Getting started

From patient to paper: How to become involved in scholarly activity

Scholarly activity is essential to advancing health care. Here are 5 key steps to help you get involved.

Scholarly activity is essential to advancing health care. Imagine practicing medicine without the life-saving drugs and therapies that have resulted from research.

For physicians, scholarly activity carries personal benefits as well. It stimulates the professional mind, provides opportunities for recognition, and helps career advancement, to name a few.

So why aren’t more physicians pursuing scholarly activity? A lack of time, resources, interest, mentors, and topics have all been blamed.

Overcoming these barriers, however, is not difficult. One just needs to know where to start and how to finish. Here are 5 key steps to becoming involved in scholarly activity.

  1. Ideate. Topics ripe for new investigations or analysis are everywhere. For example, a unique patient encounter and case resolution after a missed diagnosis could provide fodder for future cases and research. Existing treatment solutions that have been poorly studied could benefit from additional testing. An analysis of health care trends could drive conversations and lead to more effective solutions.
  2. Plan. Whether it’s a research study, review article, case report, or policy analysis, once an idea is selected, the objective needs to be identified. Consider how your project can fill the existing gap. Create an outline identifying each step of the process, including your hypothesis, plans for testing, and resources needed. If you are new to scholarly pursuits, seek the help of a mentor.
  3. Gather. Collect your data and follow your protocol. If changes are needed to the protocol, you will need to explain what changed and why later on. If you are writing a review or other analysis, allow your findings to drive the paper.
  4. Disseminate. If the opportunity is available, conferences can be a great venue to present your findings. Before presenting, however, seek your colleagues’ feedback. Writing the paper first also allows you to identify and address weaknesses early on. Use a manuscript template to make the initial writing process easier. After the presentation, gather feedback from participants and use that feedback to improve your paper. Set a deadline to complete the paper shortly after the meeting.
  5. Submit. Identify the journal you will be submitting to and follow the author guidelines. Be aware that it takes an average of 1 month to receive feedback, and be prepared for rejection or revision requests. Don’t be discouraged; it is rare for a manuscript to be accepted after the first submission.

Regardless of the manuscript type—research, review, report, perspective—remember that the best manuscripts tell a story. The best stories, even in scholarly activity, convey the passions of the authors and the importance of the topic.

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