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Research methodology used in the 50 most cited articles in the field of pediatrics: types of studies that become citation classics

BMC Medical Research Methodology volume  20 , Article number:  60 ( 2020 ) Cite this article

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One of the frequently used methods for assessing research trends and the impact of published scientific literature in a particular discipline is citation analysis. Journals may strive to improve their metrics by choosing manuscripts and study designs that are more likely to be cited. The aim of this study was to identify the 50 most-cited articles in the field of pediatrics, analyze their study design and other characteristics of those articles, and assess the prevalence of systematic reviews among them.

In December 2017, we searched Web of Science (WoS) for all articles published in the field of pediatrics. Two authors screened articles independently and in the further analysis included 50 articles with the highest number of citations. To avoid bias for scientific papers published earlier, the citation density was calculated. We also analyzed Journal Impact Factor (JIF) of journals where citation classics were published.

The citation density in top 50 cited articles in the field of pediatrics ranged from 33.16 to 432.8, with the average of 119.95. Most of the articles reported clinical science. Median 2016 JIF for journals that published them was 6.226 (range: 2.778 to 72.406). Half of the top 10 highly cited articles in pediatrics were published in a journal with JIF below 5. Most of the studies among the citation classics in pediatrics were cross-sectional studies ( N  = 22), followed by non-systematic narrative reviews ( N  = 10), randomized controlled trials ( N  = 5), cohort studies (N = 5), systematic reviews (N = 2), case-control studies (N = 2), case reports (N = 2), and there was one study protocol and one expert opinion.

Few randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews were among citation classics in the field of pediatrics. Articles that use observational research methodology, and are published in journals with lower impact factors, can become citation classics.

Peer Review reports

The growth of a particular scientific field can be gauged by research advancements that have been reported over time. One of the frequently used methods for assessing research trends and impact of published scientific literature in a particular discipline is citation analysis. By citing an article, other researchers in the field give acknowledgement and prominence to someone’s work, highlighting its importance for further advancement of knowledge [ 1 ].

Citations are also used to calculate metrics such as Journal Impact Factor (JIF) [ 2 ]. Editors of scholarly journals may seek manuscripts with a potential for attracting high citation counts, in an effort to increase their JIF, improve their status, and attract the best manuscripts in future [ 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 ]. Some manuscripts may receive disproportionate attention of other researchers and very high number of citations [ 7 , 8 ]. Journal editors would thus benefit from knowing which manuscripts may attract higher citation counts, contribute towards JIF of their journal, and potentially become a citation classic.

Bibliometric analyses of the most-cited articles in certain disciplines, also called “citation classics”, provide insight into research areas that have marked certain discipline. The number of citations and citation density, i.e. average number of citations since the date a manuscript was published, can be used to indicate influence of a certain publication on a respective field [ 1 ].

It has been reported that systematic reviews and meta-analyses have a higher citation rate compared to other study designs [ 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 15 ]. However, it is unclear whether systematic reviews are predominant research methodology among the highest-cited articles in a certain field, i.e. ‘citation classics’.

The aim of this study was to identify the 50 most-cited articles in the field of pediatrics, to analyze their characteristics and to determine research methodology used in those articles.

This was a bibliometric study of articles published in scholarly journals.

Study eligibility

We included in the analysis articles from the field of pediatrics published in scholarly journals indexed in Web of Science (WoS), regardless of the date and language of publication.

In December 2017, we searched the WoS database [Science Citation Index – Expanded (SCI-E), Social Sciences Citation Indeks (SSCI) and Art & Humanities with the Advanced Search] for all articles published in the field of pediatrics. The following search terms were used: pediatric* or paediatric* or child* or newborn* or neonat* or adolescen* or infan* or preschool* or pre-school* or teen* or kindergarden* or elementary school* or nursery school* or youth* or baby* or babies* or schoolchild* or toddler*.

When designing the search strategy, we used results of Kastner et al., who explored age-specific search strategies for MEDLINE [ 16 ], and reported that [quote]: “ The three-term strategy “adolescent.tw. OR children.tw. OR child, preschool.sh.“ yielded the best optimization of sensitivity and specificity (89.3% and 87.3%, respectively) .” To increase the possibility to find all pediatric-related studies, we expanded on this search words, and used more labor-intensive approach – we have increased the number of search-terms related to children, to make sure that we find as many records as possible. We did not use any time or language limits.

Screening and study selection

After conducting the search, the articles were sorted in WoS by highest citation number and exported. Two authors independently screened the top-ranking articles until 50 most cited articles in the field of pediatrics were identified. We excluded all articles that used the above mentioned keywords but that were not focused on pediatric population.

Data extraction

Two authors independently categorized articles’ research methodology (i.e. study design). The studies were also categorized into the following categories: i) basic science, ii) clinical science, iii) reviews and guidelines and iv) diagnostic studies, and depending on pediatric subspecialty.

