Introduction to Clinical Research Writing a Clinical Research Paper

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?Publish and Flourish". Writing well lies at the center of scientific literacy.. Targets. 1. The big picture2. Active sentences3. Strong paragraphs4. Effective Introduction and Discussion sections5. Hints for nonnative writers. The big picture. Let the message determine the medium.Write and r

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Introduction to Clinical Research Writing a Clinical Research Paper

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1. Introduction to Clinical Research Writing a Clinical Research Paper November 16, 2006

2. “Publish and Flourish” Writing well lies at the center of scientific literacy.

3. Targets 1. The big picture 2. Active sentences 3. Strong paragraphs 4. Effective Introduction and Discussion sections 5. Hints for nonnative writers

4. The big picture Let the message determine the medium. Write and revise systematically. Pay attention to detail. Correct galley proof conscientiously.

5. Let the message determine the medium What is my message? Who will be most interested? What are their needs and expectations? What is their level of expertise? Where should this paper be published?

6. Be meticulous Write and revise systematically. Pay attention to detail. Correct galleys conscientiously. Recheck for accuracy, Get in-house reviews, Make corrections attentively.

7. Active sentences Make verbs work!

8. Subject- Verb- Object Word order in English sentences

9. Sentences in which nothing is happening (no action). The book is red. Lincoln was president.

10. Sentences in which something is happening (action). George kicked the ball. Crazy Lulu burned down the barn. The judge warned the witness.

11. Actions Content that can be expressed in different forms

12. FORM Verb Noun CONTENT The mayor threatened the fire chief. The mayor issued a threat against the fire chief.

13. FORM Adjective Adverb CONTENT The mayor gave a speech threatening the fire chief. The mayor spoke threateningly about the fire chief.

14. Your goal: Get the action into the verb.

15. Avoid Nominalizations “Nounizing” the English language! Turning a verb into a noun. Violating the action of a verb by expressing it as a noun. This one error causes an astonishing amount of bad writing.

16. Nominalizations Verb Nominalization investigate investigation discover discovery perform performance impair impairment respond response deny denial

17. Typical Patterns of Nominalizations Subject + Empty Verb + Object The data are proof of the thesis. There was agreement in the committee. Analysis of the issue was done by the author.

18. Returning Nominalizations to Verbs The data are proof of the thesis. The data prove the thesis. There was agreement in the committee. The committee agreed.

19. Returning Nominalizations to Verbs Analysis of the issue was done by the author. The author analyzed the issue.

20. Computer use resulted in an increase in doctor-centered speech….

21. EXERCISE: IDENTIFYING & ELIMINATING NOMINALIZATIONS There has occurred recently in the waste industry development of a bacterium which offers not only resistance to toxic compounds but actual elimination of them.

22. Recently, the waste industry developed a bacterium that resists and eliminates toxic compounds.

23. FIRST PRINCIPLE OF CLEAR AND DIRECT STYLE: Express crucial actions in verbs.

24. Active sentences Active vs Passive Voice

25. Active vs Passive Voice What is a passive verb? --when the subject is on the receiving end of the action. The subject does NOT tell you who’s acting.

26. In a PASSIVE sentence, the subject names the receiver of the action; the subject tells you to whom or to what the action is done. The book was read by the child.

27. In an ACTIVE sentence, the subject names the agent of the action (the doer); the subject tells you who or what does the action. The child read the book.

28. Active voice More direct and vigorous My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me. I will always remember my first visit to Boston.

29. Active voice More morally responsible A wildebeest calf was attacked last night…. Jackals attacked a wildebeest calf…. The patient was seen…and described as violent…. The intern on call saw the patient….

30. Quiz: Which is better? We found that…. It was found that….

31. Representative Examples of active voice in Journals From The Lancet (2004;363:112-118): “We followed up children once a day for diarrhoea….” From the New England Journal of Medicine (2004;350:114-124): “We enrolled 518 patients with polycythemia vera….”

32. Active voice From Science (2006; 312: 1530-33): “We evaluated the clinical benefit….” “The monkeys selected for the study did not express….” “The monkeys were monitored….”

33. Sometimes passive voice is best When who does something is less important than the recipient of the action: Better to say that “the patient was injected with the drug” rather than “we injected….” Or when it doesn’t matter who performed the action, just that it occurred: “The patient was transported to the hospital by ambulance….”

34. Targets 1. The big picture 2. Active sentences 3. Strong paragraphs 4. Effective Introduction and Discussion sections 5. Hints for nonnative writers

35. A paragraph is not simply an indentation on the page.

36. Paragraph Unit of thought that develops or proves an idea.

37. Classic paragraph development State the POINT early. Use examples and evidence to PROVE the POINT. Conclude in a meaningful way, perhaps with a transition to the next POINT.

38. Following Form Organizing persuasive writing Sections as blocks Paragraphs as logical structural units Topic sentences that pull together the logical structural units and move them from one to the other.

39. Organizing Persuasive Writing Topic Sentences A good topic sentence makes a POINT. A good topic sentence pulls together a mass of closely related material. A good topic sentence moves the explanation or argument ahead one essential step.


