Before clinical research material can be submitted to a journal for publication, the first stage for the medical writer is to decide what form the manuscript should take. Journals publish several different types of articles for communicating results and ideas, and these roughly correspond to different the types of investigation and analysis.
For example, it is clear that a medical writer should present the results of a clinical trial as an original article, and a systematic review as a review article. However, it may be more appropriate for some forms of clinical research to be written up as, perhaps, a letter to the journal, or a short report.
Although each journal, particularly those that have a long and distinguished history, has its own special types of article, there are several broad categories that the medical writer should bear in mind when preparing their manuscript. These are:
- Original articles: This covers the majority of original contributions to the field, such as clinical trials, case-control studies, and cohort studies. Clinical trials will be required to conform to the CONSORT guidelines , and may include Phase I, II, III, and IV studies, depending on their relevance. Original articles are typically 2500–3500 words (not including the header or abstract), and usually conforms to the IMRAD format of Introduction, Method, Results and Discussion. References are usually limited to approximately 40 citations, and there may be a limit on the number of tables and figures. Extra material may be required to be published as supplementary material.
- Reviews: Depending on the journal, this category may include meta-analyses alongside the more traditional systematic reviews and narrative reviews. The word counts and permitted number of citations tends to be longer, or even unlimited, reflecting the more expansive nature of these texts. Abstracts, if required, may be unstructured.
- Short reports: Clinical studies that are preliminary investigations, and smaller case-control studies or case reports, may fall into this category. These articles are intended to be brief and succinct. Consequently, word counts are required to be small, and there will be a limit on the number citations and tables and figures.
- Editorials: Also known as commentaries or viewpoints, editorials may either be related to a paper published in the same issue of the journal, or cover a more general topic relevant to readers. Editorials are typically commissioned by the journal, and unsolicited articles are not ordinarily considered.
- Research letters: If your original clinical research is brief in nature and does not fall into any of the above categories, it may be considered for publication as a research letter. The word counts, number of references, tables and figures, and the number of authors are severely restricted, and an abstract is not required. Typically, supplementary material is not considered for inclusion.
A professional medical writing service will be able to help you choose which form of article is most suitable for your original clinical research, and so maximise the likelihood of being published. In addition, every journal has its own guidelines and instructions for authors, and a medical writer can make sure that your manuscript conforms to all the requirements.
- The CONSORT Group. The CONSORT Statement. CONSORT; 2012. http://www.consort-statement.org/consort-statement/ [Accessed: 1 Mar 2013].