Writing for Publication

Writing for Publication
James Munro
University of Sheffield
Why write?
Fame and fortune
 Bolster the CV
 Pressure from above
 … dissemination
So what’s the problem?
No ideas
 Ideas but no writing
 Writing but nothing sent off
 Writing sent off but not
The other problem
 Writing is a lot of work
 Even academics don’t have time
What we’ll talk about
Writing an academic paper
 10 ways to be rejected
 Magazines and books are a bit
Any ideas?
 Everyday working
 Problems
 Costly activities
More ideas
Questions from clinicians
 …especially those you can’t
 Things that go wrong
 Things you disagree with
You already have something
But is it publishable?
Is it interesting?
 Could it affect practice or policy?
 Is it generalisable?
Almost everything is publishable
Don’t start writing yet!
Don’t write yet!
What’s the context?
 What’s the story?
The context
Everybody needs a context
Context for a research paper
What’s already known?
 What’s unknown?
 What’s controversial?
The need to know
Providing a context and a
question creates the reader’s
“need to know”
What’s the story?
If this was a news report, what
would the headline be?
 What is the central idea?
BMJ approach
What is already known on this
 What does this study add?
Outline your story: 1
Once upon a time…
…there were 3 bears…
Outline your story: 2
…and she ran home.
…never go into the woods alone.
Don’t start writing yet!
Who is the story for?
Who’d like to know?
 Who needs to know?
Reasons for rejection
The commonest reason editors
 …is that the subject matter
wasn’t suitable for their journal
So find the right journal
Get to know the journals in
your area
 What are their interests?
 What are their styles?
So find the right journal
Where were other papers on
this topic published?
Refereed or not?
 Listed in bibliographic
 Impact factor?
Write for a journal
Select one of the journals which
might be interested in your
 Write for that journal
Writing for that journal
Instructions for authors
Usually on the web
But you need to see a copy
Headings, weighting, referencing,
Develop your outline
 Methods
 Results
 Discussion
What is the issue?
 What is already known about it?
 Set up a question in the
reader’s mind
 Explain why your study is
What did you do?
 How did you do it?
 Have a logical order
 Don’t report results here by
Follow the order of the methods
 Who? When? What?
Summarise the findings
 Draw out the lessons
 Acknowledge the limitations
 What should happen now?
BMJ’s suggested structure
Statement of principal findings
Strengths and weaknesses of the study
Strengths and weaknesses in relation to other
studies, discussing particularly any differences
in results
Meaning of the study: possible mechanisms
and implications for clinicians or policymakers
Unanswered questions and future research
Subheadings are essential
 For RCTs, use CONSORT
 For MA of RCTs, QUOROM
 For MA of observational studies,
Highlight the key sentence in
each paragraph
Does the story flow?
Ask others to read the draft
Give them a specific task
The little things
Tense, voice, singulars and plurals
Consistent layout
Page numbers
See bmj.com
When your paper is rejected
Don’t be discouraged!
When your paper is rejected
Try to find out why
 Does it need revising?
 Send it off to another journal…
 … after checking for style
Referees’ comments
Don’t be defensive
 You don’t have to do everything
they suggest
 But you do have to address
each point
10 ways to get your paper
1: Choose a journal which has
never shown an interest in
this subject
2: Write well over the
specified word length to show
the importance of the topic
3: Try to include at least 10
key messages and some extra
data from other studies
4: See if you can improve on
the journal’s standard
5: Don’t bother with any
statistical advice, since
nobody understands it
6: Don’t worry too much
about spelling or grammar
7: Ignore the journal’s own
referencing style
8: Add a few new results in
the abstract which you didn’t
have space for in the main
9: Use different terms for the
same thing interchangeably
10: For a more personal
touch, send a handwritten
Good luck!