of your short communication. However, it is essential to ensure that the findings are substantial and contribute meaningfully to the scientific field before proceeding with the submission.

  • Write a title and an abstract

Indeed, understanding whether your preliminary findings constitute a “complete story” can provide clarity on what to include in your paper. If your findings are comprehensive and self-contained, you can focus on presenting and discussing them in a concise manner. This knowledge helps you determine the scope and content of your paper, ensuring that you include the essential elements to effectively convey your research and its significance.

  • Determine the basic format of the paper

Before commencing the writing process for a full paper, it is crucial to ensure that the results or data you intend to report meet the necessary requirements for a short communication. Upon careful consideration, you may realize that your findings are either too extensive or lack sufficient originality to warrant a short communication. In such cases, it might be more appropriate to save them for a full-length paper where you can provide a more comprehensive analysis and discussion. It’s important to assess the significance and scope of your findings to determine the appropriate format for publication.

  • Select the journal you want to submit to

Choosing the appropriate journal for your paper involves considering multiple factors. One crucial factor is ensuring that the journal you select has a well-established peer-review process in place. Peer review ensures that your work undergoes rigorous evaluation by experts in the field, enhancing the credibility and quality of your publication.

It is vital to be cautious and avoid falling prey to “predatory publishers.” These predatory publishers engage in unethical practices by soliciting authors for publication in exchange for money, without providing proper peer review or editorial standards. Unfortunately, the number of these questionable publishers has increased significantly in recent years, with numerous “journals” emerging worldwide.

To safeguard your research and reputation, it is advisable to thoroughly investigate the credentials and reputation of any journal you are considering. Verify that the journal is indexed in reputable databases, has an established peer-review process, and adheres to ethical publishing practices. This will help ensure that your work is published in a reputable and trustworthy venue.

  • Write an outline of the paper followed by a first draft

Having a clear “road map” in mind before starting to write your paper is essential. This is especially crucial when multiple authors are involved, each working on different sections of the paper. It’s important to align the writing style to maintain a unified “voice” throughout the document. Typically, the first author takes the lead in developing the final “consensus version” of the paper, which is then approved by all other authors.

When writing the first draft, different individuals may have varying preferences. Some find it effective to write sequentially, starting from the Introduction and progressing through the sections in order. Others may prefer to jump back and forth between sections as ideas flow. Discover the writing style that works best for you and remember that even a single line of written text is better than a blank page or screen. It’s crucial to keep in mind the cardinal rule of writing: avoid editing as you write. Focus on completing the first draft as quickly as possible. Editing can be done later and is often more manageable once the initial draft is finished.

By having a roadmap, maintaining consistency in writing style, and adopting an efficient writing process, you can effectively collaborate with multiple authors and streamline the paper-writing journey.

The advantages and disadvantages of short communications

Short communications offer distinct advantages over full research papers, although they cannot fully replace them. Some of the benefits of short communications include:

  • Tailored Findings: Short communications allow for findings to be specifically targeted to a particular community or audience. The scope can be adjusted to be as narrow or as broad as needed, ensuring the relevance and applicability of the research to the intended readership.
  • Highlighting Key Points: Short communications excel at emphasizing the most interesting and essential aspects of the research. They provide a platform to showcase the most salient findings, leaving room for additional details to be presented in subsequent full-length papers.
  • Rapid Publication: Many journals offer expedited publication timelines for short communications, especially when the findings are highly original or time-sensitive. In some cases, the peer-review process may be waived, and editorial review alone may be conducted to expedite publication.

However, there are a few disadvantages associated with short communications:

  • Limited Space: Due to their concise nature, short communications have limited space to present all relevant findings and comprehensive discussions. Authors must carefully select and prioritize information to fit within the restricted word count.
  • Impact on Promotion and Tenure: In certain academic contexts, short communications may carry less weight compared to full-length articles when it comes to matters of promotion and tenure. It’s important to consider this when building a research CV, as having an excessive number of short communications may not provide the same level of recognition as a balanced publication record.

In summary, short communications hold a valuable place in the literature. They facilitate the rapid dissemination of important preliminary information from ongoing studies and can be fast-tracked for publication. While writing a short communication, it is crucial to adhere to the fundamentals of research article writing. However, it is worth noting that short communications cannot replace full-length articles, and having an excessive number of them in an author’s research CV may potentially hinder academic prospects.

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