AFP strives to publish research that is relevant to the needs of Australian GPs. Submissions from other fields and from non-Australian authors are welcome provided the findings are applicable to Australian general practice. Articles should demonstrate a clear research question, sound method, analysed appropriately for the method and presented in a comprehensible, accurate way. The abstract should accurately and clearly summarise the article. This is extremely important as when searching articles, many readers will go no further than the abstract or will use the abstract as a filter to include or exclude papers from further scrutiny.
At times, research articles will not be accepted based on lack of relevance to Australian general practice when compared to other articles; not only the quality of the submission. Authors should use their covering letter to provide 2–3 reasons to articulate why they believe their research should be published in AFP. This is particularly important if the submission relates to a lower priority area for AFP (more details follow).
Low priority research articles
In recent years, AFP has received approximately twice as many research submissions as it can publish. While AFP will consider a wide range of research methodologies, authors should be aware that there are certain types of research that are a lower priority for publication. These include surveys with low response rates, pilot studies and educational interventions.
In most cases, the lower the response rate to a survey, the less the findings can be generalisable to other similar populations. AFP acknowledges that less than desired response rates to surveys are a common issue and that the population being surveyed can influence response rate; hence there is no single number that can be seen as an 'acceptable' response rate. Issues that will be considered when considering a response rate include:
- The population being surveyed
- Efforts taken to maximise response
- The overall strength of the method (eg. use of a validated instrument)
- Interest of the topic
AFP is interested in publishing true pilot studies which demonstrate a new or unusual methodology that requires piloting, innovative research (ie. novel research question) or unexpected or interesting findings that will impact on further research and/or potentially practice. However, in all cases the methodology needs to be sound and well executed. A submission that is a pilot due to lack of funds, lack of recruitment, ad hoc methodology or issues in the execution is unlikely to be published in AFP. Exploratory studies in areas where there is a lack of research to identify what the research question should be will be considered, however they are also not a high priority.
AFP is interested in publishing quality articles on educational interventions that:
- Describe new strategies, techniques or approaches in enough detail that the approach can be reproduced (the standard expected in the description is the same as for a behavioural intervention trial)
- Have sound evaluation (ideally using standardised instruments or recognised research methods)
- Articulate the advantages and disadvantages of the approach being considered
- Are able to demonstrate educationally and clinically relevant evaluation strategies.
AFP is unlikely to publish educational interventions where the only evaluation performed relates to participant satisfaction, self-rated knowledge or confidence at the end of the session.
Articles that are of low priority for the research section of AFP may at times be considered for publication in the professional section of AFP. However, authors should note that these submissions may still require ethics approval if they do not fall into an exemption (see below).
In keeping with international protocols and NHMRC guidelines, all research papers reporting new research must be able to state that appropriate ethics approval was obtained before undertaking the study. All clinical trials must be registered. Ethics approval details must be described in the manuscript. Further information about ethics approval requirements is available at www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines/ethics/human_research/index.htm.
Occasionally, research may be eligible for an exemption to obtaining ethics approval because it is defined as quality assurance rather than research. For guidance see the NHMRC publication 'When does quality assurance in health care require independent ethical review?' which is available at www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/file/health_ethics/human/conduct/guidelines/e46.pdf.
Consensus statements and checklists
When available, AFP recommends using consensus statements and checklists as a guide to writing your article, such as:
Format of submissions
The maximum length for reports of quantitative research is 1500 words, excluding abstract, tables, figures and references. A maximum of four tables and/or figures is recommended. For reports of qualitative research, the maximum length is 2000 words and quotations of interviewees/participants are considered additional to the word count. The number of references should be less than 25. Shorter articles are welcomed.
AFP uses structured abstracts and the IMRAD format for research articles, followed by a short summary of the implications for general practice.
The abstract should accurately reflect the contents of the article and include the major 'take home' messages of the article. The abstract should be less than 150 words and structured under the headings: background, methods, results and discussion.
This provides a background for the study, outlining the nature of the problem and states the research question. A good research question:
- defines the population studied
- defines the problem or intervention to be studied
- clearly states any comparison group
- clearly defines outcomes of interest, and
- states a timeframe.
