Preparing Medical Papers and Clinical Case Reports

Why do medical and clinical papers need editing?

Medical research papers present the methodology, the results, and a discussion of the impacts of a disease, procedure, or clinical trial in the medical field. When submitting a medical research paper to a medical or clinical journal, it is crucial that the work be of high academic quality, contain the proper content, be organized in the correct way, and use writing that is complete and concise.

Because most journal editors will not waste time reviewing poorly prepared manuscripts, manuscript editing for your medical paper can be critical in publishing your case report, clinical trial, or other medical research. A professional medical editing service is highly recommended when revising your research.

This article provides a quick checklist of the content, organization, and formatting of most medical research papers. It also analyzes which kind of content is needed for specific types of medical papers.

Types of medical and clinical research documents

We can divide medical papers into two broad types: 1) clinical or medical studies and 2) clinical case reports.

A standard clinical or medical study is a research study using human subjects to evaluate biomedical or health-related outcomes. Clinical studies involve multiple patients and usually undergo peer review and conformational follow-up studies. The following are the main types of clinical studies:

  • Randomized controlled trial (RCT)
  • Case-controlled study
  • Qualitative study
  • Observational study

Another common type of medical research paper is the clinical case report. A case report is a detailed report of the signs, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of an individual patient. Case reports may contain a demographic profile of the patient but usually describe an unusual or novel occurrence. Whereas clinical studies are written about multiple patients, a case report involves only one individual patient.

While all medical research papers vary in terms of length and content (and authors should always check the Guide for Authors section of their target medical journal), the general guidelines are quite similar. When preparing any medical or clinical research paper for publication, authors should pay close attention to certain content, organization, formatting, and writing quality issues.

Example of a Medical Paper Abstract

Medical Paper Writing and Editing Checklist

Medical papers follow a similar structure as most scientific research papers and specific content should be included in each section of the paper. Here are some issues to pay attention to in each section when you are writing or revising your medical or clinical paper.

Abstract Content and Writing Issues

Medical and Clinical Papers

  • Indicate the focus of the paper and include relevant keywords to allow identification of the study through database searches.
  • Be concise, precise, and informative.
  • Use a structured abstract that follows the organization rules laid out in the Guide for Authors.
  • Do not use abbreviations in the abstract.

Clinical Case Reports

  • Summarize the content of the study.
  • Check that the word count is 100 words or less.
  • Use an unstructured abstract and follow the organization rules of the target journal.
  • Pose the clinical question or diagnostic problem, and provide essential information which allows for easier retrieval from database searches and helps researchers understand the most important takeaways from the report.
  • Don’t use abbreviations in the abstract.
The abstract for a clinical case study is significantly shorter than for other medical papers.

Introduction Section Content and Writing Issues

Medical and Clinical Papers

  • Include the scientific background and explain the research questions you were trying to answer.
  • Summarize information that is relevant to the study: start broadly with what is already known, move to the specific unknown problems, and end by stating your study objectives.
  • Include a brief review of relevant literature/studies that support or contribute to your work.
  • Do not discuss findings in the Introduction section.
  • Use the active voice.

Clinical Case Reports

  • Keep this section concise and immediately get the reader’s interest.
  • Provide background information that explains why the case is worthy reading and publishing.
  • Explain the focus of the case report using clear language.
    • Eg., “We present/report a case of ….”
  • Narrate the episode of care (using tables and figures as needed).
    • Present concerns (chief complaints) and relevant demographic information.
    • Clinical findings: describe relevant medical history, any pertinent comorbidities, and physical examination (PE) findings.
    • Diagnostic assessments: discuss diagnostic testing and results, a differential diagnosis, and the diagnosis.
    • Therapeutic interventions: describe the types of intervention applied (pharmacologic, surgical, preventive, lifestyle) and how the interventions were administered (dosage, strength, duration, and frequency).
    • Follow-up and outcomes: describe the clinical course of the episode of care during follow-up visits including (1) intervention modification, interruption, or discontinuation; (2) intervention adherence and methods of assessment; and (3) adverse effects or unanticipated events.
    • Explain the merits of the case report in the Discussion section using a focused and comprehensive review of the literature. Do not include a literature review in the introduction. is required to corroborate the author's claim in this section.
    • Preserve patient confidentiality. Demographics such as age, gender, race and occupation are referred to in the first sentence when describing the patient.
  • Do not include the patient's initials, date of birth, and other identifying information.
  • For some journals, no Introduction section should be included. In such journals, the body of the case report begins with a description of the case.
  • Use the active voice.