Additionally, two authors independently extracted the following data from each included article: number of authors, title, year of publication, journal name, 2016 JIF, country in which the study was performed, WoS category and WoS research area, number of citations and funding source.

To avoid bias towards older articles, which tend to have more citations because there has been more time to cite them, we calculated citation density for every study ranked in top 50 by dividing number of citations over the number of years the work had been published. Each article was assigned to a single country in accordance with the corresponding author’s address.

This study included analysis of published articles, and thus approval of a research ethics committee was not applicable.

Statistical analysis

Kolmogorov-Smirnov and Shapiro-Wilk tests were used to test normality of data distribution. Spearman’s r was used to test correlations between variables when both variables were continuous. The Mood’s median test was used to test the equality of medians. Descriptive statistics and frequencies were calculated. Both descriptive and inferential statistics were used to present the results. Statistical significance was set at p<0.05. Statistical analysis was conducted using SPSS statistical software (SPSS 24.0, IBM® SPSS®, IBM Corporation, Armonk, NY, USA).

Number of records after the search was 3,204,914. We downloaded 500 with highest citation number and screened them. Table 1 presents a list of the 50 highest-cited articles in the field of pediatrics.

Research methodology used in pediatrics’ citation classics

Most of the studies among the citation classics in pediatrics were cross-sectional studies ( N  = 22), followed by non-systematic narrative reviews ( N  = 10), randomized controlled trials ( N  = 5), cohort studies (N = 5), systematic reviews (N = 2), case-control studies (N = 2), case reports (N = 2), and there was one study protocol and one expert opinion.

Among the only two systematic reviews among the pediatrics’ citation classics, neither one was a Cochrane review. One was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2007, and it addressed world-wide prevalence of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) [ 22 ], while the other one was published in Journal of Pediatrics in 2005 on the subject of physical activity for school-aged youth [ 28 ].

Characteristics of pediatrics’ citation classics

The top 50 cited articles in pediatrics were published from 1966 to 2012. The majority of the studies were published before year 2000 (33/50; 66%); analysis per decade indicates that the highest number of those articles were published in 1990s ( N  = 20) (Fig. 1 ). Mean value for years passed since publication was 23.24 (range: 5 to 51 years) and 1st quartile value is Q1 = 16. Citation density increased with increasing decade (Fig. 2 ) and there was a high, statistically significant positive correlation between citation density and year of publication (Spearman’s ρ  = 0.888, p  < 0.001).

figure 1

Number of top 50 cited articles by decade of publication

figure 2

Citation density of articles in top 50 by decade of publication

The citation density in top 50 cited articles in the field of pediatrics ranged from 33.16 to 432.8, with the average of 119.95. The analysis showed an existing, but low positive correlation between citation density and the number of citations (Spearman’s ρ  = 0.369; p  = 0.008). Article with highest density was published by Ogden et al. in JAMA, 2012; the article reported data about obesity and body mass index in US children and adolescents in 1990–2010 [ 17 ].

The article with highest number of citations was published by Goodman et al. in 1997; the article was cited total of 4403 times, it covered pediatric psychology, namely strengths and difficulties questionnaire [ 19 ].

The oldest articles in top 50 were two articles by Tanner et al. about standards from birth to maturity for height weight height velocity and weight velocity, which was published in 1966 [ 65 , 66 ]. Both were published in Archives of disease in childhood with impact factor 3.265 in 2016.

Of the top 50 ranked articles, 33 corresponding author’s address were affiliated with institutions based in the United States. Other affiliations were from United Kingdom, New Zealand, Austria, Hungary, Sweden and Brazil. Most of them had 5 or more authors ( N  = 24). Information about funding was reported in 37 articles; studies were funded mostly by non-profit grants.

The majority of the top 50 studies in pediatrics reported topics about child psychology ( N  = 13) and psychiatry ( N  = 8). Others reported findings from the sub-specialties of neonatology ( N  = 7), epidemiology ( N  = 4), allergology ( N  = 3), general pediatrics (N = 3), growth and development (N = 3) cardiology (N = 2), endocrinology (N = 3), genetics (N = 1), nephrology (N = 1), neuropediatrics (N = 1) and biochemistry (N = 1).

Only one study was categorized as basic science, 28 were clinical studies, 12 were reviews or guidelines and 9 were diagnostic. We did not find statistically significant correlations found between citation density and category of studies ( ρ  = 0.709; p  = 0.054). Also, Mood’s median test did not suggest statistically significant differences in citation density across different categories ( p  = 0.407).

The top 50 cited articles in the field of pediatrics were published in 25 different journals. Most of them were published in The Lancet , a general medical journal ( N  = 6). Other journals that published more than one top 50 pediatric article were: Archives of General Psychiatry ( N  = 3), JAMA (N = 3), Journal of Pediatrics (N = 3), New England Journal of Medicine (N = 3), Pediatrics (N = 3), Archives of Disease in Childhood ( N  = 2), Child Development (N = 2), Cognition (N = 2) and Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (N = 2).

