04 July 2022

Guide on how to write your first paper


Writing a paper is an exciting and rewarding endeavour that will teach you many skills and help you develop as a doctor. As with most things in medicine, having experience is invaluable and identifying a mentor at the outset can help guide you from the planning stage right through to publication. The focus of this article will be on original research as this is often the most difficult to structure, but there are many other types of articles that you can submit to journals. Reviewers and editors are not only looking for a novel topic, but also a well-structured story with a strong theme that is accessible to your target audience. Setting a draft title is one way to identify and distil down the theme of your paper from an early stage and the most reliable way of structuring your paper around this theme is by using the Context, Content, and Conclusion (C-C-C) structure1,2.

  • Context: This is your introduction and should outline what is already known about the subject matter. Here, reviewers are looking for you to cite the relevant literature and identify the gap that your research aims to fill. Throughout your paper, it is important to use direct language and short sentences as this makes it easier for the reader.
  • Content: This is where you present the central contribution of your research through the methods and results sections. To engage the reader, it is important that your results have defined headed sections and reference figures that are clear, relevant, and easy to follow. Spending time on ensuring that your figures and tables are easy to assimilate is invaluable as they enhance the flow of the story that you are trying to tell.
  • Conclusion: This is the discussion section of your paper and should summarise your findings with reference to the literature, whilst confidently stating what your contribution to the field is. Remember to always touch on the limitations of your work, but finish on a positive note and identify future directions.

Types of articles

  • Original research
  • Review article
  • Case report
  • Letter to the editor
  • Opinion piece
  • Commentary

Top Tips

  • Define the central theme of your paper
  • Use the Context-Content-Conclusion structure
  • Ensure your theme runs through your introduction and discussion
  • Draw readers in with your title and abstract
  • Consult your co-authors throughout
  • Consider a graphical abstract and promote your paper on social media

Having written your paper, it is now time to refine your title and write a succinct abstract, as these will draw readers in and encourage them to “deep dive” into your publication and ultimately cite it. A graphical abstract can provide an easily digestible summary you can use to promote your paper on social media platforms. No paper should be written in isolation and throughout the process you should consult with your mentor and co-authors because they will provide insightful critique. You can facilitate this collaborative approach using tools that allow you to share documents and edit in real-time. Whilst writing, you and your co-authors will start to get an idea of what journal has the best fit for your paper, depending on the focus and impact of your results. Once you have chosen a journal for submission, make sure you have formatted your paper as per their guidelines on word counts and structure. Good luck!

Author Biography

Dr Ruairi Lynch is a newly appointed consultant Hepatologist and Gastroenterologist in NHS Tayside. He subspecialised in Hepatology and completed his training in Edinburgh in 2021 having been a clinical lecture and honorary Gastroenterology registrar on the Wellcome Trust funded Edinburgh Clinical Academic Track. His PhD research focussed on modulating the mononuclear response following acute liver injury and he has published 1st author basic science and clinical articles in both IBD and Hepatology. His twitter handle is @ruairilynch




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  1. Gewin, V. How to write a first-class paper. Nature 555, 129–130 (2018).
  2. Mensch, B. & Kording, K. Ten simple rules for structuring papers. PLOS Comput. Biol. 13, (2017).