Many of us conduct research at various levels (e.g., clinical, academic, economic). Over the years, many of us submit abstracts and present posters at CPNP and other professional meetings. Our goal is to share our scientific findings with our colleagues and we often start this process with a poster presentation with the intention of using a poster/abstract as a stepping stone towards publishing a manuscript. Unfortunately, time begins to slip away, responsibilities add up, new projects begin, and time to write and submit the manuscript for publication disappears. In fact, “lack of time” has been reported as the primary reason (42%) for failing to submit a manuscript to a journal. At times, we may submit a manuscript only to get it rejected and then lose the confidence, motivation, or desire to attempt another journal. Moving our research to the published realm where our work may inform other researchers and healthcare professionals is a difficult task. The purpose of this document is to provide some resources that will hopefully be useful for people trying to make this leap. There have been many articles written describing the writing process. Below are “guidelines” we have gathered from our mentors, the published literature1–11 and our own personal experiences.

Before writing a manuscript one should:

  1. Have a strong desire and commitment to write.

  2. Decide on authorship BEFORE starting the manuscript and decide which parts each author will be responsible for. This way, every person can be held accountable and the chance for feelings to be hurt later on will be minimized.

  3. Do not “find the time” to write… “make the time.” Life is too short not to follow your passions. Some thrive from working in 60 minute intervals, while others need a whole day to write. Know which type you fall into and adapt accordingly. It is often useful to start with small steps – perhaps committing to writing a “rough” paragraph or two every day. This provides the writer with the positive feedback of making progress. Do not worry about having the “perfect” draft at first. This is one time where you get to somewhat disregard grammar, style, spelling errors, and any difficult phrases you are trying to convey. The main goal is to get your ideas down on paper (or computer) so that they may be refined later.

  4. Ask yourself, “What would this article ADD to the available literature.” This will help you to formulate the introduction and to frame the “story” that you tell in your manuscript.

  5. If a biostatistician helped you design the study, ask them to provide feedback, especially on the methodology.

  6. Decide which journal (or Top 3) you would like to submit to … initially. Review the author guidelines and their style from past manuscripts. This will give you a sense of who your audience will be. It is also helpful to scan recent tables of contents to see if your manuscript seems to be consistent with the other types of studies accepted for publication.

  7. Prepare an outline. If you are a novice, ask an experienced writer in your department for assistance. CPNP members may also be helpful in this regard.

  8. It may be helpful to create your manuscript in the following order: Methods, Results, Discussion, Introduction, and Abstract. Since you have already completed the “study” portion of your work, the methods and results will be easiest to start writing – and you may already have text ready to go from your IRB submission…and your poster!

Introduction

  1. As mentioned, should be written almost last to prevent writer's block.

  2. Provide “brief” background.

  3. Pose the question you will be answering or the purpose of the study (i.e., objective of the study or review).

  4. The introduction is where you frame the “story” of your manuscript or study. The introduction and “viewpoint” may differ for the same data/results that are submitted to different journals that target different readerships.

Methodology

  1. The section should be precise and written in a way that should be “reproducible”.

  2. Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval should be noted, if necessary.

Results

  1. Include all relevant results.

  2. Use tables wisely and make sure they match the results section.

  3. Use tables and figures to streamline the Results section. You do not need to duplicate data in both text and tables/figures. Rather tables/figures should enhance the text and vice versa.

  4. Include p-values and 95% confidence intervals (if appropriate) when needed.

  5. Consult the statistician or person who analyzed your data before writing the results section.

  6. Readers like pictures and figures. If you can use a figure to convey your most exciting results, then do it.

Discussion

  1. Interpret the results, not restate them.

  2. Relate the data to previous published literature.

  3. Reach non-biased conclusions.

  4. Identify the potential limitations of your study but put them in perspective. No study is perfect and not every study involves thousands of patients and is fit for JAMA, NEJM, or Nature. However, all studies have some value and your mission is to inform the readers of this value in an honest way.

References

  1. Using a reference manager such as EndNote or newer free software such as Mendeley (http://www.mendeley.com) may be useful. Some journals may not support the software; however, there are ways to save your manuscript before submitting to avoid this problem.

  2. Make sure you adhere by the specific guidelines set forth by the journal.

Special notes

Review articles:

  1. Ask yourself, “Do we need this review?” and if so, “Why?”

  2. Describe the “methods” by which you selected the studies included in your review (e.g. search terms, study design criteria, etc.)

  3. Determine the scope. Sometimes reviews can become overwhelming to the writer and the reviewer.

  4. A table says a thousand words. Use them to compare and contrast the studies you are reviewing.

Case reports:

  1. Mention IRB approval since some institutions require it.

  2. Verify the “consent from patient(s)” guidelines for the journal you are submitting to. Many journals today ask if the patient consented for the information to be released.

  3. Use tools such as the Naranjo scale if describing an adverse drug reaction.

After all your hard work, if your manuscript gets rejected, do not get discouraged. Use the reviewers' comments wisely to strengthen your manuscript and try again. Studies show 47–69% of rejected manuscripts eventually (even after a year) get published. Hope the information provided was useful and good luck. Remember, these are just guidelines and others may have different ways of working. The key is to follow yours while being effective and have fun.

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