A physician’s guide to the world of medical publications


Introduction: It is thrilling for any physician to write and publish a paper, because it reflects their study and expertise. It has become imperative in today’s ever evolving world of medical science to keep abreast with academia by actively engaging in publication of scientific literature. The number of publications a physician has to his/her credit speaks volumes about their subject interest, command and passion. On the other hand, medical journals serve as sources of the most recent up-to-date information, which aids physicians in providing their patients with latest care in their specialty. Method: Having worked closely with a wide array of practicing physicians, right from fresh graduates to seasoned consultants; I have gained useful insight into the lacuna aspects when it comes to medical publications. Results: This paper aims to help every medical practitioner by bridging the gap between possessing vast amounts of data to structurally organising it and getting your information successfully published. I attempt to bring forth a ready reckoner that could serve as a step-wise checklist and guide to simplify the process of getting medical literature published; keeping in mind the time crunched and hectic schedules of medical practitioners.

Keywords: Guidelines, medical publications, scientific writing

How to cite this article:
Pereira KR. A physician’s guide to the world of medical publications. Ann Trop Med Public Health 2016;9:392-5


How to cite this URL:
Pereira KR. A physician’s guide to the world of medical publications. Ann Trop Med Public Health [serial online] 2016 [cited 2020 Aug 6];9:392-5. Available from: https://www.atmph.org/text.asp?2016/9/6/392/193944



The history of medical publications is a fascinating journey that dates back to the early documentations by the Egyptians (Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus), Persians (The Canon of Medicine), Chinese (Huangdi Neijing) and not to forget the famed Indian (Ayurvedas).[1]

Then came the era of breakthrough discoveries by eminent physicians like William Harvey, Louis Pasteur, Ignaz Semmelweis to name just a few. Thus, began the scientific method of research and further the practice of peer-review based publication. Indeed, we have come a long way from ancient folklore inscribed on rocks, leaves and parchment to the research and evidence-based information transmission. This paper aims to outline certain practical self help pointers for contemporary physicians to publish their medical findings. There are manifold benefits of medical publications; the primary one being that it serves as a platform for inter-communication between members of the medical fraternity. Publications are fast becoming trusted physician companions owing to the fact that they are packed with a treasure of authentic, authorised data and can be accessed by a physician in any part of the world.

Methods and Materials

A mentor should top your priority list of must-haves while attempting to publish. A person who has previously published in standard journals would be an ideal morale booster to get you started. Then, focus your attention on polishing your online and web skills

since most medical journals today follow online submission processes and display most instructions on their websites. Once you have zeroed in on your target journal

it would be wise to go through their “Author Guidelines and Submission Process” mentioned on the website.

A physician must first know some of the major categories of articles

that could be published.

  1. Original Research Articles: Primary Literature as per classification.
    • Original, in-depth articles that communicate new and significant research.
    • Including randomized clinical trials, intervention studies, studies of screening and diagnostic tests, cohort studies, systematic reviews, cost-effectiveness analyses, case control studies, and cross-sectional studies.
    • Format should include hypothesis, background study, methods, results, interpretation of findings, and a discussion of possible implications.
    • Original research articles should be detailed, and could have a word limit ranging from 3000 to 6000,[2],[3] and can even go up to 12000 words for some journals.[4]
    • Thus physicians would have to spare a substantial amount of time on such articles.
    • TIP: It is advised that you devote an hour a day to drafting original research articles. This method enables you to simultaneously carry out the writing without over bearing your clinical schedules.
  2. Original Research Briefs:
    • Brief narrations of descriptive, observational studies, epidemiological assessments, and surveys could be published as “Research Briefs”.
    • A series of cases could also be submitted as Research Briefs.
  3. Rare/Unique Case Reports of unusual presentations/diagnosis/management: Primary Literature as per classification.
    • Only case reports of exceptional quality will be published in the case report format.
    • Single case reports are generally NOT accepted, unless some new or unusual aspect regarding etio-pathogenesis, diagnosis or management is brought out that adds to the existing body of knowledge.
    • Such articles are expected to detail the signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of a disease.[4],[5]
  4. Perspective: Secondary Literature as per classification.
    • Articles published under this heading intend to cover challenging and controversial topics of current interest and the intersection between medicine and society.
    • The issues covered could be of national, regional (South East Asia) or global interest.
    • These are short articles, around 2000 words.
  5. Review article: Secondary Literature as per classification.
    • The aim of such an article is to give an overview by analysing all the information available from various published works on the same topic, while maintaining a balanced perspective.
    • Review articles, basically outline and summarize existing literature on the topic while identifying particular problem areas.
    • There are basically three types of review articles: literature reviews, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses.
    • Review articles generally have a maximum word limit of 3000-5000 or even more, depending on the journal. Though some journals do publish short reviews.
    • TIP: This is an excellent medium of publication for young and inexperienced authors to begin their exploration of writing and publications.
  6. Commentaries:
    • These are short articles usually around 1000-1500 words.
    • Their aim is to draw attention to or put forth a criticism of a previously published article or report, explaining why it interested you and validating how it might be illuminating for readers.

