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Department: Editorial

Publishing in HCMR: What are we looking for in a manuscript?

Hearld, Larry R. PhD; Rathert, Cheryl PhD

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Health Care Management Review: 4/6 2021 - Volume 46 - Issue 2 - p 97
doi: 10.1097/HMR.0000000000000313
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As editors, one of the most common questions we get is whether a manuscript is a “good fit” for HCMR. There are many different variations of this question (e.g., “why was my paper rejected?”), but they all fundamentally are asking - “What are you looking for in a submission to HCMR?” In this editorial, we describe our expectations, based on our observations of successful and unsuccessful submissions.

Relevance is one of the first factors we consider. Relevance pertains to the manuscript’s topical fit with the HCMR mission of publishing “state-of-the-art knowledge about management, leadership, and administration of health care systems, organizations, and agencies.” Successful submissions clearly and explicitly describe how the findings contribute to the health care management literature. Relevance also pertains to the study’s importance to the broader practice of health care management. This is one of the reasons why all published manuscripts in HCMR include a section dedicated to Practical Implications. Unsuccessful submissions often fail to make these connections to practice or only do so superficially.

Rigor – both conceptual and methodological - is another important criterion for publishing in HCMR. Methodologically, successful submissions are devoid of fatal flaws such as weak research designs or data that are not ‘up to the task’ of answering the research question. Successful submissions also utilize an appropriate analytic approach and justify why that approach was appropriate. Reviewers and readers must have confidence in your findings and methodological shortcuts and shortcomings undermine that confidence. Likewise, conceptual rigor entails the inclusion of a management or organizational theory that is appropriate and capable of supporting the research question(s) and hypotheses. Unsuccessful submissions either fail to include a conceptual framework or do so in such a cursory manner that the hypotheses appear to have fallen from the sky.

Writing is the third criterion that distinguishes successful submissions from unsuccessful ones. Successful submissions address 3 C’s: clarity, comprehensiveness, and cohesion. Successful submissions are clearly written and devoid of typographical and grammatical errors. They are also unburdened of unnecessary jargon. We are academics, we get it. Jargon is like breathing for some of us. Even so, we need to keep in mind that we are not just writing for ourselves, especially if we want our research to make an impact in the field of practice. It is also worth noting here that HCMR does not utilize the services of a copy editor. Consequently, we expect authors to put their best foot forward. For those who feel their editorial skills are not up to the task, we encourage you to consult additional resources, such as peers or the language and editing services available from the publisher (https://journals.lww.com/hcmrjournal/_layouts/15/1033/oaks.journals/editservices.aspx). Successful submissions are comprehensive in their presentation, with all critical concepts and methodological steps clearly defined and explained. Recall your research methods training…have you included enough detail so that someone else could reasonably be expected to replicate your study? Finally, submissions should be cohesive, with each section of the manuscript aligning with other sections in ways that avoid gaps (e.g., hypotheses do not fully cover the research question, variables do not match the conceptual framework), but also avoid unnecessary repetition. For example, one of the more common criticisms we see of reviewed manuscripts is that the discussion does not extend the conversation to explain the findings and explore their implications, but rather settles for rehashing the results.

Now that we have that off our chests, we will conclude by noting that our observations here, of course, are illustrative and not exhaustive. Nor are they mutually exclusive. For example, motivating the relevance of one’s research is dependent, in part, on one’s ability to write clearly and coherently. We have tried to hit the highlights without getting too bogged down in the details. We hope these are helpful to those who are considering HCMR for their research.

Larry R. Hearld, PhD
Cheryl Rathert, PhD
Co-Editors-in-Chief

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