These excellent tips are kindly shared by RK Sharma and HL Ogle, two medical students at the University of Exeter, aiming to clear up many of the inaccurate assumptions of how difficult publishing is and provide a clear guide for students to begin their own writing journeys.
#1. Find your why: Evidence-based medicine means that these are vital skills, and it has long been thought that the habits should be learned from early on.
#2. Play to your strengths and be realistic: A little bit of thought and planning at this stage will create a much friendlier introduction to research. Take a little time to reflect and think about the skills or interests you have that may translate into research work. This could be an old fondness of maths and statistics, strong analytical skills or even an innate passion for any particular field of medicine.
#3. Be well read: In order to produce research, you have to read research. This should not be a chore! There are thousands of medical journals to choose from. If you have already started to consider what you personally may enjoy, have a look around!
#4. Revisit missed opportunities: Across the world, there is an increasing emphasis on the role of research in medical education. One example of this is some American universities now have guided modules covering all aspects of research from developing the research plan through to ethics approval, completion, and presentation.
#5. Talk to the doctors around you: Often considered for professional development, but perhaps less so for educational development, seeking a mentor to guide you through these ventures can sometimes be of great long-term benefit.
#6. Broaden your horizons: When approaching publishing for the first time, it is easy to become solely focused on research papers and ways in which to participate with teams of researchers or large projects. In reality, this is only one aspect of medical literature and by delving into the word of research and becoming more well-read, the variety of publications and types of writing will quickly become apparent.
#7. Get to grips with the submission process early: Journals often receive far higher levels of submissions than can be accepted, making informed choices is of huge benefit for all parties involved.
#8. Pay attention to the details: This tip aims to draw attention to all the minute queries that can arise and things to look out for when submitting to your chosen journal.
#9. Remember that submission is not the end: It is relatively uncommon for any journal submissions to be accepted without any revisions. There are 4 decisions that can be given, these are: acceptance, minor revisions, major revisions and rejection.
#10. The process cannot be rushed: This can sometimes be a surprise when newly venturing into research; things take time. This is one of the reasons why it pays to have plans as to what to do if the work is rejected, as it can be difficult to return to an article many weeks after the fact.
#11. Consider the alternative paths to presenting research: A full paper is incredibly time consuming and can have relatively poor success rates; however the vast proportion of research projects can be presented as scientific posters or oral presentations.
#12. Start writing: There are many article formats that are perfectly suited to student authors. The letters section of a journal can be a great target for students.
Whatever a person’s motivation for getting involved with research, with a bit of preparation and reading, anyone who is enthusiastic can do it.