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How to Create and Use Gantt Charts

Gantt Charts

There are several tools available to help you plan your research project. They help you organize your thoughts and create a research plan against a timeline. One such tool is called a Gantt chart. Gantt charts were first created in the mid-1890s and revised by Henry Gantt in the early 1900s. Gantt charts are often used in businesses to plan projects and events. They allow managers to stay focused on both monetary and time constraints. Simple Gantt charts list project activities against points in time. More elaborate Gantt charts show more details, such as milestones (discussed below). Time slots/duration would include, for example, the project start date, intermediate time points of importance, and the ending date.

You Need to Plan

Many projects exceed both budgets and timelines. Lack of planning is a major reason for this. Nearly all research projects have some constraints to moving forward. These can be because of delayed funding or availability of an onsite laboratory. Internal structure and political situation might also play a role that could delay a project.

Although planning your project can be a daunting task, a Gantt chart can be of tremendous help. Furthermore, funders will be more willing to discuss your project if you are well organized and prepared. In one of his recent blogs, Jonathan O’Donnell, funding mentor, stated that every application should include a Gantt chart. Proper planning provides assurances that you are well organized. If you are approaching a funder that you have approached in the past, they will consider how organized your previous project was and will base their decision on its success.

Your Research Plan

Your research plan is your guide. It must be carefully thought out and might take several iterations before you are confident about it. Your project’s activity timeline is a very important element of your plan. The duration of each must be logical and realistic. Give yourself enough time for each task. Try never to cut short the timeframe on any important task.

The Gantt chart will help you to stay on track with these activities, which can actually affect the execution and completion of your project. It also provides information on important activities that are defined as “milestones.” For example, say that the time when a particular laboratory is available is a constraint. Any time that a specific activity cannot be performed because of a constraint on laboratory timings should be clearly marked. Every team member must be aware of this constraint.

Another example is that one activity might depend on another. A second activity can begin only when the first activity has reached a specific point. That would be another milestone and should be clearly marked.

Creating Your Gantt Chart

Once you get your thoughts organized, the steps to creating your Gantt chart are fairly simple as follows:

  • List step-by-step activities: Make this a very detailed compilation. It will keep you focused and provide information on what resources you need.
  • Estimate how long each activity will take: Estimate the duration of each task/activity. Consider possible lag and lead time in all the activities. You can use days, weeks, or hours to make Gantt charts.
  • Organize activities logically with constraints and milestones: If possible, eliminate any activity constraint. For example, if your university lab is not available at specific times, consider an alternative, such as renting space.
  • Combine activities: Rather than creating an enormous activity list, combine like activities into groups. Combine timeframes into larger chunks. For example, if your project will last 5 years, divide the timeline into quarters instead of listing days or months.

Your completed Gantt chart will now present a project “picture.” This will provide a view “at a glance” of your project to all stakeholders. It will also provide you and your team with a clear set of goals.

Apart from MS Project, you can use various online platforms to create Gantt charts.


Make Changes Carefully

It is easy to make revisions to your Gantt chart, but avoid making changes at random for no valid reason. For example, any delays caused by a team member that could have been prevented is not a valid reason for changing your plan. Random and frequent changes to your plan might send a message that you are not organized.

What is Background in a Research Paper?


So you have carefully written your article and probably ran it through your colleagues ten to fifteen times. While there are many elements to a good research article, one of the most important elements for your readers is the background of your study. The background of your study will provide context to the information discussed throughout the research paper. Background information may include both important and relevant studies. This is particularly important if a study either supports or refutes your thesis.

In addition, the background of the study will discuss your problem statement, rationale, and research questions. It links introduction to your research topic and ensures a logical flow of ideas.  Thus, it helps readers understand your reasons for conducting the study.

Providing Background Information

The reader should be able to understand your topic and its importance. The length and detail of your background also depend on the degree to which you need to demonstrate your understanding of the topic. Paying close attention to the following questions will help you in writing background information:

  • Are there any theories, concepts, terms, and ideas that may be unfamiliar to the target audience and will require you to provide any additional explanation?
  • Any historical data that need to be shared in order to provide context on why the current issue emerged?
  • Are there any concepts that may have been borrowed from other disciplines that may be unfamiliar to the reader and need an explanation?

