Manuscript Requirements

Article Categories
Medical Decision Making publishes original research articles, reviews, tutorials, brief reports, technical notes, letters to the editor, essays, case studies, editorials, and clinical or policy rounds. MDM does not consider previously published articles for publication. For more information, please see Author Information. Descriptions of these article categories are provided below and include guidelines for manuscript word count. Word count is based on the body text of the manuscript, excluding the abstract, acknowledgments, figure legends, and references. Although exceptions to word-limit recommendations are granted by the editor on occasion, manuscript acceptance is more likely when authors stay within these guidelines. These limits do not apply to material that can be published in a Web-only format, however. Authors should indicate which materials (if any) in their submission may be published in Web-only format (e.g., methodologic appendices, certain figures, evidence tables).

Original research articles (3,000-5,000 words).

Reviews (3,500 words). MDM considers systematic reviews as well as informal, narrative reviews.

Tutorials (5,000 words). Authors are encouraged to consult with the editor-in-chief before submitting a tutorial. Prospective authors should provide an outline of the tutorial with an estimated word count. MDM is interested in tutorials about techniques and software for advanced mathematical, statistical, and economic modeling. Authors are encouraged to include hyperlinks to online materials that can be used in the tutorial.

Brief reports, technical notes, and letters to the editor (1,500 words). Brief reports describe preliminary or limited results of original research—ideally illustrating a new methodologic approach or a new feature of an established methodology. Technical notes describe and propose an approach to a methodologic issue that is part of a larger model or analysis.

Editorials (1,500 words). The journal regularly publishes editorials, which are considered as a result of a presubmission inquiry or invitation only.

Rounds (5,000 words). MDM has an ongoing, occasional series in the areas of clinical and policy decision making rounds. Typically, clinical rounds illustrate the application of a decision model to an individual patient. Policy rounds describe the role of an actual decision model, cost-effectiveness analysis, or other type of mathematical model in actual policy decisions, including, for example, a clinical practice guideline or a national coverage policy decision. The ideal submission of this kind would include detailed information about the problem addressed, collaboration among modelers and decision makers in framing questions, the development and results of the model, and how the model influenced (or failed to influence) a decision. Rounds manuscripts can be a single submission or a pair of manuscripts that conform to the word-count restriction noted.

Manuscript Format and Style
MDM welcomes files submitted in Microsoft Office Word (*.doc, *.docx) format. Manuscripts submitted in TeX/LaTeX format are acceptable; however, MDM requires that a PDF version of the manuscript accompany these submissions as a supplementary file.

Although objects (i.e., tables, figures) are generally embedded in a single manuscript file throughout the review process, authors of accepted manuscripts will be required to submit all components in separate, editable files for production purposes. The following graphic formats are acceptable for production: *.eps, *png, *.ppt, *.psd, *.tif, and *.xls. ScholarOne Manuscripts provides helpful information to authors concerning uploading files and images for accepted manuscripts.

Authors should write for a sophisticated general medical readership and follow principles of clear scientific writing. Aim for clear, concise, and logically organized presentations. Avoid convoluted sentences and use the active voice whenever possible. MDM largely conforms to the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals (December 2014) developed by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Authors are encouraged to consult Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers (2014) throughout manuscript preparation.

In addition, for randomized trials, adherence to the most recent CONSORT statement and checklists is encouraged. Other CONSORT statements, such as STARD or STROBE, may also be useful for structuring research manuscripts. For systematic reviews, MDM’s editors recommend following the reporting guidelines in chapter 5, Standards for Reporting Systematic Reviews, in the 2011 Institute of Medicine report, Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews.

Abbreviations. With the exception of units of measure (see also below), the use of abbreviations is strongly discouraged—especially in manuscript titles. The first time an abbreviation appears in a manuscript, unless it is a unit of measure (e.g., mL), it should be preceded by the words for which it stands.

Drug names. Although MDM encourages the use of nonproprietary (generic) names for all drugs noted in a manuscript, proprietary names may be added in parentheses on first mention at author discretion.

Units of measure. All units of measure should be expressed in conventional units with Système International units provided in parentheses throughout the text. Conventional units should also be used in figures and tables with conversion factors provided in legends or footnotes.

Currency may be presented in US dollars, Canadian dollars, British pounds, or Euros. If the study was not conducted in the United States, authors may wish, for the benefit of readers, to provide the rate of exchange to US dollars at the time the study was conducted in the Methods section (e.g., May 2015: 1 Euro = 1.12 US dollars).

Numbers and statistics. Equations should be typed exactly as they are to appear in the final manuscript. Authors are encouraged review recommendations from the Annals of Internal Medicine regarding the presentation of percentages and statistical measures such as error measures, P values, and trends. Likewise, authors are encouraged to consult guidelines from the American Psychological Association for information on presenting statistical results.

On manuscript acceptance, authors will be required to supply all in-line and full equations within the document in an editable format. Equations submitted as figures are not acceptable for production.

