Jon Tilburt, (Victor Montori)
14 July 2011
I attended this lecture last week; I found it quite interesting and helpful.
I didn't write everything obviously, just the things I found interesting, that is if I actually understood what they were talking about
Here we go:
"Your productivity (in research) is only as good as your worst paper!"
Dr. Montori asked if this saying was true. Dr. Tilburt and a few other people disagreed. You might often be judged by your worst paper, but sometimes you just need to get the job done, so you finish a paper even if it isn't in the best quality.
I found this very relevant to me. I'm usually a perfectionist and would spend days on something that only needs days because I want it to be perfect.
Anyway, the main principles in writing a good papers are:
Catchy Title (Obviously)
Brevity (As short as possible, this is very important for both journals and busy physicians) (3000 words on average, less for surveys)
Logic; How to Idiot Proof my paper? (How to make sure a busy doctor follows you)
Accept Literature Culture
Now, for each section of the paper:
What is the problem that this paper wants to solve? (example: finding a cure for sickle cell disease)
What is known about this problem?
And if applicable, Objective statements (Hypothesis, questions for qualitative research)
It is important to start from a broad view and then focus more and more till you get to the problem. From General to Specific. (like an upside down triangle)
As an example, start from how HIV is a serious health issue, then how a treatment is hard to find, then about the treatment you have might work, and then perhaps about how the best way to give this treatment is (which is your objective)
Don't use a lot of numbers.
Use "Mapping" to achieve this.
So in the study objectives, you have objective #1, objective #2, objective #3.
In the methods, you have analysis plan #1 (for objective #1), analysis plan #2 (for objective #2), analysis plan #3 (for objective #3).
And finally in the results, you have table #1, table #2, table #3; which correspond with the objectives and analysis plans.
Table titles should be self-contained and exhaustive. They should be able to tell their whole story without text.
Remember that some journals don't want an overlap between the text and tables, while others don't mind.
A Summary can be used as the first paragraph. The summary can also be used for messages and cover letters.
Tell how your paper/study relates to existing literature.
One or two speculations about its implication for policy and practice.
Be honest! (This could change our country's health policy!!! ...... or not! )
Contrary to the introduction, the discussion should start from your results and go broader to the general view. (like a right-side-up triangle)
"How do I get past the blank page?" (How do I start?)
Start by building the data tables.
Report results based on tables.
Don't get distracted.
Right down the main ideas you want in your paper.
Make the paragraphs and sub-paragraphs, then start filling them slowly.
Remember: Journals vary. Write accordingly.
And don't use the passive voice. Active voice is better.
Example on passive voice: Blood samples were tested. The patients were screened for HIV.
Example on active voice: Our lab technicians tested the blood samples. We screened the patients for HIV.
Well, that's all I have!
Hope you had fun B-)