The content of medical journal Instructions for authors.
Schriger DL., Arora S., Altman DG.
STUDY OBJECTIVE: We describe the general and statistical content of the Instructions for Authors of major medical journals. METHODS: This article reports on 2 observational studies. In study 1, we investigated the online versions of Instructions for Authors of 166 journals from 33 specialties for the presence of content about 15 methodologic and statistical topics. In study 2, we categorized the general content of the online versions of the Instructions for Authors of 35 medical journals. Two abstractors independently assigned the content into 18 categories and counted the total number of words devoted to each category. Interrater reliability of the classification was assessed. RESULTS: Less than half of the 166 Instructions for Authors in study 1 provided any guidance on statistical methods, and the majority failed to cite accepted publication standards such as the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform Guidelines or CONSORT. Only 13% of journals commented on the content and style of data tables and figures. The 35 Instructions for Authors in study 2 varied greatly in length (mean 3,308; median 2,283; range 885 to 18,927) and, with few exceptions, focused on formatting issues. Forty-three percent of Instructions offered no advice on scientific content, and only 5 journals devoted more than 10% of their words to scientific content. CONCLUSION: There is great heterogeneity among medical journal Instructions for Authors. Instructions provide little guidance about methodologic and statistical issues, and the advice provided is often contradictory among journals.