This discussion is divided into three sub groups to comprehensively cover the “publication pyramid” as I would like to term the three aspects crucial to successful publication of your paper.

  1. A look into the publication process.
  2. Mastering the art of scientific writing.
  3. The writing roadblocks and how to overcome them.

Before delving into the aspects of good scientific writing, I feel every prospective author would do well to understand the fundamental process of publication.

Step 1: Decide on your topic and begin drafting the manuscript as per the basic guidelines enumerated above in the major categories of articles

In case of a research based article, the quality of the manuscript is influenced by the quality of the planning and conduction of the research.

Step 2: Brain storm with your team and colleagues. Engaging in positive feedback and criticism helps refine the manuscript in terms of language, content and clarity of thought.

Step 3: Submit your manuscript that has been edited and proofread in accordance to the journal guidelines.

Steps 4 and 5 give you a glimpse into the happenings on the other side, once you have submitted your manuscript to a journal. Being aware of this will help an author be prepared and reduce the time taken to successfully get published.

Step 4: The editor and/or associate editors will perform the first stage called “The Editorial Review”. Your manuscript will be scrutinized in terms of quality, purpose and grammatical accuracy. At the end of this step there could be two outcomes- either your manuscript will be “provisionally accepted” or “rejected”.

Step 5: The provisionally accepted manuscripts then enter into the second stage of review called “The Peer Review”. Here manuscripts are read and assessed by subject matter experts. They would be looking for clinical significance, accuracy of information, logical analysis of subject matter, and contribution to the field. At the end of this step there could be three outcomes which are:

  1. The manuscript will be accepted for publication.
  2. The manuscript will be returned with suggestions for areas of improvement.
  3. The manuscript will be rejected.

Armed with this insight on the process of publication, authors will surely gain confidence to go ahead with their publications. We now move on to section B that deals with the art of scientific writing.

The manuscript will typically comprise the side headings namely A) Title B) Author C) Abstract and keywords D) Introduction and Review of literature E) Material and Method F) Results G) Discussion and conclusion H) References and I) General considerations. It is advisable to follow the “Wine Glass Model of IMRAD” writing. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICJME) recommended the (I)ntroduction, (M)ethods, (R)esults, And (D)iscussion scheme for writing scientific documents especially original research articles. The wine glass model refers to the flow of information while following the IMRAD structure. There are two aspects of the wine glass model

Symmetrical Top & Bottom: The introduction that begins the paper and discussion/conclusion that ends the paper are preferably kept symmetrically similar and elaborate (wide).

Width Change: The middle portion of the paper that includes the methods and results is significantly narrower in comparison with the top and bottom.

Statistics estimate that annually a staggering 1.8 million articles are published all over the world in about 28,000 journals.[6] You can then imagine how important the title of your manuscript is. It is the part that invites readers to read your manuscript. So keep the title informative yet concise and free from confusing short forms or ambiguous abbreviations. The authors involved in the scripting, documentation and study must mutually decide on the authorship order and provide details such as current designation, email address and contact number. One corresponding author can take the responsibility of routinely overseeing the proceedings.