Related: Ready with the background and searching for more information on journal ranking? Check this infographic on the SCImago Journal Rank today!

Is the research study unique for which additional explanation is needed? For instance, you may have used a completely new method

What Makes the Introduction Different from the Background?

Your introduction is different from your background in a number of ways. First, the introduction contains preliminary data about your topic that the reader will most likely read. Secondly, the background of your study discusses in depth about the topic, whereas the introduction only gives an overview. Lastly, your introduction should end with your research questions, aims, and objectives, whereas your background should not (except in some cases where your background is integrated into your introduction). For instance, the C.A.R.S. (Creating a Research Space) model, created by John Swales is based on his analysis of journal articles. This model attempts to explain and describe the organizational pattern of writing the introduction in social sciences.

Points to Note

Your background should begin with defining a topic and audience. It is important that you identify which topic you need to review and what your audience already knows about the topic. You should proceed by searching and researching the relevant literature. In this case, it is advisable to keep track of the search terms you used and the articles that you downloaded. It is helpful to use one of the research paper management systems such as Papers, Mendeley, Evernote, or Sente. Next, it is helpful to take notes while reading. Be careful when copying quotes verbatim and make sure to put them in quotation marks and cite the sources. In addition, you should keep your background focused but balanced enough so that it is relevant to a broader audience. Aside from these, your background should be critical, consistent, and logically structured.

Writing the background of your study should not be an overly daunting task. Many guides that can help you organize your thoughts as you write the background. The background of the study is the key to introduce your audience to your research topic and should be done with string knowledge and thoughtful writing.

Springer Journal Suggester: How to Identify an Appropriate Journal for Publishing


Finding the right academic journal is central to preventing the common mistake of editorial rejection of manuscripts, prior to peer review. The Springer Journal Suggester is an academic research tool that enables users to select the best-suited journal for their research. The automated process can enable journal selection from a database of over 2,600 Springer publications. The web-based semantics technology refines a list of relevant journals, based on inputs of manuscript title, abstract, and publishing model. The personalized recommendation process will search Springer and BioMed Central to find the best publication that suits the author’s choice. A refined list of potential journals can thereby assist authors to delineate a core publication for their final manuscript submission.

Key Features

The web-based Journal Suggester is easily accessible, requiring only an abstract/description of the unpublished manuscript to find matching journals. When manually selecting the right journal for manuscript submission, stepwise instructions below, via Springer and BioMed Central can offer general guidance. Conversely, the online Journal Suggester automatically considers the same key points, during the process of personalized recommendations.

  1. Choosing the theme: Focus on the research discipline best suited for the unpublished manuscript. Consider the best fit of the study within research models of—applied science, clinical research, basic research, or translational research. Browse a list of journals by subject area.
  2. Choosing the audience: Consider the target audience. Choose a specialized journal or a broader publication covering a range of topics for accessibility of the study outlined.
  3. Type of article: Ensure the possibility of publishing the article in your journal of choice. Depending on the study and journal publication guidelines, submit the manuscript as an original research article, a review, or a case study.
  4. Impact Factor: This is not a key requisite for publication. However, enquire about the metrics as a measure of the journal’s reputation, in alignment with the quality of your impending publication.
  5. Publication timeline: Estimate the timeline for peer review and the turnaround time for publication in the journal of interest. To reach a broader audience, consider options from open access journals

You can further refine the web-based recommendations tool by including the following parameters to the semantics analysis:

  1. Minimum impact factor sought
  2. Article acceptance rate
  3. Time to first decision
  4. Indexing services
  5. View (choice of all journals, fully open access journals only, or subscription journals).


For transparency, the entire database of Springer Open Access journals scanned during the automated refining process is also available online.