41. Television continues to change the look of political conventions. Speeches are fewer and shorter. Sweaty orators, bellowing and waving their arms for an hour or more, have yielded almost completely to TelePrompter readers, younger and brisker fellows. Both parties have shortened sign-waving, chanting demonstrations….

42. While many of the changes may be for the best, there is something synthetic about this new kind of convention. There is a lack of spontaneity, a sense of stuffy self-consciousness. There is something unreal about seeing a well-known newscaster starting across the floor to interview a delegate and getting stopped for an autograph….

43. Paragraphs Are not only thought units but also visual units. Require careful placing on the page, with attention to length and uniformity. Should promote a readable and understandable text.

44. Targets 1. The big picture 2. Active sentences 3. Strong paragraphs 4. Effective Introduction and Discussion sections 5. Hints for nonnative writers

45. Follow standard structure for scientific papers Each section addresses certain questions. Together they shape a critical argument.

46. Accepted format Introduction: What is the problem and why should anyone care? Materials and Methods: How was the evidence obtained? Results: What was found or seen? Discussion and Conclusion: What do these findings mean?

47. Introduction and Discussion sections Hints for success

48. Introduction Why was this work done? Briefly, as simply as possible, persuade colleagues and non-specialists to begin reading the text.

49. Introduction: 3 parts 1. State the general field of interest. Concisely present what’s already known, referencing most important publications. to 1-3 paragraphs.

50. Introduction: 3 parts 2. Present others’ findings that you will challenge or expand. Explain how you are hoping to extend or modify what is already known or believed. Provide support for your argument.

51. Introduction: 3 parts 3. State the question that the paper addresses and how it does so. (Usually phrased as a hypothesis) Specify your experimental approach. Indicate what is new and important about your work. When appropriate briefly summarize the answers you found.

52. Discussion and Conclusion What do these findings mean? These 2 sections are often combined. Answer the question(s) in the Introduction. Often, most salient findings are placed first.

53. Discussion and Conclusion Interpret results against background of existing knowledge. Explain what’s new in your work & why it matters. Discuss limitations & implications. Relate observations to other relevant studies. State new hypotheses if warranted. Include recommendations, when relevant.

54. Discussion & Conclusion: hints Avoid exaggerated claims. Carefully distinguish between facts and speculation. Be wary about extrapolating your results to other species or conditions. Be tactful about apparent disagreements, when discussing others’ work. Indicate what next steps might resolve any apparent conflicts. Admit anomalies. Discuss possible errors or limitations in your methods and assumptions.

55. Targets 1. The big picture 2. Active sentences 3. Strong paragraphs 4. Effective Introduction and Discussion sections 5. Hints for nonnative writers

56. Nonnative writers 5 common problems Count and noncount nouns Definite and indefinite articles Verbals (gerunds, participles, infinitives) Verbs in conditional sentences Word order decisions

57. Distinguish between count and noncount nouns Count nouns: refer to distinct individuals or things that can be counted. They usually have singular and plural forms: gene, genes. Noncount nouns occur as collections of ideas that can be quantified only in a vague way. They usually have only a singular form: honesty, humanity.

58. Count and noncount nouns Some nouns have more than one meaning: one may be count and the otherj noncount. Water is a count noun (“a liter of water”), and a noncount noun (“water is a limited resource”). Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (Hornby et al., 1995), and the Longman Dictionary of American English (1997).

59. Definite and indefinite articles Definite article: the Use the with count nouns whose identity is known or about to be made known. The amoeba’s endoplasm spreads peripherally from the ends of the pseudopodium.

60. Definite and indefinite articles Indefinite article: a, an Use a or an only with singular count nouns. Use a before a consonant, an before a vowel. An amoeba does not have cilia but a protozoan often does.

61. Definite and indefinite articles To speak of an indefinite quantity rather than just one indefinite thing, use some, less, or much with a noncount noun. With a count noun, specify the number or use such words as few, fewer, many, or several. More can be used with both noun types.

62. Indefinite quantities Many unicellular animals can live without some sunlight. Less dietary vitamin C may mean more, not fewer colds. In several cases, the animals were unable to reuse much nitrogen.

63. Noncount and plural count nouns Noncount and plural count nouns can be used without an article to make generalizations. Phenotypes may not reflect genotypes. Truth is beauty. Honesty is important.

64. References for nonnative writers Yang, J.T., Yang, J.N., & Yant, J.T. (1996). An Outline of Scientific Writing: for Researchers with English as a Foreign Language. Grandville, MI: World Scientific Publishing Co. English for Internet: offers live chats, placement tests, and free English classes.

65. 2 great general resources The Elements of Style, Strunk and White The Elements of Grammar, Margaret Shertzer

66. Acknowledgements Successful Scientific Writing, 2nd ed., Matthews, Bowen, and Matthews, Cambridge University Press, 1996. The Clinician’s Guide to Medical Writing, Robert B. Taylor, Springer, 2005. The Elements of Style, 3rd ed., William Strunk and E.B. White, Macmillan, 1979.

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