The abstract again is a critical part. It will determine whether the reader decides to invest time in reading the whole manuscript or not. Therefore, care should be taken to proficiently convey in brief the aim of the study, methods employed, core findings and statistical significance, results and conclusions. The abstract could either be unstructured (approximately 150 words) or structured (approximately 250 words) depending on the individual journal guidelines. Keep the abstract free from abbreviations or if unavoidable, spell out the abbreviation preceding its use. The abstract is followed by key words that aid in indexing and citation. Therefore, chose your keywords wisely and ideally from the Medical Subject Headings list (MESH) in Index Medicus (Medline).

The introduction as the name itself suggests, informs the readers about the nature, purpose and prime results of the study. Clearly outline in detail the core idea of the study. You could cite relevant publications related to your study and critically draw parallelisms or contradictions. Avoid unnecessary literature review.

The study subjects exclusion and inclusion criteria must be defined and conveyed in the material and methods

section of the paper. In case of human and animal subjects a consent form would be required. The plan that has been chalked to arrive at the solution for the research question is called the research design. Make sure to have a concrete design and covey the same through your writing. List out in detail the equipment, procedure and methods employed so that others who wish to cross check your study can do so. In case of pharmacological agents used, their generic name and route of administration should be provided. Mention the data collection, statistical and analysis processes employed. Describe the setting in which the study was performed.

The Results section is the part that declares what new information you wish to bring out in the world. So state the results simply yet clearly. Write this section in the past tense. State the facts not your opinions. Meticulously account for every subject without withholding contradicting or negative results.

The discussion section should speak about the observations of the study and can be linked to alternate relevant studies to display the differences and similarities. However, refrain from stating opinions rather discuss about the findings, their limitations and probable implications. The unique aspects of the study, scope and possible future research on the topic can be discussed.

The conclusion section should enlist the conclusive findings and establish the link between them and the study goals. However, refrain from unsupported statements in the absence of data evidence. The study design and results should correspond with each other.

The references should be in adherence with standard publication rules, either Vancouver or Harvard style which are most commonly used. Write correct abbreviations of the journals and refrain from including abstracts in references. A reference list indicates all the papers, articles and web sources that have been cited in your manuscript. A bibliography on the other hand is a list of all the documents that form either the background or further reading.

Overcoming Writer Roadblocks


  1. Time Management: “An hour a day, keeps publications going.” Squeeze in at least 30-60 minutes of writing per day. Sustained and mini writing periods will slowly but surely and steadily complete your manuscript. Writing at a stretch and in haste generally tends to tire a person and will not serve your purpose.
  2. Patience is the key: The publishing cycle can take anywhere between 3 months to a year. Patiently correspond with the editorial and peer review feedback. Occasionally you may have to re-submit your manuscript to alternative journals, so keep a list of back up options.
  3. Take feedback positively: Even the best authors face rejection and this should not deter you from leaving your publication midway. In fact most journals provide constructive feedback. An author who meticulously revises as per the suggestions can improve the quality of his/her paper.

Writing is best when enjoyed and simple when you know how. This paper has attempted to explain every “how” of scientific writing. Take the first step today and inculcate a happy attitude towards writing. Pen down all your points in rough, from there on follow the steps enumerated in this paper. Stay focused and organised throughout. Happy publishing!

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



Sage Publications Manuscript Submission Guidelines. Available from . [Last accessed on 2015 Feb 18].
Nature Publications. Author Resources. Available from http://www.nature.com/authors/author_resources/article_types.html. [Last accessed on 2015 Feb 18].
Frontiers in group. Frontiers in Neuroscience. Available from http://www.frontiersin.org/Neuroscience/articletype. [Last accessed on 2015 Feb 18].
University of Colorado Libraries. Publish, Not Perish: The Art & Craft of Publishing in Scholarly Journals, Module 1, Overview of Scholarly Publishing. Available from http://www.publishnotperish.org/module1/publishable_articles.htm. [Last accessed on 2015 Feb 18].

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1755-6783.193944

Paul Mies has now been involved with test reports and comparing products for a decade. He is a highly sought-after specialist in these areas as well as in general health and nutrition advice. With this expertise and the team behind atmph.org, they test, compare and report on all sought-after products on the Internet around the topics of health, slimming, beauty and more. The results are ultimately summarized and disclosed to readers.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here