Manuscript Components
For the convenience of editors, reviewers, and editorial staff, MDM encourages authors to submit one file that includes the complete manuscript with components in the following sequence: title page, abstract, text, acknowledgments (if any), references, tables, figure legends, figures, and appendices (if any). ScholarOne Manuscripts automatically generates a PDF proof for use by the journal during the peer review process. (Do not use line numbering in the manuscript; line numbering is automatically applied when the PDF proof is generated.) The submitting author is required to ensure the full legibility of this PDF proof.

Title page. Provide the manuscript’s tentative title. If the study is a randomized trial, systematic review, or meta-analysis, that descriptor must be added as the subtitle (e.g., Effectiveness of a decision aid for patients with asthma: a randomized trial). Provide also a running head of no more than 50 letters and spaces.

Author names are not concealed from reviewers in MDM’s peer-review process. All authors’ full names should appear on the title page exactly as they are to appear in print, including highest academic degree(s) earned. Affiliation information and contact information must also be provided for each author. Specify which author will serve as corresponding author for the manuscript.

Please also provide the name of the department(s) and institution(s) where the work was done; meeting(s) at which the work was presented (if any); grant or other financial support (if any). Specify also the word-count total for the manuscript text, excluding the abstract, acknowledgments, references, and figure legends.

The statement that follows should be included (1) in the cover letter and (2) as a footnote on the title page:

Financial support for this study was provided [choose one: entirely or in part] by a [choose one: grant from or contract with] [insert name(s) of the funding source(s), whether a company, government agency, philanthropic foundation, institute, etc.]. The funding agreement ensured the authors’ independence in designing the study, interpreting the data, writing, and publishing the report. [The following sentence should be inserted, if applicable:] The following author(s) is/are employed by the sponsor: [identify employees].

During the submission process, the author is asked to identify keywords from two lists: APPLICATION AREAS and DETAILED METHODOLOGY. The editors use these author-selected keywords to match the manuscript to reviewers who have pertinent expertise. Authors are encouraged to review these keyword lists carefully—and completely—before making selections to ensure that the best possible keywords are chosen for the manuscript.

Abstract. Word for word, the abstract is probably the most important part of a manuscript. Editors use the abstract to decide whether the article is of interest for MDM. Reviewers use it to decide whether to accept an invitation to review the manuscript. Once the manuscript is published, readers use the abstract to decide whether they want to read the article.

Authors are encouraged to take extra time to write a good, clear abstract that addresses all of these “audiences.” Describe why readers will find the article interesting, address the critical points of the methods and results, and list your most important conclusions, including clinical or policy implications. Think about the words and phrases that will help readers and researchers locate your published article—and use them in the abstract.

Abstracts must accompany all submissions except editorials and brief reports. Structured abstracts (275 words) are required for cost-effectiveness studies and systematic reviews, including meta-analyses. Structured abstracts are preferred, but not required, for other original research manuscripts. For brief reports, abstracts (175 words) are optional. The editor-in-chief retains the right to request a structured abstract for any manuscript. The table provided (see above) shows required (bold) and optional headings for structured abstracts based on the methodology used.

Text. For original research—including economic analyses, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses—use four main headings when arranging manuscript text: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion.

Introduction. Set up the context of the research for readers concisely. Keep the Introduction section brief. Avoid repeating background or theory that can be found in textbooks or previously published articles; cite those sources instead. Always end the Introduction section with a clear statement of the study’s objectives or hypotheses.

Methods. For studies involving humans, describe in the Methods section how participants were assembled and selected as well as the sites or setting from which they were recruited. Then, describe study procedures, including any interventions, measurements, and data-collection techniques. Use figures to diagram study processes, including the flow of participants through the study. Provide the number of subjects at each stage of recruitment and follow-up, including the number of subjects who declined to participate and the number of individuals who completed follow-up protocols.

For studies that have numeric data and use statistical inference, include a subsection that describes the methods used for statistical analysis, documenting also the statistical software used.

For all studies, include a statement at the end of the Methods section that describes the role of the funding source for the study. If the study had no external funding source, or if the funding source had no role in the study, state so explicitly.

Results. This section should also be clear and concise—and it should report results only. (Implications, theories, opinions, and findings related to results should be confined to the Discussion section.) Fully describe the study sample so that readers can gauge how well the study’s findings may apply to their patients (i.e., external validity). Then, present primary findings followed by any secondary and subgroup findings. Use tables and figures to demonstrate main characteristics of participants and major findings. Avoid redundancy among text, tables, and figures.

Discussion. Consider structuring the Discussion section as outlined below:

  • Provide a brief synopsis of key findings with particular emphasis on how the findings add to the body of pertinent knowledge.
  • Discuss possible mechanisms and explanations for the findings.
  • Compare study results with relevant findings from other published work.
  • Discuss the limitations of the study and any methods used to minimize or compensate for those limitations.
  • Mention any crucial future research directions.
  • Summarize in a straightforward and circumspect manner the clinical implications of the work. It is common, but not required, to have a separate Conclusion heading.