The 2016 impact factor for journals that published the top 50 cited pediatric articles ranged from 2.778 to 72.406 with median of 6.226. Half of the top 10 highly cited articles in pediatrics were published in a journal with impact factor below 5.

All data collected within this study, for all analyzed variables, are available in Supplementary file 1 .

The majority of pediatrics’ citation classics were observational studies with cross-sectional study design, and half of them were published in a journal with JIF below 5. Pediatrics’ citation classics were published from 1966 to 2012, with the majority published in 1990s. Most of the articles had 5 or more authors and were funded, mostly from non-profit grants. The majority of the top 50 studies in pediatrics reported topics about child psychology and psychiatry.

While it has been reported earlier that evidence syntheses, such as systematic reviews and meta-analyses, receive a higher citation rate compared to other study designs [ 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 15 ], our study indicates that there were very few systematic reviews among citation classics in the specialized field of pediatrics. This indicates that editors need not favor those kinds of study designs, when making decisions about which manuscripts to accept and publish.

We found a significant correlation between citation density and year of publication were citation density increased with increasing decade. Similar results found Baldwin et al. [ 67 ] who analyzed the highest-cited articles in pediatric orthopedic surgery.

In this study we found that the top 50 cited articles in the field of pediatrics were published in a wide range of journals according to the 2016 impact factor. Almost half of the articles were published in a journal with impact factor above 20, but the journal impact factors ranged from 2.778 to 72.406. It is encouraging to researchers to see that even studies published in journals with modest impact factors can become highly cited. It is particularly encouraging to see that half of the top 10 highly cited articles in pediatrics were published in a journal with impact factor below 5. These figures indicate a wide range of citation patterns between individual journals, suggesting that impact factor of journal should not be considered as an essential feature for article’s number of citations and that even a manuscript published in a lower-ranked journal can become a citation classic.

In 1977, Eugene Garfield described a concept of a “citation classic” in commentaries that were published in the Current Contents about the most-cited papers ever published [ 68 ]. Although number of citations varies in different disciplines, in general, it was postulated that a publication cited more than 400 times should be considered a citation classic, with the acknowledgement that in some fields, where there are fewer researchers, even 100 citations may qualify article as a citation classic [ 69 ].

In this study we restricted our analysis to the top 50 highly cited articles in the field of pediatrics, and all of these articles had much more than 400 citations, ranging from 4403 for the top-ranking article to 1691 for the 50th article on the list. This is understandable as we chose very broad field of pediatrics for this particular bibliometric analysis. Pediatrics encompasses various medical sub-specialties, which is reflected in the various topics that we can find among the top 50 articles we identified in this study.

Two article with the highest citation density reported trends in obesity and BMI index in US children and adolescents. Prevalence of childhood obesity has reached epidemic pro. The cost of obesity in childhood and adolescents for society is significant and quantifiable [ 70 ].

It has been suggested that childhood obesity is a risk factor for select cardiovascular diseases in adulthood [ 71 ], which is worrying because CVD are the predominant cause of death. It has been shown that obesity, glucose intolerance, and hypertension in childhood population were strongly associated with increased rates of premature death from endogenous causes [ 72 ].


A limitation of this study might be approach to choosing the top 50 articles using the absolute 2016 impact factor. We first extracted highest-cited articles, and then for each of the top 50 cited articles in pediatrics we analyzed a citation density, defined as number of citations per year. Even though we used this method to avoid bias, it is possible that there are pediatric articles with a higher citation density that are not included in our top 50 list.

Regarding the citation windows, there are no uniform recommendations. It has been reported that there are significant variations in citation ageing between different research fields, types of articles, total citation counts and months of publication. The within-group differences were also shown to be even more striking, as many articles in the slowest ageing field might still age faster than many articles in the fastest ageing field. Furthermore, it has been observed that field normalization cannot impact the accuracy of using short citation time windows [ 73 ].

Also, there may be factors, such as document type, which maybe correlated with number of citations [ 7 , 8 , 74 , 75 ], but comprehensive analysis of such factors on a large sample of our studies was not the aim of our study. Furthermore, we did not use any method of normalization, which may have added to the results.

Furthermore, field of pediatrics is very broad, and the articles included come from various subfields of pediatrics. However, any article, regardless of its subfield, has a potential to become a citation classic. This is also reflected in the variety of topics covered in our top 50 articles.

In this study we focused on identifying the 50 most-cited articles, while other approaches could be also used, such as identifying the top 5 or 10% of the highest-cited articles in the field. However, in bibliometric studies, there is no uniform recommendation regarding study design of these types of bibliometric studies. For example, it has been reported that in the biomedical field, list of fifty or more citations is common, while in mathematics less than twenty citations are most common [ 76 ].

Future studies in this field could address some of these limitations.

Few randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews were among citation classics in the field of pediatrics. Articles that use observational research methodology, and are published in journals with lower impact factors, can become citation classics. This implies that journal editors should not have a preferential study design when making decisions what to accept and publish, and instead to focus on the quality and contribution of a manuscript, regardless of the study design.

