9 Steps to Take When Getting Your Work Published in a Medical Journal

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As a newly qualified doctor, getting published in a medical journal is something that should be strongly considered. Besides improving your CV, getting...

As a newly qualified doctor, getting published in a medical journal is something that should be strongly considered. Besides improving your CV, getting published gives doctors the opportunity to say something important, provoke debate, educate others, change practice and share experiences.

Edward H. Livingston, MD, deputy editor of clinical content at JAMA, along with fellow physicians and published residents, shared nine tips to follow for getting published in a medical journal at the 2014 AMA Interim Meeting last month.

1. Start with a simple question.

“Re-examine what’s in front of you,” said Dr. Livingston. “It’s not necessary to find something new [to research] … You can do more to help patient care if you start thinking in smaller terms.”

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2. Choose a timely project.

Choose a project that won’t take years to complete, recommends Benjamin Galper, MD, an interventional cardiology physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “As residents and fellows, we only have a finite amount of time to devote to research,” said Dr. Galper. “It’s important that you choose a project that you can have a high impact on in a short period of time so you will be a prominent author when the project is published.”

3. Don’t let funds hold you back.

Dr. Livingston recommends looking for support at institutions but to avoid seeing money as a barrier. “There’s too much emphasis on needing lots of [money] to solve problems,” said Dr. Livingston. “Some major science advances were accomplished with minimal funding.” There are also a number of grant programs available that can help offset costs.

4. Find a mentor.

“A mentor who has a good track record of publishing in reputable journals can identify opportunities, such as being a co-author on a review article, or doing some analyses on a dataset that a resident could not ordinarily collect,” said Alik Widge, MD, PhD.

5. Practice writing.

Dr. Livingston recommends writing often and having people who can critique drafts of work. “Just keep writing, no matter how awful it is,” he advised.

6. Keep track of the abstract, tables and figures.

“For many papers we assess at JAMA, we don’t even read them [initially],” said Dr. Livingston. “We just look at the abstract, tables and figures. Those things have to be absolutely perfect.”

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7. Follow the journal’s instructions.

Journals have specific author instructions, and if not followed, authors might lose the opportunity to be published, according to Dr. Livingston.

8. Build a great reference list.

“There’s no excuse in the modern era for not having a complete reference list,” said Dr. Livingston. Additionally, lists should include landmark papers and the most recent publications on the topic written about.

9. Have thick skin.

Rejection is common when it comes to publishing research. There may need to be multiple submissions to various journals and papers may need to go through numerous revisions before it is published. “Each peer-reviewed rejection or revision of your paper can make it stronger,” said Dr. Galper. “I have one paper that was rejected by five journals before finally being published, and I believe the final paper is much stronger due to the feedback I received.” 

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