A Research Blog

Prof Eric FinkelsteinNamed one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds of 2015 by Thomson Reuters, Prof Finkelstein has an impressive list of over 160 publications to his name, with an even more impressive 15,000 citations.Eric Finkelstein is Director of Lien Centre for Palliative Care, and Professor of the Health Services and Systems Research Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School.

With such a stellar publishing record, Microscope jumped at the chance to pick Prof Finkelstein’s brains on his approach to telling his research stories.

Question 1. Where do you start when you first start putting together a research story?

A good research story always starts with an unanswered question. I first ask myself what question I’m interested to explore and then I form a hypothesis and a research strategy to test it. I find that the hard work is typically in the proposal stage and once the study is completed, the story almost writes itself.

Question 2. What is your methodology as you write about your research?

In academic writing there is little room for creativity. We must follow very strict guidelines, such as STROBE (Strengthening the reporting of observational studies in epidemiology), for conducting high quality studies and then we must conform to strict rules from the journals in terms of how to organise each section. The creativity, if any, comes in how we answer the research question.

Question 3. What, in your opinion, is the most important feature/characteristic of a compelling research story?

A compelling research story needs an audience who will be interested in your research no matter what you find. If you cannot get people excited about the research, then it may not be worth pursuing.

Question 4. Do you have any tips for writing successfully about research?

Yes. Have a clear hypothesis. Know your target audience and journal before you start writing.

Question 5. What are some common pitfalls to avoid when writing about research?

I often see manuscripts where authors seem to take a side. Either they are trying to advocate for one result over another and/or they are making too much out of shaky results. I consider manuscripts as data and researchers should be in the position to provide and interpret that data but ultimately policymakers should be the ones making the policy decisions. It is not really our role as academics and if we engage in advocacy/policy, we may cease to be objective.

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