Availability of data and materials

All data generated within this study are available in the Supplementary file 1 .


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Journal Impact Factor

Web of Science

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Department of Pediatrics, Split University Hospital, Split, Croatia

Antonia Jelicic Kadic, Tanja Kovacevic, Ana Simicic Majce, Josko Markic, Branka Polic & Julije Mestrovic

Department of Pediatrics, General Hospital Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Edita Runjic

University of Split School of Medicine, Split, Croatia

Josko Markic & Julije Mestrovic

Center for Evidence-Based Medicine and Health Care, Catholic University of Croatia, Ilica 242, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia

Livia Puljak

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AJK designed the study, collected data, analyzed data and wrote manuscript. TK contributed to the conception and design of the study, collected data and help with interpretation of data. ER, ASM, [JM]1 and BP collected data and help with interpretation of data. [JM]2 contributed to the conception and design of the study. LP contributed to the conception and study design, data presentation, and manuscript writing. All authors reviewed and revised the manuscript and approved the final manuscript as submitted.

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Correspondence to Livia Puljak .

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Not applicable. This study did not include any participants; we analyzed publicly available bibliographic information about published research articles.

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Livia Puljak is section editor at the BMC Medical Research Methodology. Antonia Jelicic Kadic is Associate Editor of the BMC Medical Research Methodology. However, two of them were not involved in any way in handling of this manuscript. Other authors have nothing to declare regarding potential competing interests.

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Supplementary information

Additional file 1..

Supplementary file 1. Data for all characteristics of pediatrics’ citation classics that were analyzed within the study. The Excel table contains Supplementary file 1, with all data about characteristics of the 50 highest-cited articles in the field of pediatrics. The Excel table contains the following columns: name of the first author, country of authors’ affiliation, year of publication, years passed since publication, title, times cited in all databases, citation density, Journal Impact Factor for year 2016, Web of Science category, research area, funding source, study design, number of authors.

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Jelicic Kadic, A., Kovacevic, T., Runjic, E. et al. Research methodology used in the 50 most cited articles in the field of pediatrics: types of studies that become citation classics. BMC Med Res Methodol 20 , 60 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12874-020-00940-0

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.1186/s12874-020-00940-0

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Methodology for research II

S bala bhaskar.

Department of Anaesthesiology, Vijayanagar Institute Medical Sciences, Bellary, Karnataka, India

M Manjuladevi

1 Department of Anaesthesiology, St. John's Medical College, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Research is a systematic process, which uses scientific methods to generate new knowledge that can be used to solve a query or improve on the existing system. Any research on human subjects is associated with varying degree of risk to the participating individual and it is important to safeguard the welfare and rights of the participants. This review focuses on various steps involved in methodology (in continuation with the previous section) before the data are submitted for publication.


Research uses a systematic approach to generate new knowledge to answer questions based on needs of patient health and practice. The investigator identifies research question, examines the ethical implications, describes the research design and collects appropriate data[ 1 , 2 , 3 ] which is evaluated by statistical tests before it can be published.[ 4 ] Before putting this to use in clinical practice, the relevant data are critically appraised for validity and reliability.[ 1 ] This review covers these aspects of the research methodology, in continuation with the first part by Garg et al . published in this issue of Indian Journal of Anaesthesia (IJA).[ 5 ]


The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is the apex body in India responsible for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) makes it mandatory for clinical trials to be included in a clinical trials registry for acceptance for publication. Clinical Trials.gov, run by the United States National Library of Medicine, was the first online registry established in 2005 and is widely used today. All trials to be conducted in India should have mandatory prospective registration with the Clinical Trial Registry of India (CTRI- www.ctri.in ). Good clinical practice (GCP) guidelines is a set of guidelines for biomedical studies which encompasses the design, conduct, termination, audit, analysis, reporting and documentation of the studies involving human subjects. It protects rights of human subjects and the authenticity of biomedical data. ( www.cdsco.nic.in/html/GCP1.html ). Table 1 lists the type of the research involved and their regulatory bodies.[ 6 ]

Research involved and their regulatory bodies

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The International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN) registry is a primary clinical trial registry recognised by the World Health Organization. The ICMJE provides content validation of all submitted studies (proposed, ongoing or completed). The study is assigned a unique identification number, and records of the study in the database can be easily accessed ( www.isrctn.com ).

To conduct a clinical trial in India, Institution Ethics Committee (IEC) approval is mandatory, and it must be registered with CTRI- www.ctri.nic.in .[ 2 , 6 ] When ‘off-label’ use of a drug (drug being used for a new indication/new dose/formulation/route) is tested for purely academic purposes and not for commercial use, currently there is no requirement of regulator approval.[ 2 , 6 ] However, the IEC has to consider the risks-benefits and ethical basis for approval of the research.

Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) in India insists on registration and approval of clinical trials through CTRI and ensures scientific and safe conduct of the study. Most of the academic medical centres have Institutional Review Board (IRB) or IEC. They (‘internal’ Ethics Committees) can assess research proposals first and approve before submitting to national bodies. The approval may also go in parallel with DCGI approval. It is responsible for the supervision and protection of rights, safety and welfare of human subjects. During the progress of the trial, the IEC reviews safety reports, any significant violation/deviations in the protocol and for any amendments in the study protocol or informed consent.[ 2 , 7 ]

If IEC is not available in the institution, proposals can be sent independent ethics committee outside the institution (‘external’ Ethics Committees).[ 2 ] The ICMR suggests the establishment of registered Independent Ethics Committees (I nd EC) without institutional affiliation, functioning as per national guidelines. Proposals can also be sent to another institution, following established protocol, including providing a ‘no objection certificate’ and allow the external IEC necessary access.[ 2 ] When there is a large load of research, multiple ECs can function in the same institution as also subcommittees (e.g., subcommittees on adverse event, data safety monitoring, expedited review, etc.,).

The IRB consists of 7–15 members and at least five members are required to form the quorum to make a decision on the research [ Table 2 ].[ 2 ]

Composition of Institution Ethics Committee

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All the research involving human participants should follow four basic ethical principles;[ 2 ] (a) Respect for persons autonomy, (b) beneficence (balance the risks against benefits bearing in mind the welfare of the research participant[s]), (c) nonmaleficence (no harm or reduce exposure to greater harm) and (d) Justice (distribution of research subjects equitably in all groups, for example, social, economic demographic, etc).

Informed consent is a process by which a subject confirms his/her willingness to participate in a clinical study.[ 4 ] It protects the individual's freedom of choice and respect for individual's autonomy. It ensures proper regulations in clinical trials and assures patient safety by dealing with both legal and ethical basis.[ 7 ] The process of informed consent consists of providing relevant information, its comprehension and voluntariness.[ 2 ] The details of the clinical study are explained to the subject in a simple and easily understandable language. The ‘subject/participant information sheet’ should include research aspect of the study, sponsor of the study, purpose and procedure, side effects, risks and discomforts, benefits, compensation for any study-related injury, alternatives to participation, right to withdraw, confidentiality of records and contact information of the investigators and IRB.[ 2 , 6 ] The informed and written consent form is duly signed by the subject in a document called ‘informed consent form’.[ 1 , 2 , 3 ] The documents consisting of patient/participant information sheet and informed consent form should be reviewed and approved by the IEC before enrolment of the participants.

A legal authorised representative (LAR) should be involved in the decision-making of vulnerable subjects who lack the ability to consent. The consent is taken from parent/LAR (in kids <7 years) and consent of parent/LAR along with assent form (oral/written) in children aged 7–18 years.[ 2 ] Audio/audio-visual recording of the informed consent process may be required in case of certain regulatory, clinical trials.[ 2 ] After the completion/termination of the study, all records within the IEC must be archived for at least 3 years; those related to regulatory, clinical trials must be archived for 5 years as per CDSCO regulation. Longer preservation may be needed as required by the sponsors/regulatory bodies.

Many finer aspects of the legal and ethical issues in research are discussed by Yip et al in this issue of IJA.[ 8 ]

The ethical duty of confidentiality refers to the obligation of an individual or organisation to safeguard entrusted information of the research data. It is essential for the integrity of the research project and protects information from unauthorised access, use, disclosure, modification, loss or theft.[ 6 , 7 ]

Data related to any of the studies of individual participant can be disclosed only under the following circumstances:

(a) Threat to a person's life, (b) Communication with drug registration authority in cases of severe adverse reaction, (c) Communication to health authority whenever there is risk to public health, (d) In a court of law under the orders of the presiding judge and (e) As a requirement for government agencies or regulatory authorities.[ 2 ]


‘Data’ includes the information that is systematically collected by the investigator during the study. The primary data are those which are originally done for the first time. The secondary data are a compilation of information done by someone else and have already been passed through the statistical process. A Data Monitoring Committee or Data and Safety Monitoring Board may be appointed, independent of IEC for interim analysis; their report forms the basis for early termination of planned study when there is compelling evidence of beneficial effectiveness or harmful side effects or for major flaws in the study.

The two main types of data are qualitative and quantitative, and most studies will have a combination of both. While quantitative data are easy to analyse and fairly reliable, qualitative data provide more depth in the description of the sample.[ 9 ]

Data collection methods [ Figure 1 ]:

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Methods of data collection

Compilation of data includes systematic arrangement of data to facilitate the presentation and analysis.[ 12 ] The data collected are entered in a database where the information about subjects and variables are stored. Simple study database can be maintained in a spreadsheet (MS Excel © ) or statistical software (e.g., Statistical Analysis System (SAS ® ) (NC, USA), IBM SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) Statistics ® (IBM Inc., NY, USA). More complex database require integrated database management software (e.g., Access © (Windows) and Filemaker © Pro (Apple Inc.,).[ 13 ] Database ‘queries’ sort and filter the data as well as calculate values based on the raw data fields.[ 12 , 13 ] Queries are used to monitor data entry, report on study progress and format the results for analysis. Data must be stored in ‘secure servers’ so that confidentiality is maintained.[ 13 ] Backup files and off-site storage may be necessary to prevent any data loss. Common methods of summarising and presenting data are tables, pie charts, bar charts, histograms, frequency and cumulative frequency curves, dot plots and x-y scatterplots.[ 13 , 14 , 15 ]


