How to write a paper?
Second Edition. George M Hall. London, UK: BMJ Publishing Group,
2002, 147 pp., $29.95, softcover. ISBN 0-7279-1234-8.
Professor George M Hall is a distinguished scientist, Professor of Anaesthesia at the University of London and the Chairman of the Editorial board of the British Journal of Anaesthesia, at the time book was written, and has been involvedin the complex process of publishing scientific papers for many years. His book How to write a paper is must-have reading for anyone who wishes to become skilled in scientific writing. The book is comprehensive, easily readable and full of practical issues and advices coming from the editor’s own experience.
This useful book is arranged in a such a logical manner, that even undergraduate students could easily read it. It has 18 chapters, mostly accompanied by a list of recommended references for further reading. The book begins with the introductory chapter written by the editor himself, moving next to more specific topics written by various authors who are mostly well established editors of some leading medical journals such as the British Medical Journal, British Journal of Anaesthesia, Lancet, Gut and some other. The book finally ends with the chapter on what the editor envisions as the future: Electronic publishing.
In the introductory chapter entitled Structure of a scientific paper, Professor Hall stresses major principles of the basic structure of a paper. Following chapters deal with the basic parts of a paper: Introduction, Methods, The results, Discussion, Titles, abstracts and authors and finally References.
Each topic is divided into multiple short subtopics devoted to a single aspect of writing. For example, chapter Introductions deals with the art and importance of making the Introduction brief, but informative and stating clearly the principal question answered by the study. The main message of the chapter is – keep it short! Throughout the chapter, the author stresses main principles and gives how to and how not to examples.
Following chapters are devoted to some other forms of publications such as Letter, Abstract for a scientific meeting, Case reportand Review and describe the main features of each specific form.
The last part of the book deals with some specific issues such as editorship, autorship, style and ethics of publication. The chapter The role of the editor gives many direct considerations to the major role of the editor himself, editorial policy in general and organisation of the editorial team. It also describes the way manuscripts are processed, what may help the unexperienced author to better comprehend what happens with his paper once it has been submitted.
I would warmly recommend this worthwhile book, to all those looking to have their paper published. It could be equally helpful resource to undergraduate and postgraduate students and young scientists in the beginning of their scientific and research career.
The third edition (which I did not unfortunately have the opportunity to read) of this book with some new contributing authors is also published. In that 3rd edition, one additional chapter has been added: Electronic submissions written by Natalie Davies, Assistant web editor at the University of Wales.