context. The specific contribution of the paper in terms of innovative methods or an important application should be clearly stated in the introduction.
The text describing the study should be worded and structured appropriately for the target journal and audience. Journals vary in both the type of reviewers as well as the eventual readers, but in general, the use of jargon should be minimized, and acronyms and technical language (e.g. “importance weights” and “fractional factorial design”), should be clearly defined. A journal such as Value in Health has reviewers and readers who are familiar with conjoint analysis methodology, but this likely is not the case for a clinically focused journal. Further, since conjoint analysis is a relatively new area of research, the use of technical terms is not always consistent among authors. For example, the terminology used for the results might be “importance weights” or “preference weights”. Such inconsistencies are confusing to reviewers and readers. Therefore, definitions should be included for the technical terms used in the paper including the alternative technical terms.
Since there are no standardized rules for creating a conjoint survey and there is an enormous number of possible experimental designs, the methods and rationale for the conjoint analysis data collection instrument design must be adequately described, including the qualitative research conducted to identify the attributes and levels, the experimental design to create the conjoint tasks, and the methods used to analyze the results.
The matrix of attributes and levels and the final conjoint analysis data collection instrument need to be submitted for review along with the paper. It is not possible for a reviewer to provide a meaningful review of a conjoint paper without seeing the format and framing of the questions that generated the data. The properties of the experimental design should be described to provide a context for the strengths and limitations of the survey results. For example, if the experimental design does not allow interactions to be tested (a main effects design), this assumption should be clearly disclosed in describing the methods.
Finally, the discussion section should focus on both the innovative features of the paper and the implications of the results for the target audience. The unique contributions of the conjoint analysis study should be discussed and compared in the context of the current state of knowledge based on the published literature and health policy climate. However, as in all research, authors must be careful not to overstate the importance of their findings. Because conjoint analyses in health and medicine are published in different types of journals and may use different terminology, it is important for authors to ensure that what may appear to be novel has not been conducted previously. In addition, it is important that authors inform readers that the results of a conjoint analysis often provide estimates of the value or importance of attributes to subjects, but often do not, in and of themselves, predict future behavior or health outcomes.
The findings should be evaluated with respect to the research question that the study was designed to answer and the hypothesis(es) to be tested in the study. If the target audience is a clinical one, the conclusions of the paper should focus on the clinical implications of the study findings. For example, the results can be translated into simple statements about their possible impact on physician practice. Alternatively, if a study was designed to inform health policy, the findings about public, patient or provider preferences can be translated into suggestions for increasing the appropriate use of health care services. For example, in a conjoint analysis of colorectal cancer screening tests, the findings were translated into changes in rates of uptake of colorectal cancer screening based on the mix of alternative screening tests offered (45).
ISPOR Conjoint Analysis in Health Task Force Report