‘Research tool’ is the means of collecting information for the purpose of a study. Observation forms, interview schedules, questionnaires are all classified as research tools. The first practical step in doing a research process is to construct a research tool. Four stage process is involved in developing a research tool.[ 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 ]

The error may occur at any stage of research, i.e., from selection to interpretation of data to conclusion. Two types of error can occur – random and systematic error. The random error must be reduced as far as possible, and the systemic error should be eliminated. Errors can occur from three sources:[ 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 ]

Any research can be affected by factors that can invalidate the findings. A good research tool should meet the tests of validity, reliability and practicality.

Validity refers to the extent to which a test measures what we actually wish to measure. Reliability refers to accuracy and precision of a measurement procedure.

The practicality characteristic of a measuring instrument can be judged in terms of economy, convenience and interpretability.

Determining validity can be viewed as constructing an evidence-based argument regarding how well a tool measures what it is supposed to do.


External validity refers to generalising the study results to other population groups with similar risk factors, settings, measurement and treatment variables.

Internal validity implies that the differences observed between the treatment groups, apart from random error, are only due to the treatments under investigation.[ 9 ]

Validity assessment can be performed in three ways:

Other Types: Concurrent validity refers to the degree of correlation of two measures of the same concept administered at the same time. Consensual validity is a process by which a panel of experts judge the validity.[ 1 , 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 ]

A measuring instrument is reliable if it provides consistent results.[ 1 , 11 ]

The stability aspect refers to securing consistent results with repeated measurements of the same person and with the same instrument. Determination of the degree of stability by comparing the results of repeated measurements.

The equivalence aspect considers how much error may get introduced by different investigators or different samples of the items being studied.


Measuring instrument practicality is tested in terms of economy, convenience and interpretability.

Economy consideration suggests that some trade-off is needed between the ideal research project and that which the budget can afford.

Convenience test suggests that the measuring instrument should be easy to administer. Interpretability consideration is especially important when persons other than the designers of the test are to interpret the results.


The statistics in research functions as a tool in designing research, analysing its data and drawing conclusions from it.[ 20 , 21 ] Descriptive statistics are the development of certain indices from the raw data, summarised in tables, charts or numerical forms. The inferential analysis is undertaken to apply various tests of significance to test hypotheses of a research question so as to validate conclusions. An essential part of presenting any type of inferential data is by probability ( P value) which reassures the reader that the outcome was secondary to the effect of the studied variable and has not occurred purely by chance.[ 22 ] P < 5% is considered statistically significant. Statistical tests are used for testing the significance. Various parametric tests (variable normally distributed) and nonparametric tests (variables are not normally distributed) are used to meet the objective of the study [ Table 3 ].[ 19 , 20 ] ‘Basic Statistical Tools in Research and Data analysis’ in this issue of IJA by Zulfiqar Ali describe these tests in detail.[ 23 ]

Tests of significance

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The ‘methodology’ in a research strategy outlines the steps involved in research process. The research problem is identified, aims and objectives are formulated, sample size is calculated; Ethics Committee approval and informed consent from the subject are taken; data collected are summarised. The research design is planned, and the collected data are then analysed using appropriate statistical tests. The derived evidence is put into clinical practice once the reader is convinced that the clinical study is valid and reliable.

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Journal of Business Research

Literature review as a research methodology: an overview and guidelines.

Knowledge production within the field of business research is accelerating at a tremendous speed while at the same time remaining fragmented and interdisciplinary. This makes it hard to keep up with state-of-the-art and to be at the forefront of research, as well as to assess the collective evidence in a particular area of business research. This is why the literature review as a research method is more relevant than ever. Traditional literature reviews often lack thoroughness and rigor and are conducted ad hoc, rather than following a specific methodology. Therefore, questions can be raised about the quality and trustworthiness of these types of reviews. This paper discusses literature review as a methodology for conducting research and offers an overview of different types of reviews, as well as some guidelines to how to both conduct and evaluate a literature review paper. It also discusses common pitfalls and how to get literature reviews published.

Cited by (0)

Hannah Snyder is an assistant professor at the department of marketing, BI - Norwegian School of Business, Oslo, Norway. Her research interest relates to service innovation, customer creativity, deviant customer behavior, and value co-creation as well as a special interest in literature review methodology. She has published in the Journal of Business Research , European Journal of Marketing , Journal of Service Management and International Journal of Nursing Studies .

