12 Tips for Medical Students who Want to Write and Publish Scientific Papers | Beginner Level

Medical Education Flamingo
6 min readAug 15, 2023

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Gather around as we unveil some handy tips for all you aspiring medical students who want to venture into the world of research and publishing. We’ve got 12 essential nuggets of wisdom to guide you on this exciting journey. This isn’t some random advices; it’s backed by a legit scientific paper written for you.

So, if you’re ready to dip your toes into the vast ocean of research and publishing, join us as we share these valuable insights. No need to be a genius; we’re all here to learn and grow together. Let’s embark on this adventure and make our mark in the medical field.

Tip 1: Find Your Why

Research can be a powerful tool for personal and professional growth but internal reasons to be motivated would be more important. Discover your motivation for getting involved in research. It may be a personal interest, passion for a specific topic, or inspiration from clinical experiences. Finding your personal drivers for research will lead to a more fulfilling and successful research journey.

Tip 2: Play to Your Strengths and Be Realistic

Every medical student has unique strengths and interests. Reflect on your skills and passions to find the perfect niche in research that suits you best. Plus, being realistic about your time commitments is crucial in this academically intense field. However, starting research and writing during medical school is advantageous due to the relatively ample free time available compared to later stages of your career.

Tip 3: Be Well-Read

To produce great research, you need to read great research. Reading should not be seen as a tedious task. There is a vast selection of journals available, often accessible through universities, providing an astonishing amount of research at your fingertips that you can choose from based on your personal interests. Developing analytical skills while reading is important. Analytical reading leads to discussions where you can generate numerous research questions. When encountering a new paper, having many questions is common, but discussing them with researchers can help identify the most significant ones. Journal clubs, which is a gathering of individuals that meets regularly to discuss and critically evaluate research papers and articles from scientific journals, may offer a fruitful environment for you.

Tip 4: Revisit Missed Opportunities

Around the world, medical education is increasingly emphasizing the importance of research. Some universities offer guided modules covering all aspects of research, while others just encourage student participation in research. No matter where you are, you may have involved in a research idea more or less in your curriculum. Do not throw it out because it might just be the foundation for your next publication! You need not complete an entire research project alone; research publications often involve collaborative efforts.

Tip 5: Talk to the Doctors Around You

Your network is a goldmine of research opportunities! As a medical student, you have the chance to interact with various doctors and lecturers, some of whom may be involved in research. Whether they are senior specialists or newly qualified doctors, many are engaged in different research projects. Get involved what they are doing in terms of research. Opportunities in research, even if they don’t lead to immediate publications, can open doors.

Furthermore, working as part of a team has proven to be fruitful for medical students. Building relationships with clinical role models and seeking mentors can also positively impact your career and educational development beyond research and publishing.

Tip 6: Broaden Your Horizons

When first considering publishing, medical students tend to focus solely on research papers. However, there is a wide range of formats, including review articles, clinical trials, case studies, and opinion pieces. For beginners, “opinion pieces” like perspectives, commentaries, and letters can be an ideal starting point, offering opportunities for individual or small team work that can be actioned relatively quickly and allowing for the demonstration of critical analysis in a public forum.

Tip 7: Get to Grips with the Submission Process

Selecting the right journal for publication can be challenging, but having an experienced mentor, such as co-authors, supervisors, or a librarian, can provide valuable guidance. Being well-informed about the journal’s requirements is essential since they receive more submissions than they can accept. The submission process might seem daunting initially, but it becomes manageable with careful reading of the author guidelines, which outline word counts, reference styles, and necessary documents like a cover letter, manuscript, figures, and declarations of interest form. Understanding a journal’s aims and scope and reading recent articles helps ensure your content aligns with their focus. Taking charge of the submission process, even in collaborative projects, not only lightens the workload for others but also provides valuable experience for future submissions.

Tip 8: Pay Attention to the Details

This tip highlights important details and considerations when submitting your work to a journal. Indexing by services like PubMed is essential for greater visibility. Article processing charges, which are fees imposed by some journals upon acceptance for publication, should be carefully checked, as they can be significant especially for students, for example, two thousand dollars. Open access options are worth considering to increase exposure, even though they may involve article processing charges. Seeking pre-submission guidance is beneficial to address these factors and make informed choices.

Tip 9: Remember That Submission Is Not the End

When submitting a journal article, it’s essential to understand the possible decisions: acceptance, minor revisions, major revisions, or rejection. Acceptance is the ideal outcome, while minor revisions are common and positive. Major revisions mean serious issues need addressing, and dialogue with the editors may be necessary. Rejection is disappointing but not uncommon, with some journals reporting rejection rates as high as 95%. However, rejected work can often be resubmitted elsewhere. Aim high and have several suitable journals in mind. Feedback, even from rejections, can be helpful.

Tip 10: The Process Cannot Be Rushed

Patience is key. When starting out in research, it may come as a surprise that the process takes months. From submitting the article to receiving a response from the editor, significant time can pass. The type and scope of the article can influence the time frames, but quick turnarounds should not be expected. It is crucial to have contingency plans in case of rejection, as returning to an article months later can be challenging.

Tip 11: Consider Alternative Paths to Presenting Research

There’s more than one way to present your research. There are alternative scientific modalities. While full papers can be time-consuming and have low success rates, many research projects can be presented as scientific posters or oral presentations, which are often overlooked. Abstract submissions are widely accessible for both oral and poster presentations in conferences, and finalizing the presentation is only required upon acceptance. These opportunities are educational and valuable for career development, with poster presentations being recognized in most specialty applications.

Tip 12: Start Writing

The best time to start is now! If you haven’t found a suitable project or helpful supervisors yet, you can take the initiative and pursue an original concept. Collaboration with peers can be valuable in this process. Many article formats are well-suited for student authors, and starting with smaller pieces can help develop writing skills and interests. Targeting the letters section of a journal can be a great option for students, as it allows for critical appraisal, a core skill taught early on, which is essential for informed decision making in practice and contributes to scientific development.

And there you have it! 12 essential tips for medical students ready to embark on their research and publishing journey. By following these, you’ll be well on your way to making a meaningful impact in the medical field and contributing to the advancement of knowledge.

Remember, research is a journey of growth and learning. So, stay curious, be persistent, and embrace the exciting challenges that come your way. Happy researching, and until next time — keep making a difference.

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