How to write an Award

How to write an
Bessie Ann Young,
NMRI Meeting April 19, 2013
Associate Professor
University of Washington
Outline of Talk
• Why are papers important in academia?
• Why should you write up your results
• What constitutes the basic outline for a great
• Abstract
• Introduction
• Methods
• Results
• Discussion
• Conclusions
Why are papers important
in academia?
• Manuscripts are the “Coin of the Realm”
• It allows people to see how you think and how you
• Publishing is necessary to stay in academics
• Papers are necessary for promotion
o If you don’t want to be promoted, don’t write any papers!
• Number of papers needed varies depending on
your track
o Clinician educators may not need as many and can do more reviews
o Physician scientists need as many as possible and they need to be in
good journals with high impact factors.
Why should you write up
your results
• If you don’t write up your results, either your mentor
or someone else in your group will
o or your competitor
• It is a sign of productivity and accomplishment.
• If your results are not written up and published, it is
as if the study was never done.
• It is important for your own sense of
accomplishment to write up your results.
• Publishing is important for grants, getting an
academic position, and promotion.
What constitutes the basic
outline for a great paper?
• IMRaD: Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion
• Sometimes the easiest to write, but sometimes the
most difficult piece of the paper
• Abstracts are written early for submission to
• Usually very structured
• Can write the initial abstract but should always
review after you have written the paper
• Results and conclusions in the abstract should be
exactly the same as those presented in the results
and conclusions sections.
o This is important because it may be the only part of the paper editors read
prior to make a decision regarding reviewing your paper!
• Background/Rationale
o Why you are writing this paper and how does it contribute to the literature
• Methods/materials
o Clinical research-study design, populations, statistical methods used
o Basic research- study design, animal vs cell culture vs other
• Results
o Concise and most important results
o What should readers take away from this paper?
• Summary
o May or may not need to include in the abstract
• Conclusion
o Tell your audience why this piece of work is important!
Common Mistakes
• Abstract is too long it should be approximately
250 words
• Using a meeting abstract for the manuscript
o Revise the manuscript abstract accordingly
• Abstract is unnecessarily complicated
• Remember: The abstract is a general summary of
your manuscript!
• Browner, Publishing and Presenting
Clinical Research
Introduction: Why
• Usually 3 paragraphs
o Background and holes in the literature2 paragraphs
o One paragraph to describe why you did your study and tentatively what
you found
• Briefly describe the problem and gap in the
o Don’t describe all of the background literature here
• Hypothesis, aim or goal: clearly describe what your
hypothesis is and how this adds to the literature
• Describe what you did and what question you
answered with your study.
Checklist for the
• Are the four major elements present
Existing research
Problems with that research
Your improvements
• After reading your abstract, could someone not familiar
with the field be able to describe why your study was
done and how your study will improve on existing
• Use an objective tone when criticizing prior work?
o They may be your reviewers!
• Does your study describe how it addresses previous gaps
in the literature?
• W.Browner
Methods: Who, What,
Where and How
Clinical Epidemiology or Health Services Paper
• Population/subjects: describe who was in your study
• Describe what type of study you conducted
Prospective, randomized controlled trial, cohort study, cross over study
Cross sectional, longitudinal study
Exposure of interest, age, sex, race
Age, sex, race, other
Chi-squared for categorical variables
Student-t test for means of continuous variables
Logistic regression for a binary dichotomous outcome
Linear regression for continuous outcomes
Time to Event, survival or Cox models for survival
Randomized controlled trial, other studies
• What are your primary predictors
• What are your adjustment covariates?
• What is your primary outcome variable(s)
• Statistical Analysis
• IRB: include information on humans subject study approval
Materials and Methods:
Basic Research
• M/M include a descriptive summary of all materials
used and the methods for each experiment.
• Sections should be labeled or have sub-headings
possibly based on experiments
• May divide into experimental design and data
• One section should include animal guideline
• All materials should have references to place of
• Experiments should be written such that someone
could reproduce your results if they wanted to.
Results: what you found
• The results section should contain results!
o No interpretations, no references to other work!
• Describe what you found and do not present
conclusions here.
• For clinical research:
o Table 1 should be your demographics of your study or characteristics of
study participants
o Additional tables may describe additional characteristics by exposure
variables or by the outcome
o Last paragraphs should describe all results from multivariable or other
statistical analyses.
o Add figures to clarify results
Results: what you found
• The results section should contain results!
o No interpretations, no references to other work!
• Describe what you found and do not present
conclusions here.
