Scientific Writing

What are the different types of manuscripts?

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A scientific manuscript is a thorough, factual, and logically written document containing scientific communication from the researchers/scientists to the scientific community or others. These scientific communications can be about a recent research, any interesting case, a literature update or a fresh viewpoint of an old problem. The researchers/scientists may invest a significant amount of time and efforts in writing and publishing their manuscript in a journal. Every journal has their own set of publication guidelines for the authors. It is mandatory for an author to follow them to get their manuscript published without any hassle. There are various types of manuscripts, the few that are widely accepted by the journals are as listed:

Original research article
An original research article is a report on a recent trial performed by the researchers. These articles present the author’s original study findings and so are termed as primary literature. The standard structure of these article includes the Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, List of illustrations, Appendix and References cited. However, the author must refer to and follow the guidelines provided by the journal. The original research articles are extensive and may have a word limit ranging from 4000-12,000, thus demanding a substantial effort and time investment by the author. These articles usually address a specific study and suggests for further research and investigation of a study.

Review article
A review article is a summary of other published articles on a given concept or idea. They are not original research articles and are considered as secondary literature. These articles summarize the existing literature about a topic without having the reader to read all the papers. Review articles usually contain the details about the published work, identifies specific gaps or problems in the study, and provides recommendations for future research. These articles do not have a required page limit or maximum number of references. The author should include appropriate figures, tables and a concise abstract. Review articles can be of three types- narrative reviews, systematic review, and meta-analysis. A well-written review article published in a good peer-reviewed journal may have a high impact and receive a lot of citations in other papers.

Clinical case studies
Clinical case studies are published by a practitioner to document the knowledge that they gain in their clinical practice. The case studies can be written about an unusual case, adverse event, side effects or new mode of treatment for the existing conditions. Not all the journals accept them; there are some dedicated journals like BMJ Case Reports which accept these studies. Though the format of a case study may vary with the journals, the usual format includes, abstract, introduction, case report and discussion. These case studies are evidence-based original submission that can be a great contribution to the medical science.

Clinical trial reports
The clinical trial reports present detailed information about a clinical trial on a large subject base. The report includes sections such as abstract, background, methods followed, results obtained and the analysis of the results. These reports are similar to the original research article, in terms of structure and length.

These write-ups contain the views or perspectives of an author or researcher on a specific topic. Although the opinion in the report is of the author, the thoughts and ideas are evidence-based and backed by scientific evidence. The contributing authors are usually the experts in their field; many journals also invite these experts to provide their opinion as a written report.

A medical writer who contributes to any journal must be aware of the different formats that a journal accepts, and the style guide they follow for their publications. A detailed knowledge of these points can help the writer create reports that adhere to the journal’s content specifications and publishing requirements.

Medical Writing

Medical Writing for Patient Education – An informed approach to health communications

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Patient education means communicating specific medical/health information in a clear, concise, and simple language to the patients and caregivers to empower them with the appropriate knowledge to help them make decisions about their healthcare. A medically accurate and relevant patient education material can make a patient:

  • More aware and responsible for their health
  • Comply to the prescribed treatment
  • Make an informed decision about their health and wellness
  • Manage their chronic illness and minimize associated complications
  • Stay informed about their rights to access health data

Physicians, nurses, and pharma companies must ensure that their consumers/patients are well-informed about their health by providing high quality and medically accurate information resources.

The American Medical Association (AMA) and U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that patient education materials not exceed a sixth-grade (11-year-old) reading level. Therefore, a writer responsible for developing patient education materials must know the techniques of explaining complex medical concepts in simple language. The various patient education materials include:

  • Printed materials like brochures, posters, charts, models, care guides, books and pamphlets
  • Online information such as in podcasts, YouTube videos, PowerPoint presentations, infographics
  • Websites, blogs, forums, patient news and newsletters
  • Training materials and e-learning programs

Tips for Creating Good Patient Education Content

The usage of complex language in patient education material may leave the patient confused. Below are some guidelines that can help in preparing engaging and coherent patient education materials:

Know your target audience: Be in a patient’s shoe and note down every basic question that a patient might want to know. Write in a similar tone that you would use while communicating with the patient orally.

Use simple words: Do not assume that word hypertension is widely known, replace it with high blood pressure to make it less complicated for the target audience.  Make sure every medical jargon in the file is simplified. Examples: Haemorrhage – bleeding; Myocardial infarction – Heart attack; Hyperglycaemic – High blood sugar.

Follow an easy format: Keep the sentences and paragraphs short.  Let a paragraph focus on one single idea. Divide the content into headings and subheadings and always use active voice in the sentences.

Stay focussed: Remove any extraneous information from the writings. Stay focussed on what do you want to communicate. For example, a brochure about cardiac biomarkers need not explain the cardiac diseases.

Make the presentation engaging: It is also important that the patient education materials have the content that is informative and engaging, and is supported with creatives like graphs, images, and figures. These components make the material more impactful and easier to understand.

Medical writing is a key skill that enables a writer to create well-written patient education materials that can have a great impact on patients in improving their general health and well-being.