Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Best Practices for Communicating Your Research

Learn about manuscript types (e.g., studies, reviews, meta-analyses), defining authorship, searching the literature, pre-registering hypotheses, registering systematic review protocol, making research transparent, and creating an open science lab.

Writing up Research

Manuscript Type

The type of manuscript (article) you write and attempt to publish depends on the type of research you will be conducting. Identify the type of manuscript you will write at the same time that you are identifying your research type and methodology. This will help you to focus your research and keep it transparent. It will also save time as you begin the writing process. Brief descriptions of common manuscript and review types are included on this page.

Not sure if you want to perform qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods research? Check out the Research Methods books on the bottom of the Library Books page for detailed descriptions of these different types of research.

Box 22.1: Greenfield, Tony, and Sue Greener. Research Methods for Postgraduates. Third ed. 2016. Print, p. 215.
Box 22.1 When does it make sense to use qualitative research?
You want to...
  • study poorly known phenomena and want to develop hypotheses for further testing and questions to be included in the questionnaire survey.
  • better understand the motives, feelings, values, attitudes and perceptions that underline and influence behavior (e.g. how customers perceive a certain service; how satisfied they are with it, and why; how employees perceive certain process changes etc.).
  • capture the language and imagery people use to describe and/or relate to a product, service, brand, organisation, nation, country, political idea or the like.
  • better understand a target audience's perceptions of communication messages.
  • better understand the context and meaning of the quantitative data obtained in a quantitative research process.

Manuscript Types

Reports on Primary Quantitative or Qualitative Research

Articles and manuscripts reporting on primary research, or "original research" include a variety of empirical clinical studies (specific examples could be randomized controlled trials or RCTs and highly qualitative case studies). Searching for literature for a review proceeding the report of primary research data and study results is conducted a bit differently than when writing a review article that does not present "new" primary research findings, but attempts to review all research conducted on a discrete topic. See Step 3: The Literature Search for more information.

Exploratory Studies

Exploratory case studies explore research hypotheses without clear, singular outcomes (Dr. Gernsbacher, 2018; Yin, 2018). Exploratory studies can be quantitative or qualitative and iterative in nature. In an exploratory study, the hypothesis may simply be an incredibly broad research question, and not explicit, yet it can still be registered. It is understood that in an exploratory study, the outcome is sometimes not clear, and maybe not even hypothesized (Greenfield, 2016). Additionally, when researchers pre-register their hypotheses in an effort to achieve Research Transparency, and the pre-registered hypotheses are not partially or fully supported after the study is conducted, these studies can still be published when identified as exploratory by including "An exploratory study" in the title (Dr. Gernsbacher, 2018).

Yin [2003; 2018] categorizes case studies as explanatory, exploratory, or descriptive. He also differentiates between single, holistic case studies and multiple-case studies. Stake [1995] identifies case studies as intrinsic, instrumental, or collective (as cited in Baxter & Jack, 2008).

Yin (2018, p. 28) also concludes that:

exploratory studies may have a legitimate reason for not having any propositions. Every exploration, however, should still have some purpose. Instead of propositions, the design for an exploratory study should state this purpose, as well as the criteria by which an exploration will be judged successful (or not).

Scholarly Book Reviews

Historically of particular importance to the humanities, scholarly book reviews have now gained publishing ground in most disciplines. Though providing a valuable service for academics, book authors, reviewers, publishers, librarians, and universities: "It is a dirty secret of the journal publishing business, perhaps known only to editors, that professors may be reluctant to write book reviews" due to factors such as: time constraints, these reviews counting only marginally towards promotion and tenure, and concern over slighting the author who is likely in the same field as the reviewer (Felber, 2002).

"Publishing a scholarly book review allows the reviewer to contribute to the professional literature by acting as an entrusted critic with the responsibility of informing the readership of seminal works and warning it of inaccurate scholarship" (Toner, 1997 and Miranda, 1996, as cited in Lee, Green, Johnson, & Nyquist, 2010). It can also serve as (a) an excellent entrance into publishing for the novice writer, (b) continuing education, and (c) a method for staying current in a field (Lee et al., 2010).

Narrative Reviews

Traditional "Literature review" articles fit into this category. In the research literature, the term "Literature review" at times refers to narrative reviews only, and at other times is used as an umbrella term encompassing all review types including meta-analytic and systematic reviews. The first step in writing any literature review is to determine which type of review you want to write. See Grant and Booth (2009) on the References & Resources page for a detailed overview on types of literature reviews.

There are two different strategies for reviewing literature, and these are called narrative review and meta-analysis. Narrative review approaches are more traditional, and indeed almost all literature reviews prior to 1980 used them. They consist of providing qualitative descriptions of the results of many previous studies (Baumeister, 2013).

Narrative reviews are useful for reviewing diverse study types (e.g., quantitative and qualitative studies, various research methodologies) and for providing critical evaluations of the literature. Dissertations and theses often contain narrative reviews followed by reporting on primary research.

Systematic Reviews & Meta-analyses

Systematic reviews (a.k.a. Systematic Literature Reviews or SLRs) emerged from Social Science literature in the 1970s (Schick-Makaroff, MacDonald, Plummer, Burgess, & Neander, 2016), but were quickly embraced and codified by the medical field and its researchers. Due to the current climate of numerous studies being published on discrete research topics, systematic reviews have become more widespread and embraced in other disciplines like health care, social sciences, public policy, ecology, business, computer science, and education. The main aim of a systematic review is to be transparent, systematic, and replicable.

In reviewing Petticrew and Roberts' (2006) book "Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide," Suri asserts that although "many systematic reviewers reserve the term 'systematic reviews' exclusively for reviews that statistically integrate findings of quantitative studies," the authors "belong to the group of systematic reviewers who are open to the notion of including qualitative studies in systematic reviews." (2009).

Systematic reviews are distinct from narrative reviews because they address a specific clinical question, require a comprehensive literature search, use explicit selection criteria to identify relevant studies, assess the methodologic quality of included studies, explore differences among study results, and either qualitatively or quantitatively synthesize study results. Systematic reviews that quantitatively pool results of more than one study are called meta-analyses . . . Familiarity with how to do a systematic review and meta-analysis will lead to greater skill in using this type of article. For clinicians, teachers, and investigators, systematic reviews and meta-analyses are useful sources of evidence (Montori, Swiontkowski, & Cook, 2003).

According to Greenlaugh (1997), a systematic review is "an overview of primary studies that used explicit and reproducible methods" (e.g., randomized controlled trials or RCTs) whereas a meta-analysis is a "mathematical synthesis of the results of two or more primary studies that addressed the same hypothesis in the same way." However, one method supported in the literature for which primary qualitative research data can be analyzed is thematic analysis (Thomas & Harden, 2008). Some refer to meta-analyses of qualitative studies as meta-syntheses (Carliner, 2011).

Scoping Reviews

These reviews are conducted to gain an initial assessment of the potential size, nature and extent of available research in the literature; often including ongoing research. Like systematic reviews, they aim to be systematic, transparent, and replicable. Not often considered a final output due to potential bias from limitations in rigor, quality assessment, and duration--they can reveal if a systematic review should be conducted (Grant & Booth, 2009). Sometimes the term "mapping review" is used interchangeably with scoping review.

Conducting a scoping study requires reviewers to have high degrees of analytic skill in order to develop frameworks through which large numbers of studies can be described. Furthermore, by not addressing issues of quality appraisal, the scoping study potentially has to deal with a greater range of study designs and methodologies than the systematic review, which has tended to focus on the randomised control trial as the gold standard of research design (CRD, 2001, as cited in Arksey, & O'Malley, 2005).