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RNJ Corner: The Application of Scholarly Formatting


The Rehabilitation Nursing Journal (RNJ) contains educational content that focuses on contemporary rehabilitation nursing practice across the continuum of care and the lifespan. The journal is published every other month and provides opportunities for professional development, as well as a forum for the dissemination of information pertinent to practice, education, research, and administration. RNJ editors strive to provide a journal that disseminates timely information and new trends in practice each issue.

 In this issue of RNJ Corner, RNJ Editorial Board Member, Pamala D. Larsen, PhD MS RN, provides tips for honing in on your manuscript submission process—starting with the planning.

What are the qualities of scholarly formatting? 

When someone mentions APA format, immediately one thinks of having the right format for a reference list, the correct format for quoting from another source, using the right format for the different levels of headings, citing in-text references appropriately, and so forth. Particularly with the implementation of the 7th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2020), there are questions about 'what changed from the 6th edition.

However, equally as important as the 'formatting' style of APA, are the first several chapters of the manual that address scholarly writing in general. Chapter 4 on writing style and grammar provides guidance on how to be an effective scholarly writer with a focus on four defining qualities: continuity, flow, conciseness, and clarity

These four qualities are key to an article being accepted or rejected at RNJ. A comment that appears often in a manuscript review is 'there is no flow to the article, it jumps from concept to concept' or 'It's not clear where the author is going with this paper'. The APA Manual defines continuity as "the logical consistency of expression throughout a written work, and by flow, the smooth cadence of words and sentences" (p. 111). Although not universal, most authors write a manuscript from an outline. An outline guides the paper and provides structure as to 'where the paper is going'. The more detailed the outline, the better. A paper that lacks flow is disorganized and confusing.

How do I apply this formatting?

Be clear and concise in your writing. I was once told by a reviewer that my writing was 'too simple', but then the reviewer went on to say, 'but all of the information is there and I can understand it'. Don't add fluff just to make your paper longer. Many times RNJ receives papers that contain too much fluff. If five sentences explain a thought, don't use ten sentences. This is a place where less is better. However, a time for more sentences is when your review comes back and the comment is 'there isn't enough explanation'. 

Short sentences are better than long wordy ones. Often RNJ gets manuscripts that consist of sentences that may be 4-6 lines long, or a paragraph in a paper that consists of one very long sentence broken up by the usual commas and semi-colons. Typically the longer the sentence the more 'wordy' it is and does not add to the clarity of the paper. Also do not include multiple thoughts in one sentence. It's better to break up the sentence into two shorter sentences.

Chapter 4 of the APA Manual provides many suggestions for preparing your paper. Here is a glimpse at some of the sections: active versus passive voice (RNJ uses active voice), subject and verb agreement, the correct pronoun, sentence construction, and strategies to improve your writing. The next time you pick up the manual to format references, I encourage you to read the first few chapters. I can assure you that you will learn something new that will enhance your writing skills.

Reference: American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.) https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000

Written by: Pamala D. Larsen, PhD MS RN, Rehabilitation Nursing Journal Editorial Board Member

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