User Guide

The practice of research publication from proposal to journal article should align with best practices and codes of conduct. To begin with, therefore, publishing ethics highlight the researcher’s responsibility towards publication of the finalized manuscript. Selecting a journal via Journal Suggester depend on inputs of the unpublished manuscript’s abstract, research description, or a sample text. You can refine the results based on the defined parameters of 1) Publishing model, 2) Impact Factor and 3) Journal access. With a list of journals at hand for the manuscript of interest, the following user guide will assist in the publishing process:

  1. Manuscript preparation: Select a journal of your first choice from the refined list provided via Journal Suggester. Follow journal-specific guidelines on content style and the submission process—detailed as “Instructions for Authors”, on the individual journal’s homepage.
  2. Language: Ensure the manuscript clearly articulates its message in the English language. Should you require writing assistance in English consider the following options:

i) Ask a native English-speaking colleague to review your manuscript for clarity.

ii) Visit the English language tutorial designed to assist non-native English speaking scientists.

iii) Use a professional language editing service to help you refine your manuscript.

  1. Referencing style: Depending on the discipline refined via Journal Suggester, select the referencing style of your Springer journal of choice. Sample referencing styles are within your journal’s “Instructions for Authors”. Springer also provides output styles supporting the formats of both EndNote and LaTeX.
  2. Artwork: For Springer publications, all of your artwork requires submission in an electronic format. Next, the publication will meticulously produce the artwork to the highest standards, while directly reflecting its quality as provided.
  3. CrossCheck: The shortlisted Springer journal will crosscheck your manuscript for plagiarism detection and ensure originality of content.
  4. eSupplementary: It is possible to publish further dimensions of the article as electronic supplementary materials (animations, movies, audio, etc.). Springer accepts electronic files for publication in the online version only.
  5. Author helpdesk: For further assistance with article publication on the selected Springer journal, fill in the online helpdesk


Benefits and Limitations for Users

Springer journals conveniently present a list of Springer Videos for user-friendly assistance on its online platform and on journal selection. When Journal Suggester provides a list of target journals, SpringerLink journal tutorials can guide the selection of your final choice. Automation offers a fast-track process for busy scientists to select a journal best suited for their research with ease. If you are keen to publish fast, Journal Suggester provides the option of deciding the ‘maximum time to first decision’. To strengthen your readership, it is possible to select open access exclusively during the journal refining process. After choosing the journal of interest, it is beneficial to identify a second and third choice of interest as well. This provides a broader range of alternatives for consideration should the first attempt at publication fail.

This automation process of Journal Suggester is beneficial overall for fast-paced and cutting-edge research publications. However, the portal’s limitations would be its influence on broader research; for example, additional experiments could increase the publication’s research impact. Furthermore, the manual process of browsing journals may provide you first-hand experience on relevant journals, albeit time-consumingly. The expected outcome of the automated Journal Suggester is to minimize editorial rejection of manuscripts prior to peer review. Overall, the benefits of this web-based academic research tool appear to outweigh its potential limitations.

Recently, Enago Academy launched Open Access Journal Finder (OAJF) that aims at enabling research scholars to find open access journals relevant to their manuscript. OAJF uses a validated journal index provided by Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) – the most trusted non-predatory open access journal directory in its search results. Moreover, the tool displays vital journal details to the scholars including publisher details, peer review process, confidence index (indicates similarity between matching keywords in the published articles across all journals indexed by DOAJ), and publication speed.

Discussion Vs. Conclusion: Know the Difference Before Drafting Manuscripts

Discussion Vs. Conclusion

The discussion section of your manuscript can be one of the hardest to write as it requires you to think about the meaning of the research you have done. An effective discussion section tells the reader what your study means and why it is important. In this article, we will cover some pointers for writing a clear, well-organized discussion and conclusion sections and discuss what should NOT be part of these sections.

What Should be in Discussion Section?

Your discussion is, in short, the answer to the question “what do my results mean?” The discussion section of the manuscript should come after methods and results section and before the conclusion. It should relate back directly to the questions posed in your introduction, and contextualize your results within the literature you have covered in your literature review. In order to explain to your reader, you should include the following information:

  • The major findings of your study
  • The meaning of those findings
  • How these findings relate to what others have done
  • Limitations of your findings
  • An explanation for any surprising, unexpected, or inconclusive results
  • Suggestions for further research

Your discussion should NOT include any of the following information:

  • New results or data not presented previously in the paper
  • Unwarranted speculation
  • Tangential issues
  • Conclusions not supported by the data

How to Make Discussion Section Effective?

There are several ways to make the discussion section of your manuscript effective, interesting, and relevant. Most writing guides recommend listing the findings of your study in order from most to least important. You would not want your reader to lose sight of the key results that you found. Therefore, put the most important finding front and center.

