Guidance for newly qualified doctors to get published

BMJ (the publishing group) offers many opportunities for newly qualified doctors to get published. If you are stuck thinking about how to get started this guidance will help.

Why publish?

Newly qualified doctors are encouraged to get publications. Besides improving your CV, there are many motives and reasons for newly qualified doctors to publish their work. Getting published gives you the opportunity to say something important, provoke debate, share your experiences, educate others, change practice, and occasionally make some extra money.

What to write about?

Unless you have a track record as an author, it is unusual for a journal to give you an idea to write about, or to commission an article. Usually it is down to newly qualified doctors to come up with an idea.

Education

As a newly qualified doctor, you are likely to spend a lot of time with patients. Why not start by keeping an eye out for interesting cases, images, or situations where you have learned a lot?

One of these could prompt you to write a case report, based on an unusual case or to remind others of an important message. Alternatively you might have an idea for an education article – these are usually based on more common or typical situations and presentations. If you have not written before, consider working with a peer or senior colleague who is familiar with how to write this type of article.

Opinion

You may come across a medical issue or a new development that you would like to write about. Or you might form an opinion, see, or read something that others may be interested in too. This could form the basis of an opinion or review article.

Some medical journals are developing online communities. You could build your confidence in writing by starting or joining a discussion. Post on a medical forum, such as those on doc2doc (an online community for clinicians that launched in 2009). Or you could write a blog for the bmj blog site http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/. To do this, contact Juliet Dobson at jdobson@bmj.com

Audit and research

Newly qualified doctors are often involved in audit, and sometimes in research, which specific journals may be interested in. If you get involved in such projects make sure you negotiate how your work will be acknowledged. Will you be named as a contributor or as an author?

Developing your idea

Before you commit time to writing an article, consider your idea and all the options available to you. Talk to colleagues. Take a look online, perhaps on a general search engine such as Google, or medical search engine such as Pubmed and get an idea about what has already been written on the topic you hope to write about. This might help you gauge how original, well documented, or topical the subject is.

Editors are after the best content for their readers so consider how relevant your article will be to the readers of the journal that you plan to submit to. It is worth considering if your article is relevant to specialists, or to a wider audience, to doctors in a specific area of the country, nationally, or internationally.

To browse BMJ Journals follow this link. To look at the content of a specific journal, choose from the dropdown list on the right hand side, and select “go”. This will take you to the homepage. You will be able to look at recent content and think about how your idea might fit in.

From most of the BMJ Journals’ home page, you can select the link “About the journal” on the navigation bar - for example, the Emergency Medicine Journal. This will bring up a section on the remit of the journal. On a further navigation bar that appears beneath “About the journal” you can also click on and read “Instructions for authors” from this screen.

“Instructions for authors” will give you guidance about the types of articles they accept and instructions on how to present and format your article. Following these instructions will show editors that you have carefully considered the article.

Exceptions

The websites for The BMJ and Student BMJ are structured differently to the other journals.

The BMJ has a page about its aim, and a resource area for authors here. From the resource area you can expand instructions for authors – article types appear on the left hand side of the screen.

Newly qualified doctors can also write for the Student BMJ for up to two years after qualifying. They have guidelines for authors on their article types – this page also explains more about the process of publication than others.

What are editors looking for?

When editors are reading an article they may be looking for important topics for their readers, originality, and potential to improve patient care. They are also looking for clear and honest writing.

You are likely to improve your chances of publication if you choose the right journal, follow its advice to authors and submit it with the correct information, such as competing interest statements or patient consent. A cover letter can outline the importance of your article to the journal’s readers.

Pitching your idea

Before you commit time to writing you could consider contacting the relevant editor to discuss your submission. Contact details can be found on journal websites. It is best to keep this brief. Outline your idea, the type of article you want to write, what you qualifications have (and those that any co-authors may have), and how you can be contacted.

It is unusual for a journal to make a commitment to publish an article without seeing the finished product, and it is common for ideas to be rejected. Do not be put off. You may be able to present your idea to another journal, and you are likely to learn something from this process.

Top BMJ (publishing group) articles for junior doctors to write

  • An article for BMJ Careers about something pertinent to newly qualified doctors’ careers and training. Articles might review courses, interview inspirational professionals, or explore current issues. Many of the articles in this section are geared towards a UK audience.
  • An Endgames article for The BMJ – a common case or image, with questions and evidence based answers aimed at junior doctors. See examples of these articles.
  • A case report for BMJ Case Reports. Alternatively, look at guidance on The BMJ's and BMJ Journals' websites about the types of case reports they consider publishing.
  • An education article for the Student BMJ. See examples of clinical reviews and picture quizzes. Priority will be given to conditions medical students need to be familiar with, and articles must have an expert co-author.
  • A BestBET article for the Emergency Medicine Journal - rapid evidence-based answers to real-life emergency medicine clinical questions. See examples of these articles. NB: Not submitted to the journal but to an external site.
  • An electronic letter, or rapid response to something that you have read in the journal, or related to something else which you believe is important to readers of that journal.
  • A Minerva image for The BMJ – a clear, high quality image with a short educational message.
  • A medical classic or personal view for The BMJ. There are no specific instructions for these article types. For personal views, newly qualified doctors are encouraged to write on original topics. Many people write about their experience of working abroad, or careers in the UK - however, they are rarely accepted. Example articles by newly qualified doctors include “My year without drug reps” and “Should pregnant doctors work in termination of pregnancy clinics? An example of a medical classic review written by a newly qualified doctor is “George’s Marvellous Medicine”

Tips for writing

  • Use the consent form to get the patient's permission for publication for any article that contains personal medical information about an identifiable living patient. We are unable to publish such article without consent,
  • Make sure any images are high quality 300 dpi.
  • Always credit other people's work properly, using Vancouver style references. Many journals use plagiarism detection tools so, if you copy and paste chunks of text or take original ideas and facts from other sources without proper credit, you may well get caught.
  • Write as you speak. Keep it simple and informal. Write in the active. For example, “you can gain unique experience” instead of “unique experience is gained”. Keep paragraphs short, breaking up text with subheadings.
  • Spell out abbreviations the first time you use them.
  • Be specific about what country/area you are talking about. For example, Department of Health initiatives cover England only, GMC is UK-wide. Also do this with any statistics. Be clear what area/country they cover.
  • Please spell check your work before submitting it.

What happens once your article has been submitted?

First your article will be read by one of the editors.

If they think the article is promising it may be sent to another editor for a second opinion, or out for external peer review depending on the article type. This means that other clinicians will be asked how suitable they think the article it is for publication. Their comments should be constructive.

If the editors decide to pursue your article they may ask you to make some alterations. If the article is accepted you will be contacted at a later date to make minor alterations and clarifications as the article is prepared by the production staff for publication.