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How To Write a Methodology for a Publishable Journal Article

Posted by rene | Jun 3, 2021 | Advice & Discussions on Preparing & Submitting Journal Articles for Publication | 0 |

How To Write a Methodology for a Publishable Journal Article

How To Write a Methodology for a Publishable Journal Article Writing about the significant results and exciting implications of advanced research necessitates writing about the methodology employed to achieve those results. Although a well-written methodology for an academic or scientific journal article may come across as straightforward and even simple, the process of writing it is usually neither. Research procedures are often complicated, and decisions about the inclusion or exclusion of details in the methodology written for an article can be as challenging as initial decisions about the research design were. Unfortunately, there is no single set of rules or practices that apply to every project or article: journal requirements vary, and each research project as well as its methodology is unique. The following tips therefore do not address every situation and possibility, but they do outline a number of common requirements and concerns for the scholarly author who is working to write a suitable and informative methodology for an article that will prove worthy of publication in a reputable peer-reviewed journal. 

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• The heading, subheadings, length, content and arrangement of material for an article methodology varies among journals, so always read the author instructions or guidelines and follow them precisely to ensure that you write an acceptable methodology. • A research methodology section in a journal article should inform readers about exactly what was done during the research, including the initial preparations and the way in which information or evidence (data) was gathered or generated, measured and analysed. • A methodology should also offer a rationale for the research methods, so be sure to explain why the research design and individual procedures are appropriate for examining the problem investigated, answering the research questions or testing the hypotheses. • A discussion of the broader contexts of the methodology may be desirable. This might involve introducing theoretical concepts and situating the methodology within the body of current knowledge or practice through descriptions and citations of published studies. • Established methods in a field can usually be simply named or identified rather than described in detail, but if those methods have been modified in any way, the modifications will require more extensive explanation as well as some justification. • Instruments commonly used in the field need only be named in most cases, but new instruments developed or adapted for the research should be carefully explained, perhaps with illustrations. Readers should be told exactly how all instruments were used. • The subject or subjects studied should always be described. Whether the article reports medical research on human subjects or palaeographical research on ancient books, give all the details about the objects or individuals studied and explain why they were chosen. • The variables considered and manipulated should be introduced and discussed. Independent variables should be distinguished from dependent ones, and the risks and precautions associated with confounding variables should be disclosed and explained. • Study and control groups and categories should be described in detail. The criteria for selection and division should be explained with precision, and any changes or problems associated with groups and categories as the research progressed should be itemised. • If ethical approval or informed consent was required for the research, the fact that it was obtained as appropriate should be stated. The same is the case with any kind of approval or permission required to make use of instruments, methods or data in the research. • Remember that a methodology should let readers know that the research procedures used are consistent with sound and accepted practice in the field. Any procedures that may seem questionable should therefore be justified in relation to the research objectives, • A methodology should provide the information necessary for experts in the field to judge whether the methods used are valid, reliable and replicable. Providing the details required for such judgements, such as statements about limitations, is therefore imperative. • The written style of a methodology should be clear, direct and concise. Errors and ambiguities must be avoided to prevent confusion, and unnecessary words should be removed. The procedures described have been done, so the past tense is appropriate. • Like all parts of an academic or scientific article, a methodology should be carefully proofread, edited and revised before submission. Ensure that all mistakes are corrected and that procedures and processes are presented in a chronological or logical order.

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How to Write a Research Methodology for Your Academic Article

This article is part of an ongoing series on academic writing help of scholarly articles. Previous parts explored how to write an introduction for a research paper and a literature review outline and format .

The Methodology section portrays the reasoning for the application of certain techniques and methods in the context of the study.

For your academic article, when you describe and explain your chosen methods it is very important to correlate them to your research questions and/or hypotheses. The description of the methods used should include enough details so that the study can be replicated by other Researchers, or at least repeated in a similar situation or framework.

Every stage of your research needs to be explained and justified with clear information on why you chose those particular methods, and how they help you answer your research question or purpose.

As the Authors, in this section you get to explain the rationale of your article for other Researchers. You should focus on answering the following questions:

The responses to these questions should be clear and precise, and the answers should be written in past tense.

First off, let’s establish the differences between research methods and research methodology.

Research Methods and Research Methodology

As an Academic and Author of valuable research papers, it’s important not to confuse these two terms.

Research Methodology Definition

Research Methodology refers the discussion regarding the specific methods chosen and used in a research paper. This discussion also encompasses the theoretical concepts that further provide information about the methods selection and application.

In other words, you should highlight how these theoretical concepts are connected with these methods in a larger knowledge framework and explain their relevance in examining the purpose, problem and questions of your study. Thus, the discussion that forms your academic article’s research methodology also incorporates an extensive literature review about similar methods, used by other Authors to examine a certain research subject.

Research Method Definition

A Research Method represents the technical steps involved in conducting the research. Details about the methods focus on characterizing and defining them, but also explaining your chosen techniques, and providing a full account on the procedures used for selecting, collecting and analyzing the data.

