The Scientific Writer’s Debut


Hafsa Khalid Mahida1               BDS


After healthcare delivery, the ultimate outcome of all our clinical endeavors is the documentation of our work in writing. This may be through researches, case-studies and various other forms of manuscripts. Hence preparing a future doctor for this responsibility is necessary especially in the era of evidence-based practice. For someone embarking on the journey of scientific scripture, a great way to begin medical writing is by writing letters to the editor in scientific journals1 .Thereare numerous reasons as to why this is beneficial.


Scientific writing is predominantly in the English language, a second language to a lot countries including ours2. Given the disparity in the systems of basic education not all medical professionals are proficient in English. Scientific writing thus comes as a struggle to most practitioners of our region. It becomes somewhat problematic when they script their research articles thus creating a writing-inertia. Since letters-to-theeditor are the easiest in the hierarchy of non-research publications, they are a good way to practice3. There is more margin of trial and error. One gets to develop the habit of writing and the more you do it, the more you learn.


The beginner of scientific writing struggles with brevity and referencing or setting a scientific tone in the article. Each of this is something they develop as they frequently write letters.

Most journals provide guidelines in terms of word limits and number of references one can use in the letters. The author conforming to these for writing a relatively simple publication such as letters shall benefit in the long run when doing so for far more demanding manuscripts.


A student who develops the habit of writing letters to the editor gradually adopts regular literature review. It familiarizes them with journals and their requirements5. Letters to editor are written in journals to either comment on a recent publication by the journal or discuss a scientific issue. Corresponding with journals to get a letter published prepares the newer writer for more complex publication processes in the future.


A stark contrast between a quality research publication and an average one is the sense of opinion in scientific writing. Indeed this is an art. When a student picks up a scientific journal to read and some courage to comment on what they read or to highlight something that could become worthreading, they are actually developing the art of scientific opinion. Hence, letter-writing could produce quality opinionated-writers in the medical sciences.


Though seemingly-minor, letters-to-the-editor are a publication. It does wonders to one’s self-esteem to find a work published under their name in a journal, especially if one is an undergraduate student. It helps one gain the needed confidence to write more and write well.


The Journal of Pakistan Dental Association’s efforts to reintroduce letters in their current issues is commendable. Though letters do not hold weightage as far PMDC credits goes but they should not be underestimated. Letters to the Editor would be a stepping stone towards medical writing that should be encouraged especially by undergraduate educationists in dentistry.


1. Qureshi AZ. Stepwise and simple guide to medical writing and research for beginners. J Pak Med Assoc.2015; 65: 1139-42.
2. Netzel R, Perez-Iratxeta C, Bork P, Andrade MA. The way we write. EMBO Reports. 2003; 4: 446-451.
3. George S, Moreira K. Publishing non-research papers as a trainee: a recipe for beginners. Singapore Med J 2009; 50:756.
4. Jadhav S, Bavdekar SB. Letter to Editor: Keeping the Dialogue Going. J Assoc Physicians India.2015; 63.
5. Clouet HD. Letters to the editor: more than just 1,000 words. Revistamedica de Chile. 2014; 142: 677-8.

Lecturer, Department of Dental Materials, Ziauddin College of Dentistry, Karachi, Pakistan.
< >