Key Components of a Quality Improvement Paper

Ochsner Journal recently received an original research paper mislabeled as a quality improvement (QI) paper. The editorial staff was first alerted to the discrepancy when we noticed the lack of an intervention. Once we identified the paper as original research, we noticed the lack of a very important component—institutional review board (IRB) approval. Because the paper was truly original research, not QI, and lacked IRB approval, it was unpublishable and rejected before peer review.

Confusing QI with original research can be easy. In this blog post, we spell out exactly what a QI paper is and share resources for further guidance.

QI papers typically have 3 timepoints—preintervention, intervention, and postintervention—in which authors (1) explain why they started a project, (2) how they implemented the project, and (3) what they observed as a result of their project. After informing these 3 parts of the paper, authors can interpret the results of their project, comment on its strengths and weaknesses, and describe how their project might be useful for the future.

While research is aimed toward testing a hypothesis and contributing to generalizable knowledge, QI seeks to improve health care delivery in a particular setting. Research almost always requires IRB approval, but QI projects often do not.

The SQUIRE checklist provides a clear outline for reporting new knowledge to improve health care. Ochsner Journal recommends all authors writing a QI paper use the SQUIRE checklist.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute provides a helpful webpage explaining key differences between original research and QI.

Ochsner Journal welcomes QI papers! For assistance submitting a QI paper, contact the editorial office: