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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 97-98

The art and science of telling a story

Department of Pediatrics, Lady Hardinge Medical College and Associated, Kalawati Saran Children's Hospital, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission05-May-2021
Date of Decision06-May-2021
Date of Acceptance06-May-2021
Date of Web Publication31-May-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sharmila Banerjee Mukherjee
Department of Pediatrics, Lady Hardinge Medical College and Associated, Kalawati Saran Children's Hospital, Bangla Sahib Marg, New Delhi - 110 001
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ipcares.ipcares_137_21

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How to cite this article:
Mukherjee SB. The art and science of telling a story. Indian Pediatr Case Rep 2021;1:97-8

How to cite this URL:
Mukherjee SB. The art and science of telling a story. Indian Pediatr Case Rep [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Sep 26];1:97-8. Available from: http://www.ipcares.org/text.asp?2021/1/2/97/317355

Before I start on this theme, let me update you on the developments related to Indian Pediatrics Case Reports. Our website (www.ipcares.Org) and online manuscript submission and processing system (https://review.jow.medknow com/ipcares) have become functional. Unfortunately, the latter tends to exhibit technical glitches on occasion. We sincerely hope these are teething problems that will eventually fade away. However, dear readers, if you face any problems, please contact us at [email protected], and we will try to resolve them.

My inaugural editorial was titled “Every Story Worth Telling Should be Told.”[1] I continue in the same vein with a step-by-step approach describing how to tell your story in such a way that it is not only accurate, but it will catch the interest of the editor/reviewer, so that the likelihood of acceptance is higher. The first step is simple; ask yourself honestly, “Is your story really worth telling?” Is the case in question, a rare entity that has never or hardly been described before; was there something unusual about the presentation or manifestations that can expand the clinical phenotype; did you face challenges while establishing the diagnosis or use diagnostic tests in an innovative way; and did you learn something new from whatever standard intervention that was used (beneficial or adverse events) or see some unexpected or unusual outcome. Can you bring out some clinically relevant perspective from the case that can add to current knowledge? Choose whichever aspect you want to focus on, but remember, these decisions cannot be based on your personal experience. You need to do an extensive literature search to find evidence to support whichever dimension is selected. Once you are sure that the scientific content is valid and true, move to the next step. If not, look for another case.

The second step is finding the “right journal.” An editor will select your case report for peer review, only if it is alignment with the aims and scopes of the journal, and of interest to its readers. To have a general idea, see what kinds of cases have been published earlier. Once, you have honed onto the journal, check the “Instructions for authors.” If you want to win a game, it stands to reason that you must know its rules. Every journal has its own set of guidelines that need to be complied with. Go through them, and see how they have been applied by other authors, in published articles. Check the permissible number of words, figures/tables, and references and the subheadings that are used to organize the content, and format your manuscript accordingly. Determine beforehand how many authors will qualify for authorship, and whether the journal guidelines permit that many. Ascertaining this serves to avoid unnecessary heartburn and conflict among colleagues, at a later stage. Make sure you have the requisite paperwork (consent forms, copyright transfer forms, etc.) ready.

The third step is presenting your case in an accurate, transparent, and honest manner. Remember to record the details of the basic components of history and examination that is critical for any clinical case presentation. Those are the basic building blocks that can be pruned later on. The narrative should be arranged in a logical sequence and presented in the proper timeline. Refer to the CARE guidelines and checklist[2] and structure the content accordingly, ensuring the journal's format is also retained. Lay more emphasis on the predecided aspect that you want to highlight and shorten or remove other elements of the case that may not be that relevant. Be sure to provide details of the clinical reasoning that was applied for every critical decision in diagnosis and management so that the reader can understand the thought process that was involved.

The fourth step is ensuring that your style of writing is good, or at least not substandard. The content should be presented in paragraphs, preferably one paragraph dealing with a single context. Use proper grammar (punctuation, tense, etc.) and correct spelling. If you are not proficient in English, do not worry. There are software that are available for checking grammar and spelling, and you can request a friend or colleague who is competent in scientific writing to edit your work before submission. Do not be excessively verbose or use “flowery” language. This is not an English literature essay, but a scientific piece of work. Remove irrelevant material and avoid repetitions. For an editor, there is nothing more distressing than having to reject an article that has good scientific content, simply on the grounds that the presentation of content remains poor, despite giving feedback in the reviewer's and editorial comments.

Finally, before submission, it is always a good idea to get a critical appraisal by experienced senior colleagues who have their own corpus of published work, and heed their comments positively. Make sure that all the authors approve the draft and fulfill the responsibilities and criteria of authorship. Do not gift authorship, and do not deny authorship to those who deserve/qualify. Last but not the least, if your article is rejected by the first journal, do not despair. Learn from the experience, and do not give up. After a suitable period of “cooling off,” look at your article under the lens of the reviewer and modify it accordingly. Then go back to the second step and find another journal for submitting the article. The most common reason for a worthy article not getting published is a lack of perseverance on the part of the author.

I hope you find this article helpful. If even 10% of our readers who are in the initial phases of their publishing curve, end up submitting a case report to a medical journal after reading this, I will consider my job well done. I look forward to receiving a flood of well-written case reports of novel scientific content. May the games begin!

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Mukherjee SB. Every story worth telling should be told. Indian Pediatrics Case Rep 2021;1:3-4.  Back to cited text no. 1
Care Case Report Guidelines. Writing a Case Report. Available from: https://www.care-statement.org/. [Last accessed on 2021 May 01].  Back to cited text no. 2


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