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Scientific Writing: Overview

Resources to help you get through the scientific writing process.

What is "Scientific Writing"?

Scientific writing is pretty much what it sounds like: a technical style of writing meant to communicate scientific information to other scientists. This style of writing is written by a scientist for other scientists, and published in respected, peer reviewed journals. The main goal of this type of writing is to share and build on the existing scientific knowledge of a field. 

Science writing, though similar in subject matter, has a very different audience and is meant to be understood by a more general group of people, not just other scientists. This style of writing is typically what you see in science magazines, rather than peer reviewed journals. (Think National Geographic)

Why Should You Write?

Building your CV 

The most common reason medical students chose to publish while in medical school is to boost their CVs and improve their chances of a residency match. Well received articles published on subjects related to a specific residency program may be beneficial when it comes down to matching, but keep in mind its far from a guaranteed thing. Yes, students who publish more and present more tend to stand a better chance of matching, but its still very competitive and publication is not the only factor involved. Don't let this discourage you from publishing though. Publishing may not make you a shoe-in, but it certainly won't hurt. Check out the chart below on the mean number of abstracts, presentation, and publications of US Osteopathic seniors for 2018:

Graduate students are also interested in bolstering their CVs in preparation for their next academic step, whether that be a job or medical school. Publishing alongside peers and faculty is a great way to form professional relationships as well as improve your chances for acceptance to your next program or position. 

Interest in learning or exploring a subject further

Every student has their own interests in specialties or subjects. Working on research and publishing is an effective way to continue learning about a topic that interests you. Discussions in your classes, interesting cases and conditions, personal interests, or topics from articles that intrigued you are all excellent reasons to dig further and consider publishing. It also doesn't hurt to explore different areas of medicine and research to find your interests. This not only gives you a chance to gain deeper knowledge, but also allows for networking within the field. 

Sharing work or interesting cases

Choosing to work in medicine, healthcare, and research is also accepting the concept of lifelong learning as a necessity. Students do not graduate and just stop learning. Continuing education will remain a vital part of all health professionals' careers. This is not limited to simply learning new things through publications and conferences, but also includes discovering and teaching your colleagues. Adding to the body of medical and scientific knowledge has a ripple effect across the profession and impacts a great number of doctors, educators, and medical students. Publications give everyone this opportunity, even students. 

Continuing research from undergraduate or post-baccalaureate experiences

Participating in research at an undergraduate or post-baccalaureate level is a desirable characteristic for medical school applicants. Its not uncommon for medical students to want to continue that research after acceptance into a program. Whether you are able to continue working with mentors from you previous institution, or you chose to gain a new perspective from school faculty and mentors, seeing your research through to completion is usually a strong motivator for students to continue their research and publish. 


National Resident Matching Program. (2018). Charting Outcomes in the Match: Senior Students of U.S. Osteopathic Medical Schools Characteristics of Senior Students of U.S. Osteopathic Medical Schools Who Matched to Their Preferred Specialty in the 2018 Main Residency Match 1st Edition. Retrieved from

Vos, E. (2017). What Motivates Medical Students to Publish? Retrieved October 18, 2019, from

Types of Articles


Research articles report on an original project or experiment. These types of articles will contain an abstract, introduction with a literature review, methods and materials, results, and discussion section. Research articles are written about original research by the people who have completed the research, and is always written after the experiment or research is completed. 


Review articles are not describing a single project or experiment, but are a review of several research articles. For a review article, authors will look at a vast number of research articles on a subject, summarize, and synthesize the results. Unlike research articles, research questions and hypothesis are not important in a review article. The key parts to think about are a brief historical summary, recent developments, gaps or limits to the body of evidence, evaluating the work, and suggestions for future projects. 

Case Studies

Case studies report on a specific instance or phenomena and the goal is to make other researchers aware of the possibility that this may occur again. They are often used in medicine to report an occurrence of some previously unknown or emerging pathology.

Methodologies or Methods

Methodologies or Methods are articles that report on a new experimental method, test, or procedure. It doesn't have to be a completely new method, perhaps just a better version of an existing method, but the article should describe how this method is more beneficial than previous ones. 

Opinions/Letter to the Editor/Viewpoint etc.

These types of articles vary in their content, but the principle is similar. These can be written over any important topic, sometimes in response to a published article, other times not. Its important to check with the journal to see which category your article would fall under and what their requirements are.

Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis

Systematic reviews are articles that review and summarize the results of all available healthcare studies to answer a defined research question. These are large and time consuming reviews that often require several authors and a great deal of research experience. The goal is to locate, evaluate, compare, and present findings from a full body of literature on a topic. Unlike regular literature reviews, systematic reviews have a structured approach with a detailed and comprehensive plan for searching.A meta-analysis uses statistical methods to summarize the results of healthcare studies.

For more information on these, check out the article by Uman titled "Systematic reviews and meta-anaylsis" on the articles page

Please keep in mind this is in no way a complete list of types of articles you can write for publication. Reading through professional journals is a good way to not only keep up with topics, but to see examples of article types as well. You can also check out a journal's Author Resources page to see what kinds of articles they accept.