Imagine that you conduct a study aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of stent placement in patients with partially blocked arteries. You find that despite this being a common first-line treatment, stents are not effective for patients with partially blocked arteries. The study also discovers that patients treated with a stent tend to develop asthma at slightly higher rates than those who receive no such treatment.

Which sentence would you choose to begin your discussion?

Our findings suggest that patients who had partially blocked arteries and were treated with a stent as the first line of intervention had no better outcomes than patients who were not given any surgical treatments.

Our findings noted that patients who received stents demonstrated slightly higher rates of asthma than those who did not. In addition, the placement of a stent did not impact their rates of cardiac events in a statistically significant way.

If you chose the first example, you are correct. If you aren’t sure which results are the most important, go back to your research question and start from there. The most important result is the one that answers your research question.

It is also necessary to contextualize the meaning of your findings for the reader. What does previous literature say, and do your results agree? Do your results elaborate on previous findings, or differ significantly?

In our stent example, if previous literature found that stents were an effective line of treatment for patients with partially blocked arteries, you should explore why your results are different in the discussion. Did your methodology differ? Was your study broader in scope and larger in scale than the previous studies? Were there any limitations to previous studies that your study overcame? Alternatively, is it possible that your own study could be incorrect due to some difficulties you had in carrying it out? Think of your discussion as telling the story of your research.

Finally, remember that your discussion is not the time to introduce any new data, or speculate wildly as to the possible future implications of your study. However, considering alternative explanations for your results is encouraged.

Discussion and Conclusion

Avoiding Confusion in your Conclusion!

Many writers confuse the information they should include in their discussion with the information they should place in their conclusion. One easy way to avoid this confusion is to think of your conclusion as a summary of everything that you have said thus far. In the conclusion section, you remind the reader exactly what they have just read. Your conclusion should:

  • Restate your hypothesis or research question
  • Restate your major findings
  • Tell the reader what contribution your study has made to the literature
  • Highlight any limitations of your study
  • State future directions for research/recommendations

Your conclusion should NOT:

  • Introduce new arguments
  • Introduce new data
  • Fail to include your research question
  • Fail to state your major results

An appropriate conclusion to our hypothetical stent study might read as follows:

In this study, we examined the effectiveness of stent placement in patients with partially blocked arteries compared with non-surgical interventions. After examining the five-year medical outcomes of 19,457 patients in the greater Dallas area, our statistical analysis concluded that the placement of a stent resulted in outcomes that were no better than non-surgical interventions such as diet and exercise. Although previous findings indicated that stent placement improved patient outcomes, our study followed a greater number of patients than the major studies previously conducted. It is possible that outcomes would vary if measured over a ten or fifteen year period, and future researchers should consider investigating the impact of stent placement in these patients over a longer period of time than five years. Regardless, our results point to the need for medical practitioners to reconsider the placement of a stent as the first line of treatment as non-surgical interventions may have equally positive outcomes for patients.

Is Pirate Black Open Access Disrupting Green & Gold Open Access?

Pirate Open Access

Efforts to create open scholarly communications are an ongoing process within academic publishing, amid conflicting views on open access models. In this context, publications directly made open via the publisher are considered Gold open access, while those made available via institutional repositories are Green open access. However, a majority of scholarly records still remain behind paywalls, since publishers hold the ownership to intellectual property in journals.

Inevitably, a third and more controversial model, pirate black open access, has gained precedence over the green and gold models of open access. Sci-Hub is a website that infamously enabled pirate black open access to the usually paywalled academic journals. The site gained admission through institutional proxies to bypass publisher paywalls and permit broad public access to academic articles. Although academic publishers have sued the website for blatant piracy, some researchers consider this approach to be an effective and necessary means of civil disobedience. The controversy has, therefore, prompted many traditional academic publishers to reconsider their existing models of gold and green open access.

A recent Op-ed on Wiley articulates the multifaceted problem, to ask hard-hitting questions that evaluate the drawbacks of the conventional models.

  • Is green and gold open access inherently flawed?
  • In light of the rising popularity of black open access, could gold and green open access have achieved more?
  • Could the academic publishing models be refined to eliminate piracy?

