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 accepted The other problem Time 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 different Any ideas? Experience Everyday working Problems Costly activities More ideas Questions from clinicians …especially those you can’t answer 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 somewhere 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 topic? What does this study add? Outline your story: 1 Context Once upon a time… Methods …there were 3 bears… Outline your story: 2 Results …and she ran home. Conclusions …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 give… …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? Journalology Refereed or not? Listed in bibliographic databases? Impact factor? Write for a journal Select one of the journals which might be interested in your story 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, interests Develop your outline Introduction Methods Results Discussion Introduction What is the issue? What is already known about it? Set up a question in the reader’s mind Explain why your study is needed Methods What did you do? How did you do it? Have a logical order Don’t report results here by mistake! Results Follow the order of the methods Who? When? What? Discussion 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 Structuring Subheadings are essential For RCTs, use CONSORT For MA of RCTs, QUOROM For MA of observational studies, MOOSE Macro-editing 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 Spelling Grammar Tense, voice, singulars and plurals Consistent layout Page numbers References 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 Don’t! 10 ways to get your paper rejected 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 headings 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 text 9: Use different terms for the same thing interchangeably 10: For a more personal touch, send a handwritten manuscript Good luck!