Help for trainees seeking to publish case reports

Getting your first paper published can be challenging. Although writing case reports has, to a certain extent, fallen out of favour, it remains a valuable way for trainees to gain medical writing experience. Going through the process of submitting a paper and responding to academic criticism is the best way to learn the steps involved in publishing peer-reviewed work. Publications also look impressive on your CV. However, writing your first paper, even a short case report, can be daunting.

A good case report carries a strong clinical or educational message that sticks in the reader's mind - it is not just about how rare you think the case is (and your "interesting" case is rarely that rare!). At their best, case reports provide insights into disease pathogenesis - a good example being recent "molecular case reports" of next-generation sequencing studies of single patients, which have even been published in high-impact journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine.

There are, of course, a number of good resources available on the internet to help you write a clinical case report, such as the Royal College of Physician's "How to write a clinical case report". Nevertheless, we frequently receive case reports for editing that contain problems that could, at worst, prevent publication - such as a lack of patient consent or a poor review of the literature.

We can help you write an impressive and clinically valuable case report.

Whatever stage you are at - but particularly if you are a trainee - we will work collaboratively with you to write a high-quality case report. We understand that journals prefer to publish reports that have a strong clinical message or educational component, and we will help you develop a narrative that will appeal to journals and make the writing more interesting for you. We will give guidance on how to highlight the diagnostic, ethical, or management components of the case. We will also advise on which diagnostic images to select to complement the text. We can also help you create professional, multi-part figures.

We have particular experience and success with submissions to BMJ Case Reports, the American Journal of Case Reports, the International Journal of Surgery Case Reports, and the Journal of Medical Case Reports.

For further details of our services, see here.

QuickTip #1: converting files to TIFF

It can be extremely frustrating - not to mention time-consuming - formatting papers to meet journal requirements. That's why we provide free templates to help you make sense of the author instructions and speed up the submission process. Please let us know if you need a specific template creating for you.

Image processing and conversion can be equally frustrating, especially when you are doing it for the first time. We thought it might be useful to pass on some of the resources and techniques we use when preparing images for journals. Here, we deal with the commonest scenario we encounter when preparing images for biomedical journals - converting image files into high-resolution TIFFs (usually of minimum 300 dpi resolution).

The usual method involves two steps: converting the (non-TIFF) image into a PDF, then converting the PDF into a TIFF file. Check the journal's author instructions first though, since some journals accept PDF files.

Step 1: Convert to PDF

You can convert your file into a PDF by either "printing" as a PDF (select "print to PDF" in the "print" dialogue box) or by "saving as" a PDF (go to "File" >> "Save As, then in the pull down “Format” or “Save as type” menu select “PDF").

Step 2: Convert PDF into TIFF

If you use an Apple computer, there is a very easy way to do this:

1. Simply open up your PDF in Preview and select "Export…" from the file menu.
2. In the "Format" dropdown at the bottom of the dialogue box, select "TIFF".
3. Many journals (especially PLoS family) prefer you to use LZW compression, so select "LZW" from the "Compression" dropdown.
4. Set the resolution to 300 pixels/inch and "Save".

If you use standalone graphics editing software, such as the excellent open-source program GIMP, then:

1. Open the PDF in your graphics software (GIMP will allow you to set the resolution on import, so set it to 300 pixel/inch at this stage).
2. Crop and re-size the image if necessary.
3. Save the file using LZW compression: in GIMP, use “Export” and select TIFF as the format with LZW compression; in Photoshop, select “LZW compression” and “Discard Layers, and Save a Copy.”

If you are having problems or need advice, why not drop us a line. We are always happy to help.