Methods Section Content and Writing Issues

Medical and Clinical Papers

  • Describe how the study was designed, carried out, and analyzed using a logical or chronological sequence of events.
  • Most Methods sections provide key information about the following details:
    • Setting, location
    • Study participants (or objects)
    • Study design (including sample size)
    • Interventions or exposures
    • Outcomes (variables)
    • All statistical methods of analysis
    • Ethical issues (such as consent)
  • Information should be clear, accurate, and complete; provide enough details so that other studies can be repeated, assessed, and compared with your study.
  • List your methods in the same order as your findings (in the Results section).
  • Use the passive voice when describing how the study was carried out and assessed.
  • Include only the most important and relevant methods used.

Clinical Case Reports

  • Most Case Reports do not include a separate Methods section.
Use headings to separate sections within the Methods.

Results Section Content and Writing Issues

Medical and Clinical Papers

  • Report results of the investigations described in the Methods section (in same order) using text, tables, figures, and statistics.
  • Be brief and clear, but do not omit results that undermine your hypothesis or fail to answer your research question.
  • Structure and chronology of the Results section:
    • Description of study participants (if relevant, separately for important subgroups)
    • Presentation of answers to the main questions; begin by explaining primary outcomes first, then secondary outcomes and other analyses.
    • Report on relevant adverse effects as well as benefits.
  • Highlight ways in which the findings did not fulfill the study design or failed to
  • Ensure that tables and figures are clear on their own and also included in the text.
  • Use the past tense.

Clinical Case Reports

  • Most case reports do not include a separate Results section.

Discussion Section Content and Writing Issues

Medical and Clinical Papers

  • Interpret the meaning of your findings and explain their impact in the context of previous or current studies.
  • Structure and chronology of the Discussion section:
    • Briefly present the main findings; use language that clarifies the findings as presented in the Results section.
    • Assess the study’s strengths and weaknesses; include limitations and ways the study could be improved upon.
    • Compare findings to previous and studies; explain how effective your study is at answering the research question.
    • Explain clinical and scientific implications of your findings.
    • Suggest future research that would improve upon your study (if applicable).
  • Use the present and past tense as required; use the active voice when describing the findings, implications, and limitations; use the passive voice when reiterating any methods applied.
  • Discuss ALL findings from the Results sections; do not include any findings that were not included in this section.

Clinical Case Reports

The Discussion is the most crucial section of a case report. It summarizes and interprets the key findings to compare the case report with what is already known in the literature, to derive new knowledge and applicability to practice, and to draw clinically useful conclusions.

  • Briefly summarize the relevant literature and show how the present case compares and differs from previously published work and thus why your work should be read and published.
  • Critically evaluate all the cited references, rather than using them only as background information.
  • State the limitations of the case and the significance of each limitation; highlight how this case adds to the current literature, especially if any recommendations from this case may be learned and applied.
  • Use the present and past tense as required; use the active voice when describing the findings, implications, and limitations; use the passive voice when reiterating any methods applied.

Conclusions Content and Writing Issues

Medical and Clinical Papers

  • The conclusion is not always presented separately in a research article. State any major further implications or overall important aspects of your research.
  • Any conclusions must be fully supported by the study findings. Be careful not to overstate the implications of your study.

Clinical Case Reports

  • In the final paragraph, provide your main conclusion based on the evidence analyzed in the Discussion. A brief statement of the lesson to be learned from the case could be stated with justifiable recommendations based on the evidence.
  • Make this section concise and do not exceed one paragraph in length.

As with other scientific manuscripts and research papers, medical paper editing includes revision for style, vocabulary terms, wordiness, flow, and grammar and punctuation errors. An online editing service such as Wordvice uses native English-speaking experts to identify and fix errors in language, grammar, punctuation, and mechanics.

Before submitting your medical paper to journal editors, let a reputable professional research paper editing service correct any errors and enhance your writing to improve your chances of journal publication.