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The first edition of this book (titled “The Clinician’s Guide to Medical Writing”) has become a standard in its field and remains an indispensible reference for any clinician, academic physician, or health professional who wishes to hone their writing skills. However, since its publication in 2004, significant changes have taken place in the way medical professionals communicate with each other and the world. Medical Writing: A Guide for Clinicians and Academicians, 2e retains all of the fundamental writing advice of the first edition and has been expanded to include two brand new chapters:

How to Write a Research Protocol (including why a research project needs a written protocol, elements of the research protocol and common problems)

How to Write a Grant Proposal (including sections on government and private grant funding sources, what you need to know about grant writing, and elements of a successful grant proposal)

New information is also included throughout the book on becoming a successful writer, medical tables and figures, conflict of interest and disclosures, how to review a scientific article, statistical analysis, “pay-to-publish” journal publishing, electronic submission of manuscripts, issues in medical publishing and the future of medical writing and publication. New appendices address commonly encountered research and statistical terms and memorable aphorisms regarding writing, medical and otherwise.



1 Getting Started in Medical Writing

Does being a clinician or holding a faculty appointment make you or me a capable medical writer? No, it doesn’t, any more than being a physician or even an inspiring educator qualifies me to be a good stock picker, business manager, or even vacation planner. It only means that I have medical knowledge and skills, and am trained to care for patients or perhaps have some gift for teaching or research. On the other hand, just because you are a clinician who sees patients daily does not mean that you cannot become a capable, even great, writer. And, yes, even the classroom or bedside teacher can learn to write well. Being that great writer requires knowledge, practice, experience, the capacity to endure rejection, and a strong will to succeed.
Robert B. Taylor

2 Basic Writing Skills

Do not skip this chapter. Yes, there will be the temptation to go directly to the chapter describing the article or research report you want to write, but that would be a mistake. It would be like attempting to build a house without a blueprint and tools. In writing an article or a book chapter, the topic is what you want to “build.” The structure is your blueprint, and the paragraphs, sentences, and words are the contents of your toolbox. So learn your craft and how to use your tools before starting to construct your masterpiece.
Robert B. Taylor

3 From Page One to the End

In Chap. 1, I reviewed your motivation to write, discussed how to find needed information, and enumerated the important questions that must be asked about any writing project. In Chap. 2, I discussed the blueprint for your project—the idea and structure—and the tools you will use, namely paragraphs, sentences, and words. Now let’s look at putting it all together, from page one to the end, starting with your idea and how to handle to it.
Robert B. Taylor

4 Technical Issues in Medical Writing

Some of the “striving and agony and delay” described by Fishbein can be related to the technical aspects of medical writing, including the preparation of tables and figures (aka illustrations), perseverating over borrowed materials and copyright issues, and corralling herds of reference citations. In contrast to the past three chapters, which have covered the concept and prose aspects of medical writing, this chapter addresses some nuts-and-bolts issues you will face. Do not, however, think that constructing tables and figures is any less creative than composing words and sentences; in fact, developing these supplements to the text may be the most innovative part of writing your article. Other practical issues—such as copyright, permissions, and reference citations—may become important as you seek publication of your work.
Robert B. Taylor

5 What’s Special About Medical Writing?

There are written works—such as the Bible and the Quran, the American Declaration of Independence and Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, the latter known to many of us as “The Little Red Book”—that have changed the world. There is also writing that is lost, or has not been deciphered yet. We know little about early central African cultures because no one recorded what happened at the time. Our knowledge of Mayan and Inca cultures is deficient because most of their writing was destroyed by zealous Christian conquerors. Native American languages were first written in 1921, when a phonetic alphabet of 86 symbols was developed by a Cherokee named Sequoyah; this feat was honored when the redwood tree was named Sequoia [2]. It was 1952 when we began to decipher the written language of ancient Crete [3].
Robert B. Taylor

6 How to Write a Review Article

The review article is the Rodney Dangerfield of medical ­writing. Review articles get no respect, even though, as discussed in Chap. 5, they are often indexed and counted in calculating a journal’s Impact Factor. Actually, many respected academicians write review articles, for both subscriber-based and controlled-circulation journals. Why do they do so? The answer is that most academic clinicians focus on one disease, such as Parkinson disease or heart failure, and by writing review articles, they assert their claims—mark their territory—on topics such as renin levels in hypertension or advances in the surgical management of prostate cancer.
Robert B. Taylor

7 Case Reports, Editorials, Letters to the Editor, Book Reviews, and Other Publication Models

Several writing models yield products with fewer pages than the typical review article. This does not mean that they are any easier to write or to get published. All submissions will be reviewed, either by peers or a knowledgeable editor, and there is the inevitable competition for space in every journal. However, for many clinicians and academicians, the case report, book review, or practice tip may turn out to be the pathway to an early taste of printer’s ink and an entry on their curriculum vitae. Each of the models described has different characteristics, requirements, and opportunities to triumph or flounder.
Robert B. Taylor

8 Writing Book Chapters and Books

In a herculean effort, Sir William Osler wrote the world’s first comprehensive medical reference book, Principles and Practice of Medicine. It was published by Appleton in 1892 and continued in print until the 16th edition, published in 1947, thus taking quite a long time to go out of vogue. The effort was heroic because Osler wrote every word himself—no contributed chapters for him—a task that took 3 years. His fiancé refused to marry him until the manuscript was complete. Following Osler’s retirement, later editions of the book were a collection of contributions by Johns Hopkins faculty members [2].
Robert B. Taylor

9 How to Write a Research Protocol

No football coach would ever let his team take the field without a “game plan.” The research protocol is the game plan for your project, your vision of what you will accomplish when you “take the field” with your research team. The document describes the reasoning behind and the process of the research project that you have in mind [1]. It tells what you hope to accomplish and how you will get it done. It also imposes a discipline, requiring you and your team to anticipate every step of the project before the first subject is recruited. This body of the research protocol more-or-less follows the IMRAD model, an acronym for the words Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. We will return to this model in Chap. 11, which discusses how to write a report of a research study.
Robert B. Taylor

10 How to Write a Grant Proposal

The engine of America’s clinical investigation enterprise is fueled by grants. In fact, so is some of medical education, by virtue of government and foundation grant funding for educational programs. One of the big surprises I encountered upon leaving rural practice and entering academic medicine in 1978 was the discovery that there was no pool of money to fund my salary. Is short, I was expected to bring in almost all my ­support. Although there were other sources, such as private philanthropy and endowments, for most of us in the United States, funding the salary that supports our teaching efforts meant seeing patients or writing successful grant proposals. Things have not changed over the past 3+ decades. An academic appointment is not a meal ticket; it is a hunting license.
Robert B. Taylor

11 How to Write a Report of a Clinical Study

Galileo, a leader in the Scientific Revolution that followed the hyper-religiosity and doctrinaire thinking of the Middle Ages, was a champion of reasoning. Ideally, of course, reasoning is based on observed facts—data—and medicine science’s best format for data presentation and analysis today is the report of a clinical study.
Robert B. Taylor

12 Getting Your Writing Published

Today, more than a century and a half after Holmes penned the words quoted above, we no longer use lead type. Publishing today is somehow all online and computerized, with even the fate of printed pages containing actual ink becoming a question for the future. And thus, while we may not develop classical “lead-poisoning” today, some of us will “suffer the indulgence” to write described by Holmes, and long to see our words published, whether on paper or on the Web.
Robert B. Taylor


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