Tips for Trainees by Jonathan Chung: Publishing a Case Report (Part 1)
So, you want to publish a paper. There are multiple types of papers you could try to tackle, but for the “first-timer,” the best idea is to probably start with a case report. Writing, revising, and submitting a case report will teach you valuable skills which will translate to larger projects (extensive reviews or original research). Though writing a case report is not as time-intensive as other publications types, one should be aware that journal standards for case reports are quite rigorous—for example, the Journal of Thoracic Imaging currently accepts about 1 of every 4 submitted original research papers, but only accepts 1 of every 6 submitted case reports.
Unbridled, ambitious excitement will only take you so far. How can you maximize your chances of getting your case report accepted? After all, no one wants to do all the work and get nothing out of it.
1. Find a mentor who is available, has been successful in publishing, and works in the field in which you have interest. This could be the most senior radiologist in your university; or it could be a first-year clinical instructor. In fact, I am a fan of the “dual-mentoring system” (something I just made up while writing this, so don’t try to “google” this term). In addition to working with an attending level radiologist who can provide broad guidance and insure that the publication process is sound, it really helps to work more closely with someone who is more junior (e.g. resident or fellow) but has experience in publishing. That person can provide guidance on more of the minute details and practical matters.
2. Find a case worthy of publication. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP IN THE PROCESS. Your mentor(s) will likely be able to help with this. However, it is imperative to remember that most editors are looking for a unique contribution to the literature that is highly relevant to the imaging diagnosis or treatment of a condition. Really, the question is, “does this add anything special to the radiology literature?” If the answer is “no,” then the case you are considering probably is not appropriate for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.