Nextgenediting - website update

Last year we pointed our readers and customers to this Nature article from late 2010, which provides advice on careers in science editing and lists a set of standards one should look for when choosing an editing company:

1. Select a company that specialises in academic editing and has field-specific editors with graduate-level training.
2. Be suspicious of companies that post testimonials with no names or affiliations on their websites.
3. Be wary of English-language editing companies based in countries where English is not the native language.
4. Ask to submit a 500-word sample edit to see how the company performs.
5. Look for a company with a web-based submission system (where a user logs in, creates an account and uploads the paper). Such companies are likely to be established organisations with a high level of security.
6. Don't just choose on the basis of price. Consider quality, convenience and turnaround time.
7. Seek a company that offers services such as formatting, help with selecting a journal or translation from another language.
8. Look for a company with a clear privacy policy that requires its editors to sign confidentiality agreements.

As part of our commitment to providing high standards of security and privacy for our customers (see point 5 above), we have recently improved our website security by installing an SSL certificate to encrypt all data communications between you and our website. This means that you will now see https:// and the green padlock symbol when you browse We want you to know how seriously we take the issue of confidentiality when you entrust us with your data, and we hope that this gives you even more confidence in the quality of our services.

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Where can I find the latest cancer statistics?

We receive quite a few cancer research papers to edit, and it is not uncommon for authors to set the scene by presenting a few ‘critical’ cancer facts (such as incidence, prevalence, and mortality) in the opening lines of the introduction. There is nothing wrong with this (although we wouldn’t necessarily advise it if you are submitting to a highly specialised cancer journal), but it is important that the figures are correct. We often find that the ‘facts’ are, more often than not, wildly out of date, inaccurate, or incompletely referenced. Given the easy accessibility of online data, there really is no excuse for glaring inaccuracies and any sloppiness could irritate a reviewer.

That’s why we suggest that you visit GLOBOCAN, an online resource established and maintained by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the WHO). The GLOBOCAN project provides current estimates of the incidence, mortality, and prevalence of major cancer types for 184 countries. The data can be separated by sex, and 1-, 3-, and 5-year prevalence data are available for the adult population.

The database is particularly useful since it can be queried using online analysis tools, which allow you to produce graphs, tables, and maps to illustrate data. These tools are likely to be particularly useful for theses and dissertations, where there is often a need to provide more comprehensive background to the subject and provide basic data.

For instance, let’s say that you need to prepare a graph that compares age-standardised incidence and mortality rates of female cancers in ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ regions. Easy!


The graph clearly highlights those cancers that persist as first-world problems, such as breast cancer, and those cancers that more commonly affect women in the developing world (such as cervical cancer). This might provide an excellent starting point for a discussion about the epidemiology of these diseases.

GLOBOCAN can be referenced in your manuscript, and there is a useful glossary of terms, just in case you tend to get your ‘incidences’ and ‘prevalences’ mixed up. Of course, there are other excellent statistical resources available to cancer researchers, such as CRUK’s Cancer Stats resource in the UK or the NCI’s tools in the US. Please let us know if you know of any other resources that you find useful by commenting below!

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Our new resource to help you find funding

We just wanted to give you a sneak preview of a new resource we are putting together - again, at no cost - to help you find relevant funding opportunities. We are compiling an up-to-date and fully searchable database of available grant, fellowship, and other funding opportunities offered by a range of organisations. Each entry is annotated with the funder, type of funding, broad area of research, and application deadline, and we also provide links to the specific funding details. We have started with funders in the UK and Europe, mainly within the biomedical sciences, and we already have over 200 individual entries. We aim to expand the database to provide a complete, one-stop resource for scientists to find funding opportunities, and we will try to keep it carefully curated.

We think that this will be phenomenally useful, not only for keeping on top of deadlines, but also for exploring other funders or funding opportunities you may not even be aware of. This is just one more way in which we are trying to make life a little easier for scientists (check out our free templates for your manuscript preparation, too). Remember that we can provide professional help with your applications (and see our take on Horizon 2020), and since the next two months are packed with deadlines, we are offering a 10% discount on all grant and fellowship editing until the end of April - see our Facebook page and Twitter feed for details and to find a discount code.

Finally, if you know of any funding opportunities that we have yet to include, please let us know - we can provide an even better and more complete resource with your help.

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