Important Tips for a Good Methodology Section

The methodology section is very important for the credibility of your article and for a professional academic writing style.

Data Collection or Generation for Your Academic Article

Readers, academics and other researchers need to know how the information used in your academic article was collected. The research methods used for collecting or generating data will influence the discoveries and, by extension, how you will interpret them and explain their contribution to general knowledge.

The most basic methods for data collection are:

Secondary data

Secondary data are data that have been previously collected or gathered for other purposes than the aim of the academic article’s study. This type of data is already available, in different forms, from a variety of sources.

Secondary data collection could lead to Internal or External secondary data research.

Primary data

Primary data represent data originated for the specific purpose of the study, with its research questions. The methods vary on how Authors and Researchers conduct an experiment, survey or study, but, in general, it uses a particular scientific method.

Primary data collection could lead to Quantitative and Qualitative research.

Readers need to understand how the information was gathered or generated in a way that is consistent with research practices in a field of study . For instance, if you are using a multiple choice survey, the readers need to know which questionnaire items you have examined in your primary quantitative research. Similarly, if your academic article involves secondary data from FED or Eurostat it is important to mention the variables used in your study, their values, and their time-frame.

For primary research, that involve surveys, experiments or observations, for a valuable academic article, Authors should provide information about:

Selecting and Applying Research Methods

Establishing the main premises of methodology is pivotal for any research because a method or technique that is not reliable for a certain study context will lead to unreliable results, and the outcomes’ interpretation (and overall academic article) will not be valuable.

In most cases, there is a wide variety of methods and procedures that you can use to explore a research topic in your academic article. The methods section should fully explain the reasons for choosing a specific methodology or technique .

Also, it’s essential that you describe the specific research methods of data collection you are going to use , whether they are primary or secondary data collection.

For primary research methods, describe the surveys, interviews, observation methods, etc.

For secondary research methods, describe how the data was originally created, gathered and which institution created and published it.

Reasons for Choosing Specific Research Methods

For this aspect that characterizes a good research methodology, indicate how the research approach fits with the general study , considering the literature review outline and format , and the following sections.

The methods you choose should have a clear connection with the overall research approach and you need to explain the reasons for choosing the research techniques in your study, and how they help you towards understanding your study’s purpose.

Data Analysis Methods

This section should also focus on information on how you intend to analyze your results .

Describe how you plan and intend to achieve an accurate assessment of the hypotheses, relationships, patterns, trends, distributions associated with your data and research purpose.

The data type, how it was measured, and which statistical tests were conducted and performed, should be detailed and reported in an accurate manner.

For explaining the data analysis methods, you should aim to answer questions, such as:

Issues to Avoid

There are certain aspects that you need to pay extra attention in relation to your research methodology section. The most common issues to avoid are:

Which aspects are you generally focusing on when writing your academic article’s research methodology section?

You may also like, related policies and links, responsibilities of the publisher in the relationship with journal editors, general duties of publisher.

journal article research methodology


  1. Example Of Methodology In Journal Article : Critical Critique Scientific Journal Articles Cover

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  2. Journal Article: Methods : NSE Communication Lab

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  3. Article Types

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  4. chem-bla-ics: Comparing Research Journals Quality #1: FAIRness of journal articles

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  5. How to Write a Review Article for a Scientific or Academic Journal

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  6. How To Critique An Article: Step By Step Article Critique Guide

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  6. Writing Skills of Research Journal


  1. Methodology

    The methodology section or methods section tells you how the author(s) went about doing their research. It should let you know a) what

  2. Research methodology and characteristics of journal articles with

    Mapping research methodology of published original studies and registered clinical trials since the outbreak of pandemic will help researchers

  3. Research methodology used in the 50 most cited articles in the field

    Citations are also used to calculate metrics such as Journal Impact Factor (JIF) [2]. Editors of scholarly journals may seek manuscripts with a

  4. Methodology for research II

    The 'methodology' in a research strategy outlines the steps involved in research process. The research problem is identified, aims and objectives are formulated

  5. Exploring Research Methodology: Review Article

    International Journal of Research and Review www.ijrrjournal.com. E-ISSN: 2349-9788; P-ISSN: 2454-2237. Review Article. Exploring Research Methodology:

  6. Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and

    While systematic reviews have strict requirements for search strategy and selecting articles for inclusion in the review, they are effective in synthesizing

  7. How to Write Research Methodology: Overview, Tips, and Techniques

    The methodology section of your research paper is not all about describing your data gathering process and your analysis. The methodology is

  8. International Journal of Social Research Methodology: Vol 26, No 2

    Explore the current issue of International Journal of Social Research Methodology, ... Article. Article. Is agent-based modelling the future of prediction?

  9. How To Write a Methodology for a Publishable Journal Article

    A research methodology section in a journal article should inform readers about exactly what was done during the research, including the

  10. How to Write a Research Methodology for Your Academic Article

    Research Methodology refers the discussion regarding the specific methods chosen and used in a research paper. This discussion also encompasses