The Piracy Conflict

To begin with, Sci-Hub has impeded conventional open access frameworks, by illegally enabling nearly all scholarly literature as freely accessible. Comparatively, stakeholders in scholarly communication have only managed to enable access to select research articles, while the rest remains behind paywalls. Statistically, a large cohort of publications will remain unavailable via legal channels for most people in 2017. As an example, when the music industry was rife with pirates, the business model needed a revolutionary change to attract users beyond free downloads. These efforts succeeded with the advent of iTunes and other streaming options targeting pay-to-download services. This concept has direct implications for the existing green and gold open access models since they appear conventionally inept at present.

The existing models are far from the revolutionary business frameworks required in the present intellectual landscape. The ideal open access model would have >80% of the market share, mitigating the pirates, to create a sustainable platform. While certain platforms such as BioMed Central, PLoS, and ArXiv are sustainable, the share of all articles remains marginal. The concept of academic piracy or “guerrilla open access”, however, can be progressive, driving development and intellectual curiosity. How then must remodeling occur to upgrade the conventional models and overcome their inherent flaws, while also allowing for a revolutionary change?

Coordinating Change

A recent report on research consulting identified at least five stakeholders and roadblocks, requiring elimination to deliver 100% open access. This indicates significant amounts of change at the level of each stakeholder; therefore, the change appears almost implausible. For instance, one stakeholder, the author, must coordinate green open access with the journal of interest to avoid conflicting publishing models. Due to the lack of effort at the single stakeholder level, just 13% of Spanish researchers published green versions. Conversely, more researchers enabled full-texts on ResearchGate regardless of simultaneous copyright infringement.

Since the number of new articles published in gold open access is less than 20%, authors do not prefer this model. To transfer between green and gold open access, the following stakeholders are required to initiate change:

  • Author
  • Author’s Institution
  • Funder
  • Librarian (reader-side)
  • Publisher
  • Reader


Furthermore, the changes require concerted execution, thereby withholding internal workflows, leaving the conventional open access models unaltered thus far. Perhaps the airline industry could offer the next clue to resolve this academic conflict.

Unbundling Publishing Services

Incidentally, the airline industry model is not entirely different to the multi-stakeholder, global, and policy-bound environment of scholarly communications. Air travel too has evolved from its traditional model to produce an unbundled product with additional costs beyond the core service.  Unbundling allowed low-fare airlines to expose extras to the market/passenger, for a cost-effective strategy based on the passenger’s decision. Similarly, a large number of services in scholarly communication can become unbundled. To achieve basic levels of open access, publishers could freely offer basic read-only services first, while seeking revenue from surrounding services. This would qualify as cost-free open access, requiring only one stakeholder, the publisher, to deliver the change.

However, beyond the unbundled basic free service to readers, what other services may separately provide an income for scholarly communication? It is possible to provide unbundled options to stakeholders for select services. For authors, these could include peer review management, copy-editing, and language services for refined context. Readers could get access to downloadable citations tools, alerting services, and online analytics. Librarians could be provided with metadata for catalog databases and funders offered reports by subject area. All these are possible avenues for unbundled revenues. Eventually, the publishing industry too can democratize scholarly communication, based on what works, much like the airline industry does. The concept will result in increased readership, stimulating the market for services and enabling new budgets. The niche audience can further increase revenue via digital advertisers targeting a scholarly demographic.

In Conclusion

In the “age of digital disruption”, the conventional structure of green and gold open access remains inflexible, requiring a revolutionary change. Pirate black open access has recognized this need to create a revolutionary, albeit illegal change in response. It is, therefore, time for academic research publishers to follow the course and alter the stakeholders view to achieve the necessary and legal changes.

In order to facilitate this process among stakeholders, initiatives such as CHORUS have implemented smooth and streamlined processes. Similarly, Springer-Nature is experimenting with the concept of free-article sharing via SharedIt. Furthermore, unbundling the product would allow all content to be freely available, thereby allowing publicly funded research to gain an increased readership. The concept of unbundling, starting with the publisher, would present stakeholders the choice to pay for individual benefits of communication. This concept would be more sustainable, less expensive, and exponentially less controversial than the ongoing versions, in the end.