• For Basic research:
o Report all results.
o Include tables or graphs if it makes the data clearer
o Present original data gels, blots, histology
Discussion: interpretation
of the results
Clinical Epi or Health Services
• Describe briefly what you found in the first paragraph (1
• Compare your results to what is out there in the literature
(2-4 paragraphs).
o Do not present a complete literature review, but keep your comments
o Include relevant studies
• Mechanisms why do you think you found your specific
• Limitations: list up front what the limitations of your study
are or else reviewers will do it for you.
Limited number of variables
Cross-sectional data, not a randomized trial
May include strengths as well
Discussion: interpretation
of the results
Basic Research
• First paragraph should interpret findings and state
whether the hypothesis has been proven or
• Further interpretation of results compared to the
existing literature
o Not a literature review
• Outline conclusions
o Can be a separate section of conclusions
• Outline where you as the researcher intend to go
next with your studies
• Outline all of your conclusions
• Briefly confirm what your study found
• How does your study compare to other studies in
the literature
• Where should the field go next?
• What studies do you plan next
o But don’t give too much away!
• Include people who helped you with the paper, but
may not have contributed enough to be an author.
• Make sure to include people on the paper who
should be included
• Each journal has criteria for authorship
o JAMA has detailed criteria for authorship
• Anyone acknowledged should be told
Start with a draft title.
May want to finalize after the paper is written
Needs to be interesting but not too journalistic
There are several types of titles:
The Description
o How to write an award-winning Scientific Paper
• The Topic/Description
o Scientific Paper: How to write an award-winning one
• The Statement
o Writing an award-winning scientific paper is easy if you know how
• The Question
o How do you write an award-winning scientific paper?
• Use an reference library to do your literature review
and add references to your paper
• Examples are
o Reference manager (? Is it still around)
o Endnote-now with a web version you can use anywhere
• They come out with new versions every couple of years that require
you to learn how to use it again.
• Look at the journal you are going to submit your
paper to and change the references accordingly.
o Follow directions.
Bessie’s Rules
• Give yourself time to write the paper
o Block out time on your schedule
• Start with an outline of your sections and fill in the blanks
o IMRaD: Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion
• Start with topic sentences for your outline and you have
already written a large section of the paper
• “Write the paper before you start the experiment”
o Write the introduction, methods, and parts of the discussion before you start
the experiment
• Write the paper as you do your experiments
• Write a little each day if possible
• Give your manuscript to your colleagues for feedback
and editing
• Give your mentor enough time to read the paper and
Other Comments
• Writing well does not come easy to most people
• Read what you have written and revise before you
give it to other people to read.
• Make your sentences clear
• Shorter is better (most always)
• Use linking words:
o However, indeed, rather, moreover, on the other hand, by contrast, in
comparison, surprisingly, and consistent with…
• Use the correct verb tense in each manuscript
o Introduction present tense
o Methods and results past tense
o Discussion past tense for your results you just presented
Overcoming Writer’s
• WB Inability to put thoughts about a project into
o Browner
Many people have writer’s block.
Approach systematically
Make a list of what needs to be accomplished
Assemble materials in a single folder or computer
• Set aside time every day to write (30minutes)
• Set a goal for each day Give yourself a deadline
• Write the easy sections first methods or results
• Manuscripts (and grants) are the academic currency;
we live and die by them.
• Scientific paper writing should follow a format/structure
that allows for ease of writing.
• Develop a strategy to allow yourself time for writing.
o Give yourself deadlines for portions of the paper
o Write sections of the paper
Give yourself adequate time to write the paper
Refer to references for style
Write up your results in a timely fashion.
If English is not your first language or you have difficulty
with grammar, get editorial help from native speakers
• Develop a thick skin
Books and Style Guides
Strunk and White, The Elements of Style
Day R, How to write and publish a scientific paper
Iverson, AMA Manuel of Style
Huth, Writing and Publishing in Medicine
The Economist, Style Guide
Sheen, Breathing Life Into Medical Writing: a
• Browner W, Publishing and Presenting Clinical
• Van Way, C. Writing a Scientific Paper. Nutrition in
Clinical Practice, 2007, 22:636-640.
• Alexandrov, A. How to Write a Research Paper.
Cerebrovasc Disease, 2004; 18:135-38.
• Pololi, Lz. Facilitating Scholarly Writing in Academic
Medicine, J Gen In Medicine, 2004;19:64-68.
• “I had to re-write your paper so that I could read it!”
o W. Couser
• Edward Good, A Grammar Book for You and I
(Oops, Me): All the Grammar You Need to Succeed
in Life
• “Procrastination behaviors can be attributed to a
fear that the manuscript will be rejected.”
• Browner

similar documents