COMMENTARY

How to Write a Medical Paper to Get It Published in a Good Journal

Disclosures

November 04, 2005

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The purposes of a medical journal are to shed light, to take heat, and to give heat. A physicist named Faraday once said, "Work; finish; publish.[1]" If you started and did not finish, why did you start? If you finished and did not publish, why did you start? Follows like the night the day: Work, finish, publish, if you want anyone else to ever know what you did. Francis Bacon once said, "reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; but writing an exact man.[2]" Writing is hard work. So you want to write a paper? What do you have to say? Is it worth writing? Has the information already been published? What format should it be? What is the audience? What journal is appropriate? Beginning in 1978, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors[3] began to set the rules for how authors, editors, peer reviewers, advertisers, and publishers ought to behave. The peer review process began some 300 years ago in France and in England,[4] revolutionizing science by creating a culture of peer criticism and self-criticism. Peer reviewers are asked: Is the manuscript original, important, interesting; are the data valid; are the conclusions justified by the data; is the writing clear; and what is the priority and timing? Is it new? Is it true? All journals make messes. They clean them up in the letters column and by corrections and retractions. In July 2005, we were privileged to give a 3-hour seminar on this topic to hundreds of student authors. The Kaiser Family Foundation videotaped all of this program, and it is available to you live.[5] Also, Dr. Bill Tierney of Indiana University has given us permission to provide to you his basic helpful writing instructions.[6] Paper writing 101. Follow these instructions.

That's my opinion. I'm Dr. George Lundberg, Editor-in-Chief of MedGenMed.


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