How to Raise a Medical Writer
Tom Lang, MA
Tom Lang Communications
Finely crafted medical writing-
Because publication is the final stage of research.
12 February 2003
PO Box 1257, Murphys, CA 95247, USA
TEL: 209-728-3057 FAX: 209-728-3497
“Learning is a change in knowledge or skill as a result of study, instruction, or experience.”
1. What Topics Should Writers and Editors Study?
American Medical Writers Association’s (AMWA) Core Curriculum
Sentence Structure and Patterns
Punctuation for Clarity and Style
Basic Grammar and Usage
Advanced Grammar and Usage
Outlining for Writers and Editors
Scope of Medical Communications
Project Management (coordinating many authors, standards, and due dates)
Basics of Web Site Design
Computerized Literature Searches
Improving Comprehension: Theories and Research Findings
Trends in Print and Electronic Publishing
Editing the Spoken Word
SI Units in Medical Writing
The Editor as Production Manager
Writing Book Proposals
Drug Information Resources
Regulatory Aspects of Drug Development
Electronic Regulatory Submissions
Investigational New Drug Applications
Principles of Pharmacoeconomics
Principles of Pharmacokinetics
Working at Contract Research Organizations
Computer-Assisted New Drug Applications (CANDAs)
Update on ICH Guidelines
Understanding Clinical Trials
Writing the Final Report of a Clinical Trial
Writing Package Inserts
Writing the Clinical Expert Report
Writing Investigator Brochures
WRITING AND EDITING WORKSHOPS
Writing the Scientific Article
Tables and Graphs
Biomedical Research Design
Substantive Editing (“macroediting”)
Statistics for Medical Writers and Editors
Reporting Correlation and Regression Analyses
Turning Research Reports into Articles
Ethics of Authorship and Editorship
Selecting the Right Journal for Articles
Writing Patient Education Handouts
PUBLIC RELATIONS, ADVERTISING, AND MARKETING WORKSHOPS
Making Oral Presentations
Educating Salesmen about Medicine
Public Relations in Health Care
Writing Press Releases
Writing Public Relations Materials
Scriptwriting for Videotapes
Creative Writing for Health Care Promotion
• Continuing Medical Education (CME): What Writers Need to Know
Writing about Health in Magazines
Business Aspects of a Freelance Career
Getting the Interview You Want
Coping with the Stresses of Freelancing
Working with Contract Writers
Starting a Freelance Career
Teaching Techniques: Theory and Practice
How to Write Effective Test Questions
Education Programs in Medical Writing
Teaching Medical Writing to Medical Students
Mentoring, Motivating, and Managing New Medical Writers
Developing Computer-Based Training (CBT) Modules
AMWA’s Advanced Curriculum
Reporting Diagnostic Tests
Reporting Clinical Trials in Medical Journals
Advanced Principles of Graphic Design
Advanced Substantive Editing
Advanced Tables and Graphs
Improving the Quality of Pharmaceutical Communications
Issues for Managers of Medical Communications Departments
Teaching Techniques: Theory and Practice
Medical Writing & Editing Certificate Programs
CERTIFICATE (complete 4 of the 5)
Writing in the Medical Sciences
Scientific and Medical Bibliographic Resources
Analyzing the Scientific Article
Interpreting and Reporting Biostatistics
ADVANCED CERTIFICATE (complete all 4)
Educating Clinicians: Medical Writing in Healthcare Communications
Communicating Science to the Public
Tom’s Ideal Program:
7 Basic Courses
An Overview of Biomedical Research and Scientific Communications
Reporting Statistics in Medicine
Data and Visual Displays (Tables, Graphs, and Illustrations)
Communication Theory and Research
Publication Design and Production
1. An Overview of Biomedical Research and Publications
The Philosophy of Science and its Alternatives
The Scientific method
Ethical Principles of Biomedical Research
The Drug-development Process
The Scientific literature
Types of biomedical communication and publications
Authorship, falsification, fraud, and plagiarism
2. Medical Editing
English Grammar, Syntax, and Punctuation
Sentence and Paragraph Structures
Medical Terms and Their Latin Origins
Techniques for Editing and Marking a Manuscript
Style manuals and standard reference books
Guidelines for Authors and the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals
The Author-Editor Relationship
Writing Groups and Editorial Offices
3. Reporting Biostatistics
Data and Descriptive Statistics
P Values and Confidence Intervals
Association, correlation, and simple regression analysis
Multiple regression analysis and Analysis of Variance
Survival Analysis and Epidemiological Terms and Concepts
Meta-analysis and Decision Analysis
4. Data and Visual Displays
Principles of Visual Perception
Basic Charts and Graphs
Specialized Charts and Graphs
Medical Illustrations, Scientific Posters, and Slides
Photographs and Medical Images
Intellectual Property and Copyright Law
5. Communication Theory and Research
Forms of Communication (interpersonal, mass, and computer-assisted)
Theories of Argument, Persuasion, and Description
Principles of Marketing
Research into written communication
Research into reading and comprehension
The Relationships Between Media and Message
Evaluating Writing Communication
6. Medical Writing
Techniques of Writing
Techniques of Collaborative Writing
Writing Research Articles
Writing Review Articles and Chapters
Writing Feature and News Articles
Writing Patient Education Materials
7. Publication Design and Production
Principles of Graphic Design
Principles of Publication Design
Principles of Typography and Color
On-line and Multimedia Publishing
Production Schedules and Budgets
Areas of Specialization
Scientific publications (books and journals)
Regulatory (pharmaceutical) writing
Public relations, marketing, and advertising
Patient education and health education
The Drug-Development Process in Detail
Regulatory Law and Documentation in the Pharmaceutical Industry (FDA and ICH Requirements)
Specific Regulatory Documents:
Investigational New Drug Applications (INDs)
New Drug Applications (NDAs)
