Command of language and replicability are the qualities of publishable research

November 25, 2012

Utilization is the ultimate goal of research. Results and findings are either put into practice, or extracted as evidence to support a theory or to explain a particular human experience.

But before research could be utilized, it must first be published according to Dr. Constantino T. Ballena, professor of applied linguistics at the De La Salle University in Dasmariñas, Cavite. Problem is, after research completion, researchers are sometimes confronted with difficulty in composing publishable versions of their work.

Researchers are either constrained by traditional writing forms or are inundated by much information in their manuscripts that they simply would not know where to start, Dr. Ballena said.

The editor-in-chief of the Philippine Association of Graduate Education (PAGE) national research journal, Dr. Ballena was at the University of the Cordilleras (UC) last November 10 for a daylong seminar on "Writing Publishable Journal Articles."

Initiated by the UC College of Teacher Education in cooperation with the UC Research and Development Center, the seminar served to enrich the university's research initiatives by encouraging publication of output by research practitioners from the faculty as well as from the pool of student researchers.

The seminar brought together at least fifty members of the UC faculty across the university's ten colleges. The UC audience was composed of faculty members undertaking research initiatives as well as mentors handling research subjects.

Research articles are generally published in refereed research journals, according to Dr. Ballena. But while research journals vary in certain nuances of form and style, most research journals today follow the current format that requires a sequential presentation of the introduction, methodology, research and discussion - or IMRD, he said.

The IMRD format embodies an overall article length of about 4000 words including the bibliography, explains Dr. Ballena. This takes about 20 pages of a letter-sized bond paper with a 12-point type face written double-spaced, he said.

A professional refereed journal article demands compliance in form and presentation. "Editors and referees base their judgment on these criteria," Dr. Ballena says. Under a stringent selection process, some articles may not make it through publication. However, a deferred article does not mean it is mediocre.

"A successful author accepts corrections, comments, suggestions and criticisms," explains Dr. Ballena. A researcher's positive disposition towards criticisms would eventually result in a published work if he or she is "patient, persistent and resourceful."

In workshop segments held throughout the daylong seminar, Dr. Ballena pointed to some critical parts of a full-length paper that requires some attention from editors and referees. The title, he said, must be phrased in a way that immediately "arouses intrigue and curiosity." It is the title that "captures the main topic" and leads the reader to the body of the paper, he added.

Published research papers today departs from the conventional title formatting that starts with "a study of" and instead proceeds directly to the heart of the study. Titles are written in not more than 15 words "because other details can be placed in the study's scope and limitations."

The part that is most important in the research paper is the methodology. Dr. Ballena said the quality of the methodology is determined in terms of its "replicability and repeatability." Details looked into in the methods are the research design, research participants and data collection techniques and procedures.

A sound research methodology often results in meaningful data. Aside from the form, data presentation is the part looked into by editors in the research paper. Editors, says Dr. Ballena, observes whether logic is established in the researcher's presentation of his or her findings.

In analyzing data, the researcher provides answers to questions proffered under the problem statement. Editors and referees go through the "facts, measurements and observations and ascertain whether these are meaningful." Dr. Ballena says weight is placed more on whether the findings present "significant patterns and trends" and not merely volume of data.

"Command of the language," plays a big role in the determination of publishable works. "But a good language can never embellish a bad research. In the end, what matters to editors is that the researcher presents quality work, written in clear and precise language," he said.

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