Writing a scientific paper invariably requires a lot of work.  Great science does not necessarily make for a great paper.  Having published and reviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of papers over the course of my academic medical career it strikes me that getting a few things right makes for a much more impactful publication.  Avoid the following mistakes and your paper will not be ignored.

1)    As a first principle, real science demands the scientific method.  Consequently, don’t forget to structure your manuscript around the scientific method.  Almost any topic in medical science can be explored through this process.  Nothing drives me crazier as a reviewer, than working through a paper with no hypothesis.  Ask an interesting question, answer it with your data and before you know it your paper will start to write itself.

2)    In junior high school you were taught to value your writing by the number of pages generated.  Now that you are a professional, break the habit!  Rambling introductions, endless discussions and ever more detailed descriptions of results lose readers and your message, as well as consuming your precious time.  Tell your story with the fewest possible words.  Wherever possible condense prose into appropriate tables or figures.  If you want your scientific writing to be impactful, less really is more.  From the famous book on concise writing: Strunk & White “Make every word tell.”

3)    By all means write about clinical topics that interest you, but tell the “science” from the reader’s vantage point.  Strip out extraneous stuff that your reader doesn’t really care about.  Meanwhile, statistics can strengthen your argument but a blizzard of statistical measures can actually obscure the central idea of a paper.  Sometimes it can be hard to see past a thicket of statistics and figure out the primary point of a paper.  What a waste!

4)    To the eyes of a reviewer and reader, nothing detracts from the quality of a paper, more than careless errors.  In this day of automated word processing checking tools, there is no excuse for spelling and grammatical errors.  If an author fails to invest literally a few minutes to clean up a manuscript, how can a reader/reviewer have confidence in the much bigger challenge of the actual writing?  Don’t be lazy!!

5)    Just because your immediate scholarly interest is not Nobel Prize material, this is no reason to not publish.  Most potential authors are much too shy about reporting findings that interest them, especially in the clinical domain.  Some physicians literally sit on their hands and data for a lifetime.  If a topic interests you, chances are it interests someone else somewhere in the world, and with online search, they can now find your report.  Therefore, write early, write often!!

When all is said and done, the processes of Cureus.com makes peer reviewed scientific publishing easier than ever.  Therefore, get to work, publish your ideas and experiences, and change the world!

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