Publishing in the 21st Century

What is different today?

When I am introduced for my one hour lecture, "Medical Writing in the 21st Century", the host
occasionally makes a comment about the title, questioning how things have changed, etc.  Yes, this title can
seem a tad overblown.  However, we live in fast-changing times.  The ease at which we cross borders and
even oceans in person demands that we approach communication differently today than we did 10-20 years
ago.  The internet plays a dramatic role as well.  Here are some factors to consider:

  •   Time
  •   Number of publications
  •   Electronic resources


People are busier today than ever.  The increasing number of publications (next section) means that they have less
time to read more articles.  Reviews and networking assure we know what is topical.  But what about the good
but not great papers?  They can easily get lost in the shuffle.  This is why I emphasize the importance of the Title
of the manuscript as well as the abstract.  Both are easily obtained, which is important because we can not
electronically access all journals for free!  Plus, if your title is not interesting, a person who obtains 200 papers
from a Medline search is not about to give it a second look.

In advertising, you must position your main point, the one that grabs attention, right up front.  Otherwise, people
will turn away before they receive the message.  Your manuscript faces the same challenge.  Tell the reader what
is important, right away, otherwise you may lose him.

Number of publications

We are all aware of the increasing number of publications.  While its great to have more journals in which to
publish, it also means that there are more articles to read.  Not much to do about this, as far as getting readers is
concerned.  However, we can try to publish in the right journal (see Journal Selection), better journals, and use
time and electronic resources wisely!

Electronic resources

Many journals have links to other journals.  Some even list up to date selections of articles which cite the article of
interest.  This is a very good way to attract readers to your paper!  Maybe your paper can not get into, say, The
Journal of Biological Chemistry, but you can cite a related paper from JBC, and attract readers to your
manuscript through this link.  Go to and access one of their research articles.  Scroll to the bottom
of the page and you will see articles that have cited that particular paper.  If your paper had cited this article, you
would find a link to your manuscript!

Learn the journals in your field which offer this feature.  Try to publish in those journals.  If given a choice, learn to
choose references from these journals.  It may seem like extra work, and at first it will demand more of your
time.  But you will profit in the future from the exposure gained by these efforts.
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