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
Clinical Summary Reports
Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishing
Public Relations for Hospitals and Research Centers
Medical Journalism and Science Writing
Designing Computer-Based Training Modules
Critical Appraisal and Analytical Editing
Freelancing Writing and Consulting
On-line and Multimedia Publishing
Writing and Editing Skills to be Developed in Each Course
Reading and understanding scientific texts
Organizing and outlining information
Writing and composing
Editing and rewriting
Proofreading and formatting manuscripts
Abstracting and shortening texts
Designing figures and tables
Finding and retrieving information
Negotiating and Interviewing
Critical and analytical thinking
2. How Should Writers and Editors be Instructed?
AMWA Workshop Format
Pre-workshop assignment of 3 to 6 hours
25 people at most
Instructor comments on assignments
Credit is given for attendance
University of Chicago Course Formats
Eight, 3-hour evening classes, one/week
Three, 8-hour classes, Thursday–Saturday, with telephone and e-mail follow-up
Three, 1-hour classes each week for 16 weeks to teach facts and knowledge
Three days of 8-hour classes to teach new thinking patterns
One, 3-hour class each week for 16 weeks to teach writing and editing skills
One-on-one, intensive training over a long time with a senior writer/editor
Informal learning from:
authors (researchers and physicians)
printers and publishers
3. What Experiences Should Writers and Editors Have as They Learn?
Work for someone who demands high-quality work
Work closely with an experienced writer/editor
Work closely with a senior author who will help the writer/editor understand the author’s needs and point of view
Work with several authors
Work with several kinds of manuscripts
Work with manuscripts that vary in quality
Work with a writing group on a large, complex project
Work under tight timelines
1. The problem with learning medical writing is the way writing is taught in school.
A degree in English is usually a degree in literature.
A degree in literature is usually about reading, not writing.
Students who learn to write in school do not learn to communicate technical information in writing.
2. Teach that information should go from those who have it to those who need it.
School: Information often goes from a student who is learning the topic to a teacher who already knows the topic.
Sciences: information must go from knowledgeable authors to less-knowledgeable readers for science to develop.
3. Teach that writing can be evaluated by how well it meets the needs of the reader.
School: writing is usually evaluated for spelling, grammar, and how well the teacher believes the student understood the topic.
Sciences: writing is evaluated by how much it helps others do their work.
4. Teach that writing is as important for what it does as for what it is.
School: writing is important for its own sake; that is, students must read the novel itself, not an analysis about the novel
Sciences: writing is important for what it allows others to do
5. Teach that writing is for communication, as well as for personal expression.
School: students learn to express their personal thoughts and opinions in writing as a way to grow intellectually (they do “writer-based” writing)
Sciences: scientists must learn to communicate technical information in writing as part of their scientific activities (they must do “reader-based” writing)
The Secret to Medical Writing:
Have something to say.
Resources For Teaching Medical Writing
Medical Writers Association (AMWA)
40 West Gude Dr. #101
Rockville, MD 20850-1192
Science Editors (CSE)
1250 Roger Bacon Drive, Suite 8
Reston, VA 20190-5202
Medical Writers Association (EMWA)
Philipa Clow, Association Secretary
40 High Street, Northwood
GENERAL TEXTS AND REFERENCES
American Medical Association. AMA Manual of Style, 9th Ed. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1998.
American Medical Writers Association. Biomedical Communication: Selected AMWA Workshops. Bethesda, MD: American Medical Writers Association, 1994.
American Medical Writers Association. Essays for Biomedical Communicators: Volume 2 of Selected AMWA Workshops. Bethesda, MD: American Medical Writers Association, 1997.
Briscoe MH. Preparing Scientific Illustrations, 2nd edition. New York: Springer, 1995.
Council of Science Editors. Scientific Style and Format, 6th Ed. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1994
Day RA. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper. Third Edition. New York: Oryx Press, 1988.
Eddy DM. A Manual for Assessing Health Practices & Designing Practice Policies. Philadelphia: American College of Physicians, 1992.
Gastel B. Health Writer’s Handbook. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1998.
Huth EJ. How to Write and Publish Papers in the Medical Sciences. Philadelphia: ISI Press, 1982.
Lang T, Secic M. How to Report Statistics in Medicine: Annotated Guidelines for Authors, Editors, and Reviewers. Philadelphia: American College of Physicians, 1997. 360 pages.
Morgan PM. An Insider's Guide for Medical Authors and Editors. Philadelphia: ISI Press, 1986.
Rowntree D. Statistics Without Tears. A Primer for Non-mathematicians. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1981.
Schwager E. Medical English Usage and Abusage. Phoenix, Arizona: The Oryx Press, 1991.
Woodford FP. How to Teach Scientific Communication. Reston, VA: Council of Science Editors, 1999. (Order from CSE at the address above.)
Zeiger M. Essentials of Writing Biomedical Research Papers. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1991.
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