Tables and figures. Excessive tabular material should be avoided; most data are better presented in text or figures. Information should never be duplicated among tables, text, and figures. Each table should be titled and appear on its own page.

Acknowledgments. MDM expects authors to acknowledge persons who have contributed to the scientific content of manuscripts or provided technical support. Authors must obtain written permission from anyone whom they wish to list in the Acknowledgments section on manuscript acceptance. The corresponding author must also affirm that he or she has listed everyone who contributed significantly to the work in the Acknowledgments section.

On manuscript acceptance, materials reprinted or adapted from other sources must be accompanied by a written statement from the author and the publisher granting permission to the publisher of MDM for reproduction. Questions regarding permissions may be directed to the SAGE Publications Permissions Department.

When authors submit a manuscript, they must disclose all financial relationships (both personal and institutional) that could be viewed as presenting a potential conflict of interest or that might otherwise bias their work. (If additional clearances are required by author institutions, these formal clearance statements must be provided by the authors in the manuscript as specified by their institutions.) To prevent ambiguity, authors must state explicitly whether potential conflicts do or do not exist. Potential conflicts include, but are not limited to, any financial relationship that involves conditions or tests or treatments discussed in the manuscript and alternatives to the tests or treatments for those conditions. Financial relationships (e.g., employment, consultancies, honoraria, stock ownership or options, paid expert testimony, grants, patents received or pending, royalties) are the most easily identifiable potential conflicts of interest—and the most likely to undermine the credibility of the journal, the authors, and the science itself.

Disclosure of these relationships is essential not only for original research manuscripts but also for review articles, letters, and editorials. MDM publishes conflict of interest disclosures. When authors are uncertain whether a potential conflict of interest exists, they should err on the side of full disclosure. All such disclosures should be listed in the Acknowledgments section, at the end of the manuscript.

References. MDM requires numbered, citation-sequence end references formatted in accord with National Library of Medicine standards. For more information, please refer to Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers.

Appendix. Supplemental material should not have a separate References list. References that appear in the text and an appendix should be numbered as they appear in the text. Any references that appear only in the appendix should be added consecutively to the end of the References list in the text.

Recommended Reading
Atkins D, Best D, Briss PA, Eccles M, Falck-Ytter Y, Flottorp S, et al; GRADE Working Group. Grading quality of evidence and strength of recommendations. BMJ. 2004 Jun 19;328:1490. Accessed 11 May 2015.

Bailar JC 3rd, Mosteller F. Guidelines for statistical reporting in articles for medical journals. Amplifications and explanations. Ann Intern Med. 1988 Feb;108:266-73. Accessed 11 May 2015.

Bossuyt PM, Reitsma JB, Bruns DE, Gatsonis CA, Glasziou PP, Irwig LM, et al; STARD Group. Towards complete and accurate reporting of studies of diagnostic accuracy: the STARD initiative. Fam Pract. 2004 Feb;21:4-10. Accessed 11 May 2015.

Council of Science Editors. Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers. 8th ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press; 2104.

Huth EJ. Medical Style and Format: An International Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 1987.

Institute of Medicine. Standards for reporting systematic reviews. Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews. Washington DC: National Academies Press; 2011:195-222. Accessed 11 May 2015.

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals. December 2014. Accessed 11 May 2015.

Philips Z, Ginnelly L, Sculpher M, Claxton K, Golder S, Riemsma R, et al. Review of guidelines for good practice in decision-analytic modelling in health technology assessment. Health Technol Assess. 2004 Sep;8:iii-iv,ix-xi,1-158. Accessed 11 May 2015.

Schulz KF, Altman DG, Moher D; CONSORT Group. CONSORT 2010 Statement: updated guidelines for reporting parallel group randomised trials (24 March 2010). Ann Int Med. 2010;152. Accessed 11 May 2015.

Stroup DF, Berlin JA, Morton SC, Olkin I, Williamson GD, Rennie D, et al. Meta-analysis of observational studies in epidemiology: a proposal for reporting. Meta-analysis Of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE) group. JAMA. 2000 Apr 19;283:2008-12. Accessed 11 May 2015.

von Elm E, Altman DG, Egger M, Pocock SJ, Gøtzsche PC, Vandenbroucke JP; STROBE Initiative. The Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) statement: guidelines for reporting observational studies. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Oct 16;147:573-7. Accessed 11 May 2015.

Weinstein MC, O’Brien B, Hornberger J, Jackson J, Johannesson M, McCabe C, et al; ISPOR Task Force on Good Research Practices–Modeling Studies. Principles of good practice for decision analytic modeling in health-care evaluation: report of the ISPOR Task Force on Good Research Practices–Modeling Studies. Value Health. 2003 Jan-Feb;6:9-17.

Updated: 15 June 2015, RJF