- Getting Your Research Paper Published: A Surgical Perspective, and: Anatomy of Writing for Publication for Nurses
Authors, editors, and publishers of how-to guides on writing for scholarly publication know that scholarly discourse communities shape and perpetuate expectations and norms of scholarly writing. They know, too, that these expectations and norms are not uniform across all disciplines, fields, and other domains of academic and professional practice. Thus we were not surprised to encounter these two volumes on writing for publication targeted to medical professionals. As one of us is familiar [End Page 174] with the genre of writing guides (Steve) and the other is a practicing surgeon (Will), we evaluate these two recent additions to the literature on the merits of content, coverage, and—ultimately—usefulness.
Indeed, I (Steve) have stepped outside my realm of first-hand experience by venturing into the medical world to review these volumes. Praxis and discourse communities aside, however, writing is writing; yet much can be gleaned about the norms of the medical profession (and the impact of evidence-based practice) by reading these two books. For example, sound evidence is paramount. Concision and clarity epitomize their own elegance of expression. Content is key. In Getting Your Research Paper Published: A Surgical Perspective, editors Mohit Bhandari (Hamilton General Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario) and Anders Joensson (Global Medical Science, Schönkirchen/Kiel, Germany) have brought together over two dozen contributors whose very texts emphasize the import of content, clarity, and concision. The contributors are a well-credentialed, international cast. Half hold medical degrees. Half are affiliated with institutions in Canada; one-quarter, the United States; and the remaining quarter, Western Europe. The twenty-three chapters of the book are focused and brief (averaging just seven pages), and two-thirds are coauthored, another indicator of norms in medicine. Design and layout follow that of an earlier volume by the same editors1 and reflect that readers have no time to waste: Well-signposted chapters begin with brief summaries, highlight ‘key concepts’ and definitions of key terms in callout boxes, and usually end with suggested readings and reference lists. Language used is practical, not beautiful. The two-column layout presents a lot of text per (large) page, but the text is always navigable, never overwhelming. Skimming through the volume and reading only the key-concepts boxes would, in fact, quickly enable one to garner the main takeaway points of the text. In general, these points offer sound, potentially useful suggestions.
Bhandari and Joensson’s book emphasizes the preliminary, generative role of presenting papers, abstracts, and posters at professional meetings and conferences (the subject of the final four chapters). Presentations, though, are ideally precursors to publishing in proceedings or scholarly journals, and writing for publication is the focus of the text. Three introductory chapters contextualize writing for publication for an audience of orthopaedic surgeons (physicians who diagnose and treat problems of the musculoskeletal system), highlighting the increased credibility and [End Page 175] prestige afforded to practitioners who publish. A premise is that aspiring authors will have abundant material about which to write and will be familiar with the journals (and professional meetings) in their respective fields; no chapters on identifying potential topics or venues are included. The middle sixteen chapters form the heart of the work and focus on writing manuscripts and submitting them to scholarly journals. Examples are consistently from the field of orthopaedics; the expectation is that surgeons of all types will be able to transfer the advice and implications to their own specialties and sub-specialties. Chapters are nicely cross-referenced throughout, lending coherence to the work as a whole.
Chapters in the middle section address targeting journals and attending to specific formatting requirements; understanding ethics and authorship, including ‘ghost...