This includes the protocol of the study and should include:
- how and why the participants were selected (include eligibility and exclusion criteria) and details of randomisation if applicable
- a description of the source population
- technical information (method, procedures, drugs or interventions used) in sufficient detail to allow the study to be reproduced
- literature review articles should include search strategies
- analytical methods in enough detail so that a knowledgeable reader with access to the original data could verify the results
- ethics approval or reason for exemption should also be stated at the end of this section.
DO NOT include results in the methods section.
Results should be presented in a logical sequence with the main or most important findings first. Avoid repeating in the text data and information included in the tables, but rather use the text to emphasise or summarise.
Use this section to emphasise new or important aspects of the study. Summarise the main findings, discuss possible explanations, compare with other relevant studies, discuss the limitations of the study, and only make conclusions that are supported by the data.
Implications for general practice
Include a short summary (eg. 2–4 dot points) of the implications of your study to general practice.
Articles in the clinical section of AFP relate directly to patient care. They are evidence based reviews relating to the assessment and/or management of specific symptoms or conditions. Articles must be general practice focused and authors are asked to pitch their article at the level where a competent practising GP would read it and say: 'Yes, that was useful, I'll change my practice accordingly'. The word limit for the text is 1500 words, excluding abstract and references. Any appropriate case studies, clinical photographs, diagrams, figures and tables are most welcome and are not included in the word limit of the text. All articles should be appropriately referenced to the best available evidence. Articles need to include a semi-structured abstract of no more than 150 words and a short summary of important points. A number of clinical articles are commissioned each month for inclusion in a theme or ongoing series.
Case based articles in the clinical section of AFP should be presented in a question and answer format, starting with a short clinical case history and usually accompanied by clinical photograph. The case history shold be followed by a series of questions to bring out the salient points regarding diagnosis or management of the condition described. Cases should focus on an unusual problem or an unusual presentation of a condition that is of interest to practising GPs. The word limit for the text of case based articles is 750 words excluding references. Appropriate diagrams, figures and tables are welcome and are not included in the word limit of the text. All articles should be appropriately referenced to the best available evidence.
The professional section of AFP includes articles on non-clinical topics such as practice management, medicolegal issues, patient safety, healthcare systems, primary care workforce, service delivery and undergraduate or postgraduate medical education.
Reports of audits, including those completed according to the QI&CPD and PDSA frameworks may occasionally be appropriate for publication in this section. However, while the RACGP recognises the importance of these activities to the professional development of GPs and practice staff, reports of these activities are often of limited interest to GPs outside the practice where the study was carried out. For this reason, these reports are a low priority for publication in AFP. Only reports of activities that have the potential to make our GP readership consider implementing a change to their current practice will be considered for publication. In some cases these activities will require ethics approval according to the NHMRC's 'National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research'. Please see the section in research on ethics approval. Professional submissions may be low risk, see: www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/file/guidelines/ ethics/human_research/ NS_low_risk_flow_ chart.pdf.
Reports of educational interventions may also occasionally be considered for publication in the professional section if they have the potential to make GP or undergraduate educators consider implementing a change to their current practice. In addition, the educational intervention must be described in enough detail for it to be reproducible by our readership.
The word limit for professional articles is 1500 words, excluding abstract and references. Any appropriate case studies, clinical photographs, diagrams, figures and tables are most welcome and are not included in the word limit of the text. All articles should be appropriately referenced to the best available evidence. The articles need to include a semi-structured abstract of no more than 150 words and a short summary of important points.
Viewpoint articles are opinion pieces relating to any topic of primary care including health policy, education, clinical practice, practice management or service delivery. The authors point of view should be should be clearly argued and supported by appropriate references. Priority will be given to topics that reflect current and critical issues faced by our GP readership and their patients. The word limit is 750 words with up to 5 references.
Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor should be a maximum of 350 words, excluding references (up to three references). Letters can be addressed to:
Australian Family Physician
100 Wellington Parade
East Melbourne Victoria 3002 Australia
and submitted online via http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/afp or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not all letters will be published. Preference will be given to letters related to AFP articles. Authors of any article a letter pertains to may be given the opportunity to reply. Letters may be edited.